2 Reviews

Of Orcs and Men

Fighting institutionalised racism is actually quite fun

If you've ever read Lord of the Rings, played Warhammer or stared at a peculiarly humanoid vegetable, you'll know about orcs. They represent man's baser instincts, the drives too frightening to admit: violence, savagery and a predilection for monosyllabic expletives.

But what if burying those instincts is as bad as letting them loose? This is the message of new action-RPG, Of Orcs and Men. Well, sort of. It's also about hitting people with clubs.

Mankind has created an empire and expanded into new lands. Their neighbours, who happen to be gigantic mounds of angry pea soup, frighten them, so they enslave them. That's where you come in, playing the parts of Arkail, an orcish warrior, and Styx, the world's only intelligent goblin (and a dab hand at turning invisible for no reason at all). It's a ham-fisted attempt at the racism revenge story - greensploitation if you will - but it strings you along well enough.


Fight the power
That said, there's not a lot to the game beyond its central theme. A linear RPG that plonks you into a series of dungeons, the only real mechanic lies in a combat system that sits somewhere between chess and The Matrix. It's a case of analysing targets, slowing down time and queuing up skills from various skill wheels that denote different stances.

This approach doesn't deliver the slow-paced nature of a turn-based system, but the differences between your two characters - Arkail is the prototypical tank while Styx takes on the role of rogue - mean each fight is as much about tactics as it is controlling the current action.

That well thought-out approach hasn't carried over into other areas, though. It's not a well-presented game (voice acting is a particular problem - occasionally slipping into sounding like an episode of Boardwalk Empire that just happens to feature eight-foot tall, green steroid casualties), and everything from dialogue to animation feels massively underdeveloped.

But there's no doubt that there's a push towards narrative and mechanical innovation at its heart. This won't earn plaudits for what it achieves, but what it attempts is another matter - it might be destined for the bargain bucket, but it's worth picking up once it gets there.

The verdict

As interesting as it is flawed

  • The engaging combat system works
  • A nicely twisted storyline
  • No 'green with envy' puns
  • Nothing much beyond the fights
  • The presentation's appalling
Xbox 360
Action, Adventure