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The Most Underrated Strategy Series Is Finally on Xbox Game Pass

A twist on tower defense.

Orcs Must Die 3
Robot Entertainment

There are a lot of offshoots of the strategy genre, but few have flourished as well as tower defense games. It’s easy to get obsessed with the simple formula of strategically placing defenses to fend off waves of enemies, whiling away hours, even days, to play just one more level. While tower defense games are a dime a dozen on mobile, few titles have managed to make the jump to a convincing console experience. The exception to that trend is Orcs Must Die!, a series that puts an inventive twist on tower defense by fusing it with a third-person shooter. The most ambitious entry in the series, Orcs Must Die 3, is now immediately available to any Xbox Game Pass subscriber.

If you couldn’t guess by the name, the point of Orcs Must Die 3 is to, well, take out hundreds of angry Orcs that simply want to destroy everything. Like most tower defense games you’re tasked with protecting a single point, in this case, a magical rift, and you have to build a variety of different traps in order to stop the Orc onslaught.

Building the perfect labyrinth of traps is always incredibly satisfying.

Robot Entertainment

The fun twist is that you’re controlling a Warlock or Witch that has their own set of skills and attacks, and in order to clear each level you’ll need to combine smart trap building with your own abilities. As you take out enemies and survive waves you’ll earn more resources, enabling you to build more traps and chokepoints.

While there’s a light fantasy story to tie everything together, the joy of Orcs Must Die 3 lies in putting together a veritable kingdom of traps and machines, and feeling that satisfaction as your defenses work flawlessly to mow down hundreds of unsuspecting enemies.

If sitting back and watching isn’t your style, you can jump right into the fray and take down enemies with your magical bow, a tremendously powerful Blunderbuss gun, or other weapons. While erasing so many Orcs from existence might sound horrific, a colorful art style and super sense of humor make the game end up feeling more like a Saturday morning cartoon.

Things can quickly spiral out of control, so planning and setup before enemy waves start coming is essential.

Robot Entertainment

What really makes Orcs Must Die 3 special, though, is the sheer variety built into its tower defense. There are dozens of machines you can build, which can all lead to drastically different strategies. For example, you might set a flip trap that launches Orcs into spike walls or massive briar plants. Or you could set barricades up that stop enemies in their tracks, just long enough for your Ceiling Pounder to flatten them into pancakes. Most levels are intentionally designed with different pathways or chokepoints that encourage multiple replays for better scores.

As you make your way through the 18 story levels, you’ll unlock more traps and options, and start facing new enemies, like massive hulking Ogres that won’t go down without a fight.

While those main levels are fun, Orcs Must Die 3 makes a massive improvement over its predecessors with its thrilling War Scenarios. These missions are like the story ones on steroids, pitting you against overwhelmingly massive armies of thousands of Orcs.

War Scenarios drastically up the scale of both your weapons and enemies, making for hectic but incredibly enjoyable missions.

Robot Entertainment

This results in much bigger maps that give you access to devastating weapons, like entire platoons of archers or a catapult that fires exploding barrels. Wrapping your head around these drastically larger maps can initially be challenging, but the sheer spectacle of fighting off hundreds of enemies at once never ceases to be thrilling.

Orcs Must Die 3 isn’t the most complex strategy game out there, but it’s the kind of experience where you’re guaranteed to have fun. Building out massive sequences of traps and experimenting with different strategies is undeniably compelling, and it’s the perfect game to cozy up and spend a weekend with, especially if you bring a friend along in co-op.

Orcs Must Die 3 is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

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