A lot of independent games were shown over the weekend at PAX East 2012, but one that definitely got a great deal of attention from those who came to the show is Orcs Must Die! 2.  This is the latest from Robot Entertainment, a development team made up of former members of Ensemble Studios, the guys behind Halo Wars guys?  With this sequel, the team sticks to doing what it does best – piling up bodies of orcs as you use both strategy and action elements to send them packing into the afterlife.

Thankfully, this isn’t just some cheap add-on to the original game for the sake of making a quick buck. The team is making all sorts of improvements this time around, adding a much-requested co-op mode, as well as new traps and other goodies to help keep the orc blood flowing.

The War Mage, the cocky hero from the original game, once again makes a return, ready to do battle with sword in hand and a bevy of traps within his reach.  This time he’s not alone.  For reasons that have not yet been disclosed, one of his main enemies from the original Orcs Must Die!, the powerful Sorceress, decides to join his ranks and help him shut down the horde of orcs.  We’re guessing that it might have something to do with them being out of her control, but we’ll wait for Robot Entertainment’s official confirmation on that.

With the introduction of a secondary character, there are a number of new possibilities with Orcs Must Die! 2. First off, you can now play alongside a friend, working together to lay down traps and strategies as hordes of regular and super-powered orcs come your way.  You can also go at it solo, getting a lay of the land and trying to figure out the best course of action when it comes to stopping their charge.

Unlike the first game, Orcs Must Die! 2 doesn’t entirely take place in a castle.  Now you’ve got a number of outdoor environments to play around with and bigger levels that give you more room to run and lay down creative traps.  

The stage we tried out during our time with the demo took place in an enlarged mineshaft, perched on the side of a mountain.  This presents a couple of interesting opportunities when it comes to killing orcs, mainly lining up “pushing pistons” alongside rock walls and watching them jettison unsuspecting orcs over the cliff, adding to your high score.  There are also mine carts that are looping around, and you can control their direction so that it works in your favor, as they mow down any orcs unfortunate enough to walk on their tracks.

Along with a number of traps from the original game (among them the “pushing pistons”, spiked floors and dart shooters), Orcs Must Die! 2 will also come with a number of new and improved traps, ones that cater specifically to the War Mage and the Sorceress, depending on their skill set.  Though Robot Entertainment hasn’t laid them all out just yet, we can expect plenty of carnage as a result, provided you have the funds available to finance them and place them wherever you see fit.

Along with access to new traps and levels, Orcs Must Die! 2 also rewards you based on your performance, thanks to the new upgrade system.  Here you’ll earn skulls depending how you complete objectives on each stage, from wiping out a certain percentage of the orc army to completing a certain number of stylish maneuvers.  Once you get these skulls, you can turn them around to purchase persistent upgrades, improving not only your defensive techniques, but also your speed and stamina.

You’ll need every bit of these abilities too, because Orcs Must Die! 2 comes with a slew of new enemies who don’t know the meaning of the word quit (or, for that matter, how to pronounce it).  Huge glowing rock orcs will come down the line, taking much more sustainable damage than the regular orcs, and other types will enter the picture in the later stages of the game, forcing you to change up your strategy in order to stay in one piece.  Make sure a friend comes along for the ride in co-op so you can manage the battle together.

One nagging issue about Orcs Must Die! 2 is which platforms it’s being released for.  The original game found great success on both PC/Steam and Xbox Live Arcade.  This time around, the team is opting for a PC/Steam release only, with an emphasis on providing free content for those who still own the original game.  While we can kind of understand the company’s need to save a little money on the ports, it’s still a shame that console owners are being left out this time around.  Maybe they’ll change their minds this summer...

Regardless of platform, Orcs Must Die! 2 looks like a heck of a lot of fun, with its old and new traps, various orc types, and the new character and co-op abilities, all thrown into one blood-gushing package. Look for it to make its killing sometime this summer.

And bring a mop.