Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness
In this sequel to Warcraft, the king is dead, Azeroth is destroyed, and the surviving humans are trying to build a new homeland on a different continent. The ores are breathing down their neck, though, in this adventure that reeks with the same blend of in-depth strategy, savage combat, and ribald humor that made the original a hit.
As in Warcraft, you can play as either the humans or the ores. The ores' allies include the likes of goblins and trolls, while the humans are joined in battle by elves, mages, dwarves, and others. The gameplay focuses on the standard collection of resources. construction of fortifications, and deadly combat, but enhancements give the action added realism. Look for more air and sea battles, a larger map, and more structures and weapons. And of course, all the savagery and mayhem is depicted in glowing Super VGA graphics. Let the carnage begin!
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Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness is basically a war/strategy game. This is a war between the Orcish Hordes and the Human forces of Azeroth. Whether you decide to aid the orc or the human cause, the tasks of your missions are much the same: destroy an enemy encampment, rescue a captured ally, or immolate an enemy oil refinery, to name a few. As you beat back the forces of the opposition, you must have your peons or peasants constantly gather resources (gold, lumber, and oil) for your use in building a superior war machine. Eventually, the human forces will destroy the Dark Portal through which the Orcish Hordes have come to Azeroth. The Orc campaign ends with the orcs establishing a firm hold on their position in the human kingdom of Azeroth.
I must admit that the graphics of Warcraft 2 threw me off a bit at first. After playing Command and Conquer a great deal, the cartoonish look and feel of Warcraft 2 was hard to take seriously. But once I delved deeper into the play of the game, what seemed childish soon became endearing. Since Warcraft 2 is set in a fantasy realm where orcs and humans €battle for supremacy, realism only partially applies as a category anyway. Still, the game is more realistic in its action than in its graphics—keeping in mind that the graphics were not intended to represent reality. There is also enough graphic brutality to please most wargame enthusiasts. But after you've killed ten or twenty helpless "critters" and have witnessed the extremely disturbing yet comical way in which they expire, you tire of that novelty and concentrate on the mission at hand. Among the nicer touches in Warcraft 2 is the "Fog of War," which allows you to see only those parts of the battlefield where your troops have been sent. If you have sent troops through an area and they were demolished, you will still be able to view that area's layout and buildings, but not the actual forces of the enemy. There are also several video sequences that appear at points of major accomplishment in the story, but while they were a nice break from the action, I didn't really feel that they added to the overall quality of the game.
Game setup is easy, taking about 10 minutes or so. The only annoying fact I must mention is that if you load into Windows with the CD in your drive, you will get a little window about Warcraft 2, asking you if you would like to install it, even if you already have. This would seem to be a minor annoyance, which it really is, but once I was jolted out of bed because this screen popped up and started blaring some march music out of my poor Yamaha speakers. I guess that teaches me not to leave the CD in the drive and have my sound set louder in Windows than DOS; still ... a silly occurence that may have been comical to me (upon reflection) could perhaps send some unsuspecting senior citizen into premature cardiac arrest.
Moving on to more positive ground, I thought the documentation that came with Warcraft 2 was great. Each unit is illustrated and its characteristics defined completely. The only minor gripe I had was that some of the descriptions were too colorful to be clear—for instance, some of the descriptions of the Mage's spells might tell you that the "Mage will use the lightning bolt to utterly vanquish the enemies of Azeroth from the sacred land." A nice feeling to it, but not very helpful when you're trying to decide whether that spell might be enough to protect your paladins on their next jaunt into the Orcish stronghold. Nevertheless, the manual provided a wonderful reference during gameplay. Often, while learning the game, I would see a chance to build a new structure and have my wife read the description to me, so that I could continue hacking away at those poor enemy dimwits who dared to get in my way.
If you're familiar at all with Westwood's Command and Conquer, you'll feel right at home playing Warcraft 2. You simply point and click on your guys and then click on the object you want them to manipulate ... click on an enemy and they'll attack; click on trees and your peons or peasants will harvest them. This manner of controlling your forces makes it very easy to handle many tasks at once, which is paramount to success. You are able to gather resources, scout new territories, and fight the mother of all battles—all at once. One advantage that Warcraft 2 has over Command and Conquer is the ability to build non-adjacent structures. This allows you to build guard towers and such at your camp's perimeter without "sandbagging" out there. To be fair, I heard thatwas supposed to allow non-adjacent structures as well. In Warcraft 2, I also like the fact that you can rebuild all your structures: as long as you have the money and at least one peon or peasant to do the building. It was always a drag in C&C—especially head-to-head play—when your "friend" snuck an engineer into your construction yard via helicopter, and you had to concede because you couldn't rebuild it—even if you had $20,000 tucked away. Comparisons aside, Warcraft 2 has a very intuitive and fun-to-use interface.
The worst thing about the audio for Warcraft 2 is the narration before each mission. Can you say "overacting?" But I was very pleased overall with the game's consistently nice audio touches. The various characters in Warcraft 2 have very distinct and colorful personalities, mainly characterized by their reactions to your commands—for instance, the peasant's cry "Yes, me Lord," or the Paladin's "For the King!" Some of the effects are gruesome, such as the dying wail of the various critters. Music itself is fairly nonexistent during the missions, which suits me just fine—it really isn't needed since the richness of the sound effects provides a nice backdrop for the action. There is, however, some fitting, warlike music used under the narration and during the video sequences.
486DX\33, 8 MB RAM, SVGA video card, 2X CD-ROM drive
Recommended: Pentium, 16 MB RAM, a really good mouse
Reviewed on: P-120, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, Diamond Stealth 64 video card
I had a lot of fun playing Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness. Although the game had its share of shortcomings, I felt that its good points heavily outweighed them. I am pleased to award Warcraft 2 a generous score of 89.
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