With all the hubbub surrounding the new blockbuster film, there's a lot of talk about the game it is based on; World of WarCraft. Yet there's been little mention of the series' strategic routes with Blizzard themselves choosing to forgo its origins to make way for the better-known MMORPG. Is the original game worth playing? Let's take a look...
Released in 1994, WarCraft: Orcs and Humans was one of the early examples of the Real Time Strategy genre, pre-dating the genre defining Command & Conquer series. Playing it now, you can tell it was developed before this style of game became more refined. It's slow and cumbersome but despite all of that, it doesn't take away from one great historically significant game.
There are two single-player campaigns, with multiplayer relegated to LAN. In case you cannot guess given the game's subtitle, one campaign features Orcs while the other has Humans. Both are embroiled in a war caused by some magical portal bridging the two worlds. There's a lot of talk in the game and the manual about the motivations of each faction as well as certain individuals therein, but it's ultimately superfluous guff. It would probably make for a good movie though.
If you have the patience to play both scenarios, you'll realise that the only real difference between the two is aesthetic. The levels mirror each other almost verbatim. For example, the first level for both requires you to erect a certain number of buildings to proceed, while a later level will see you rescuing an ally from an enemy stronghold. The story behind both is different and the endings contradict each other, but it's not really interesting or at least presented well enough for the average gamer to want to play through both campaigns.
If that wasn't enough, it's not the only barrier to progress. All but the most patient of gamers will have the tolerance for the awkward little annoyances that do their best to hinder any enjoyment. Firstly, the game is slow. Each side work at a snail's pace, particularly when collecting resources like wood or gold. You can raise the speed to make this a bit more bearable but it doesn't fix everything. In fact, it makes other elements worse. If you encounter an enemy at top speed, the fight will be over before you can react. Given your troops are too dumb to fight back on their own accord, you will need to micro-manage the speed as well as the troops.
There's also a limit to how many pawns you can select at one time. If you want to raise an army of more than four warriors, you're out of luck. The only way to do this is by traipsing back and forth across the map to manoeuvre everyone where you want them to be. At least it gives you something to do while you wait for each one to get there.
Despite how it appears in the last couple of paragraphs, there's still a lot to like. Quite a bit in fact. As you get further into the campaign's twelve levels, you'll be introduced to new characters such as a Cleric, a Conjurer or their Orcish equivalents the Necrolyte and Warlock. They're a little different for each faction too. While the Cleric can heal units or cast a temporary cloak of invisibility, the Necrolyte can magic up some invincibility spells or even raise an army of the dead! If it proves anything it's that it's far more fun to be evil.
There may a lot to keep you interested, but the thing you'll spend your time on most is gathering resources. Future instalments of the WarCraft franchise - and the RTS genre as a whole - balance this area far better (along with the other negatives mentioned) but there's something nostalgically fascinating about seeing this pre-evolved version. Sure, it pads out the game so much that a single scenario may take up to an hour and a half to complete and does little to deepen the gameplay. In truth, it probably just needed a bit more cooking in the QA phase of its development. As it is it doesn't break the game, but merely turns what could've been a great evergreen strategy title into a merely good one. You'll have to wait for the sequel to get that accolade.
As of 28th March 2019, WarCraft: Orcs & Humans is now available to buy DRM-free on Good Old Games.
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WarCraft: Orcs and Humans is © Blizzard Entertainment
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me