Friday, 10 June 2016

WARCRAFT 2: TIDES OF DARKNESS


The movie may be wowing/disappointing cinemagoers (delete as applicable) in all territories now, but that hasn't stopped me getting my retro RTS kick by playing WarCraft II again. Does this once game-changing title still hold up? If you read my thoughts on the first game last week, you probably know the answer but let's talk about it anyway...

WarCraft 2 was a massively successful release back in December 1995. It garnered 90% plus review scores across the board and topped many publications best of lists from that year. Even now it regularly crops up every now and again on various best-of lists. Much like the first game, it continues to be ignored by Blizzard, yet the inferior (thought still good) third entry has been made available.

On the surface, nothing has really changed. You still breed peasants or peons to collect gold and lumber as well as the new addition of oil. You still use these resources to build various structures which will better your army and when your army is good enough, you still attack the enemy. Then you win. It's all very familiar, except possibly that last part.

The truth is that when you get down to it, nothing really has changed. Instead, everything has been expanded upon or refined and the result is a game that surprisingly stands the test of time. Graphically it is gorgeous. The sprites were created by fist rendering them in 3D, then given to Blizzard's talented art team to draw over. The resulting art stye is one that is cartoony, bright and detailed - an aesthetic that really draws you into the world as well as the quirky humour found throughout.

In the first game, there were so few dialogue responses that hearing 'OK' on every click became annoying quickly. There's are a lot more variety here. I wouldn't be surprised if you clicked on that peon several times to hear all he has to say. Beware, though, as one click too-many will cause him to explode. Apparantly that's what happens if you abuse the hand of god.

You can now select up to nine minions at a time, making the manipulation of larger armies less frustrating. More would've been nice but I accept that it was possibly down to the limitations of the time. There's even a larger roster of allies, each with their own set of abilities. Humans now have Elves Dwarves and Gnomes to aid them on their quest while the Orcs have recruited the support of Ogres Trolls and Goblins. Like the first game, each unit has a re-skinned doppelganger on the other side with the exception of magic users like Paladins, Mages or Death Knights whose spells differ for each side.

There is another nice addition in the form of land and air units. Vehicles or sometimes creatures can explore these new terrains to scout enemy bases, uncover hidden areas or change the tactics of how you attack. Air soldiers are used in much the same way as land units but are unhindered by trees, rivers or lakes. They add little strategically but damn, do they look cool. The naval units only serve add variety too. Attacks are again much the same as land battle with no need to change tactics because you can float. Each side can muscle up up to five different types of vessels, all of which require a crew to sail. They are resource intensive too, but nevertheless are necessary to complete certain levels. Much like the air troops, they don't add much tactically but are a welcome, and most importantly fun inclusion.

In the years since its release, an official add-on named Beyond the Dark Portal was released. It added an extra campaign for each faction as well as some new and powerful heroes (named characters with special stats and abilities that can join your army). Some of the limitations such as the number of selectable units were increased for the PlayStation and Saturn release, as well as the later Windows re-release. This Battle.net edition included Blizzards on-line service for multi-player. The original DOS release still features online play for two players with LAN increasing that number to eight. Lore has it that it was WarCraft 2's multiplayer that convinced Sid Meier that these modes are worthwhile. I've great memories of the Battle.net edition's multiplayer but alas the official support is no more. There is a host run by fans, but I've yet to try it and suspect it's only compatible with that version and not the original DOS game. Nevertheless, the single player campaigns are still a blast.

Everything about WarCraft 2 is a huge improvement over the original. It's so polished and refined that it makes the first game seem obsolete by comparison. The movie may have divided opinion but there's no denying that WarCraft 2: The Tides of Darkness is an absolute classic.


To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Add-on and Manuals included. Tested on Windows 10.

Download


WarCraft 2: Tides of Darkness & Beyond the Dark Portal is © Blizzard Entertainment
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

Like this? Try These...

WarCraft: Orcs and Humans  Sea Legends  Powermonger

4 comments:

  1. Wow Biffman!! This has been a tough game to get installed on new machines, well done! I haven't tried it yet but I sunk many, many, MANY hours into it in my childhood!

    Cheers and thanks again for all the amazing games you get working!

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    1. You're welcome Robin. Alas, it's not the later Battle.net version which I've not attempted to get working. That ones for Windows 95 only which is more of a pain. The improvements are so minor that it's not really worth it, especially as you cant play it through Blizzard's service any more.

      I could probably count the time lost to this in days rather than hours. Even now I had to force myself to stop playing so I could write the review.

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    2. I'm so happy to have found your work Biffman! The installation was smooth. I just can't get the game to run in frame properly. Always has a little bit of the display offscreen and it does not like when you try to force it into windows mode.

      Thank you very much for doing this.

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    3. Hello. I've just done a test and can't see anything that you discribe at least on my system.

      Try opening the 'dosbox.conf' file in note pad and change the 'fullresolution' option. It should be at 'desktop' which is supposed to be the best for all users but you might find better results if you change it to whatever your desktop resolution is (eg. fullresolution=1920x1080).

      DOSBox seems to have some issues running in windowed mode, particularly when it comes to the mouse. This is due to the autolock feature. Changing it to false may help in windowed mode (not all the time though), but it will also cause issues when in fullscreen. I've not paid too much attention to this because I - and I suspect most gamers - prefer to play fullscreen.

      You may also find some help on my FAQ

      https://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/p/faq.html

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