Orcs & Elves

Moby ID: 31477
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Description official descriptions

Orcs & Elves is a turn-based role-playing game based on improved DOOM RPG engine. The story follows an elf named Elli who, along with a talking magic wand Ellon, heads to the depths of a devastated dwarven citadel to find out what happened there, battling foes of many kinds, finding mysterious items and meeting various people.

The game uses a first person perspective and dungeons are grid-based, similar to the Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder series; the player can only move between squares, forward, backward, strafe left or right, turn in 90 degree increments. Enemies and dungeon features are drawn with sprite graphics. There are some 3D objects in the dungeons as well, and the game employs some 3D camera movements in the cutscenes. The dungeons mostly consist of one level, though it is possible to move between different parts of the dungeons and revisit the previous dungeons as necessary.

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Credits (J2ME version)

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Average score: 71% (based on 15 ratings)


Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 15 ratings with 3 reviews)

John Carmack is your Dungeon Master.

The Good
From the Orcs & Elves text “Godless Lands”: “Those who make up this realm are unique, with potential unlike any in all the known Universe…”

Long-time fans of id software may be surprised that such a relatively small-scale production such as Orcs & Elves would come out of that production house. id Software is known for such industry giants as Quake, Doom, and Wolfenstein – legendary and (mostly) ground-breaking software. What could this company have to offer in the mobile market?

In the grand tradition of games such as Phantasy Star and Might & Magic, this title is first-person perspective role-playing-game. Presented on the mobile phone screen as if through the eyes of the protagonist, players take control of an armed, half-Elf character. You must navigate the many dungeons and chambers, slaughtering countless labyrinth-dwelling enemies, collecting treasures, items and potions along the way – nothing too new there. You are not alone in these mazes; your Wand is more than a powerful beam-firing weapon, it yet another character. He provides additional dialogue, hints, directions and the occasional wisecrack. Ellon (yes, the Wand has a name) provides the narrative in the game, (as sporadic and brief as that may be).

On first sight of the game, veteran PC gamers and learned computer-game scholars may be temporarily whisked back to the beginning of 3D gaming, for this title’s game engine resembles the original Wolfenstein 3D to an incredible degree. But make this distinction, Orcs & Elves moves in set grids. That is, forward moves you forward one “space”, left moves you “left” one space and so on. I suppose due to sever technical restrictions on average mobile technology; the game has had to set this limit. Those expecting the smooth scrolling of Wolf3D may be disheartened by this, but those craving a DOS-style RPG adventure must be cheering by now!

So with each input, whether it is a movement, attack, or turn, an “action” is made. This means that all sprites (yes the game is sprite-based (apart from the level-design itself)) will make an “action” in this same key-press. The only modern game that I can think that has reverted to this time/action-scale is the brutally difficult Etrian Odyssey series, and presumably Orcs & Elves DS.

The Bad
As you navigate the different areas, you will be hindered by rats, orcs, slimes, knights and all other sorts of Feudal-age fodder. The action button will attack whatever is in front of you, and avoiding battles is nigh impossible. Traditional elements such as stat-points, levelling-up, armour/weapon integrity and potion power-ups are included in this title, and players new to this genre should find most things self-explanatory, whereas veteran gamers may find the lack of juicy details and colourful description mysteriously absent.

The Bottom Line
Orcs & Elves is really just a DOS-style RPG game crammed into a tiny download. It’s colourful, entertaining in its straightforwardness, and the gamers’ mobile game. If you need a break from real-time action role-playing, and crave the simplicity of yesteryear, Orcs & Elves can provide that no sweat. If you enjoy squinting over geometric maps, searching seemingly endless walls for secret entries and slaughtering rat after rat, then I recommend this game. If you need the skill-building and inventory tweaking that sophisticated titles like Oblivion provide, I’m afraid you’re way, way off!

J2ME · by So Hai (261) · 2009

A very fine old-school RPG treat

The Good
Orcs & Elves is a refreshingly old-school RPG. I had not played the predecessor, the DOOM RPG, but the game clearly was an answer to my (highly unlikely) plea: "I wish there was a game that had all the action of DOOM, a little bit more leisurely pace, and a fantasy theme". It is a pretty good mix of action and leisurely-paced free exploration of a dungeon complex. You can play it both ways: Race to the finish as fast as you can, or explore every nook and cranny at your own pace.

