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Video Game / Of Orcs and Men

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"Over the decades of conflict, the orcs were already beginning to figure it out: they were much sought after for their strength and toughness, and so, grinding slavery was always gonna be the result. Submit, or die. Needless to say, for a goblin like me, things were gonna be just as bad... We were there to be had like rats in a trap. Yeah, it's not easy bein' a greenskin on this fucking continent... You've got my sympathy if that's your case."

An alliance of human kingdoms. An evil horde of orcs and monsters assailing it. A mighty hero rising up to save his beleaguered people. Anyone with even a fleeting grasp of fantasy stories is all too familiar with this old setup. Well, what if, for once, the humans and the orcs switched places?

Don't laugh. You're still the good guy.

Of Orcs and Men is an Action RPG developed by Cyanide Studio and Spiders. The plot follows an orc named Arkail who seeks to assassinate the leader of The Empire of Men, who have slaughtered and enslaved his people; he's accompanied by Styx, a self-proclaimed "survivor" and the only goblin known to show any intelligence.

A spin-off, Styx: Master of Shadows, was released on October 7, 2014. Taking place before the events of the game, it is a Stealth-Based Game focused on Styx as he steals a magical artifact from humans.

After the relative success of Styx: Master of Shadows, Cyanide Studios announced a Sequel Styx: Shards of Darkness, promising "more ambition", a "bigger budget", and a "new engine", was released in early 2017.

Of Orcs and Men provides examples of:

