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Orcs (PC) artwork

Orcs (PC) review

"ORCS are easy to like, and they're practically giving them away"

One guy made this. At least, that's my understanding, and if that's true, then a lot of big studios with big budgets should, in unison, hang their heads in shame. It's not that ORCS is a gorgeous show of high production value, or genre-bending effort that pushes the hobby forward -- it's that amidst an ocean of expensive, broken games, ORCS plays just right, and, as of the date of this review, costs a dollar. If that doesn't conjure a Game of Thrones-worthy 'shame chant' for you, I don't know what would.

ORCS is a very rudimentary side-scrolling hack-and-slash action game, and it works rather well. The graphics are fairly colourful, adequately sharp -- altogether serviceable. There are no breathtaking vistas to take in, but as you make your way through the four worlds laid out before you to conquer, each one offers something a little different. Sure, these are the hackneyed forest, fire and ice areas, culminating in the evil dungeon area that we've all seen many times over, but I already warned you:ORCS is not winning any awards for originality, and that doesn't matter.

Because the thing that the game gets right, is of course, the most important thing: how it plays. The adventure is small, but it presents a perfectly fair challenge, and in doing so pulls off a balancing act that is hard to come by, especially with these types of retro homages. I’ve found that games of this ilk to come down the pike recently -- some which come in much shinier packages -- are either devoid of challenge, or audaciously pawn off some faulty function while posturing as ‘hardcore.’ ORCS makes neither of these missteps, and for that I was immensely glad while playing. It trips you up with tricky platform-to-platform leaps, evilly placed enemies, and a surprisingly diverse and talented cast of foes.

Just as you’re getting comfortable engaging with the current orc lineup, an interesting new variation will present himself for you to figure out. There are axe-wielding orcs, frustratingly difficult to time archer orcs (always patrolling platform edges!), and the game’s version of Abobo who attacks at range by vomiting red bile and creating mini-tornadoes along the ground (I suspect he’s also an orc -- just a massive one). There are orcs who appear out of thin air, attack you and vanish again; there are orcs who fire daggers at you and then somersault away as they anticipate your retreat; and we haven't even gotten to the bosses yet.

All of the end-of-level bad guys offer tricky patterns to memorize and come to grips with -- especially, appropriately, the last boss, who will take a good deal of practice to put down. It all feels pretty impressive, again, considering how small the game is. Too often the emphasis for studios with limited resources is on presentation. Not so with ORCS. The presentation gets the job done, but it's the game's challenge, which as far as I am concerned, is just right, that keeps you playing for as long as the game lasts, which is not long at all.

If you could find fault with the experience, notwithstanding its quaintness, you would point to its length. As mentioned, there are only four areas: each has four short stages to work through. You'll move rightward, killing orcs and making jumps until a few hours of engaging play and several fist pumps later, it's all over. There is some cheeky self-parody going on here featuring some iffy English, in an attempt to carry a humorous self-referential story, but it's not important. What’s important is that ORCS is a dirt cheap platformer -- that is old school challenging (take three hits, die and restart the stage) and old school short -- which deserves your attention, especially at this price point.


Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (March 04, 2018)

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EmP posted March 07, 2018:

I got a Steam Link box months ago, but I've been too lazy to set it up. Not long ago I decided today was the day and plugged it all in, powered it all up, and it was pretty cool. All my Steam games on my big ol' TV. "I should use this to play this AAA games I've owned forever and keep ignoring, like DOOM or Nier" But I did none of those things. I played ORCS. And that's your fault.

True story
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Masters posted March 07, 2018:

Haha, are you talking about the day I harassed you to play it? Didn't I end up buying it for you?
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EmP posted March 08, 2018:

You did, yes. Then pestered me nonstop to play it over Steam IM while I was playing other games.

Think I'm about half done. I do plan to go back.

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