Every year there seems to be RPGs of some form hitting around the holiday season. A game that people can get for Christmas or just over the winter to sit in from the cold and just get lost in the world, story and characters. This year however all the big RPGs are either sitting this one out or the development studios are in between games or the RPG series has seen a spin-off on-the-rails Kinect game. But Focus Home Interactive have decided to rectify this with Of Orcs and Men. And although you may not have heard the game, for its obvious limitations compared to its high budget counterparts, the result is a game that starts slow but then really can engross you in the world.
If nothing, Of Orcs and Men is unique, twisting the story of men and beasts on its head. Thankfully there is more than just concepts to this game. Rather than you playing as a knight of the order of some hero, slaying beats, you take the role of the beats, two of them to be exact. You take the role of Arkhail, an orc and Styx, a goblin that’s language is as foul as his appearance.
Developers Cyanide Studios and Spiders have decided to take the role reversal on what otherwise would’ve been very generic. The story begins simple enough: You take the role of both Arkhail and Styx who have been tasked with killing the leader of a vicious empire on the edge of forming an alliance with Elves and Dwarves in order to commit mass genocide.
Despite the story having some rough edges, it’s genuinely interesting and lead to some “five minutes more” moments. There are enough twists and turns along the way to keep you invested in the story and both Arkhail and Styx are interesting characters can be both likeable and unlikable.
Together they not only offer two different appearances and personalities, but two different playstyles. The orc Arkhail is the brute, going into battle, swinging his weapon and causing all kinds of hell. Styx on the other hand is small, with the abilities of becoming invisible when moving slowing to stealthily assassinate the enemy.
This assassination mechanic may sound a bit out of place in an action RPG but this game isn’t typically a 1:1 RPG. Instead of instantly unleashing attacks as the button is pressed, it is added to a queue instead which will then unleash that attack after the previous ones have been played out.
The system may feel like it may be dull or boring but the difficulty involved with each battle regardless of the difficulty makes big battles tense regardless of you just lining up attacks rather than actually carrying them out in real-time. Getting into a battle with more than a few enemies is never a good idea. Tactics are important and utilising a mix between attacking and defensive orders are key to victory and using each characters strengths and weaknesses will never steer you wrong.
While the system mechanics are sound in their delivery, the delivery of the animations however leave a lot to be desired. You may be controlling a massive orc with huge weapons but the strokes just feel very floaty, lacking any real impact. The lack of impact go both ways, meaning you can drop suddenly in combat without never really noticing. Sure there are your typical hints but I feel as though the system of combat is taken with such care, that all aspects surrounding it should improve rather than hinder.
All the RPG mechanics are there: levelling, changing gear, decent story and conversational choices. However, traveling through the game is very limited with very little chance to go off and explore. It’s unfortunate because some areas are simply beautiful and deserve to be explored but you are on a set path from beginning to end.
Visually Of Orcs and Men is pretty good. Rain bashes down on top of characters leaving rain to run down character’s attire and even though the art style doesn’t aim to be realistic and that helps create a visual style that’s relatively unique without it becoming too arty.
Of Orcs and men isn’t the home-run RPG but it is definitely a must-play for RPG fans this holiday season. It twists the protagonist-antagonist view and create a game that is surprisingly engaging that will spend quite some hours to go through. It is a shame that the game itself is quite linear to play through even though it is an RPG. Still worth trying out.