  • Amazon Brigade: The Sisters of Laments - an all-female fanatical martial order situated on the eponymous Isle of Laments.
  • Anti-Hero: Arkail and Styx, definitely. Both are not above the use of unnecessary violence (especially Arkail), performing very questionable actions and associating with shady people to achieve their goals. They are still sympathetic because of their backstories and because they've got enemies worse than them.
  • Anti-Magical Faction: The Inquisition, which among other things imprisons High Mage Arkence on trumped-up charges, forcing Arkail and Styx to break her out.
    • They still use magic and it is outright stated by Styx that the real reason the mages are prosecuted is their telephatic and mind-control abilities which they share with the inquisition.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Patrolling guards will never actually notice a corpse of one of their coworkers that Styx has assassinated.
  • The Berserker: Deconstructed. Arkail's tendency to fly into a rage usually makes it harder for him to fight effectively, as well as making him a generally dangerous person to be around. This plays into gameplay itself, in that while berserk he deals more damage but loses the ability to perform special attacks and is weakened once his rage wears off.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Arkail and Styx, respectively.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Barimen's tenure as Emperor is very short-lived but he has still succeeded in bringing Elves and Dwarves against greenskins, so the future for the Orcs is still not bright; however, they have finally revolted en masse against the human oppression, and the destruction of the Emperor's Tower has send a powerful message, so there is hope for them, and Styx has decided to stay at Arkail's side.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: A given with the setting. Some of the actions performed by Arkail and Styx during the game are something you'd rather expect from a villain, especially the burning of the chapel, but their are enemies are much worse people than them.
  • Breakout Character: Styx, who went on to receive two spin-off games with him as the protagonist in a prequel setting. As stated in Sequel Displacement on the YMMV page, however, the success of those two games made it hard for players unfamiliar with this game to believe that in his debut, Styx was actually the deuteragonist.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Sarkyss sends Arkail and Styx on a mission that leaves many disciples of the Zealot dead; when the Zealot offers a hefty reward for their heads, Sarkyss sets up a trap to have the heroes captured by the Inquistion, so that he can collect the money.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The protagonist's speech is very colorful to say the least. It becomes amusing when they converse with some other characters who are much more polite (but don't seem particularly fazed by that).
  • Combat Pragmatist: Styx's entire combat style revolves around dirty tricks and applying various debuffs.
  • Crapsack World: The setting is especially bad for orcs, who are systematically persecuted, enslaved, and forced to be assimilated. Many humans, however, don't live much better: you can meet a lot of them living in shantytowns, and the ancient order of the Mages is persecuted by the Inquistion. To survive one must be either very violent or very cunning; backstabbing is common.
  • Cutscene Boss: Most notably the Head Foreman, the Emperor, and Barimen.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Styx through-and-through.
    Styx: (Upon being asked to assassinate a number of Orc lookouts on his own) Yeah, yeah, I get the picture. Let the Goblin do it! He's cute, but expendable.
  • Didn't Think This Through: During the first act, Raven attempts to run away - Styx throws a knife at him with the intent to keep him from running, but ends up killing him.
    Arkail: What, you couldn't go for the legs? Now what do we do?
    Styx: Hey, I'm a professional! It's not my fault I've got reflexes!
  • Disney Villain Death: Barimen, whom Arkail drops from the top of his tower.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The First Foreman's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Arkail is eerily similar to the typical discourse of slavers of the 17th to 18th century to justify enslaving black people, only replacing black people with Orcs, claiming to make them civilized and instructed and berating their tribal lifestyle.
    • The empire building a huge wall on the southern border to keep the "savages" out while at the same time happily exploiting them to build up their own society bears resemblance to the USA-Mexico immigration issues.
  • Early Game Hell: The game's unusual attack scheme and the lack of diversified skills at the beginning makes the earliest levels challenging at best, though the fast leveling and having an ally quickly level the field afterwards.
  • The Empire: Weirdly it's actually more like The Alliance; the various human kingdoms on the continent that serves as the game's setting all united together under a single crown, rather than the Empire growing through conquest, though they did build a massive wall to separate their own lands from the rest of the continent.
  • Enslaved Orcs: The Mire is filled with hundreds of them, all of whom are either forced to build towers for the Emperor, or simply fight and kill each other for entertainment.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Zealot is one really dangerous fanatic, but seems to honestly care for his disciples: he's devastated when he sees the chapel burning, and tries to save them, ending up with half his face burned.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The Tower which is apparently the seat of the human empire rises far above the landscape though it's architecture is pretty standard medieval aesthetic.
  • Fantastic Racism: Humans (and assimilated orcs) tend to look down on free and rebellious orcs, and vice versa.
  • Fantastic Slur: Arkail loves them, particularly "rakash" (which he apparently says in Orcish because it lacks a sufficiently-pejorative translation).
    • From Master of Shadows one can infer that "rakash" might mean something along the lines of "worthless thing," as it is used by Styx towards his clones.
    • When he uses it on Styx, the response indicates that it means "vermin".
  • Fastball Special: A way to reach out-of-reach archers.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: Arkail and Styx fill the Fighter and Thief niche respectively. Later on, Styx can take the Shadowgoblin specialization that lets him perform magical attacks.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Styx and Arkail have this type of relationship with each other.
  • Flechette Storm: Styx has a couple of attacks along these lines.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: After Arkail and Styx subdue the Zealot at the end of the game, Arkail knocks him down and hacks him apart, and all we see is blood flying in the air.
  • Got Me Doing It: Lampshaded by Styx during the Hulk Speak segment.
    Arkail: Why Garok sad?
    Styx: Shit, Ark', now you're doing it! Styx disgusted!
  • Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: The game gives you the option to kill the Emperor or spare him, but both options result in the same outcome. If you kill the Emperor, Barimen betrays Arkail, has his Inquisitors paralyze him, and then uses the Emperor's assassination as a reason to ally the Elves and Dwarves together to wipe out the greenskins. If you spare the Emperor, one of the Inquisitors takes control of Arkail's body and forces Arkail to kill the Emperor anyway.
