Warcraft: The Backstory

As mentioned in my opening post, it is likely that World of Warcraft is going to come up frequently in this blog. I thought I should take a moment to explain just how and why I came to be so fiendishly obsessed with this game.

If you are of the impression I think WoW is the greatest game ever, let me remove that preconception right away. The list of things I dislike about WoW could fill an epic poem (“Yea, the dungeon was hard, and plagued by many a huntard…”). No, it comes from my history with the franchise. Simply put, I am a Warcraft fan first and a WoW fan a distant second.

Warcraft was not always an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game, for those of you who still have lives and/or souls). It began life about fifteen years ago as a series of RTSs (real time strategy games). And I got in on the ground floor. I can remember playing Warcraft: Orcs and Humans (the first Warcraft game and one of the first RTSs as we have come to understand the concept) on my father’s knee at the tender age of five. Flash forward a couple years and my favourite thing to do after I came home from school was play Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and its expansion, Beyond the Dark Portal.

This is when I began to get properly obsessed. I loved the noble Alliance and slaying those evil Orcs. I was particularly obsessed with the Elven archer units. I liked that they were the only unit in the game that could fight from a distance without dirtying themselves in melee combat, as well as their pretty capes and smoothly confident voice-acting. Hey, I was seven; I was easily impressed.

Jump ahead another couple years. I’m now about twelve or so, and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos comes out.

Bombshell. This game blew me away. Its gameplay was a completely new take on the RTS genre, but even more importantly, it featured a sweeping and epic story with a wide cast of interesting, well-written characters that was better than anything I’d seen in a game before.

Reign of Chaos brought a more mature take on the Warcraft universe, just as I was myself maturing. I was beginning to understand that there is more to the world than the rigid black and white of good and evil, and low and behold, now the humans are no longer perfect paragons of virtue but also include racists and bigots; the Orcs are revealed to have been corrupted by Demons and are now struggling for redemption; my beloved High Elves are but the descendants of a Night Elf nobility who betrayed the world and authored all of Azeroth’s woes.

I could prattle on about the awesomeness of Warcraft III for ages, but I’ll rein in my fan boy gushing, but for a mention of its expansion, The Frozen Throne. TFT, while awesome in many ways, was probably where the franchise began its decline, but is noteworthy for introducing the Blood Elves.

The Blood Elves are the most recent iteration of the race that began life as those stylish Elven archers. In Reign of Chaos, the Undead Scourge razed their magic kingdom, slaughtered 90% of their population, and destroyed the Sunwell, the fount of magical power that had sustained them for 10,000 years–an act which caused agonizing and sometimes fatal withdrawals in the entirety of their species. In TFT, the survivors had taken on the new persona of Sin’dorei, Children of Blood, as a memorial to their slaughtered kin and were struggling to survive in a world where no one cared about them and all their allies had betrayed them in their hour of need. I was now entering my teen years, and these edgy, sexy, morally ambiguous new Elves had everything to inspire the adoration of a teenage boy. My undying love for them was cemented.

This turned into much more of a “OMG WCIII was so awesome!!1!” post than I intended, but the point I’m trying to make is this: I grew up with Warcraft. For better or for worse, Azeroth has become my second home;  the characters are almost like my oldest friends. I flirt with the boundary of sanity in my obsession with this universe, but at this point, I couldn’t stop if I wanted to–and I don’t.

I don’t pretend that Warcraft is Shakespeare. Once in a blue moon, it can put out an intelligent story, but these are the exceptions and not the rule. It’s a fun romp and nothing more. But it’s my gaming comfort food. It’s nostalgic.

Sometimes I worry I’m like a Star Wars who convinces themselves Attack of the Clones was somehow a good movie; but I am very vocal about WoW’s flaws, and I try not to blind myself to them. It’s merely the nostalgia that keeps me playing–although to be fair, Wrath of the Lich King was a pretty amazing game.

Curious about the Warcraft games? The entire series is available on my Amazon affiliate.

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One thought on “Warcraft: The Backstory

  1. I have to admit that I’ve killed many orcs over the years and never felt an ounce of remorse about it–and who could blame me? They smell bad, they drool, have terrible dental hygiene, steal the jobs of hard-working dwarves and gnomes, and of course…they eat people. Or so I was told. (*Mild Spoiler*) You can imagine what a shock it was to learn in Warcraft III that not only are the orcs not enemies; they are allies you need to save humanity’s collective bacon. So as you play the game, you’ll need to drive that Lord of the Rings propaganda out of your mind and find peace with your inner orc.Warcraft III is a terrific real-time strategy game that goes farther in blurring elements of role-playing and strategy than any game that’s come before it. The inclusion of heroes as role-playing characters is terrific and provides extra incentive to explore the entire map because you never know what items or quests are hidden in remote corners. It just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you find those hidden magic boots or that ring of protection. Warcraft III also marks the best story to date for a Real-Time Strategy game. In the third campaign of the single-player, I tell you that I was an orc…for about an hour. It’s also worth mentioning that he tale cleverly unfolds in a way to allow you to play each of the factions (Human, Undead, Orc, and Night Elf) in a compelling progression. Anyone who has played RTS games before will be familiar with the interface and gameplay of Warcraft III. All of the usual unit types are there–it’s just that in Warcraft III they seem more polished than in other games. Whether it’s the endearing signature responses when you click on them or the way the units intelligently form up, move, path find, and attack, every aspect of every unit has obviously been thoroughly tested and balanced. Not once when I gave an order did a unit wander off from the pack to explore some random corner of the screen and cause me mouse-crushing, game-cursing rage (see how well I found my inner orc?). It may not sound like much, but those of you who have played many real-time strategy games know that this is not a given. When I ordered a unit to march to a certain place and kill, they did just that. I realize that the game is over a year old now, but it’s worth noting how technically sound this game is. I did not have a hiccup in this game. Not once in my single-player campaign did the game crash to desktop, freeze, stutter, spit or delay. The load times were very reasonable and there were also no graphical problems changing resolution or color depth. The graphics themselves are probably the weakest element of the game; all of the units certainly look very blocky and dated. But of course, for a real-time strategy game, who really gives a crap? You don’t need state of the art graphics for an RTS. I certainly didn’t find that it affected my experience.I only played the multiplayer a couple of times and I got stomped like the kid in my elementary school who used to wear cardigans that looked like they’d been swiped from Mr. Rogers’ closet. It was that bad. This game has been out long enough that even if you seek out a so-called newbie game, you’re dealing with people who obviously eat, slept and breathe Warcraft. But there was no problem finding a game and I didn’t have any problems with lag or people bailing out of games. It just so happens that I stink. On the whole, this is a beast of a game: fun to play, compelling, balanced and technically sound…and I think it’s time we thought about an orc for president.

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