I love a tower defence game I can get my teeth into and whilst many comments on my gameplay of some of the best led to comments of “why on Earth are you playing it like this, its painful” – the fun is in the strategy. Mortals & Monsters: Blood Orc is a tower defence game made by two people who love the genre but want to add something new.
That something new is building the maze path your enemies will take before they reach their goal – your camp. Any enemies that do so will smash your camp up, reducing its HP to zero and giving you a defeat. This means building the longest, most convoluted path you can is essential. To do this, you can build on any stone ground using vertical and horizontal walls. You’ll soon realise doing zigzags and wrapping around the places you pop towers on is key. The game only lets you build the maze once but thankfully a tracking ball for each route an enemy could take updates and and shows you where they will go. This is essential because without it, its all guess work.
Once the maze is built you’ll place down towers and watch the waves of enemies come in. Here, you’ll unlock 10 towers across a 30 level campaign. Each tower can be upgraded three times and they are the usual variety with a few nice theming surprises like the random gun attack that’ll shoot anything and a ghost tower that haunts enemies to death. Just as important, you’ll have four abilities to juggle. One of them is a laser beam from the sky which some enemies can only be killed by so you’ll be spamming that attack all level long. These are upgradable too although money is hardly in abundance so it’ll be choice between abilities and towers to be upgraded or built. Warning up front – this game is very hard. Normal mode served me a new arse very early on and I had to drop to easy to progress through the campaign. This might be me more than the game being hard as nails but I’ve seen this comment a few times elsewhere too.
So far, so good. There are a few problems though.
Firstly, the controls are very finickity. When building mazes, your straight line will veer off and long corridors become a chore to make. The camera must be set up dead centre to where you are painting the walls otherwise the wall veers off wonkily. Often gaps look big enough for enemies to fit through but you can’t move them and other times enemies can squeeze through hills you didn’t think they could. The tracking ball helps with all this and is a great bit of kit but the camera perspective fights you all the way. As levels get more complex, hills, buildings and foliage get in the way. You can’t build behind things so you have to jiggle the camera perspective to cheat around the back of something to close the gap. The game really needs a rotate or 90 degree turn button – or better still a top down view for building on a grid. The freeform nature of the building from an isometric yet top down-ish perspective is just frustrating.
Thankfully, this is slightly less of an issue when you are fighting but the perspective problem transfers to your laser beam attack. The cursor struggles to work on anything hiding behind scenery and even though you get a visual of where you are, it just shows how the attack has jumped 5 or 6 moves up the screen compared to where you want it to be. Odder is that the orange UI often blends into the block brown and dark colour palette. The game isn’t a looker but it doesn’t need to be. I would like a clearer, bolder UI for tower range and stats though. When battling, enemies do nothing different aside from walk at different paces. A couple can only be killed by your laser attack and a few fly rather than walk but they do little to affect the world around them. The game ends up feeling like a fluid tube simulator as a result.
There is a lot of love in Mortals & Monsters: Blood Orc but to open it up to a wider audience it needs some quality of life improvements. If the camera could be improved, half the problems and frustrations I encountered with the game would be void. However, I spent just as much time – if not more – building walls as I did battling monsters and that feels a bit lopsided. It needs some shortcuts like different wall sizes to build something a little quicker than present to not feel like you are doing a lot of donkey work to then get pummelled to death if you haven’t thought of the longest route possible.
Definitely one for the genre fans only, and you’ll need a chunk of patience to go with it. This is very rough in places but I can absolutely see the merits in it too. It’s just for a very niche audience who will wrestle with something to win.
Review copy provided by developer.
Mortals & Monsters: Blood Orc
Clunky controls and an unbalanced campaign make an interesting twist on the genre a bit laborious to get through. Die hard fans will enjoy themselves though.
Maze building is a great extra that makes you think.
Lengthy campaign if you want it.
Brutal difficulty on anything except easy mode will give you a challenge.
Fighting the controls in build mode is very annoying.
Enemies all just walk along at varying speeds - nothing really distinguishes them out.
The inability to change your maze when you know its not working is a time waste.
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