Even though they’re traditionally seen as bad guys, orcs have always been a popular fictional race in the fantasy genre. From Dungeons & Dragons with the Forgotten Realms settings among others, Warhammer 40K with the ones with the big guns and the Cockney accents, Warcraft that portrays them as noble savages, and so on, Orcs have always been a staple since the days of Tolkien. This game by Cyanide Studios and Spiders attempt to capture the very essence of the Orcs’ charm into one game aptly named Of Orcs and Men.
This was actually released way back in 2012, but it doesn’t seem to be worse for wear. Of Orcs and Men is a different kind of fantasy game that has the usual villains as the protagonists and so on. It’s like Dragon Age in that the humans are portrayed as the nobility, and the other races as under their tyranny. Much of the same is with this game, with the humans the villains of the game. The Empire of Men has ruled over the land with much cruelty, and they murder the Goblins and enslave the Orcs in a prolonged spree of hate and discrimination.
Players take control of two characters — an Orc berserker named Arkail and a Goblin named Styx. They fight for all of the greenskin people, and the seek to assassinate the human emperor who has oppressed them for long enough. Arkali the Orc is all about brute force, so he takes whatever enemies have to dish out and gives it all back twice over. As for Styx the Goblin, he is more of a support character that hits from afar and fights with cunning. Having two protagonists is a good idea since they were successful in making the narrative more dynamic by providing two different coinciding perspectives to the story. It also does well in supplementing the gameplay as you have two different characters with their own strengths and abilities to work with in combat.
At first glance, it does impress with good character design, as well as nice looking environments to go with them. The graphics feature detailed models that really make you feel that you’re in the land of orcs. There is also substance to back up the looks, especially with the combat system. It takes a lot from past Bioware games, wherein players can queue up commands in a tactical manner to take advantage of every situation with whatever you have. Both characters have three combat stances, which are melee, special, and defense, all of which are helpful depending on each situation.
This game is not shy when it comes to its language. It’s not exactly common for a fantasy game to incorporate such crude vocabulary, and some titles would substitute them with words that sound like curses in elvish or something else. But listening to these characters using those words is a bit of a mix in terms of how they make audiences feel, which is an air of familiarity as well as that of uneasiness. There was a time when even a game like Max Payne had to tune it back in terms of language, then its sequel years later used actual swear words that kind of showed how times had changed for video games.
However, there are a few drawbacks. While the levels do look good, they’re quite linear and does not do much in terms of exploration though. You also get little in terms of loot, so killing enemies isn’t really that rewarding. RPG players are hardwired to take everything out though, so it may take away a bit from the gameplay experience. Upon release, the game does come with some bugs and glitches, although not everyone may encounter them during gameplay.
This game is for fantasy connoisseurs, those who are into D&D and so on, who have read the Tolkien books other than those that have been turned into films, and who know what LARPing is (whether they’re fascinated, puzzled, or actually swear by it). Of Orcs and Men is perhaps a rarity even among fantasy games these days. Perhaps we’ll see more from the likes of Bioware in the future with the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition in 2014.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8/10