Legendary Pictures and Universal recently unveiled the trailer for Duncan Jones’ live-action Warcraft flick. According to the ever-so-exciting official website, the story involves “the realm of Azeroth stand[ing] on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: Orc Warriors.” In other words, it’s the plot of the very first Warcraft real-time strategy game from 1994, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.
I whipped out my dusty CD-ROM to play this Blizzard classic, and quite a few issues arose. Just because a game is beloved doesn’t mean the narrative or gameplay hold up well. Polish your broadswords and harvest your lumber: welcome to the Woes of Warcraft!
Simplistic Orc Lore
The rich world of Warcraft lore isn’t starving for content — there’s over a dozen novels, World of Warcraft and its five (soon to be six) expansion packs, and reams upon reams of fan-fiction. But if you go back to the manual for Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, the Orcish narrative is rather bare-bones.
Aside from an advanced Warlock Summon, demons are nowhere to be seen. Orc speech among the populace is portrayed as crude at best. A few pages of flavor text are all you get.
Unlike Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, the in-game plot for Orcs & Humans is only presented through mission briefings. A smattering of character names and locations come up if you’re lucky. To add insult to injury, most of these missions boil down to eliminating all of the enemy forces, down to the very last unit.
In fact, there’s more plot development in the actual instruction manual than in the game proper. The Warcraft movie will have many blanks to fill — unless it’s just two hours of peons harvesting gold and lumber that wrap up in a climactic battle!
Most RTS games let you place buildings willy-nilly, in the general vicinity of your base. In Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, you’re required to construct buildings adjacent to roads. And roads cost money.
Don’t worry, it gets worse. You also have to construct enough roads to match the vertical blocks the building takes up; big structures require longer stretches. It’s a wonder the peasants and peons didn’t go on strike.
Unit Queue Blues
Most of the challenge in RTS games revolves around multi-tasking. It’s like an office job, but instead of having to respond to emails and fill out Excel spreadsheets at the same time, you have to build a base and units while simultaneously commanding your armies to attack the enemy.
Unfortunately, Warcraft: Orcs and Humans doesn’t let you queue up multiple units. Your Town Hall can only crank out one peasant at a time. The same goes for Barracks, Stables, and so on. Enjoy going back and forth on the map between your base and your units to get anything done!
Press M to Move
It’s a given that you can right-click in an RTS to move units, right? Wrong! In one of the many carryovers from Virgin Interactive and Westwood Studios’ pioneering 1992 title Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty, you have to either click the Move icon or press the M key, then click where you want your unit to go. Every. Single. Time. Zug zug, indeed!
This also applies to attacking units. Hope you’ve been practicing your typing skills. Best keep some Advil handy to hold the carpal tunnel syndrome at bay.
Big Armies, Tiny Groups
There are buildings to construct and units to train, but the game is called “Warcraft.” When commanding your armies, forget about moving large groups of units across the war-torn battlefields of Azeroth. You can only have four units in a group at once!
Even worse, you can’t assign hotkeys to your groups. This makes attacking enemy bases en masse a lot harder than it should be. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans is a tough game, but these archaic gameplay limitations make it even tougher.
Article by contributor Mat-Bradley Tschirgi.