Video Game Thoughts: Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness

Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness was a 1996 real-time strategy game by Blizzard Entertainment for the PC. After playing Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, I learned that the computer could have good games. One day when I had some money, I asked my mom to take me to CompUSA. It was the nearest store that sold games for Macintosh, but it was still an hour away. My mom and I were looking through the computer games aisle checking out the game boxes. Then I saw it. Warcraft II. I had no idea it even had a sequel, but I had to get it.

My mom was not very happy. She gave me a serious look of disapproval saying, “Are you sure you don’t want to get another game?”. She didn’t like me playing a game about war, and the two people on the cover looked kind of mean. She would have rather I played more kid-friendly games like was on the regular Nintendo I had at home. My mom kept trying to find another game I would like better, but it was no use. I loved the story and lore in Warcraft too much to pass it up. Of course, she could have forced me to get a different game. I guess my mom didn’t want to argue about it. She just wanted me to be happy.

Warcraft II was perfect. They pretty much improved it in every way possible compared to the original game. Warcraft II had better graphics, better sound effects, mostly better music, more units, more game mechanics, better online play, high-quality cinematics, a better story, and probably a lot more. Really, almost anything I could think of from the original was better in the sequel. The only possible exception could be the color palette. Warcraft II was a brighter game than Warcraft I. It was less dark. The story was still pretty serious, but there was a bit more humor and playfulness here than in the original. I still loved it.

These days I use my memories of the transition from Warcraft to Warcraft II as the standard for a good video game sequel. A sequel should not just be better graphics or a new story. Those are important, but it really needs to have new gameplay experiences to keep things fresh. Video game publishers can’t expect players to pay full price for a sequel just to get a new story or updated graphics, but this is a topic for another time.

The game was a little easier than the original, but I still got stuck at some point and had to use cheat codes to continue. Eventually, when I was older, I did finish the game without cheat codes, but at the age I first played the game, I just didn’t have the dedication to finish it on my own. Again, the in-game cinematics were amazing. I loved watching them over and over again. There was no easy way to re-watch the cinematics, so I quickly memorized the cheat codes to skip through to those parts of the game.

One cool new feature in Warcraft II was the map editor. Using this tool, the player could make their own levels to play on in the game. Players could make games just to fight the computer AI or make balanced maps for multiplayer with other human players. When I first discovered this tool, I must have spent a month just playing around with it, not even touching the game. There were a lot of cool things to try out with the editor that were not available in the game itself.

Beyond the Dark Portal expansion

By the time the expansion had come out, we had dial-up internet access through America Online. I found out about the expansion by checking out the official Blizzard website. I was amazed that I could search for almost anything and something would come up on it.

This time I got the game at a new third-party Macintosh store that had opened nearby. We took the computer in to get a memory upgrade. I came with my dad when he went to pick up the upgraded computer. I saw they had a computer game section on the walls. That’s where I found the Beyond the Dark Portal expansion. My dad asked me if I thought anything looked interesting. I immediately picked out the expansion pack. He was too busy working to know anything about games, so he made no protest. I didn’t have money with me, but I did have enough money saved at home to pay for it. My dad bought it, and I payed him back when we got home.

Unlike the base game, I wasn’t blown away by the expansion. It was still very high quality, but it didn’t have quite the same production values as the base game. There were less movies between the levels. The expansion had several more missions with these special hero units. It was a cool idea to add some more story and character to the levels instead of only outside the levels, but they were generally harder than standard levels. This is because on these levels the player usually had very limited numbers of units and no way to train more without restarting the whole level. Because the levels were harder than the ones in the base game, I had a lot of trouble getting anywhere. I had to use cheats again to beat it. I really liked the setting of the game though.

The game took place in the mysterious world of Draenor. This was where the bad guys had come from. It was an alien world. I was excited to explore it in the levels. My favorite thing was the trees. Instead of being normal trees, they were these giant mushrooms. They could still be used the same way as normal trees to get wood, but I really liked the new visuals. The story was pretty good too, much less generic than the story in the base game. There were more story threads, however, so I had a harder time following everything that was going on. That was fine because I liked story. I went through the game several times until I understood everything.

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