Today, the word Warcraft is associated with MMORPGs and often used to ridicule nerds. However, back in the late 90’s Warcraft meant something totally different. It stood for epic conquest between orcs and humans, intense fantasy battles filled with mystical creatures and some not so mystical creatures. It was about collecting gold from a mine, wood from the forests and oil from an oil well. Yes, Warcraft was originally an RTS series and the second one is considered by many to be the best in the series.
First a little background, Blizzard had released other games such as the Lost Vikings, Rock N Roll Racing and Blackthorne, but their first big success came in the form of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, released in 1994. It didn’t necessarily redefine the rts genre for the time but it certainly became a hit because of balanced gameplay and addictive multiplayer. Because of its success, its only natural that a sequel should be made. Well in 1995 gamers got to play the highly anticipated sequel, and were treated to some of the best RTS game play of its time.
As with it’s predecessor, the game focuses around the Orcs and Human Alliance who are at war with each other. For what reason, I do not know, but does it matter? Anyway, when you boot up the game, you get several options to choose from. I recommend the campaigns as they are a good learning tool and they scale in difficulty as you complete levels. I personally found the campaigns to be a bit easy at times, and they never really became hard, but for players who don’t play a lot of RTS games, it will be just the right level of difficulty.
The next option is to play against the AI in custom battles. Now this is where the game shows it’s age a bit in my opinion. There is no mini map to show what the map looks like before you play, maybe there is something I don’t know about but the fact that you have to guess what the map will look like is rather frustrating. The first game I played ended up being a map with several islands and I actually ran out of gold before I could build a transport ship, as I spent a lot on upgrades early on. This made my angry, as you may imagine, so I had to quit and restart on a different map. However, there is a plus side, once you know what maps to pick then you can engage in some fun battles with the computer. As with the campaign, the AI isn’t extremely difficult so you always feel like the battle is fair, unlike Starcraft 2 on Insane difficulty, I swear, that game cheats.
Anyway, on to the gameplay. If you have played a Blizzard RTS even once in your life, you know what to expect. You start out with almost nothing, and have to collect 3 different resources. The two you need to concern yourself with early on are Gold and Lumber. So you have your peasant or peon collect resources, all while building buildings or hiring new peasants/peons. Once you have a suitable amount, then it its on to building a barracks and hiring warriors. Once you have an a suitable army, usually a few men early on, then it is on to the navy. This is where the third resource comes in, Oil. I won’t go into further details as it will only confuse the uninitiated. But I can say one thing, the build up of resources and the creation of units/buildings is very slow compared to future RTS games, so prepare to spend some time on each match.
Next, we have combat, something that has a tendency to bother me at times. Basically, each and every unit has attack and defense values. Sadly, each unit doesn’t have a base damage such as in other games. No, they have ranges of damage. I am not sure how it works but a low level unit can do anywhere from 2-9 damage every time he/she/it hits. It seems that this could add a level of unpredicability to each fight but it really doesn’t. Basically, if you have low level units fight high level units, they will die. If two low level units fight each other, then it is a toss up. Usually whomever hits first wins. It’s actually really simple. However, there is one negative about combat and units in general. You can only select 9 at a time. Thankfully, for large armies, you can apply hot keys using CRTL and a number from 0-9 and use that to quickly switch between groups of 9. Honestly, I think that is the one major flaw that plagues Warcraft 2 and Starcraft for me. I love the games to death but I wish I could select everything at once. In terms of gameplay, there is way more involved such as unit abilities, ground vs. air and a variety of other topics. But I won’t go there, its far too much to cover, but lets just say that a well placed ability can make all the difference in a battle.
Now, we move onto the graphics and sound. Firstly, the game looks awesome, it has a cartoonish fantasy art style that is rich with color and has some fantastic texture work for its time. I think games need to be colorful like this again, today, there is too much brown, black and grey. I want some color!! Also, the music is epic and the sounds, well, are simplistic. Plenty of tings and bangs. Despite the simplistic sounds for combat and buildings, the voice work is awesome and some of the quotes have become iconic, such as the peasants saying, “Yes Me Lord.”
Finally, there is multiplayer! Oh man this is seriously fun to play at a LAN party. I find it is at it’s best during team play, because it allows for some serioulsy fun tactics and strategies. Such as having one person go all air and the other all land. Also, if you can get your hands on it, Blizzard released a Battle.net version of the game which allows for users to play on battle.net that was introduced when Diablo was released. For those that don’t know what Battle.net is, it is a basic gaming service that allows people to easily connect an play games.
Overall, this is a fantastic entry in the RTS genre, though it hasn’t aged as well as Starcraft has, its still a lot of fun and is loaded with personality and deep gameplay, and thats not even including the awesome multiplayer offerings!!