So the orcish Horde has embarked on stolen human ships and is now making its way westward to Kalimdor. Finally we’re going to learn what’s on the other side of the Great Sea… but not right now.

The Exodus of the Horde campaign is a bit of a mess. It consists of five missions, which were all released as part of the Warcraft 3 demo, fully voice acted. However, for some reason, the retail version of Reign of Chaos only included the first two missions. The remaining three were later added as a custom campaign in The Frozen Throne, but without voice acting1 and using TFT gameplay changes. Finally, Reforged made the entire campaign available with full voice acting, but only with the new graphics, and with TFT gameplay, since Reforged applies TFT gameplay to RoC campaigns too. It’s a mess.

For the purposes of this post, I played the fan repack of the demo campaign. The uploader, Kostyarik, extracted the demo missions and made them playable as a TFT custom campaign, with full voice acting and with original Reign of Chaos units and gameplay balance. This gives us 4K and widescreen support compared to the original demo, which doesn’t play very nice with modern systems.

Riders on the Storm

Riders on the Storm
In the actual demo, all five missions used this map style.

Seeking shelter from a sudden storm, the Horde has made landfall on an island. There’s just one slight problem:

Riders on the Storm
This is fine.

The orcs loaded their entire population on ships and then immediately crashed them. What other race could possibly achieve such a feat? Furthermore, the shamans sense a source of strange magic, which turns out to be a tribe of jungle trolls, led by Sen’jin. Warcraft 3 starts the trend of trolls speaking with a Jamaican accent.

Riders on the Storm
Those troll models are so low-poly that I struggle to find where Sen’jin’s head is supposed to be. Or his torso, for that matter.

Turns out the trolls are having trouble with humans who have set up a base on this island, so we need to take them out. These particular humans come from the nation of Kul Tiras and recognize Thrall’s orcs as the ones who stole the ships from the mainland — quite possibly theirs. The ship repairs will take some time, and in the meantime we should take out the human base so we can safely leave.

Riders on the Storm
That thing on the ground behind Thrall’s troops is a permanent sentry ward, which keeps the terrain revealed.

We get a pretty developed base, which is nice. Warcraft 2 often forces us to develop a base from scratch, but Warcraft 3 would rather save our time and excise as much tedium as possible. To the west of the base, there is a troll headhunter with a feature that will become a staple of the franchise — an exclamation mark over his head. That’s right, he’s going to give us a side quest.

That well behind him is a corrupted Fountain of Health. Once it healed everyone who drank from it, but now strange gases from the underground have fouled it.2 However, if Thrall gathers two ingredients, Sen’jin can purify it.

Riders on the Storm
Seed of Expulsion? I hope there’s no Rod of Lordly Might involved.

Optional quests are just that — optional. There’s generally only one or two per mission and they’re mostly worth doing. Here, the two items are located in the north, guarded by ogres and ogre-magi, and the south, gathered by monsters new to the setting: thunder and lightning lizards.

Riders on the Storm
Beware of lightning, my warriors. The mouseover popup says “Lightning Lizard”.

Creeps in Warcraft 3 often come in packs of weaker units led by a stronger unit, and another thing I appreciate is that unit size is generally an indicator of strength. The bigger a unit, and the flashier effects it has, the more menacing it’s going to be.

I actually got overconfident here, sending my entire army on the optional quest. In campaign missions, enemy attacks on your base come periodically in waves, and it’s often beneficial to wait for the next wave and then go exploring. I neglected to wait, and the humans attacked my base while my troops were gathering the items for the side quest. Fortunately, on normal mode, the attack force is really paltry, and a single peon was able to keep repairing my barracks until Thrall and his units returned to the base.

Riders on the Storm
“Are you sure they’ll keep shooting the barracks and not me?”

When we bring the quest items back, Sen’jin restores the fountain, which will now regenerate the health of all nearby units, and gives us three healing wards. It’s better, however, to keep the wards for the next mission, where your sources of healing are very limited.

I could counterattack the human base right away, but it’s actually worth going around exploring first. There are two camps of trolls who join your army, a human patrol, and a camp of ogres guarding an expansion gold mine, as well as some items and powerups.

Riders on the Storm
Thrall’s third ability is summoning spirit wolves. You can’t have more than two, but you can resummon them infinitely as long as you have mana.

Finally, we build up an army and assault the human base. It’s defended by a level 3 archmage, but overall its defenses are pretty weak. In this mission, in addition to grunts and shamans, we can build two new units — the raider and the catapult. Both of them have the siege damage type, which is particularly effective against buildings.

Riders on the Storm
The human Town Hall has an ability to temporarily turn peasants into militia, aiding in base defense. I have no idea what’s going on with that peasant’s model.