Game system is, in my opinion, nicely done and has a sufficient depth, considering how humble the origins of the game are. You need to think of the approaches on how to defeat each type of a monster, make sure you have enough items, and scour the levels for all of the very necessary loot. There are monsters that are easy and fun to frag, monsters that are pain in the neck and satisfying to take down... and monsters that are kind of scary and tough to defeat.

The graphical style is a fascinating mix of old and new. Even if the sprite graphics remind me of old games, this is only a good, even nostalgia-inducing thing, and the sprites are not ugly as such. The sprites and textures are detailed and pretty enough for all intents and purposes. It is fascinating how the 3D objects and camera runs work seamlessly together with the sprite graphics; the jump from pseudo-3D to true-3D does not alarm at all and works nicely. Finally, an answer to another of my (highly unlikely) pleas: "What would have Dungeon Master looked like if it had had modern 3D camera effects?"

On the normal skill level, I did run on some tough spots, but generally, I just went forth, sentient-magic-wands blazing, swords swinging, and getting tons of fun out of the game. I can rarely say that a game has kept me on the edge of the proverbial seat, through and through. The game is quite addicting.

The Bad
The game has its roots in a mobile phone game, and it really shows: There are not many different weapons or types of equipment, not too many varieties of enemies, and not a whole lot of sounds or music. If I pick up a game I probably expect twenty different types of weapons, a hundred different magical items, and umpteen monster variations - but, well, the makers decided that they could make a decent game with a little bit less variety, and they more or less succeeded, so I am not complaining. Yes, you can say "If I buy a role-playing game I want to play an axe-wielding barbarian without pants, battling masses of giant ice-breathing rats in the Tundra Wastes"; well, you got an elf with a magic wand, sword and a few extra trinkets, and the rats will not breathe ice - because that was the tale the creators managed to successfully cram in a cell phone. I do not know what the fans of barbarians say, but I can only say the game is still good no matter what character concept you had in mind. Some people might say "direct ports suck"; I will not, because this happened to be a good game to begin with! At least it gives us DS players a chance to see the incredible DOOM RPG engine in action.

The game is primarily an action game and less of an adventure. The plot is very straightforward. The NPC dialogues are not exactly extensive and twisty either. Yet, there are some diversions in the plot, so the game is not exactly a direct run-through, and the discussions are somewhat amusing in their own right, so they are not exactly that disappointing either. A more problematic thing is that the game is pretty short: My first play-through took only 7 and half hours on the easiest skill level. On the other hand, some might say that, for good or ill, it also meant that I did not really have a chance to get bored with it. It also made me think - is it really too short? I suppose 40€ for a competently built 10-hour game is a more reasonable price than 60€ for an exquisitely built "100-hour game" that I will never find enough time for... but I digress.

In summary, I have to say that I don't think any of these traits wreck the game in any way. When porting the game from mobile phones to the DS, the developers got the increased 3D rendering power covered to an extent, but the touch screen and larger ROM capacity haven't been put to best possible use. I just wish that the developers remember to pack more stuff in the DS version of the sequel that is under development right now.

The Bottom Line
Orcs & Elves is a short but sweet RPG. The plot is fairly usual, the game experience is thoroughly old-school and tried-and-true, and the game system works. There is not a great deal of variety, but over its whole duration, it works quite well and keeps you in its grip - I know I was pretty much addicted. It is not too hard, not too easy, not too short, not too long.

Simply put, it is a tale of one elf who goes in a dwarven mountain stronghold to kick some orc and monster butt. With a recipe like that, you know it has to be fun. With a recipe like that, however, you also know that you should not get the hopes too high.

We easily have the impression that game companies are obligated to make massive games that yield massive amounts of entertainment. We expect game companies to produce, every time, AAA Titles that we will be playing for the next ten years. But the fact is, not every game is a great massive success. Not every game needs to be a great massive success. Sometimes, it is refreshing to run into a Neat Little Game - one that you will pick up every year or two, and play through it for the fun of it. Regrettably, many of these games are just that: fun for a little while but not a whole lot more. Most games relegated to this category tend to have some sort of a tiny, yet very annoying flaw.

