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Warcraft: Orcs & Humans

Developer / Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
23 November 1994
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans - cover art
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121 Ratings / 1 Reviews
#3,421 All-time
#110 for 1994
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This is the first in a long series of Blizzard game reviews I'm doing because I'm planning to review WOW and I would like to have reviews of their other games leading up to that one that I can reference instead of writing about them within that one, my reviews are long enough on their own without needing to review all of them at once. For once in my miserable life, I'm being kind to you readers and I'm going with brevity.
It was about middle school and the year was 1999 when I got my first computer and I had already been avidly playing console games for most of my life up to that point so I was eager to try some computer games. I wanted to try a genre I had been kept away from not having a PC, and I had heard a lot about RTS' games from a friend who already had a computer of his own. So somewhat on a whim I bought Command and Conquer 1 (C&C), C&C: Tiberian Sun, as well as the first two Warcraft games. I can't think of a much better introduction to a genre of games than I got with RTS's. Tangentially as I don't want to go too far into them in this review I can pretty much say the same about the two C&C's with Tiberian Sun still being a contender for my favorite RTS of all time with ahem.... a few others that might take that title yet to be named but I digress and we will talk about them later.
Luckily I started with the least advanced of the 4 RTS games, Warcraft 1 (WC1) and I loved it... At the time. It's hard to understand and fully take in the impact Warcraft 1 had on gaming and Blizzard as a company today and I know people usually make cliché statements like this because they think everything they ass got to say is grandiose and epic but I'm not meme'ing, I honestly don't know the impact this game had at the time of its release. I was around back then and it's hard for me to tell in hindsight whether this game was a "hit" or not. I mean I assume it was because they made a sequel to it, but I've never really heard people talk about or praise Warcraft 1 that much, and almost every contemporary reviewer who talks about it only really cares about it in relation to the rest of the series. Well according to stats, it was a "big" hit at the time with hundred-thousand units sold, can you imagine a game still being considered a hit with only a hundred thousand sales? Regardless, the game obviously was significant in the sense that it kick started a massive series.

The music in the first game here is not that great. At the very least, it's definitely not on par with most of the games in the classic Blizzard oeuvre. There aren't any memorable tracks in this and some of them are a little grating or outright bad. Absolutely none of the things I said in that last sentence can be said about the rest of blizzards games, even ones I'm not too fond of like Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 have great music.
The graphics are good for the time but they lack the distinct Blizzard cartoony/darkish art style they would come to have only one game away from this and continue to have to the present day. They look really muddy and it lacks a lot of distinction between objects the environment and units. Meaning a lot of it blends together and the linework isn't established enough to separate things. If you really strain your eyes you can kind of see the Blizzard art style in WC 1 but just barely if at all. The graphics are sub-MSpaint tier enough said.

Gameplaywise it is almost good, keyword being almost... Look long story short, you have to press a separate button to move rather than point and click, that is pretty much all you need to know to know that WC1 is shit compared to any other RTS game from the golden and possibly only age of the genre as it's sadly almost extinct now. I didn't write this to hate on WC1 though and to be fair for its time and at its time I liked it quite a bit but as stated my love of WC2 eclipsed it almost as soon as the game started up. The game is also shitty UI aside, a very easy game to beat. I mean even by braindead modern blizzard standards the complexity of warcraft 1 and its missions just isn't that compelling. Both orcs and humans are very symmetrical in terms of their units and buildings and while this might have been a good balance for multiplayer, in terms of the mission gameplay the lack of differentiation between the two gives them more of a lack of identity than subsequent Blizzard RTS games would have. Even some earlier proto RTS like Dune 2 and more rudimentary strategy games like early X-com had more overall complexity and identity to their warring factions and units. So it's hard to give Warcraft a pass for this, even at the genre's early juncture. The maps are also really small just adding yet another layer on why this game isn't that hard.