  • Honor Before Reason: Orcs in general, Arkail in particular : he cannot help getting into trouble just because he is an orc and proud to be and he blames his father for basically saving many orcs' lives (including Arkail himself) by surrendering to humans rather than making a Last Stand. He eventually grows out of it.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Zig-zagged - the majority of humans that work directly for the empire are highly condescending at best and downright genocidal at worst to whomever is not beige-skinned, human-on-human relations and towards elves and dwarves seem to be more tolerant while the most benevolent treatment our heroes get is from those humans who are either shirking the imperial law or are outright prosecuted like the mages.
  • Hulk Speak: Garok, an orc in the mire, talks this way due to an old brain injury.
  • It's Going Down:The impossibly huge tower/city rising above the Mire is of course set alight and demolished by Arkail and Styx at the end of the game, serving as a powerful symbol of defiance against the Empire
  • It's Personal: After they burn the chapel with his disciples inside, the Zealot has no other goal than pursuing Arkail and Styx, to the point he doesn't care what happens to the Empire: he, in fact, despises Barimen and lets Arkail drop him from the Tower so that no one can disturb their fight.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: Styx and Arkail perform one to save High Mage Arkence's consciousness. Both also end up confronting their darkest memories.
  • Karmic Death: The fate of Sarkyss, who'd conducted brutal experiments on feral Goblins in an effort to understand why Styx is different. He's strapped down and has one of the caged Goblins set loose on him.
  • Klingon Promotion: How Arkail becomes Head Foreman of The Mire.
  • La Résistance: The heroes are working alongside a human resistance to bring down the empire.
  • Last of His Kind: The Last is the only remaining member of his clan, the rest having been slaughtered by the Empire. Subverted if you defeat him in battle; he passes the mantle onto Arkail, allowing his clan to be preserved. Braggart also claims to have been a member of the clan as a child, out hunting when they were attacked, but this may or may not be true.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Arkail kills the Emperor. Then it turns out that Barimen was just using him to gain power, and he promptly betrays and tries to kill him. Even if Barimen hadn't done this, Arkail assassinating the Emperor would've had the same outcome regardless—which Barimen points out before Arkail kills him too. All Arkail did was succeed in giving the other nations a justifiable reason for exterminating the greenskins.
  • Mind Rape: The Inquisition tortured High Mage Arkence until her consciousness was entirely suppressed. The Archmage openly refers to the benevolent Journey to the Center of the Mind done to heal her as mental rape, as well, since it's still pushing against her mind's defenses.
  • Monster Progenitor: Styx, originally an orc, became the first goblin through overuse of black magic and fathered the rest. Master of Shadows reveals that the Styx we know isn't even the original and is instead a duplicate created by Styx Prime that he infused more magic into than usual.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Arkail successfully kills the Emperor...while the dwarf and elf representatives are still present in the Emperor's tower. This gives Barimen a perfectly good reason to ally with the dwarves and elves and have them assist in the genocide of the greenskins.
  • Older Than They Look: Styx is over a century old by the time he and Arkail meet.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Strangely, Styx is the only goblin to show intelligence on par with an orc or human; all the others are animalistic and lack any grasp of language. This is because he's the first goblin - originally an orc - and the others are his imperfect spawn.
  • Prestige Class: Later on, Arkail and Styx can take specializations depending on how they resolve their inner demons. Arkail can become either a Berserker (offensive-focused) or a Master (defensive-focused) while Styx can become either an Assassin (melee specialist with invisibility) or a Shadowgoblin (ranged specialist that uses magic).
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Orcs in general and Arkail in particular.
  • Scenery Porn: The Isle of Laments is downright gorgeous with verdant autumnal nature interspersed with ancient ruins, accentuated even more since it is one of the two locations that is not a sewer, slum or something worse.
  • Shorter Means Smarter: The older, streetwise Styx, though Arkail is stubborn and violent (and unfamiliar with the territory) rather than stupid.
  • Shout-Out: The "I'm a Killer" achievement, awarded for assassinating 47 enemies as Styx.
  • Smug Snake: Barimen, after he reveals he manipulated all factions for his goals - namely become Emperor himself and getting Elves and Dwarves to join in the campaign against greenskins.
  • Star Scraper: The emperor's tower is a rare fantasy example, reaching as far as the clouds and the mountains being *below* your line of sight at the topmost floors.
  • The Great Wall: The empire constructed one as a buffer between the southern lands of the orks and the human kingdoms on the northern side, to add insult to injury, the chief labor used was that of orks and it is stated that thousands died to build it.
  • The Stinger: After the credits roll, a member of the Inquisition is seen coming across Barimen's mangled corpse.
  • Stripperiffic: Arkail is a male example, as befitting his Barbarian Hero status. Even when he's wearing what's supposed to be breastplate and leggings his armor usually amounts to a metal collar and a Loincloth.
  • The Dung Ages: The lower-class human areas are anything but pretty (being a more or less constant barrage of rain, mud and sewers), and one of the traitor orcs has a rant about living conditions for free/traditional orc tribes that doesn't sound much better. Goblins, of course, live in filth and garbage. Only very wealthy humans, the Sisters of Laments and the Order of Mages seem to have it particularly good in this setting. And even then it's mostly the very wealthy - the latter simply aren't covered in dirt.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Emperor was merely a puppet of Barimen, who lets him be killed by Arkail: all Barimen needed him for was to die at the right place and at the right time, to set his plan to take his place in motion.
  • The Quisling: Quite a few orcs have assimilated into the Empire rather than even offer token resistance, but the ultimate example is Marhlok, Arkail's father, who sold his entire tribe into slavery and seems to show no remorse for it. Which is subverted. While he doesn't regret his choice, he only did it to prevent a mass execution then and there and is now the leader of the resistance in the Mire.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Some of the orcs who turned to work for the Empire, like the Head Foreman, genuinely want their race to become better people and think their current methods are barbaric, and they're just trying to preserve the orcs from becoming extinct altogether.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The central premise of the game, where the Greenskins are subjected to genocidal tactics by the Human kingdom.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Saranthe holds off the Zealot and his forces in order to give Arkence, Styx, and Arkail time to cross and destroy a bridge. The Zealot kills him moments later.
  • Your Mom: Styx busts out a pretty good one when on the way to kill the Head Foreman.
    Styx: Yeah, I can talk! And you weren't even a tadpole when I was whispering sweet nothings in your ugly mother's ear. What, she didn't tell you about me, son?