What are these “damage types” I speak of?

Well, it’s a bit of a rock-paper-scissors thing. Units have different armor types and different damage types, and some damage types deal more damage to some armor types, and some deal less. It’s not quite intuitive, as the exact numbers were picked by balance considerations rather than in-universe logic. In general, melee units deal normal damage, ranged units deal piercing damage, spellcaster units deal magic damage with their autoattacks (which is distinct from damage done by their actual spells), and siege units deal siege damage. With armor types, however, it’s more hit-or-miss and it’s often not obvious what armor type a unit has from just looking at its model.3 However, what matters for our purposes is that buildings have the fortified armor type, making them resistant to attacks from all non-siege units, but vulnerable to siege units specifically.

Also, unarmored armor type and hero and magic damage weren’t there at release. They were added in a later balance patch. And also also, having the “unarmored” armor type doesn’t necessarily mean the unit has zero armor. It’s just a name.

  Light Medium Heavy Fortified Hero Unarmored
Normal 150% 100% 100% 50% 100% 100%
Pierce 75% 100% 150% 35% 50% 150%
Siege 50% 100% 100% 150% 50% 150%
Magic 100% 200% 100% 50% 50% 75%
Chaos 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Spells 100% 100% 100% 100% 70% 100%
Hero 100% 100% 100% 50% 100% 100%

This table shows damage modifiers of different attack types against different armor types, and you’re supposed to memorize it instead of seeking rhyme or reason (like why light armor is apparently sturdier than heavy armor). Memorized it? Too bad, because that table is for Reign of Chaos. The Frozen Throne uses a different damage modifier table.

  Light Medium Heavy Fortified Hero Unarmored
Normal 100% 150% 100% 70% 100% 100%
Pierce 200% 75% 100% 35% 50% 150%
Siege 100% 50% 100% 150% 50% 150%
Magic 125% 75% 200% 35% 50% 100%
Chaos 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Spells 100% 100% 100% 100% 70% 100%
Hero 100% 100% 100% 50% 100% 100%

And RoC campaigns use RoC rules in the original release, but TFT rules in Reforged, because everything uses TFT rules in Reforged. And this campaign uses RoC rules if you play it in the original demo, but TFT rules if you play it as a TFT custom campaign.

Yes, it’s kind of a mess. Roll with it. Luckily, on normal difficulty it doesn’t matter much.

Anyway, we demolish the human base. Unlike Warcraft 1 and 2, the third game doesn’t make us hunt the map for every single enemy unit. Once the enemy base is damaged to the point from which it cannot possibly recover, the game considers it a victory.

However, suddenly, murlocs climb out from the sea and capture everyone — orcs, trolls, and humans alike. They lead the prisoners into a cave — without bothering to dismount Thrall first.

Riders on the Storm
This is still fine.

The Fires Down Below

The Fires Down Below
Yes, sadly, the loading screen map for all three missions is mostly the same.

Thrall and a troll headhunter are in a prison cell, and as usual, nobody bothered to take away their weapons and armor. Thrall wonders what the murlocs want from them, and gets some exposition.

The Fires Down Below
I’m sorry, but was this really the best way to place the camera?

Thrall says orcs won’t be scared that easily, and escapes by frying the two murloc guards with Chain Lightning. Your starting squad consists of just that one headhunter, but Thrall can also summon his wolves. Thus begins our mission — a dungeon crawl. And it’s awesome.

Dungeon crawl missions in Warcraft 3 are yet another throwback to Dungeons & Dragons. They’re nothing like the linear dungeons of modern WoW; rather, the dungeon fills the entire map, and it’s full of secrets, and crazy twists and turns, and mazelike passages, and no shortage of wandering monsters. To keep things fair, however, Thrall’s Far Sight ability is disabled underground.

The Fires Down Below
This mission is scarce on healing, so those healing wards from the previous one will come handy.

We’re in some kind of underground complex, and out first objective is to save all the orc and troll prisoners. There are human prisoners too, and they’re hostile to both you and the murlocs. The enemy of your enemy is still your enemy, so it’s often best to let them fight each other, then mop up the winners.

Listing every encounter, every item, and every secret in this one mission alone would fill a guide by itself. It’s an explorer’s paradise, and it’s very satisfying to methodically visit every corner of this space-filling dungeon4 and the surrounding volcanic cavern. I have to admit that they made it a bit too mazelike; at one point I reached an impasse, was confused where to go next, and only after consulting a revealed map on Warcraft Wiki, did I discover this one passage I missed, requiring me to backtrack across half the map to break down these rock chunks.