The story of Warcraft 1 as it is actually stated and shown in-game is like this. Humans in a kingdom called Storwmwind, get attacked by orcs from another planet who came from a portal a few zones over. The war is the humans trying to stop this attack and the orcs trying to push it and push it real good because canon wise they win. Stormwind's king dies and the city is sacked and most of it destroyed to the point that it's not mentioned at all in the next two RTS games except in past tense and it only has recovered to the point that it matters at the start of World of Warcraft. Canon wise all you need to know about the story of this game is that The orcs came over from another planet and won the first war against humans culminating in the death of King LLayne. The actual process and way in which they got here was actually really different from what the lore of the games is now. Essentially Orc warlocks were rolling dice trying to find a portal and they just so happened to find one that brought them to Azeroth. This game is scant on details and a lot of the ones it has have been retconned either being changed or taken out. So instead of just saying that A-B-C plot, I'll instead give the story with a little bit of the broader context the rest of the games have given it, just know that what is is above and some oddities, I'll talk about later are the basic gist of what you get out of the games "actual" story. Until then here is the actual story of the first war as Blizzard presents it now:

The story of Warcraft Takes place a continent which at the time was called "Azeroth," but through retcons and current lore, the world is called Azeroth and the continent where the entirety of the first game takes place is now called "The Eastern Kingdoms." The lore of Warcraft is very large, complex, and expansive, but this first game has a relatively simple plot and will luckily for me not take very long to explain. So here we are in the Eastern Kingdoms, One of which is a human Kingdom called Stormwind. Stormwind is ruled by a king named Llayn Wrynn. The eastern kingdoms is comprised of two continents the lower half where almost all the land in the eastern kingdoms is, has Stormwind placed dead in the center of its western coast. At the time of this game, Stormwind is the largest of the human kingdoms, of which there are seven spread throughout this continent. Before the game starts, within the lore the humans face very few threats and have lived within a relatively long age of peace. They are allies with Dwarves in Ironforge slightly north of Stormwind and with High Elves much further north on the northern subcontinent of Lordaeron. Lordaeron is where a lot of the second and third games take place, but most of even that small amount of lore doesn't exist until the second game, and aside from mentioning some of these things as window dressing most of Warcraft 1 is singularly about the threat Stormwind faces. So what is that threat?
Wrynn's kingdom is being attacked by large green creatures named orcs. The orcs are from another planet called "Draenor." The orcs are led by a War Chief named Blackhand who is being secretly ruled by an evil orc Warlock named Gul'dan. Gul'dan is obsessed with demonic power and just power for it's own sake.
Let's backtrack a bit and talk about what Gul'dan and the rest of the orcs were doing before he and Blackhand brought them over to Azeroth. Gul'dan originally came from a clan of orcs called the Shadowmoon clan, who were the most spiritual of orcs, and their way of expressing that spirituality was shamanism, reverence for the "elements" and ancestor worship. The Shadowmoon were led by an orc named Ner'zhul. Remember his name because it becomes very important in future games. Ner'zhul was a devout shaman who was trying to do good for his people and he was married to a BBOW named Rulkan. All was happy living in his little hut on Draenor with his wife and being one of the most respected people of his race, but then tragedy struck and his wife's big beautiful brown ass was died. Ner'zhul could barely contain the hurt in his soul and he cried on Rulkan's grave for days. When he was midstream of one of his endless cry sessions over the loss of dat ass. His wife returned to him as a spirit and told him not to worry about her death and to instead embark upon a new purpose for himself and their people. Ner'zhul wasn't exactly shocked that his wife returned to him a spirit as one of the perks of being a shaman was getting to talk to your ancestors and the elements. So knowing this and just wanting to see his beloved wife again, he took the spirit and her wants at face value. The only problem with this is that the spirit was really an asshole demon named Kil'jaeden. For a while, Ner'zhul started implementing the plans this demon had for him, which was to turn the orcs away from the power of the elements and shamanism and to instead embrace a new form of magic derived from demons called fel-magic. At this point like Ner'zhul's Shadowmmoon clan, most of the orc clans were separate entities that kept to their own territories and had only a little bit of interaction with each other in the form of trade, religious bullshit, attacking common enemies etc. In my review of the second game, I will outline all seven human kingdoms and the various orc clans, but in the first game, the individual orc clans don't matter that much yet. But Kil'Jaeden under disguise as Ner'zhul's dead wife told him to unite the clans, to attack one of the largest other existing sentient races on the world, the Draenei. The Dranei are a race of humanoids with smooth-skin and close to human faces but goat-like horns and hooves and they're devoted to the "light" a religion I will elaborate more on in future reviews. Similar to the humans all you really need to know about them at this point is that they lost this war with the orcs and lost hard. They got hit so hard by big dick fel-energy that a lot of their race started to devolve into two different other races and the rest of them had to flee the planet in terror in holy-magic space rockets. The reason Kil'jaeden wanted the orcs to kill these people off is because the Draenei were a portion of his own people originally called the Eradar and Kil'jaeden and most of his race decided to become demons under a demon lord known as Sargearas, but a small group of Eradar led by a man name Velen left the planet because