Released in 1994 in North America.
Like Diablo I never played the original version of Warcraft at release but spent a significant amount of time playing the sequels. So picking this up on Good Old Games I was looking forward to see what the lands of Azeroth were like back in 1995.
Ostensibly, Warcraft is a Real Time Strategy. You build up your economy and an army to complete the various missions until the game is won. Rather than having one resource such as spice/tiberium/ore as your currency, Warcraft tasks you with collecting Wood and Gold. You use both of these in differing measures to aid the war effort creating a juggling act. Another difference here is that you can’t start building a unit without a certain resource, you have to have in your stocks that amount before an item can be built whereas in a Command and Conquer you could queue up things before a resource is gathered. Alongside this is the requirement to build food reserves to maintain your army. So you need to build a farm for every “4” units. This all adds a nice level of complexity to proceedings and is a more enjoyable mechanic than “SILOS, NEEDED” as the farms can also serve as defensive structures. The drawback every level starts slowly as you need to build up a significant economy before you are able to look offensively.
Trees both aid in your war efforts, but also provide handy impassable terrain, so Over forestation in one area might create a new avenue for your opponent to attack via. Gold in a goldmine is also finite, so you are encouraged early on to explore in order to not run into financial difficulties later and there will be potential battles over larger more profitable mines in multiplayer (AI doesn’t seem to care).
Unfortunately, this is where serious issues start coming to light. You start the game with just your town hall and limited finances. You need to buy 4 farms, 10 peons/peasants (people that collect resources and build buildings), and roads to connect these buildings before you can think about a barracks and training troops. It means the first 10 minutes of each level is spent getting the economy going. Better games such as the Command & Conquer series you’re towards the top of the tech tree at this stage. Wood gathering is slow, gold mining is slow. Your peon has to run from your town hall, to the resource, chop the tree, and run back to town hall. It means you need 8ish Peons just to get things ticking over on level 1. A simple Farm costs roughly 300 Wood, and 600 Gold, and each Peon trip nets you 10 of either resource. It makes starting a level more than a little boring. And keep in mind against the AI they’ll start with all their buildings so you spend a lot of time on the backfoot each mission.
On top of this, the local mine s usually very low on Gold, so it will collapse before you are even vaguely settles in. This mine collapsed before I had 5 peasants and only 4 farsm!
THE BIGGEST ISSUE
Oh god the mouse isn’t context specific. Want to issue a command? Well find the unit, select them, then press a keyboard shortcut to issue the command. A is attack, M is Move, other units have differing ones depending on ability. But pressing Attack doesn’t put you in attack stance, you have to press the attack option for every unit you wish to attack. ON TOP OF THIS…. You can select 4 units at once. FOUR. You can’t make squads, you have to hold shift to shift select the 4 units you want. Or CTRL and mouse over to select 4 at once. If there are more than 4 under that selection the game will pick the 4 it wants you to have.
Now consider you’re supposed to be issuing multiple commands to multiple units and taking charge of 20+ troops at one time even on early levels shows how unwieldy the game is. Nevermind latter stages of the game where you need, you know, a fucking army. It is somewhat unplayable nowadays.
You can at least move the screen by right clicking near an edge to centre on that area. And np, you can’t scroll by simply moving the mouse to the edge of the screen like any well designed game.
The story is impressive to be honest, and it might be the only reason to play Warcraft. Dealing with the events of the “First War” where the Orcs discover inter-dimensional and travel from Draenor (the fist expansion in World of Warcraft) using the Dark Portal, and invade Azeroth. The story unusually follows the canonical ending as though you are the Orcs, so the story is that the Humans thoughly get fucked with Stormwind Keep being destroyed (later rebuilt).
Differences in sides
Each side has “unique” units, so the Orcs will have access to cool looking things such as wolf riders, Giant Spiders, Necromancers, as well as brutish Orcs. The Humans, get posh nerdy things like Knights, Archers, and Water Elementals. The problem is, these differences are purely cosmetic. Each unit is 100% comparable with the equivalent on the opposite side, but in time to build, cost, and stats. The winner of a one on one fight between a wolf rider and a knight will be the unit who strikes first (which because of clunky controls is usually the AI), and removes any variety from the game. Command & Conquer got it right by having two different sides with strengths and weaknesses you could exploit. Here it is pretty meaningless, the winner will be the person with more units. If you’re playing the AI then just make sure you have 25% more units to account for the woeful controls. It is a shame, because the high fantasy setting is more appealing to me than stompy robots, the economy of two resources is a better idea than one resource. The “third” resource of farms is a good addition that prevents dull tactics like rushing. But fuck are those controls bad and difficult to look past.
The fundamental issue with Warcraft is it is archaic. The lack of context specific mouse clicks aged about as well as I did, and the inability to set up squad shortcuts renders the game almost unplayable when you can only select 4 units at a time. It ultimately undermines what would have been a technically impressive game. Sure you can play it online, but you’ll be playing some Melvin that has been playing for the best part of 25 years.
Warcraft lays some solid foundations for the series, but boy is the original borderline unplayable. Father time was not kind to it.
Pros: humour, setting, the behemoth the franchise becomes
Cons: Pathfinding, slow, dull,
Back in the Day:
Warcraft scored well and is credited with the RTS boon of the the mid 90s even going on to win Editor’s Choice Awards from several prominent Gaming Magazines.