Archive: Warcraft Retrospective
A year before the release of Warcraft 3, Blizzard faced a problem. Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans, the adventure game that was supposed to bridge Warcraft 2 and 3, was canceled. Its lore, however, was too important to simply discard, as it set up the orc storyline in Warcraft 3. Therefore, Blizzard commisioned a novel adaptation of the game’s scrapped plot. After the first author failed to finish it, Christie Golden was brought in, with only six weeks to write the novel based on Chris Metzen’s plot outline.
This week we’re looking at the novel Day of the Dragon by… (sigh) Richard A. Knaak. Now, I could have cheated with this one, since Ramses already did a chapter-by-chapter review years ago, but I have some things to say about this book that he didn’t. And at any rate, I cannot ignore this novel, as it introduces one of the foundational concepts of the Warcraft setting as we know it now: the five Dragon Aspects.
We’re now taking a break from games.
We’re almost finished with Warcraft 2. All that’s left is the human campaign of Beyond the Dark Portal. But since this is my last chance to talk about that game, first I’d like to deal with a couple of topics about Warcraft 2 in general that don’t really fit anywhere specific.
So the orcs start the Beyond the Dark Portal story in a position mostly worse than they were in back at the start of Warcraft 1. Half their clans have been lost to the Second War, Orgrim Doomhammer has been captured, and the Dark Portal destroyed, so the remaining clans are left on a dying Draenor. One silver lining is that Gul’dan is dead too, so there’s nobody to drag the Horde back to its demonic days.
Beyond the Dark Portal is the first expansion pack ever released for a Blizzard game, and is in many ways an unusual one. For one, it doesn’t change the gameplay at all, introducing no new units1, buildings, or mechanics. It only adds two new campaigns, one per faction, and several multiplayer maps.
Except for hero units in campaigns, a mechanic that I’ll cover separately. ↩
Just like in Warcraft 1, the two sides in Warcraft 2 are only cosmetically different except for caster units.
Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness was actually the first Warcraft game I ever played in my life, as a child in early school soon after it came out. I didn’t have a computer back then, so I played it on my friends’ computers. And I have a confession to make: when I played it, I didn’t know anything I’ve been talking about for the last four posts.
Last time, we ended on Warcraft 1’s multiple-choice finale. Either the orcs conquered Stormwind Keep, or the humans drove them back into the portal they came from.
Now that we’re done with the Warcraft 1 orc campaign, let’s look at the other side of the conflict.
Based on the somber, detailed language of the Warcraft 1 manual, you might expect the game itself to have washed-out colors tending towards grey and brown, and an overall eerie, unsettling atmosphere slanted into horror.
One day, I did an interesting mental exercise. I rewatched the first Star Wars movie, Episode IV: A New Hope — or rather just Star Wars as it was known at release — pretending I was seeing it for the first time, and knew nothing whatsoever about the Star Wars setting as we’ve come to think of it.