they were given information by shifty ass muphackas named the Na'ru who told them becoming a demon just might be you know, a little bit of an evil thing to do... So they fled to Draenor and after living next to the orcs in peace for a long time they then got easily compstomped by fel empowered orcs. Before the Draenei were even attacked, Ner'zhul realized he had been deceived by Kil'jaeden into doing his dirty work for him, only at this point, his realization had come too late because he had already gotten the ball rolling on a lot of this and he had an apprentice named Gul'dan who unlike Ner'zhul didn't give a fuck about his people or the ancestor spirits and he laughs at genocide memes about the Draes. This dude doesn't give a shit about anything and on the eve of killing the Draes off he had the members of the other orc clans come and drink some demon semen so they could be an unstoppable demonic force against their enemies and it only came with one little side effect it made you a slave of the demons and like a drug it made the orcs far more bloodthirsty and animalistic than they had been before. Gul'dan's actions would also sever his people from the elements and the ancestor spirits, officially ending their connection to their traditional faith for a long time. So after the Draes got wiped off the ass of Draenor. These bloodthirsty restless orcs were starting to turn on each other and that asshole Kil'jaeden wasn't taking Gul'dan's calls anymore so he didn't know what the fuck to do.
So one-day Gul'dan is sleeping and out of nowhere he gets a vision from some weak ass thing with pale skin called a "hu-man" and this thing tells him that he too is an ambitious power-loving scamp and he has that fel-mojo shit Gul'dan wants to know more about including the location of Kil'jaeden's former masters "final" resting place called the Tomb of Sargeras. Well, Gul'dan's wet dream took him from half-chub to full chub and his sheets were contaminated by the time this human gave him all the information. Gul'dan frantically wanted more information about this and the human obliged. The human's name is Medivh and he is the guardian of Azeroth. There is only ever one guardian at a time and they're humans who have been gifted an inordinate amount of magical power through a group called "The Guardians of Tirisfal." Tirisfal is a place in the aforementioned Lordaeron and it was formally where the magic kingdom of Dalaran was adjacent to, so hence this magical group's name. There is a lot more story pertaining to this suffice to say that the last guardian Aegewynn, Medivh's mother lived for thousands of years and she at one time fought a small portion of Sargera's power. Only the fight was a ruse and he allowed himself to be defeated so that his spirit could enter Aegewynn and lay dormant within Medivh while he was being birthed. Medivh grew up knowing nothing about this and as a guardian, he was good friends to King Llayne and Llayne's right-hand man Anduin Lothar. These three went on many merry adventures together until Medivh reached maturity and Sargeras started to do horrible things to him, like give him pimples, have his voice began to crack and build desire within him so he starts to masturbate. Actually, it was more like contacting an insane orc warlock and giving him the instructions to bring him and his bloodthirsty people to this planet where his people live and who were oblivious to this future threat. So Medivh secretly used his power to build a portal on Azeroth, while Gul'dan and the orcs built the same one on their side over on Draenor.
Ner'zhul tries to mitigate some of the damage he caused his race by informing two young orc's of Gul'dan's evil and tells them not to to drink the blood going so far as to jump on the table and pissing on demonic hospitality to stop them from drinking it.
One of these orcs is named Durotan and he is the leader of the Frostwolves' and the eventual father of Thrall, a character we will be meeting in Warcraft 3. So he has an expanded influence on further lore but in this game, all he does is get killed by a suspicious Gul'dan and his clan is exiled from the rest of the horde for not drinking that precious demon juice. The other orc is Ogrimm Doomhammer, Ogrimm is from the same clan as Blackhand which is the Blackrock clan and he is one of their fiercest warriors. He was a good friend to Durotan since childhood and they had a few adventures and other mishaps together. As the story progresses he is not pleased with what happens to his friend and like Durotan he refused to drink that green goo but unlike Durotan who refused on staunchly moral grounds and by questioning Gul'dans motives, Ogrimm pretended to be unworthy and that only true chieftains should partake in the gift of drinking this shit. His ruse worked and kept him 90 days clean and sober from demonic influence as the orcs went to war with the Dranei and then the humans.
With this setup, the orcs begin to attack human settlements. The humans learn of Medivh's "betrayal" and Anduin Lothar himself kills his former friend reluctantly in retribution. The orcs also have a shakeup in their hierarchy when Ogrimm kills Blackhand and takes the title of war chief for himself. He puts Gul'dan in his place and slaughters a lot of Gul'dans warlocks in revenge for his friend Durotan and for what their influence did to the horde. The only reason he allows Gul'dan to live is that the dude got on his knees and begged for mercy and because the humans had mages since the orcs had no magic to counter this Ogrimm allowed Gul'dan and some warlocks to live so that the orcs would have some counter to the humans magic. The orcs continue to rampage around Stormwind and it's surrounding territories until on the eve of battle against the city itself, a half-orc/half Draenei assassin named Garona kills Llayne Wrynn on his throne. Reluctantly because she had come to genuinely like humans and their culture, but Gul'dan's power over her and humanity's seeming impending loss of this war caused her to kill the king to stay good with her "people." So the game ends and the orcs win for now. Lothar and some of the other survivor's from Stormwind flee north to Lordaeron to warn their allies and try to rally the rest of the human kingdoms against the orcs so what happens to Stormwind won't happen to the rest of humanity. In the next game, we will see what happens with all of that.

