Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
One of the problems with RPG-based strategy games is they inevitably have RPG-type plots. Almost without exception, these unlikely tales tend to be unimaginative, sleep-inducing, two million-page bores. Enter Warcraft with its tale of the mythical land of Azeroth (oh gawd, here we go).
All was well in the land (hurrah) until nasty conjurer bloke Medivh came along (boo) and opened up a gateway from another world. From this gateway came millions of ugly ores who didnt like anybody and decided to prove it by clonking everyone they came across. The King of Azeroth immediately sat up and said: Something must be done. Unfortunately, he didnt mean that he was personally going to sort it out; he was talking about you. Get on your hoss and do the lot of them," he probably said. And so it came to pass that you, protector of the land of Azeroth, brave baddie-clonking do-gooder, are tasked with sitting in front of a computer screen, looking at lots of little people moving around in it, and, er, killing lots of ores. There's also a game stuck in here somewhere too. Lets move on to that then.
Ores and more ores
The game is played out over a series of increasingly difficult scenarios. At the beginning you have to decide which side you want to be on. You can be on the humans side and go into battle with folk sporting the same fair features as yourself, or if youre really ugly, you might feel happier teaming up with a bunch of ores. Either way, the gameplay is more or less the same. You are given an objective at the beginning of each scenario. Mission types vary from rescuing people and building lots of stuff to simple kill-them-all-immediately affairs. As was the case with Dune, the key to success in each scenario is to build places to make weapons as quickly as you can and, when youve got enough heavy-duty weapons together, you wade into your opponent's area and hope he hasn't had enough time to do the same thing.
There are only two resources you need to get hold of in Warcraft: lumber and gold. You get these by sending peasants to chop wood in the forests and trundle backwards and forwards from gold mines with loads of money for you. Once you have enough resources, you can start building a barracks to train soldiers and a church to train clerics (wizards). And so it goes on. You build things, you train people, you send them off to kill lots of ores. In the early missions, you only get puny footmen or, if youre really lucky, an archer. But as the game progresses you get to train knights and wizards and use great big catapults for chucking heavy objects at people. Just like Dune, all the action is played out in real time (i.e. the little people on the screen dont stand about, they move about) so the battles get really hectic, with people chucking arrows about and casting mega-spells all over the place. Before you can get into any serious scraps, though, you have to explore the playing area for each scenario. This is done Civilisation style, where the play area is blacked out until you move into it. The more of the play area you explore, the more gold mines and forests youll find and, of course, the more ores youll come across.
Thats about it as far as gameplay is concerned. On to the crux of the matter, i.e. is it any good? Well, like so many games of its type, Warcraft has its good points and bad points. Lets get the downers out of the way first.
The main problem with Warcraft is that, although its quite addictive to start with, it eventually becomes a tad repetitive, despite the variety of the missions. For the first half of the scenarios, youre doing exactly the same thing youve been doing in all the others: building and searching. It turns out to be not so much a race against time as a battle against boredom. Also, you have to play really far into the game before your wizards get to have any serious spells to play with. The other problem is one of personal taste, really. In the CD version, when you click on one of your units, they acknowledge you in digi-speak by saying things like your bidding my lord? and crap like that. Frankly, after a very short time, the whole thing began to drive me up the wall. If, however, youre a power-crazed lunatic with a penchant for patronising olde English-type gibberish, youll probably love it. Anyway, you cant turn it off, so you have to either get used to it or you have to play the game with the sound off. Blimey, I didnt realise quite how many problems I had with the game until I started to type up this review.
Fortunately, the game has some plus points to make up for the aforementioned probs. Namely...
Going back up again
... Its fun. I played it for ages and ages. Some of the later missions are really hard and had me vowing resolutely Id beat that bastard if it killed me. Also, some of the spells the clerics get to use in the later stages are a real laugh: like when you see four or five of them together blowing the whole playing area to pieces. Warcraft is not particularly original, and the graphics wont win any awards, but its reasonably playable, and its big (there are lots of scenarios) so if you like it youll be playing it for ages. Also, Dawn (one of Interplays PR persons) says its great, so it must be.