Orcs & Elves is a game that certainly isn't an AAA Title of Lasting Impression. It certainly is, however, a very positive example of a Neat Little Game. And unlike many Neat Little Games, there are also no damning little flaws, aside of the length and a slight lack of breadth; the game itself is a joy to play. This game works perfectly at what it does, in its own short and sweet way.

I know I will pick this game up again in a year and not be a least bit ashamed or annoyed to play it. I will pick some other games over the next year, and I will probably say "This game is good, but oh boy, the movement system was a bit clumsy", or "oh man, this was a nice game, but those random encounters were a little bit aggravating". I do not think I will grumble when I play this game the next time, however. There is little to grumble about.

I think I will stick to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for now if I need Great RPG Entertainment®. However, I am happy to have Orcs & Elves game in my bag if I ever get bored - it could happen!

Nintendo DS · by WWWWolf (444) · 2007

Turn-based orc slaughter!

The Good
If there's one thing that can be said of the DS, it's that it kept a great number of genres alive and kicking in a time when the HD consoles, PC gaming, and mainstream gaming was ready to consider them dead. I'm speaking of things like classic JRPG's, FPS dungeon crawlers, strategy games (okay, PC gaming still likes these, too), and point-n-click adventures. The DS was the modern system of "it's still relevant to us."

And here we have Orcs & Elves. A fresh title from id Software culled from their most classic of works. What's most amazing about this game is that it's every bit a classic FPS dungeon crawler as you might expect, and even built on ye olde Doom technology.

The game is played in turns--and by that, I mean absolutely everything is done in turns. Movement, using items, fighting--the whole game. You move in single steps, and you fight and use items likewise. I know, it sounds terribly archaic, but then again--the DS has a way of making this stuff perfectly acceptable.

The game and gameplay itself runs quickly and smoothly. The interface is cleanly mapped to both the touchscreen and face and shoulder buttons with basic controls feeling like classic Doom in every respect--with the exception of the aforementioned, "step" movement. Players can do everything on the touchscreen, or everything with the buttons, or whatever combination seems most comfortable. I generally moved with the D-pad and performed attack actions and the like with the face buttons. Item management, purchasing goods, equipping weapons or potions, I did on the touchscreen. The control options, essentially, are great. Incidentally, the touchscreen shows the player character's body as if you're looking down at your belt and items, and tapping them with the stylus opens them, so everything there is pretty slick.

I found that I had tons of fun with the general gameplay and combat. Because everything is done in a turn-based step movement, the game forces a bit of strategy. Potions can deliver a variety of effects, such as leeching life from enemies, increasing defenses, increasing attack power, haste, and the like. These all last in "turns," so for instance, a defense potion might last for 20 turns, in which case, the player should really plan accordingly as to not waste a number of those turns where nothing is attacking them.

Since the combat is turn-based, it allows for ample time to plan attacks and moves, but the game plays quickly enough that I often found myself caught up in the fun of hacking away at enemies while my life was cleaved away by a different enemy. For that matter, there is an impressive selection of weapons for the game, and different enemies are weak to different attacks.

Each level delivers bonus experience for finding the three secrets hidden within, and for killing all the regular enemies (revisiting a level sometimes features a few extra enemies). But the game, overall, is quite perfectly balanced. From leveling-up, to finding money, to buying items and facing new foes--everything flows very, very smoothly. As such, secret areas aren't too difficult to find, and getting that bonus experience seems factored into the overall outcome of the game.

The graphics are pretty much what you'd expect from a game built on the Doom engine. Every enemy sprite is facing you at all times, but that'd only really be annoying if the game was an actual FPS title. Here, the turn-based combat prevents this from being an issue. Up close, the characters and details are pretty pixelated which will do nothing for the young whipper-snappers out there, but for us old farts that grew up with classic Doom and those generations, it instead delivers up nostalgia. Despite the old-school Doom-like graphics, there is ample detail to the game's world, and a whole host of crap to destroy just for the fun of it.