What I just gave you is the arc of the story as it is presented now. As I stated in the paragraph above all this, the story in the game was much more simple and primitive and lacking a lot of this added context. The game also has a lot of details and plots that would never be mentioned again, the most interesting to me is the one about "Griselda" a daughter of Blackhand who left to go marry an ogre in a now very famous Warcraft location, The Deadmines. She and her husband are slain for this betrayal, but an interesting long-standing Warcraft lore rumor is that they were the parent's of Rexxar, until Burning Crusade took a huge shit on that hypothesis. Aside from that speculation this event and these characters were never mentioned again and it most likely the case that Blackhand didn't have a daughter in the current canonical storyline. I focused on that little bit of story because I think it is emblematic of a lot of the game's details in that most of them are no longer relevant and the only things that are still absolutely canonical is Medivh, LLayne, and Blackhand getting killed and the orcs winning the first war.
I wouldn't call this story bad, it's pretty basic and an acceptable intro to what would become a massive lore universe. Gul'dan is one of my favorite Warcraft characters to the point that I rolled an orc warlock as soon as I started playing WoW. I'll have more to say about him and a lot of these other characters when I talk about Warcraft 2's story. I think the orcs generally have the better story in this game, which is based around the fact that a lot of the characters from their campaign stay relevant to the rest of the games far longer than any of the humans do, Llayne and Medivh die in this one and Lothar dies in the second without much character development and their influence on the rest of the series through connections to other characters isn't as strong as most of the named orcs in this one. For instance, even though Gul'dan dies in the second game his influence on the rest of the series is felt in Warcraft through WC3 and through a lot of WoW's expansions and Ner'zhul and Ogrimm are two of the most important lore characters of the series. It also helps that the horde wins this particular war, it feels good to be victorious.
One major criticism I have of Warcraft 1 and the series, in general, is even compared to only Command and Conquer 1 and some of those earlier proto RTS's and strategy games I talked about before is that while the Warcraft games have a lot of lore in terms of volume, the stories aren't very substantive and lack depth. These people aren't fighting wars over resources, territory, rites of succession or because they have understandable disagreements that can unfortunately only be solved by bloodshed but because of demons, magic and dastardly villain's who are evil for evil's sake. Even though the history of the series is broad it relies on a dumb-guys view of how history works and what's important. Imagine if I told you the history of America and I was like, Well George Washington did this, which led to Jefferson doing that, which led to Abraham Lincoln going into the civil war, which led to Teddy Roosevelt trust-busting, which led to Woodrow Wilson Bringing America into World War 1. A dumb guy's view of history is that only major players matter and the large events tied to them, Warcraft history isn't exactly that rote, but it almost is. It's individuals doing individual actions and context only matters in relation to what those individuals do after the fact and even then maybe not so much. A deeper look at history even fictional ones would focus more on things that have nothing to do with individual famous interlocutors of the narrative. Like governance, economics, geopolitical circumstances, geographical problems and hardships in general, culture, religion, etc. Warcraft's universe has some of these things, but they aren't elaborated on or given much depth and their impact on the story is minimal at best. So the world-building is shallow, there is almost never any mention of forms of government aside from warlords and kings, the economics of the land in terms of the lore is not highly elaborated on and in terms of character psychology you're more likely to find tropes and clichés within these characters, rather than realism and attempts at deeper character studies. In an optimistic way, you can see this as a plus especially for a relatively simple entry into the series like this one, it's not offering you a lot of depth, but there isn't much for you to miss, and in a series that comes to be extremely broad and mammoth in its history you might see it as somewhat of a relief that you don't have to invest a lot of time understanding complex world-building elements and various different cultures and religions on top of all the other shit you have to learn. I can maybe agree with that in this first game as a stand-alone title, but as the series goes on the shallowness of the world starts to drain on me a little more and more. I'll have a lot more to say about this when I review WOW and I'm even planning on comparing it to both of Warhammer's universes. But for now, I'll just say this game has a shallow but workably fun cliché story that I don't dislike but I don't think is a highlight of the series or of video games in general.


