Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness
|Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness|
|Developer(s)|| Blizzard Entertainment|
Climax Studios (Saturn, PlayStation)
|Release date(s)|| PC, Mac OS|
|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer|
Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness is a fantasy-themed real-time strategy (RTS) game published by Blizzard Entertainment and first released for DOS in 1995 and for Mac OS in 1996. The main game, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, earned enthusiastic reviews, won most of the major PC gaming awards in 1996, and sold over 2 million copies.
Later in 1996 Blizzard released an expansion pack Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal for DOS and Mac OS, and a compilation Warcraft II: The Dark Saga for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. The Battle.net Edition, released in 1999, provided Blizzard's online gaming service, Battle.net, and replaced the MS-DOS version with a Windows one.
Players must collect resources, and produce buildings and units in order to defeat an opponent in combat on the ground, in the air and in some maps at sea. The more advanced combat units are produced at the same buildings as the basic units but also need the assistance of other buildings, or must be produced at buildings that have prerequisite buildings. The majority of the main screen shows the part of the territory on which the gamer is currently operating, and the minimap can select another location to appear in the larger display. The fog of war completely hides all territory which the gamer's has not explored, and shows only terrain but hides opponents' units and buildings if none of the gamer's units are present.
Warcraft II 's predecessor Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, released in 1994, gained good reviews, collected three awards and was a finalist for three others, and achieved solid commercial success. The game was the first typical RTS to be presented in a medieval setting and, by bringing multiplayer facilities to a wider audience, made this mode essential for future RTS titles. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans laid the ground for Blizzard's style of RTS, which emphasized personality and storyline. Although Blizzard's very successful StarCraft, first released in 1998, was set in a different universe, it was very similar to Warcraft II in gameplay and in attention to personality and storyline. In 1996 Blizzard announced Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans, an adventure game in the Warcraft universe, but canceled the game in 1998. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, released in 2002, used parts of Warcraft Adventures' characters and storyline and extended the gameplay used in Warcraft II.
Warcraft II is a real-time strategy game. In Warcraft II one side represents the human inhabitants of Lordaeron and allied races, and the other controls the invading orcs and their allied races. Each side tries to destroy the other by collecting resources and creating an army. The game is played in a medieval setting with fantasy elements, where both sides have melee, ranged, naval and aerial units, and spellcasters.
Warcraft II allows gamers to play AI opponents in separate Human and Orc campaigns, and in stand-alone scenarios. Most of the campaign missions follow the pattern "collect resources, build buildings and units, destroy opponents". However, some have other objectives, such as rescuing troops or forts, or escorting important characters through enemy territory.
The game's map editor allows gamers to develop scenarios for use in multiplayer contests and against AI opponents. The editor runs under the Mac and also under either Windows 95 or, if the WinG library was installed, under Windows 3.
The scenarios can be played against the AI or in multiplayer games with up to eight players participating. The DOS version initially provided multiplayer games by null modem cable, modem or IPX, and Mac gamers could also play via TCP/IP or AppleTalk. Blizzard quickly released a facility to connect with Kali, which allows programs to access the Web by means of IPX.
Economy and war
Warcraft II requires players to collect resources, and to produce buildings and units in order to defeat an opponent in combat. The Human Town Hall and Orc Great Hall produce basic workers that dig gold from mines and chop wood from forests and then deliver them to their Halls. Both buildings can be upgraded twice, each increasing usable resources per load from the workers. Players can also construct Shipyards, which can produce both combat ships and Oil Tankers. Tankers build construction offshore Oil Platforms and then deliver the oil to buildings on the shoreline. As all three resources become exhausted during the game, players must use them efficiently, and gamers must also retain forests as defensive walls in the early game when combat forces are small.
Workers can also construct Farms, each of which provides food for up to four units, and additional units cannot be produced until enough Farms are built. Farms are also the toughest perimeter defense.
Humans and Orcs have sets of buildings with similar functions, but different names and graphics, for producing ground, naval, and air units. All but basic combat units require the assistance of other buildings, or must be produced at buildings that have prerequisite buildings, or both. Many buildings can upgrade combat units. When advanced units appear, the Orcs have a strong advantage in ground combat, while the Humans have the more powerful fleet and spellcasters. The most advanced ground combatants on each side can be upgraded and taught some spells, which are different for the two sides. Some campaign missions feature hero units, which are more powerful than normal units of the same type, have unique pictures and names, and must not die, as that causes the failure of the mission.