Animations are brief, and not particularly spectacular. They're functional, which is all they need to be. The music is actually of a pretty substantial quality, and the sound effects are quite entertaining. None more entertaining than the "splortch!" sound effect you hear when smashing a corpse laying on the ground. Seems a little gruesome, maybe (for a Teen-rated game), but eventually, it's a smart thing to do. There is an enemy that resurrects corpses into phantom versions.

The story may not be as deep or involved as a modern WRPG like Skyrim or Kingdoms of Amalur, but what it lacks in complexity, it makes up with enjoyment and the fact that it's easy to follow. How many key elements of the main story of any 80-hour RPG do you remember? If you're anything like me, you've forgotten many of the finer points of the main quest halfway through your 20th side-quest.

Essentially, you're here as an elf warrior with your mythical talking wand (who does the talking for both of you), and you're off to help the dwarves who've been invaded by some pissy Orcs. From the on-set, it's clear the invasion didn't go well, so you spend a lot of time talking to the ghosts of slain dwarves, and those guys are entertaining as hell. The writing in this game is some of the most enjoyable I've seen on the DS, up there with the likes of the ever-hilarious Ninjatown.

The Bad
I have long believed a short game of substantial quality is far better than a long game of mediocrity. In an age where I feel too many gamers value a game for length, I tend to value quality and fun in lieu of length. I like Skyrim, but I'll admit right now to still not finishing it or getting very far as I find many of the length-adding side-quests to be dull, tedious affairs where I can't tell one from the other.

At any rate, I like to be able to finish games in a reasonable time-frame, and if I want more of it, that means it was a good game. Frankly, I want more of Orcs & Elves. A lot more. So much more that it pains me to say that I think, for an RPG, dungeon-crawling or otherwise, this game is too short. I finished it in under 10 hours. Have you ever heard of an RPG you could finish in 10 hours? You can't even do that in Fallout, even if you only stick to main quests.

I don't feel it was detrimental to the overall experience, since I still found it to be tons of fun, but I could've played this for another 20 or so hours and never gotten bored with it.

The other issue with this is that, for an RPG, there is hardly any character customization. You level-up with set stats, and there are only so many weapons and items available. Eventually, you'll use all of them, and you can't level-grind. Balance in an RPG is great, of course, but this is so balanced that one cannot excel beyond a set point in the game.

The Bottom Line
Orcs & Elves features some elements that we modern gamers might consider to be cardinal sins where RPG's are considered. It's rather short and lacks deep customization. But it makes up for that with the entertaining story, smooth and enjoyable gameplay, and frankly, it delivers a very satisfying climax to the story. Characters are likable, writing is solid, and combat is surprisingly thrilling.

I waited too long to buy this game. I must've looked at it in stores a couple dozen times over the past couple years, but always questioned how much fun I might actually get from an old-school FPS dungeon crawler. I've made this mistake before. Waited too long to pick up a game about which I couldn't make up my mind. And then I got the game, and it was a bast.

This was a blast. It was fun, it was smooth, and it was entertaining in a way I didn't imagine. Despite it's short length, old-school-to-a-fault design, and hyper-balanced set-up, this is something I stuffed into my DS (actually, 3DS) and didn't remove until I'd finished it. I usually jump around from game to game, but this? I was glued to this.

I think it's great to see that id Software crafted a new title in this vain, and on the DS no less. Frankly, I would love to see it turn into a franchise and continue on the 3DS--maybe longer and a bit more elaborate. But I think that, despite the obvious level of polish on this title, it feels like id was "testing the waters" of the DS and this particular genre.

It's an old-school flavored dungeon crawler with enough modern polish to keep it smooth and entertaining. It may not be long, but it is a blast while it lasts.

Nintendo DS · by ResidentHazard (3555) · 2012



Orcs & Elves is id Software's first new intellectual property since Quake (1996).


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by WWWWolf.

BREW, J2ME added by Sciere.

Additional contributors: Sciere, Alaka, Titan10.

Game added December 15, 2007. Last modified April 28, 2024.