by Zee Salahuddin
reviewed on PC
Of Mechanics and Spectacle
There is a standard conversation wheel, which has less to do with choice and more to do with the sequence in which you want to pursue things. There is one section much later in the game, where you have to make some command decisions regarding an upcoming battle. You carefully select which Orcs to place in which roles, weigh your options and lock them in before battle begins. Aside from an off the cuff “oh, they failed” comment from an Orc named Adek, you are never told what happened to the team you selected. This was very irritating, I felt as if my choice was of absolutely zero consequence.
There are vendors scattered in every major section of the game. Vendors will buy equipment you no longer find useful, sell you weapons and armor, and upgrade existing equipment. Instead of an inflated currency (Leather Cap: 1,200 gold), the game gives you trade points. Most armor and weapons are bought for two trade points and sold for one. Every upgrade costs one trade point. This is great because it greatly simplifies a system which is normally convoluted by needless mathematical calculations. However, in a world that is as alive, visceral and believable as this, this can break immersion.
Levels are all linear, punctuated by loading screens on either end. Almost every map is a long passage appropriate to the environment, winding down to an objective at the far end. In-game, this is impossible to tell, as the environments are beautifully crafted. However, the solitary path from you to the marked X looks ridiculous on the map. There is plenty of variety in the environments as well, with Arkail and Styx working through slums, mines, caves, sewers, towns, forts, snowy mountain passes, island jungles, and all manner of variations in-between.
For a game with so much dialogue, it is a pity to see the voice-acting falling so short. Styx’s inherent sarcasm and black humor, and Arkail’s volatile temperament and thinly veiled disgust for his enemies is acted fairly well. The voice artists for the two main characters, thankfully, nail the emotion and the palpability of the moment most of the time. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, is well below average. Dialogue is monotone, devoid of sentiment, stripped of substance. Poignant, intense exchanges are sometimes ruined because the voice-acting simply fails to capture the gravity of the moment. Where the voice-acting fails, however, the music excels. The music is superbly designed, seamlessly weaving in and out of a variety of situations. It builds a sense of dread in a nightmarish landscape, provides sense of urgency in a battle against overwhelming odds, a rush of adrenaline in a fight to the death.
Of Gripes and Disappointment
Once again, for a world that I felt such a strong emotional connection to, it is disappointing to see a lack of polish creeping up into every facet of the game. Of Orcs and Men claims that Goblins mysteriously appeared around a century ago and no Goblin, aside from Styx, speaks or shows any sign of intelligence. Yet no one reacts when the Goblin starts slinging pun after sarcastic pun in the middle of conversation. Weapons appear glued to Arkail’s back. In nearly 70% of the game, regardless of my weapon choice, a bug caused my weapon to appear as a wood stick, both on my back and in combat. The range of animations is woefully small, with the lead characters repeating the same gestures, expressions and animations ad nauseum. I can go on, but the point is that coupled with the aforementioned problems, an otherwise excellent world becomes mediocre.
I am rooting for this game. I care about this world, I care about Arkail and Styx. Their story is my story, their anguish is my pain, their redemption is my deliverance. This is a fantastic tale, full of memorable characters, desperate struggles, impossible odds and fueled by an unsaid bond between two world-weary and battle-scarred greenskins. It has great locations, fun and complex combat, and satisfying mechanics. However, poor voice-acting, random bugs, questionable AI, a rushed ending and a general lack of polish hold Of Orcs and Men back from being a great game.
Great story, fresh perspective on the “humans vs. Orcs” idea, excellent music, deep combat mechanics, memorable characters.
Poor voice-acting, random bugs, questionable AI, a rushed ending and a general lack of polish.