The main screen has five areas:
- Along the top are the menu button and counts of the gamer's resources and Farm capacity.
- The largest area of the screen, to the right, shows the part of the territory on which the gamer is currently operating. This enables the gamer to select friendly units and buildings.
- The top left is the minimap, which shows the whole territory at smaller scale and highlights the part on which the gamer is currently operating. By clicking or dragging in the minimap, the gamer can select another location to appear in the larger display.
- The unit descriptions in the area in middle on the left shows the units and/or buildings. If units of the same type are selected, this area have an icon for each unit, showing the unit's vital statistics including the unit's health.
- If a single unit or building is selected, the area at the bottom left shows the actions the object can perform and all completed upgrades that apply to this type of unit or building.
Initially most of the main map and minimap are blacked out, but the visible area expands as the gamer's units explore the map. The fog of war completely hides all territory which the gamer's has not explored, and shows only terrain but hides opponents units and buildings if none of the gamer's units are present. All functions can be invoked by both the mouse and shortcut keys, including game setup, the menu options and some gameplay functions including scrolling and pausing the game. Units and buildings can be selected by clicking or bandboxing, and then their actions can be controlled by the mouse or keys.
The Second War
The First War brought the Fall of Azeroth, following the Orc campaign in Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. The survivors of Azeroth have fled by sea to the Human kingdom of Lordaeron, and the Orcs have decided to conquer Lordaeron, in what is known as the Second War. Both sides have acquired allies and new capabilities, including naval and air units, and more powerful spellcasters.
In the Second War the Orcs are successful at first, but the Humans and allies take the initiative, helped by two civil wars among the Orcs. At the final battle round the Dark Portal in Azeroth, the Alliance exterminates one Orc clan and captures the Orc supreme commander and the remnants of his forces. Hoping to avoid further invasions, the Alliance destroys the Portal.
Through the Portal
After the Second War the Alliance lost the allegiance of the Elves, who thought the Alliance had not done enough to defend the Elves' home, and of two Human kingdoms, which advocated exterminating the remaining Orcs rather than keeping them in captivity. One Orc clan that had fought in the Second War's final battle was unaccounted for. Although the Dark Portal had been destroyed, a tear in reality hovered over the ruin. A few years later, the Portal and rift were hidden by a strange darkness, and there were the sounds of hundreds warriors rushing away through the rift, followed by shrieking Dragons, and finally by the repeating phrase, "We will return..." When the darkness lifted, Alliance scouts found the ground around the Portal trampled to mud – apparently the elusive Orc clan had escaped to their race's homeworld, Draenor.
The greatest Orc shaman led an army from Draenor into Azeroth, apparently hoping to steal magical artifacts with which to create further Portals. The Alliance, expecting an attack, sent through the Portal an army led by the Alliance's supreme commander, its greatest heroes and the mage who had destroyed the Azeroth Portal. It seems they destroyed the counterpart of the Azeroth Portal, but it was not known whether the force escaped from Draenor.
After seeing the excellent response of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, released in November 1994, Blizzard Entertainment started work on Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. Development began in February 1995 and the game was released in December for MS-DOS and in August 1996 for the Macintosh. Blizzard later explained that the small budgets of the time allowed short development times. The response of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans also allowed Blizzard to recruit addition top-class developers. The company's initial design combined modern and fantasy elements, such as fighter pilots ambushed by a fire-breathing dragon. However, they found that this was unsatisfactory, and that there was plenty of content for a fantasy RTS. The initial release of Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness ran over a local area network using IPX but not over the Internet communications protocol TCP/IP. Kali, which used the Internet as if it was a local area network, became very popular and Blizzard quickly provided to gamers a program that made it easy to set up multiplayer Warcraft II games using Kali.
In 1996 Blizzard published Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, an expansion pack developed by Cyberlore Studios, with new Human and Orc campaigns, using new and much more powerful heroes. Later that year the company released Warcraft II: Battle Chest, a compilation of Tides of Darkness and Beyond the Dark Portal, for DOS and Windows 3.
