Before I dive into the reviews, I want to tell you to stick around to the very end of the post because I have terrific news to share! If you’re a long-time reader of this site, you’re going to be pretty happy…
But first, give me a minute to geek out.
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my latest guilty gaming pleasures and I’ve got two for you that I’m really excited about. First up is a little game called Orcs Must Die 2. I saw the trailer a few months ago, and what I saw convinced me to buy the game as soon as it was released. Orcs Must Die 2 is a fantasy riff on run-and-gun games, but with a twist — players are given a variety of traps to use against the orc hordes. And if that isn’t enough to pique your interest, well, it also has a two-player mode that kicks ass.
There are only two player characters available, a chick-mage and a dude-mage, and they each start with different abilities and traps. The dude has a shotgun/grenade primary attack while the chick has a wand pew-pew/charm attack. Funny; my dude friends all prefer to play the girl, while I prefer the guy. I guess you could say I wear the pants in my bro group. HIGH FIVE! Anyway, while the maps get harder and the waves of orcs get tougher, employing a strategy becomes very important — not just in placement, but the types of traps players purchase, upgrade, and utilize become more strategic, too.
Oh, the best part about purchasing and upgrading your traps? You can refund all your points as many times as you want, so trying every crazy trap available is encouraged. I don’t think there are right or wrong choices, just a multitude of options to fit all kinds of crazy strategies and play styles.
The game employs a lot of whimsy and humor to keep everything rolling. Just before orcs explode, get shot, or go flying through the air to their deaths, you can often hear them saying hilarious one-liners like, “Game over, man! It’s game over!” And as the story progresses, the banter between the two mages will make you want to continue, if only to hear more.
Creating a two-player game is a cinch if you’re on Steam. Players can simply click on their friends lists to see who’s online and owns the game, and can ask them to join with a click. A window will pop up with the request, and players can click to accept or deny (aww, forever alone). Voice chat is built right into the game, so players can get started without messing with settings and extra chat clients. I suppose you can type, but believe me, you’re going to need those hands free when the waves of orcs roll in.
I am a little embarrassed to say that I became addicted to this game early on and couldn’t stop playing. If you’re like me and insist on playing every level perfectly, this game could very well be your doom. Each level receives a grade of one to five skulls, five skulls meaning a perfect score and one skull meaning you totally suck. There aren’t actually a ton of maps to conquer – a dozen or so, perhaps? I would give you an exact number but I accidentally deleted my high level dude just before writing this post. (I thought I was deleting a different character. Once I realized what I had done… oh God, the HORROR!) But if you’re out there to get perfect scores every time, as you get a little higher in levels, it’s likely you’re going to need to run maps repeatedly to get that five skull rating.
Anyway, completing all the maps on story mode isn’t the end of the game. There is an “endless” mode where each map has waves of mobs that come, each wave getting harder and harder. I thought there was a total of 40 waves for each of these “endless” modes, but on one of them I got to 44. So apparently not. The game also offers a fun weekly challenge, and has started releasing cheap booster packs with additional maps and traps to keep the game interesting for all of us addicts.
If you’re into something that’s cheap and fun and a hell of a rush, I definitely recommend Orcs Must Die 2. It’s only $14.99 on Steam, and booster packs are $4.99. Check out the trailer for a little extra awesomeness.
My second addiction is the dungeon crawler most of us were waiting for with baited breath:
I played the hell out of the first Torchlight, a fun and laid-back dungeon crawler that was incredibly addictive. I found that whenever I wanted something fun and didn’t push my brain too hard, I reached for this game again and again. When the sequel was announced, I was relatively pleased. And then they announced multiplayer.
My enthusiasm went to 11.
There’s a lot to love about Torchlight 2. It’s evolved so beautifully from its first iteration and I couldn’t be more pleased. We’re no longer bound to one small town. Players are outside now, wandering a colorful and diverse map. The original class offerings are gone, but we are given four new, strong classes to play in both male and female skins. Pets are a stronger, more viable partner than ever — their skills in combat seem to have increased, at least from what I remember, and they still return to town to sell your loot. But what’s more is they now shop for players. Short on health potions? Worry no more. Mr. Meowskers will get that for you.
I think one of the truly special features of Torchlight 2 is choice of difficulty levels. The first two levels are incredibly easy — so easy a player has to try to die. Or, perhaps, you’re a very young player. That’s right, the Torchlight series is kid-friendly and now you can play it together, the way geek families are meant to! Kids will love T2. The game is bright, colorful, and doesn’t feel oppressive like some competing dungeon-crawler games. Friendly NPCs have a huggable, Disney-like quality, and player armor has a playful, Saturday-morning-cartoon vibe.
And yet there’s a lot of content for adults to love. For example, I found Chester Copperpot and defeated One-Eyed Willy. (Goonies references, for you young whippersnappers). There are other references, but I’ll not mention them, for fear of spoiling them.
Another favorite feature is that the dungeons are randomized. So, if you want to play every single class, like I do, you can do the same quests and the game will still feel fresh. Plus, there’s lots of loot and secret rooms filled with loot, and more loot. You know, the whole reason I play on the elite difficulty level is because of all the extra loot. Secret rooms with loot galore!
OH MY GOD, I LOVE LOOT!
I’m having a tremendous amount of fun in Torchlight 2, and I know this is a game I’ll be playing for a long time. It’s $20 through Steam, and I can’t recommend it enough. For additional oohs and aahs, check out the trailer.
Okay, you’ve made it to the end of the post. (Or, you cheated and scrolled down. It’s okay, sometimes I cheat, too.) Anyway, I have two things to tell you. First, thank you all for the love and incredible support when I revealed the cover and first chapter of my coming novel, THE FOURTH CHANNEL. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from you guys, and the feedback I received on Facebook, Twitter, and email was overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting that at all, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Last Friday, I submitted THE FOURTH CHANNEL and the “blurb” that describes the story to Goodreads. If you haven’t heard of Goodreads, it’s a place where readers go to rate and review books, and to meet up with other people who enjoy the same types of books. I’m sorry that I didn’t give you a heads-up on the Goodreads posting until now. I honestly didn’t know what kind of response that was going to get. It’s only been a few days, and so far it looks like over 60 people have marked my book “to read!” If you’re a regular on Goodreads and would like to add the book to your virtual bookshelf, you can find it here.
As it stands, the Spouseditor and I are working our butts off to wrap up this book in the next month or so. I’ll keep you posted as we get closer to the date. Again, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support. You guys are AWESOME.
But wait, there’s more! The other thing I want to tell you is how much I miss our short stories. I think very fondly of the days when we did the Vote Your Adventure series, but since there are so many of those going around these days, we need a whole new take on the idea.
So that’s what we’re going to do.
Remember Mark Lidstone? He’s one of my writing partners, and started writing zombie-themed Vote Your Adventures right around the time we were working through Site 27, I think. Anyway, after I release THE FOURTH CHANNEL, we’re going to celebrate by doing a collaborative, epic twist on Vote Your Adventure. It’s going to be a battle of the blogs. And I’m going to need you guys, Team Jen, to defeat Team Mark.
Details are coming. Stay tuned.