The Fires Down Below
Wreck-It Thrall.

The rock chunks are yet another antepiece. By forcing you to break them down to proceed, the game teaches you that rock chunks are destructible, and there are several more of them around the map that hide secret items behind them.

Among the encounters, there’s a particularly tough one with some ghosts in the lower left corner, who guard a whole trove of powerup tomes, but can go hard on your units. You can, however, send in Thrall’s wolves first to gather aggro.

The Fires Down Below

Once you free the last prisoners, you learn that Sen’jin has been taken away to be sacrificed to the sea witch. To get to him, you’ll have a to fight through a large group of murlocs, including a sorcerer boss.

The Fires Down Below
You sense it? From this far away?

Once you defeat the murloc guards, the sorcerer mortally wounds Sen’jin in a cutscene and begins a boss fight. He’s a level 6 hero with some adds, bringing down fiery boulders on you.

The Fires Down Below
Now why don’t we have climactic murloc bosses in WoW dungeons?

But sadly, Thrall is too late to save Sen’jin, who, with his dying breath, speaks of yet another convenient vision, which revealed to him that Thrall will lead his people off the island. Thrall welcomes whatever trolls will follow him — not that they have much of a choice, as denied her would-be sacrifices, the sea witch is pissed and prepares to take out her wrath on the island itself.

Countdown to Extinction

Countdown to Extinction
Spoiler: the arrow doesn’t point to where Thrall will actually land.

Thrall and his followers emerge from the same cave where the murlocs led them two missions ago. However, the Sea Witch herself appears, proclaiming their doom, and the nearby volcano is about to erupt and sink the whole island. The orcs have to hurry with their ship repairs.

Countdown to Extinction
The Sea Witch is clearly some kind of ghost. There’s no way she’s a fleshy serpentine creature, right? That’s crazy talk.

Thankfully, the repairs are nearly complete, and we only need to hold out a bit longer.

I really appreciate the visual continuity here. We’re back on the same island, even if it’s not one-for-one the same map. The base we get in this mission is supposed to be the same one as in Riders on the Storm, and even the Fountain of Health is still there, and working, whether or not you purified it before.

Countdown to Extinction
helth

Our objective here is simply to survive for 20 minutes. Blizzard previously introduced this type of mission, a “hold the line” mission, in Starcraft, and here it makes its first Warcraft appearance. This particular mission is pretty easy compared to future ones of that type.

There’s also an optional quest. There are three troll camps scattered through the island, giving you free units when visited. One is right next to your base and the other two are not far, so you can visit them all before the enemy attacks. You can also go out exploring, but since Thrall’s items and powerups from these bonus missions won’t carry over into the main campaign (except in Reforged), I didn’t bother.

Countdown to Extinction
These spikes around orc buildings are a researchable upgrade, and they’re pretty useful in this mission, as they deal damage to melee attackers.

The enemy attacks from three directions: the west, northeast, and southeast. You can build up a large army to defend your base, but you’ll run into the upkeep mechanic. Instead, you can build towers to rain arrows on approaching enemies. The orcs have only one type of this fortification, the Watch Tower, which is pretty cheap, but not very durable. There’s an upgrade to give it Fortified armor, but it’s not available in this mission.

Enemy waves consist mostly of murlocs of various types, but the northeast and southeast waves also bring rock golems, which like to stomp the ground and bring massive damage to your towers unless you destroy them quickly. There’s also a murloc hero and the Sea Witch herself.

As usual for hold-the-line missions, at the last minute the enemies attack you with everything they have, from all three directions at once. They have no bases and instead just spawn on the map, so you can’t neutralize them preemptively. When the timer runs out, the mission ends and you sail away — on three ships, apparently.

Countdown to Extinction
The Dark Tide, huh? Sounds ominous.

Thrall isn’t sure what the witch is talking about, but knows that their destiny lies elsewhere. Onward, to Kalimdor!

Next Up, the Humans

We’ll leave Thrall, Grom, and the Horde on their journey to Kalimdor and won’t return to them for two more campaigns. Next up, we’re back in Lordaeron, and we’re going to play as the humans. They’re supposed to be good guys, so what can possibly go wrong?

  1. Apparently this happened because they only had English voice acting available for the demo missions. Reforged re-recorded non-English voice acting anyway to be in line with WoW terminology, so they recorded new voice lines for the “lost” missions as well. 

  2. Foreshadowing! 

  3. After all the balance patches, generally heavy, medium and light armor is worn by melee, ranged, and flying units respectively. The unarmored armor type, however, is all over the place. 

  4. Now riddle me this: who built this dungeon? Probably not the murlocs. Was it the night elves? When in doubt, blame the night elves.