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Orcs Must Die! 2 is the PC-only sequel to last year’s popular PC and XBLA title Orcs Must Die!, and that’s a surprise to no one because of the naming scheme. It’s a great installment in the subgenre of tower defense games, specifically the kind that let you jump into the action with a hero. More specifically, you can jump in with one of two heroes. Big changes for the second game are a new hero to play, the Sorceress, and co-op online.

Sometimes traps aren’t enough, but I guess unimaginable magic power can fill the gaps.

The joy of the game is in the variety and cruelty of its traps, on their own or combined. TF2′s engineer would kill for the toolkit from these games (but that’s probably not saying much). Walls of grinding posts will literally suck in enemies that wander too near or well-placed barricades can force them into single file, walking directly against the arc of a mace-tipped pendulum. This is a game that necessitates being shown to someone, like in a “dude, come over here and see what I did” sort of way. You’ll feel a little twisted, but someone else needs to see and appreciate how damn beaten those orcs are.

And if you find that your preferred set of traps doesn’t fill up your character’s inventory, there’s an almost equally diverse set of weapons and trinkets to shoot, beat, freeze, and polymorph incoming baddies (that’s nowhere near a complete list of options). These can definitely prove more effective than a trap setup. A blast from the Wind Belt can hurl half of an orc regiment into acid pits and save money you would otherwise have used to spring trap only a handful of them into the same death.

But thus far, everything I’ve described is available in both games. One of the most important changes from the first to second is in how you customize that gear. Single upgrades for each trap and Weaver “cards” that let you spec for each mission have been replaced by a better system. Your spellbook now lets you buy new traps and items on top of those unlocked through the campaign and every piece has several upgrades. Usually something like a 3-level perk to increase the damage or efficiency and then a choice of two modifiers (your arrows can chill or they can set things on fire, for instance). Though you can buy multiple modifiers, you can only equip one at a time. A few traps have another upgrade above and beyond the rest that will enable moving them from floors to walls or other strategic flexibilities. Lastly, you can now have your investments refunded anytime between missions, encouraging lots of experimentation.

A lovingly crafted welcome mat can help to make any fortress a home.

The other most important new feature is co-op. Every level is available to be played in 2vLotsoforcs mode and the hours I put in with a partner worked fantastically. The War Mage from the first game is joined by the Sorceress, and though it’s no kind of handicap to play with two of the same characters, pairing them allows for even a little more trap and weapon variety. The War Mage is still spikes, arrows, and sticky tar much like he was before, though now with a blunderbuss and enemy-flinging grenades. The Sorceress adds new magical and chemical traps as well as fun abilities like charm. Used wisely, she can shut down a whole lane temporarily by turning its biggest pushers back on their comrades.

The only flaw is that the campaign is too short. At about two-thirds the length of Orcs Must Die!, it feels like I’m running out of fresh levels quickly. It was saddening to see the “Halfway There” achievement pop up early in my play time. Owners of the first game will have some of that sting relieved by the chance to replay 10 levels from the original with new enemies and in co-op, though.

Despite this shortness, the new game definitely has more replay value than its predecessor. With new Endless versions of levels spawning waves until you can’t take it, innumerable ways to spec your gear, and a little variation between characters, it’s worth revisiting missions to improve on your strategy and enjoy that trap you didn’t find a home for the first time around. It’s a blast to play.

- Matthew (RAP)