Developer(s) – Cyanide Spiders
Publisher(s) – Focus Home Interactive
Released in 2012 on PC and seventh generation hardware, Of Orcs and Men was a game that received respectable acclaim from critics, but scorn on aggregate websites such as Metacritic and GameRankings. After playing this title for myself, I thoroughly agree with the aggregate website reviews. The game is very half-hearted in almost every respect, featuring a seemingly broken and mercilessly repetitive combat system among many other problems.
Graphics – 7/10
The game’s best feature is it’s level of detail in graphics, which technologically can be compared to some of the best looking games of the generation, including the first three Batman Arkham games. The level of detail found in the scenery and character models is pretty impressive, but it’s lacking in terms of conceptual design, especially compared to many games or series’ based on medieval fantasy such as Lord of the Rings, Warcraft or Baldur’s Gate. Where this is most evident is in my opinion in the conceptual design of the enemies, which are very generic looking and don’t truly provide any additional variety.
Gameplay – 3/10
The game is an action RPG that plays out very similarly to Dragon Age: Origins, which to me personally, never bodes well. The player is put in control of two characters; an orc name Arkhail and a goblin named Styx. Arkhail is used for heads-on combat, whilst Styx is used to take a more stealthy approach given each individual challenge the player must overcome along the way. Undoubtedly, the best elements of the gameplay are those, which require the use of stealth, which in turn understandably explains why the developers wanted to expand upon that with the release of Styx: Master of Shadows, and the upcoming follow-up Styx: Shards of Darkness. The combat system is incredibly boring and repetitive, and despite the fact that both characters can level up and gain new abilities, the game can simply be button-mashed through regardless of what abilities players are able to take advantage of.
Controls – 3/10
Apart from the combat system presenting problems in terms of controls as well as gameplay, I also found that general movement felt very clunky and stiff. It presents particular problems when going through the stealth sequences; problems I found to have been carried on into Styx: Master of Shadows, and problems I hope that will be rectified with the release of Styx: Shards of Darkness. The controls, in my opinion, are even worse than that of Dragon Age: Origins, since whilst combat in the two games felt extremely similar, the movement controls of Dragon Age origins at least felt fluent enough.
Lifespan – 5/10
Clocking in at around 11 hours, the game is also painfully short, as well as relentlessly bad in general. There are no side quests in addition to the main story arc, and there is absolutely nothing in the way of replay value to warrant any more than a single playthrough, if players can bring themselves to get even that far.
Storyline – 4/10
The game’s narrative is also extremely uninspiring; especially for one that I thin would have inevitably had so much potential at first. The story follows Arkhail and Styx, as they are sent beyond their homeland to hatch a plan to fight back against mankind, who have enslaved and oppressed their kind amidst many years of war. Arkhail in particular is a much more lacklustre character than what his position as lead would seem to suggest initially. The only character that has anything about him at all in terms of personality is Styx, which again explains why he became the central focus in later games in this series.
Originality – 4/10
Like Dragon Age: Origins (but to a much greater and more uncomfortable extent), the game felt like more of a fighting game than an action RPG given the amount of button mashing that was involved. But on top of that, it provided no new elements to this particular style of combat that combines elements of both real-time combat and turn-based combat; certainly not to the extent that Transistor did. To me, Transistor took that style of gameplay, and made it vaguely enjoyable, whilst this game does little to change my perception that this style of play is overall a bad idea.
To summarize, Of Orcs and Men is definitely one of the worst seventh generation games I’ve had the misfortune of playing. It’s bland, repetitive, boring, uninspiring, the narrative is weak, the gameplay is weak and the only redeeming quality it has is that the visuals are technologically exceptional; which whilst commendable, doesn’t redeem the overall experience by any stretch of the imagination.