In 1996 WizardWorks Software published W!Zone, an expansion pack developed by Sunstorm Interactive, Inc. and authorized by Blizzard Entertainment. It was followed by W!Zone II: Retribution, an expansion pack published by WizardWorks Software and authorized by Blizzard Entertainment
In 1997 Maverick Software published The Next 70 Levels an expansion pack developed by Maverick Software and authorized by Blizzard Entertainment. It was followed by Next 350 Levels, an expansion pack published by Maverick Software and authorized by Blizzard Entertainment
In 1997 Blizzard and Electronic Arts released Warcraft II: The Dark Saga for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, which combined the campaigns of Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal. The Dark Saga also allowed gamers to automate upgrade of buildings and production of units, and to select more troops at once, facilities that were not extended to the DOS and Mac versions.,
In 1999 Blizzard published the Warcraft II: Battle.net Edition for Windows and Mac, which combined the original game and the expansion pack, retained the Macintosh facilities and replaced the DOS version with a Windows version that included play by TCP/IP, and provided Blizzard's online service, Battle.net, for multiplayer games. After considering new content, Blizzard preferred to make it easy for new and older fans to play each other. Battle.net Edition included some user interface enhancements from StarCraft – a hot key to center on events, assigning numbers to groups of units, and double-clicking to select all units of a type. However they excluded production queues and waypoints.
Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness earned enthusiastic reviews, elevating Blizzard to the elite along with Westwood Studios, id Software and LucasArts. The rivalry between Blizzard's series and Westwood Studios' Command & Conquer series fueled the RTS boom of the late 1990s.
Retrospective reviews by IGN and GameSpot emphasized the ability to join multiplayer games on local networks or using Kali, and the simple but effective map editor, with which some users published maps on the Web. Another GameSpot review in 1996 commented that the campaigns are rather short, but the scenario builder and multiplayer options were ample compensation.
In 1996 GameSpot and Computer Games Magazine regarded the AI as better than in Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, and the latter also said that Warcraft II "surpasses the original game in almost every way". GameSpot approved how the innovative fog of war forced players to scout continuously, and IGN's retroview agreed. The Adrenaline Vault noted that gamers must manage their resources, as all resources run out. GameSpot's retrospective review was enthusiastic about the variety of strategies that gamers with different styles can use, and The Adrenaline Vault noted that maps set in winter often allow ground units to walk on the ice.
The IGN review considered WarCraft II in general a well-balanced game, but GameSpot's retrospective review regarded Ogre-Mages with the Bloodlust spell as too powerful. IGN found that searching for the survivors of a defeated opponent could be tedious, and that the first few missions were very easy, although the final ones were challenging.
In 1996 GameSpot, Computer Games Magazine and Entertainment Weekly praised the SVGA graphics. The retrospective reviews by IGN and GameSpot enjoyed smaller details, such as the increasingly humorous responses when a gamer's units were repeatedly clicked, the "critters" that wandered around, and the detonating of Sappers/Bombers. WarCraft II won most of the major PC gaming awards in 1996, and sold millions of copies. Gamers were still playing in 2002, on DOS or using the Battle.net edition.
GameSpot was pleased that the ports of the consoles Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, combining Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, are practically identical. The Video Game Critic and different reviewers in GameSpot for the PS and Saturn suggested that gamers with PCs should not buy the console versions, but recommended the game to those who use only consoles. Absolute PlayStation and Electronic Gaming Monthly omitted comparisons with the PC and praised the console versions.
Absolute PlayStation and Electronic Gaming Monthly commented that the console versions have no multiplayer capability, but were impressed with the number of campaign and skirmish maps. The two GameSpot reviews noted that, while most campaign missions follow the "resource, build, destroy" pattern, some have other objectives.
Absolute PlayStation and Electronic Gaming Monthly regarded the console buttons easy to use. However, Video Game Critic found that, despite Blizzard's streamlining of the UI, the PS buttons are still a clumsy substitute for a mouse. GameSpot's review for the PS noted that the gamer can to auto-upgrade buildings, auto-build units, and select more troops at once than in the PC version.
Absolute PlayStation praised the graphics and sound, while Electronic Gaming Monthly regarded the graphics as serviceable but praised the sound. However, Video Game Critic complained that the units were indistinct and load times very long on the PS.
GameSpot thought the AI was predictable but very efficient and the multiplayer facilities, while four years old, made it more enjoyable than at least half the new RTS games released in 1999. The Battle.net service was already reliable after refined through experience on Diablo and StarCraft, and the fact that it was free would be attractive both to new users and those of earlier editions. While the production values were those of 1995, the cartoonish graphics and excellent sound effects and musical score were still enjoyable in 1999.
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