Warcraft - Orcs & Humans
Warcraft 1 was the first RTS game developed by Blizzard Entertainment and it’s a old classic game. This game is too flawed to rate it as a “gem” but it’s worth playing for the fantasy story it tells.
If you ask me what Blizzard did right with Warcraft Orcs & Humans, it’s simple: they set the starting lore of many games and books and they did it with the right atmosphere. The game is worth your time if you like the lore. Otherwise, you’re probably better playing Wacraft 3, C&C, AOE or other RTS.
- The lore. I enjoyed more C&C storytelling and Dune 2 lore because those were just better, but Warcraft 1 story is relevant in future Blizzard games and set the base for Warcraft 2, which is more interesting.
- It mixed fantasy theme to the RTS genre and it worked fine. It set a precedence for Tzar, LOTR and other games.
- Soundtrack. The game music is good, suspenseful. But Warcraft 2 and C&C were better and epic.
- Art style is dark and it feels appropriate.
- The game is slightly balanced because most units have exactly same stats on both factions. The difference comes with archers/lancers range and spells. Human Archers, Clerics and Conjurers are better than orc counterparts, so it’s the best faction. But orcish Daemons are cool and scary.
- Both Orc and Human campaign are very similar. It’s like playing the same game two times.
- The game also feels a bit like a clone of Dune 2. It’s more than copying the RTS formula/mechanics, but the implementation (level progression, etc).
- It’s a pretty easy game. The AI can’t put up a fight even cheating with infinite resources and map awareness.
- The UI & controls are bad. You can only select 4 units, there are no numbered groups, need to use ctrl for area selection, no right click to execute a contextual action… C&C was FAR better.
- The game is slightly more varied in level design than Dune 2, both regarding orography and mission objectives (dungeons, combat rebels, reinforce a sieged town). But it’s far less varied than C&C and other RTS.
- The level orography is mostly limited to forests and few bridges over rivers. No sea, hills, cliffs… levels are plain.
- Mission objectives are lacking when compared with C&C: just kill that unit (in dungeon) or defend and destroy enemy base (overworld).
- AI is bad:
- The AI attacks are predictable and easy to handle.
- Passive: the dungeon levels could be great because you can’t reinforce your army (every unit counts), but the AI is passive and never reinforced too. It’s too easy to cheese them just by using lure and ambush tactics.
- Pathfinding is pretty bad, but expected on an old game.
- The game content is fine for the time, but really not so long. 12 levels per campaign, 3 map types (total 21 skirmish levels). Custom map generator is not so interesting either because of map type limits (I find more fun playing with Red Alert or Warcraft 3 scenario editors).
- There are no heroes like in later RTS, just 4 unique units for dungeon scenarios, mostly decorative and for lore purposes.
- The map to show campaign progress is lackluster (it’s a 3D prerender but looks very dated). The Dune 2 planet colored map was nicer and also C&C world region map was way cooler.
Why to play?
If you’re fan of Blizzard games like Warcraft 3 or WoW, or you’re into fantasy themed RTS games, you should give a try this game. My review is quite harsh but it’s not a bad game at all.
How to acquire
Version / Platform
The version I’m reviewing was released in GOG and it’s the same game build released for MS-DOS before. In the gog version there are slight enhancements to support multiplayer (by using emulation software), as the original DOS game relied into old software and hardware like IPX, direct cable and modem.
Warcraft 1 was just now re-released. The game truly deserves and would benefit from a remake but it isn’t likely to have it very soon, as the game isn’t so popular today.
In the other hand, we are just getting a Warcraft 3 remake called Warcraft 3 Reforged, that is going to be great.
Games like Warcraft 1
Other fantasy themed RTS games:
- Warcraft 2. A big improvement over Wacraft O&H. There are no dungeon scenarios, but instead they introduced sea and air units and solved many of the flaws I described previously. It comes with a map editor too.
- Warcraft 3. The last Warcraft RTS has introduced in-game cinematics to have better storytelling. It also added a powerful scenario editor.
- Tzar. It’s rather unknown but a great RTS. It’s got sidequests and heroes.
There are other RTS that evolved distinctly, so they’re worth noting:
- Red Alert: An amazing old school RTS which mixes modern/scifi weapons and units.
- Command & Conquer. As awesome as Red Alert.
- Dune 2. Very similar to Warcraft 1 and with its own flaws too, but it’s a very popular game up to this day.
- Starcraft. Sci-fi theme and excellent multi-player.
Warcraft Orcs & Humans is a classic game. It suffers the same issues as Diablo 1, because both have outdated game controls/UI. Those things were improved on their sequels. But it’s the first step on a interesting story and a good game.