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Splinter Cell
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Warcraft II - Tides of Darkness
PaladinAfter Westwood's Dune 2 (1993) had caused some fuss in the gaming industry for being the first real-time strategy game ever, the quite unknown software company Blizzard Entertainment followed suit with Warcraft in 1995. The game transferred the action from the desert planet into the fantasy realm of Azeroth, where Orcs and Humans fought each other relentlessly. Even though the game was fun to play and well programmed, it wasn't able to dwarf its great precursor. In 1996, however, the balance was to change with the release of the undoudtedly ingenious Warcraft 2 - Tides of Darkness, laying the final foundations for Blizzard's fabulous reputation.
Humans vs. Orcs:
Orc base under fireThe epic fight between the Alliance of the Humans and the Orcish Horde glued you to the screen in no time. That was hardly surprising, given the highly detailed fantasy world (the rendered cutscenes notwithstanding) Blizzard had created: SVGA graphics, wonderfully animated units and atmospheric mission briefings added life to Warcraft 2. On the part of the Humans, supported by allied Elves and Dwarves, you had to prevent the bloodthirsty Orcs invading Azeroth through the Dark Portal from ravaging their home country. The hostile Orcish Clans, on their part, tried to subjugate Azeroth once and for all and establish their supremacy.
Despite the fact that most units from one side had their counterpart in the other (e.g. Human archer, Orcish axe thrower), it was mainly the diversity of air, sea and ground units as well as their upgrade options that made the game stand out against its great competitor Red Alert. Without the combined use of these dirfferent kinds of units, it was in many cases near impossible to accomplish most of the missions. The same was true for spellcasting: while e.g. Human Paladins could heal allied units, the Orcish Death Knights lived up to their name and let death rain down upon their enemies.
Beyond the Dark Portal:
Human base under fireIn particular the mission disk Beyond The Dark Portal, which was published soon afterwards, emphasized the use of magic and more cunning tactics. After they had succeeded in closing the Dark Portal at the end of Warcraft 2, it was now up to the Humans to step through the portal into the Orcish hinterland in an attempt to put an end to the ever-present threat of another invasion of the brutes. The missions were more challenging than in the main program, focussing less on raising an impregnable base and accumulating the three resources wood, gold and oil, but more on tactical skirmishes with increased usage of spellcasting. Also the new heroes with their unique capabilities helped to spice up the game. Even today, the expansion Beyond the Dark Portal is considered an examplary add-on: apart from new challenges the game also featured fresh graphical sets and rendered cutscenes.

In 1996

very high


more or less

Low budget

Diablo 2
Warcraft 3
The story continues:
OrcThe game's story of success hasn't come to an end so far. Up to now, the Warcraft series has sold more than 4 million units worldwide, and with the recently published edition Warcraft 2 has finally gone online. Both the gaming press and community were euphoric about the game, rewarding it with innumerable awards, among them several for the Game of the Year. The only dark spot in Blizzard's otherwise flawless company history was the ambitious Warcraft Adventures - a story unfolding around the young Orc Thrall - that was never to be released. Despite well enough graphics and an interesting story, Blizzard wasn't satisfied with the game. It hadn't come up to the company's high quality standards, was the official explanation for the cancelled project.
Bill Roper:
One of the leading shapers of Blizzard's success is Bill Roper, who has undoubtedly played a key role in the production of almost any game since Blizzard's first game in 1994, the cool action adventure Blackthorne. Roper, who also lent his voice to some characters in Warcraft 2, Diablo and Starcraft, is currently heading the works on Diablo 2 as Executive Producer. And there is the upcoming Warcraft 3, of course, whose breathtaking 3D graphics and many innovations might give the real-time strategy sector a new impetus. You can surely take it for granted that we haven't been to Azeroth our last time to thwart some evil plans of plotting Orcs...
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