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Written by  :  anton treuenfels (37)
Written on  :  Jan 01, 2002
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars

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Customs scenarios make this one replayable

The Good

I don't have much to add to the other reviews here. The sound, graphics, user interface and so on are all done very well here. As has been pointed out, the graphics on the playing field in particular are noticeably superior to those of the popular Command & Conquer series from Westwood.

The basic concept - form and execute a plan to overcome the opposition by marshalling diverse resources and defeating it in battle - is one I've always enjoyed. The underlying idea is not that different from chess, although of course in the RTS genre the opposing sides do not wait to take turns.

Chess is also a good analogy in particular for Warcraft II in that the two sides, while appearing different on the surface, are in fact fairly similar in capabilities. Not being a teenage boy, I haven't ever played the orcish side, but I can't really see much difference between a juggernaut and a battleship, or a dragon and a gryphon.

One item that needs to be stressed is the custom scenario editor. I haven't used it myself, but many others have, and it's finding the results of their efforts that have extended this game's life for me (more below).

The Bad

With one exception, most of my reservations are nit-picking:

- the scoring system emphasizes the number of enemies killed. The score is meaningless in any practical sense anyway, but it would be nice if cleverness could be rewarded somehow. A neat win is esthetically more pleasing to me.

- the user interface is not quite as rock-solid as I would like. When the pointer gets near the edge of the screen in particular is where the chances of unintended results get quite high.

- if I saved and reloaded a scenario in progress, it sometimes seemed as if all my enemies had suddenly quit playing. I got in the habit of rebooting the whole game every time I wanted to resume a saved scenario, which seemed to always give me enemies minded to fight.

- in this version there is an apparently unintentional play imbalance. In scenarios where both sides start with fairly limited resources, one strategy is to create a barracks before a town hall, create a warrior, and send it after the opponent while it's still possible for one warrior to destroy everything the opponent has. I've won scenarios with this sort of "blitzkrieg" attack, but it's not very satisfying. I've read that the "" edition has outlawed this strategy by forcing the technology tree to begin with a town hall, so apparently others don't like it much either.

- the included single-player campaign is only fifteen missions, which didn't seem long enough...

- ..but later I discovered all the included single player "built-in" and "custom" stand-alone scenarios (although as applied to what comes with the game itself, the distinction eludes me), and that was additional fun for a while. But eventually that led to my biggest objection:

- aside from the "blitzkrieg" strategy, there is only one other strategy needed, and that is to dig in, wait until your opponent runs out of resources, and then move in to destroy him. In fact, so all-encompassing is this strategy that I never needed to learn many of the capabilities of my "pieces" in order to win every scenario that came with the game.

Was this deliberate? One thing limiting resources does is also limit the time anyone spends playing a scenario, and that may have been a factor in Blizzard's design decisions. But the custom scenario editor in the proper hands proves that other decisions are possible. I've recently completed a scenario I found on the net ("Rocnor") that took me hours (possibly days) of real time to finish. The computer simply had inexhaustible resources and a very fast generation time for dragons from multiple roosts on a very well-protected island. My guard towers killed more than 20,000 of them by the time I won. More importantly, I couldn't win at all until I'd completely re-thought my strategies and also learned to employ some those mage spells I'd never had much use for.

Now that was fun! There's life in the old game yet.

The Bottom Line

A generally well-designed game with a good balance of thought and action. A violent game (albeit a fantasy-themed violence), and not for those who prefer cooperative games where everyone lives together in peace and harmony. Everyone interested in RTS games should experience it - there are lots of them about, but how many are still being played (and still sold!) five or six years after their introduction?