Warcraft is a pretty huge franchise these days. There's the movie, the collectible card game and not to mention the world's most popular MMORPG. Despite the series' success it actually had a pretty humble beginning. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans is a real-time strategy game which came out in the dark ages of 1994, and was one of the first games in the genre that popularized online multiplayer. In fact, it's likely that the RTS boom was actually caused by Warcraft working in tandem with the Command & Conquer games.
The storyline of Warcraft is classic sword & sorcery, although the story itself isn't actually all that present. Instead, the narrative appears only via the manual and a single cutscene. In it's the most basic form it's about orcs wanting to kill humans and take their stuff. On a more detailed note, the orcs come from another dimension and the humans have a prosperous kingdom. For the most part, it's just flimsy pretense to get the two sides to fight, but it works.
The main story splits into two separate campaigns. On one hand, you have the humans defending against the invading orc hordes. On the other hand, you have the invading orcs aiming to kill all the humans. Of course, there's slightly more to it than that. There's something to do with a magical portal and working your way through the ranks of your army. The main point is to just kill anyone who isn't your friend.
The core gameplay of Warcraft centers entirely around the building and commanding of your army. You can do everything with the mouse, although using keyboard shortcuts can speed things up a tad. Most of the actual gameplay is rather slow, which pairs badly with padded out missions. Most missions require you to build a camp before you can blow stuff up. This usually requires building a barracks, farms and innumerable grunts to harvest gold and lumber. All of this construction can take a considerable amount of time.
There are some exceptions to that rule. Occasionally you do start out with a sizeable force and it's all about strategically using your units. Honestly, it's these missions that really bring the game to life. On its own, the exercise of building an army is just a bit shallow by today's standards. There's not all that much variety to the buildings, and they just serve to unlock more unit types 99% of the time.
At least there's some variety with Warcraft's units. Both sides have basically the same units with at most some minor differences. Each side gets a builder unit who constructs all the important buildings. They also get a standard warrior, a ranged warrior, a mounted unit and siege weapons. The one unit which does have some pretty significant changes are the wizards, who each have different spells. The human wizard can heal units and make them invisible, while the orc wizard raises the dead and provides temporary invulnerability.
Luckily the visuals still manage to look as good as ever, even at a lower resolution. The units are easily identifiable and look great, as do the top-notch spellcasting and ballistics effects. One of the biggiest stand-outs is probably the screens where mission briefings take place, especially during the Orc campaign. Considering the time period, they look amazing, even though they barely animate. To this day they wouldn't look out of place in a modern pixel graphics game.
Warcraft was always a fun game, and over the years the fun has stuck around although it has diminished slightly. The fact that you can only select four units at once tempers how fun it is to command a huge force. Obviously, this means that trying to attack powerful enemies is pretty difficult, especially since you can't put your units into quick-select slots or anything like that.
Warcraft suffers from numerous problems, but none of them are really the fault of the game itself. They're more a product of the time of its debut. The reason that you can only select limited units at a time is because that was a limitation of hardware and software of the time. While it is still easy to see why Warcraft was a great game for its time, it has not aged all that well. Even the game's two sequels both added things to the mix that improved how the game worked immeasurably.
Overall Warcraft is still a lot of fun to play. If you have nostalgia for it you probably won't even notice the flaws. However, those flaws are certainly there. Anyone used to modern RTS sensibilities will end up finding it clunky a lot of the time. Having said that the main campaign modes don't take long to finish, so even if they're slow they're still over pretty quickly. Considering that it has been two and a half decades since its release Warcraft has actually held up pretty well. Even if it hasn't quite lived up to its legendary status.
TechRaptor reviewed Warcraft: Orcs & Humans on PC with a copy provided by GOG.
GOG is an affiliate partner of TechRaptor, and TechRaptor earns a small commission off purchases made from some links in this article.