Of Orcs and Men (2012)


I think the idea of Of Orcs and Men is more interesting than the game itself is. Not that the game is terrible, mind you. As far games go it walks a steady path of being a fun little game, not groundbreaking nor overly ambitious in any way, but a fun little game that might even linger in your thoughts for a moment after you've finished it.

So the idea of Of Orcs and Men. Simply put, it lets you play as the usual villains of any bulk fantasy piece, as an orc and a goblin. Arkail is a brutish berserk warrior on a mission to assassin a human emperor, as he and his fellow rebels feel it's the means of ending orc slavery. Styx is his guide, a foul-mouthed goblin, who is handy with his daggers and stealth attacks. You can play with either one you choose, freely changing between the characters, but I noticed I preferred playing Styx, as I've always liked rogues and assassins in RPG's. Arkail is the brawn of the duo and during a fight he's the one that can take the most punishment, while Styx stays in the background, throwing daggers and poisoning enemies with his daggers.

Styx and Arkail in one of the few city levels.
In theory, this should lead to an interesting game mechanics, but in the end, the combat is merely serviceable, mainly because the enemy AI isn't that great. Most of the time you head into an enemy location with Styx, stealth killing everyone you can before Arkail burst in after Styx has been detected. And by that I mean directly detected by the enemies, as they don't react in any way on the corpses Styx leaves behind while thinning the herds. The AI doesn't react on corpses in any way, which leads into a few silly moments with Styx hiding in the shadows behind the next potential victim, while other soldiers are walking past the corpses of their fallen comrades. In some ways locations tend to turn into small puzzles in themselves, when you're trying to figure out the best order in which to kill as many of the enemies you can before you're noticed by either because of bad luck or because you kill someone in plain sight.

After you've thinned the herds, the rest of the combat tends to go more often than not by having Arkail beating up the main bulk, while Styx runs around, throwing daggers and on occasion resurrecting Arkail if he falls down. All in all, not the most exciting nor strategic way of doing combat.

Styx in his stealth stance.
The environments themselves are pretty straight forwarded corridors. Even outside areas and the few city blocks you see are nothing but corridors in which you need to get from one end to an another. In a couple of places, you'll see some NPC's with whom you can converse with or trade with better items or upgrade the stuff you have. Most of the time you'll be looking at pretty boring sets of caves, sewers and all the standard stuff of RPG cliche environments. The item system isn't very exciting either, as there's only a small amount of arms and armour you'll see during the game. In fact, you'll manage to get pretty decent pieces of gear early on which will last almost all the way to the end game.

As far the story goes, Of Orcs and Men manages to get to the b-movie level with ease. It has some things in it that could make you shake your head or just bust out laughing, especially when it's apparent that the writers were trying to be serious or overly clever. A lot of the dramatic moments and especially the cinematics are almost adorably clumsy in their execution. When I said the game doesn't try to be overly ambitious, I might have been a bit too optimistic, as the story does try to be that at times, succeeding rather badly at it.

Typical combat scenario. Arkail is surrounded by the horde, while Styx has fallen to the background.
Despite all that, Of Orcs and Men is pretty entertaining though. While it's not amazingly great in design or mechanics nor in the story, it is a fun little game, which should entertain you if you like light action RPGs. It's a far cry from being a classic, but I do think I'll remember it to unknown future just because it manages to stand out from the more atypical fantasy mush because of its settings. At the same time though, I can't help but wonder what it could have been.

If you want it, you can get it from Steam. But personally, I'd wait for a sale. A tenner or so would sound about right to me, especially if you don't go to it expecting to be wowed in every turn.

This is the end.