So the real question on most people's minds seeing as they didn't play it in its prime is, is it worth playing today? My answer for the first and only time in my general Warcraft series of reviews will be a definitive "no." I mean I have nostalgia googles too, I liked the game the first time I played it and I have played through it several times after but lorewise and from a gameplay standpoint it shows that it was one of the first of its genre and I don't think you're missing anything if you skip it today. I think Blizzard themselves knew this as the retcons to the game started before you even boot up WC2 in the instruction booklet of the second game radical details and history changes are made to Warcraft 1 and Blizzard has basically changed everything about it since. Even comparing it to the first C&C which only came out shortly after, WC1 is very much inferior to even that game.
If I was to suggest people play this game at all, it would be as a "historical examination" if you're really into the Warcraft series and you want to know the story, I would honestly suggest skipping it and just reading the chronicle books. The Warcraft movie is about the story in this first game, but there are some differences in the narrative, like the outcome of the war, Ogrim is in the Frostwolves, Garona's origins and Sargera's and his influence on Medivh are completely left out, so I can't really suggest it as it essentially sets up a new reality for itself rather than being a representation of the lore of the games.
It was hard for me to look at the game with fresh eyes even when it came out given that fact but it's impact on the industry and it being a definitive genre making game can't be denied.
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Catalog

Maliptail Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2024-05-23T00:47:10Z
2024-05-23T00:47:10Z
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Silly_Clown Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2024-04-28T06:27:29Z
2024-04-28T06:27:29Z
2.5
2
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
DarK_RaideR Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2024-04-17T13:03:34Z
2024-04-17T13:03:34Z
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Gibbous Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2024-03-06T07:43:59Z
2024-03-06T07:43:59Z
2.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
HSoaresLima Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2024-02-14T13:00:29Z
2024-02-14T13:00:29Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Throatwobbler Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2024-02-08T18:00:06Z
2024-02-08T18:00:06Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
QuodDixi3161 Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2024-02-02T11:12:09Z
2024-02-02T11:12:09Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
kitaev Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2024-01-14T06:48:55Z
2024-01-14T06:48:55Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Zippybing Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2023-12-23T02:37:21Z
2023-12-23T02:37:21Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
PC_GENS
ranzac Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2023-12-20T02:40:10Z
2023-12-20T02:40:10Z
6
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
nbatman Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2023-12-04T09:35:06Z
2023-12-04T09:35:06Z
2.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Fet Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 2023-11-17T17:18:51Z
2023-11-17T17:18:51Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
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  • DoctorBagels 2021-06-03 22:16:37.391777+00
    This game has not aged very well, some strategies and units are not balanced (water elementals, invisibility clerics, daemons, catapults, archers/spearmen are all op and other units are worthless). If it were free it would be worth trying out too see how the series started, but its definitely not worth finishing or ever paying for anymore.
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  • Clownboss 2022-10-26 22:39:38.133726+00
    https://www.gamepressure.com/download.asp?ID=73651

    Please get this, it makes the game SO much better
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