Way back in strategy gaming’s past, you find this. Way back in the planet’s past, you find dinosaur shit. It’s not too pretty to look at, but we’re standing on it.

Blizzard’s 1994 “build a town and destroy the other guy’s town” game wasn’t the first, but Dune II was crummy and nearly unplayable. This is actually sort of fun. You choose a race (orc or human), then you harvest gold, build a city, train an army, win the game, type “u suck, git gud scrub” to your opponent, bribe your correctional officer so that he lets you use good shower in Cellblock D (which has hotter water and 23% fewer rapists), and wait what was I saying

The graphics are a 320×240 assault of pixels, blocky but nostalgic and charming. The audio’s pretty good. The game’s only plot is a funeral plot where Blizzard’s scriptwriter was buried after starving to death. Games in 1994 did not need stories. The game is overall simplistic but enjoyable: 90s PC gaming in a nutshell. Most people who played Warcraft back in the day enjoyed it, and some of the people who play it now will also enjoy it.

Incidentally, the orcs and humans aren’t identical mirrors of each other. You’ll see many reviews claiming that they are, and it’s a dead giveaway that the reviewer hasn’t played the game. The human archer shoots further than the orc spearman. The orc necrolyte has more range than the human priest. The differences are subtle, but you soon get a second sense for them. Unless you haven’t played the game, I guess.

The game has two crippling flaws, neither of which relate to its age.

First: you can only move four units at a time. I hate this. Commanding large armies is aneurysm-inducing. You can roughly simulate your experience playing Warcraft by filling a huge swimming pool using a 1 liter kiddie bucket.

I think Blizzard’s defense back in the day was that they didn’t want people to just spam a bunch of units and flood them at the enemy. That’s one way to solve that problem. Another would be to pay a guy to kick down my door, yank my keyboard out of the computer, and RKO it through the nearest wall. If your only answer to “degenerate user behavior” is “take away that user’s ability to play”, you do not know how to design games.

Second: nobody thought that balance between the varying units was important.

No-fail recipe for victory: choose orcs, spam archers, get warlocks, then spam demons. The only way to counter this strategy is to do it yourself, except better. There’s just no stopping demons in this game. They cost nothing, and beat everything. Yeah, they eventually run out of magic and die. Fighting them merely makes you run out of everything and die. If the game’s cover accurately reflected the balance level, the human would be bent over, taking it in the pooper.

It’s old. It’s crappy in places. Play this to see where the Warcraft series began. Unlike many supposedly classic games, it’s fairly good for what it is, not just for what it inspired. I hold considerable respect for it, which is why I’ve waited this long before helpfully pointing out that Warcraft anagrams into Warcfart.

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