Warcraft: Orcs & Humans – PC
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: November 23rd, 1994
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Nerd Rating: 7.0 / 10
Reviewed by Rhutsczar
It’s about time we dove head first into the early days of the World of Warcraft. No, just kidding. We need to go back even further and tackle the first game in the franchise…Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.
Let’s set the stage real quick. For those not familiar with the pre-World of Warcraft RTS series, we follow the ongoing war between the “Alliance” and the “Horde”. The “Alliance” is made up of a few different races including humans, dwarves, and elves. On the contrary, the “Horde” is made up of barbaric tribes such as orcs, ogres, and trolls. As you can guess, these two groups have just a tad bit of a problem with each other. These problems only escalate once the “Horde” begins to encroach on lands controlled by the “Alliance”.
Now we begin the actual story. In Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, the orcs exist in another world known as Draenor, with the humans living in another world opposite of Draenor named Azeroth. The various warring orc tribes’ necromancers and warlocks were able to demonstrate their magical prowess by discovering and manipulating a “Dark Portal” to connect both Draenor and Azeroth. Over many years the Orcs began to send ever-increasing raiding parties through the portal, only to be stopped by the superior tactics of the humans. Since the humans had not discovered the portal as of yet, all they could do was defend against the monstrosities coming out of the darkness. After years and years of failure, the Orcs united and created the “Horde” to finally crush the humans once and for all.
This is where you come in. You have the choice to either control the orcs or the humans and serve as a general or chieftan among their ranks. You control your units and encampment from a top-down perspective. Your main objective is to generate supplies (gold, lumber, oil, and food) in order to develop an army and destroy your enemy encampment. Believe me, this sounds much easier than it actually is. The enemy A.I. is actually developed rather well, offering quite a bit of challenge to even a seasoned RTS gamer.
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans is considered one of the first modern real-time strategy games and deserves that title for a few reasons. First off, the game utilizes both buttons on a traditional mouse. The left button is used for selection of units, control your buildings, move your mini-map, etc. Orcs & Humans utilizes the right button to move and attack. This was an uncommon use at the time, as the original Command & Conquer would set a single left button set up pretty much in stone upon its release.
For the early-mid 1990s, Orcs & Humans actually looks pretty sharp and it actually gives off a rather fantasy-esque vibe. The units and structures look hand drawn and they are fairly easy to distinguish between. This isn’t limited to the playable units though, as even the terrain fits in with the style. The terrain is rather vibrant and bursting with colors and really helps set up your fantasy battles. I wish they had stuck with this style in the World of Warcraft franchise, because unfortunately the new style makes everything look too friendly and like a cartoon.
Orcs & Humans also uses a scoring system that works, yet seems out of place in the game’s structure. The system takes a number of elements into account each level including: gold and lumber harvesting, training units, and a win/loss. This system doesn’t exactly affect the main story at all, yet it changes your rank/title that you are addressed by. These ranks begin with the rank of Slave (0-200) going all up to God (11,401-11,800). There is also a hidden ranking above that of Designer (11,800-13,000), but in all my years of playing no one I know has been able to reach that high.
Despite all of the basics Orcs & Humans created for the modern RTS genre, it was far from perfect. My biggest gripe with the game was the speed mechanics Blizzard used for units and construction. There were many instances during each map that I found myself just waiting. Everything was building, units were traveling or fighting, yet it seemed so boring. It takes forever for any unit to actually complete a task, and it takes away from the strategy portion of the experience. Thankfully Blizzard has since updated this in the later titles in the series, making game play a little quicker and more bearable.
Now, the real question is…is Orcs & Humans difficult? For those of us who don’t always want to play online with the rest of the world, will I be challenged if I battle with the computer? For the most part…yes. Orcs & Humans prides itself on easing the player into the world it has created and it does pretty well. The first few levels of both campaigns start off rather easy, allowing you to learn the ropes. That will quickly change however, as you will soon realize that the A.I. isn’t always predictable. The A.I. will sometimes use completely nonsensical tactics, yet can still end up putting your head on a pike. For a real challenge, try to change the A.I. as orcs in a skirmish battle. Prepare your anuses for the waves of skeletons and daemons headed your way.
Luckily, Orcs & Humans hasn’t been lost to the sands of time. There have been multiple references to the original title in the RTS Warcraft series,World of Warcraft, and Starcraft franchises. One of the major characters introduced in the original title, Luther, plays a significant role in the rest of the RTS series. Various character quotes, such as the Orc peon’s “zug-zug,” has been included in a handful of quests in World of Warcraft. They may be a diamond in the rough, but they are there as long as you look for them.
Overall, if you are looking for a solid real-time strategy classic, Orcs & Humans is a decent launching point. The title comes from rich lore and has a rather compelling story, while at the same time not dragging on. Orcs & Humans isn’t easy either, as the A.I. is decently balanced to put up a fair fight yet can throw you off guard if you aren’t too careful. Grab a taste of classic RTS titles with Orcs & Humans, the title that launched the now mega franchise. Need more RTS titles? Nerd Bacon has you covered!
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