Arkail is an orc known as ‘The Butcher,’ a fearsome warrior whose rage is so great that he can’t quite control it and he ends up attacking allies and enemies alike. His anger is well-understood, because his people are almost all enslaved or have been annihilated. So when an opportunity to kill the Emperor comes up, he jumps at the chance to be the one to take his hated enemy down and save his people. But his tactics are very in-your-face and his up-front approach to battle will just get him killed and that won’t get him anywhere near the Emperor. So he’s got a guide, in the Goblin named Styx, whose own style leans more towards stealth and assassination. Styx leads Arkail to the wall that the humans have built to keep out the marauding orc tribes so that he can get to the Emperor, but things don’t go smoothly, all too often Arkail and Styx need to fight guards and even orcish traitors to continue their mission.
The first fifteen minutes Of Orcs and Men is kind of a movie where you don’t get to do much and learn a lot about the world and the situation of the orcs and just how desperate they really are to attempt to kill the Emperor. It’s kind of a letdown to get so much background so early, because really, I wanted to try out combat as an orc. And you do get to have a small fight, but you have to wait a good while before you get to wet your sword with human blood. I may have just been impatient to get going because I first found this game in the summer and have been waiting to try it ever since. Combat for Arkail and Styx are both based on four command spots, with each spot being filled from the combat wheel, which consists of skills that differ somewhat between Arkail and Styx. Arkail’s focus most on melee combat, with heavy and light strikes that help defeat armored and unarmored foes as fast as possible. Styx has a wheel for close combat but also one for ranged combat. There’s also a wheel for special abilities, like reviving a downed ally or, my favorite, the move where Arkail throws Styx at enemies, which is just too much fun. While there’s a rich history and background in this world, the actual gameplay is very linear, with you at one end of the map and your objectives at the other, and enemies in between. There’s little to explore beyond the things that enable you to get to the object of your mission. This isn’t really an issue beyond the fact that I wanted to be able to explore environments like the Wall in a bit more detail. Not much of the environment is destructible, and I feel like Arkail might not have minded being able to take out some barrels or boxes on his way to kill the Emperor. Just running through the corridors doesn’t really make me feel like a marauding orc, I just feel like a human who looks a bit different and is a little taller. One thing that adds to the orcish experience is the racism Arkail faces from some of his enemies, who see orcs as little better than slaves and objects to be killed. This definitely makes you understand why Arkail wants to kill every human he sees. It doesn’t make him evil, which is a nice twist. This isn’t a game where you’re killing just for the sheer pleasure of it, and that makes Arkail less of a monster and more of a character. Styx is well-rendered as well, as the only intelligent goblin anyone’s ever met, which seems odd to me, given the treatment of orcs in this game, but it’s not a deal-breaker by any means.
Beating the crap out of people as Arkail is a lot of fun, but stealthing around and assassinating guards as Styx is a hell of a good time too. It’s awesome that both of these characters are developed as well as they are, and both still feel unique, which is one of the greatest features of the game. Styx definitely has more nuances to him than Arkail does, though Arkail doesn’t feel underdeveloped compared to Styx. I think Arkail grows and changes throughout the game, while Styx has already been through a lot of that stuff and so he seems more nuanced because Arkail is still developing. Combat can be tough to master, but once you’ve got it down you’ll be able to kill humans fast and in very cool brutal ways. Arkail’s rage can be a good thing if you’re overmatched, though he has a tendency to take down Styx if he’s standing nearby, which makes things kind of a pain. Overall I loved my time as an orc, and I’d love to see more games with main characters like Arkail and Styx.