Then vs Now
sorceressParticipantAugust 7, 2018 at 7:23 pm #1662
I first heard about this game from a school friend in the late 90s, who would often tell me how fun it was. We (family) didn’t have a PC until a couple of months later, but we did have a PC magazine with the WC2 demo bundled with it.
Once we got our PC, I eventually got around to trying the WC2 demo, and I did find it enjoyable. Every few months I’d look at the demo again, trying different ideas and strategies to see what happens. It grew on me over time.
I sometimes wondered what the full game would be like, and what these extra units were which were ghosted out and unavailable in the demo.
While I did play games occasionally, I didn’t consider myself a gamer. Gaming culture as a whole felt quite alien to me, and most of my exposure to games was through my brother, who loved gaming.
It was about 3-4 years after first trying the demo, that I eventually bought the full game. It was in fact the first PC game I bought. And for the next 3-4 years I became very interested in it : playing through the campaigns and melee maps, designing maps of my own, and setting myself other challenges.
It’s fair to say it was my favourite game throughout my teenage years. And comparing it with other games I had seen/played, I firmly believed this to be the best game ever made. The depth and beauty of it was something to behold.
Eventually I grew bored of it, and I moved onto Starcraft. I struggled to decide which was the better game. The SC engine was undeniably more advanced, but despite greater depth and balance in it’s design, I found it less enjoyable. I just didn’t like the Starcraft universe, nor the feel of the game.
Around 2005, I learned that WC3 was actually a thing, and I bought it without hesitation. To this day I consider WC3:ROC the best game ever made. After completing it’s campaigns, I began playing WC3 online vs other people, and my play style changed a lot as I became acclimatised to the fast paced and creative play styles of human opponents.
Much of the game is still very familiar to me. The units, tech tree, levels, sounds, music and most of the graphics is all familiar. Though some of the unit graphics/animations are less spectacular than I remember them being. For example, the peasants look very rough around their edges, and the sheep (critters) look particularly strange. CRT monitors hid all kinds of errors back in the day, but on modern screens these errors are glaring.
Having returned to WC2 this month, I’m actually a bit surprised at this game I once loved. I think I can break it down into two main issues:
Construction is slow! Literally, 3/4 of the game is spent patiently waiting for things to happen, and watching progress bars fill up. Fortunately we can speed up the game by pressing the + key, but then combat happens far too fast. Blink during combat and half of your ogres have run off-screen. Frantically try to round them up and you find a couple of them have run half way across the map chasing a retreating knight or something. Then glance back and the others have already died. The difference in pace between these two aspects of the game is very uncomfortable to me now. Boredom vs out of control.
In the past this didn’t seem to matter to me, because my style of play was very different then. I would happily build 9 units and send them to attack and then sit back and watch their fate. If they died it didn’t really matter, I’d slowly wear down the enemy with wave after wave of steady attrition, until one wave succeeded. I had no concept of focus-fire or micromanagement back then, and a single attack command was all I needed. But now I want to feel in control of my units – I want to micromanage them, which is not made easy in this game. And this brings me onto my next point.
The controls can feel a bit uncooperative, especially when you want to do micro. You can select only 9 units at once, which is not really enough for most encounters on land. To command more units than this there are “control groups”, for what they’re worth. Also units are not drawn with health bars on screen, only in the side bar, which makes it harder to see which units are in poor health AND are in a risky position. To properly micromanage your units, you have to click through each unit one by one to see which one has which health bar. This is not something you can feasibly do in the middle of combat.
Furthermore, some of the units are not very responsive, like the catapults, jugganauts and dragons. It is hard to micro these units because of their low responsiveness. They require a lot of attention to use them effectively in combat.
So yeah, these are the two main gripes I am having with WC2. It hasn’t aged as well as I was expecting it to have. It feels less compatible with the play style I’d like to use with it.August 7, 2018 at 9:50 pm #1664
Fantastic memories nonetheless 🙂 I wasn’t able to identify what felt awkward about groups of units, but you said it – you can’t tell which health bar belongs to whom! A lot of my success in this game has just been in building an overwhelming force and sending them all out at once (or at least nine at a time).
There’s a weird feature in the manual where you can sort of recall unit groups – if you click on a unit while holding Alt it will select everyone who was in the last group in which this unit was selected. This is pretty awkward and doesn’t make things as easy as using the number keys to set unit groups, which I think was only added in the later battle.net version.August 8, 2018 at 8:57 am #1666
Well, you can still click a unit’s avatar in the sidebar to immediately select that unit, or you can shift-click a unit to deselect it (remove it from the group). This simplifies the separation of ‘healthy’ vs ‘wounded’ units a bit.
The general strategies against the AI seem to be:
1) Build your base while defending against attacks using tactically placed melee units with archers behind them (combine with towers if you wish).
2) Build 2-3 groups of super-tough units and send them to destroy the enemy bases bit by bit.
On land I’d mostly use Ogres / Ogre Mages (Knights / Paladins). If the enemy has fliers, then also include some trolls / archers in the group.
On sea maps I would use groups of destroyers, or juggernauts/battleships once they are available. One word of advise, though – always have a couple of destroyers accompanying your heavy ships in the event of being attacked by fliers – battleships/juggernauts cannot attack air!
Once air units are available, everything else becomes kinda useless – groups of dragons / gryphons can pretty much take out everything the AI throws at you.August 14, 2018 at 6:33 pm #1689
I definitely recognise the bit about the waiting. I didn’t mind that when I was younger at all. I remember being so taken by the setting and the world that it was enjoyable to just be there and look at all the guys walk around.
But nowadays my view is a bit more abstract and I agree… it’s really a bit boring? I guess you can increase the game speed to ease the waiting a bit, but then you lose a lot of control over your troops in case you get attacked.
Sadly I also agree with dr_st that the same strategy seems to work on almost every map, so that doesn’t help either to make things more interesting.
The voice acting is still great though, haha!August 14, 2018 at 10:18 pm #1695
You know what – I’ve just rememebered discovering the secret lines that units and the setup program say. I was with a school friend and I think it was the first time I really felt I’d discovered something secret in a game 🙂
rnlfKeymasterPodcasterAugust 15, 2018 at 8:06 am #1699
Exploding sheep are my all time favourite easter egg.
CorgibuttzParticipantPodcasterAugust 15, 2018 at 1:42 pm #1706
It’s those little needless details that I think give Blizzard games such charm. As rough as the game is to play compared to modern standards (my kingdom for a control group) I have honestly been having a lot of fun going back and playing. Fighting vs your own unit AI is… half the fun? haha
I feel like I need to try to get in some Warcraft 1 time, just so I can help put some perspective on the growths and changes. I remember Warcraft 1 only had 4 units select-able at a time, so if you felt limited with 9… ohhh boy. >:D
I hope everyone is having as much fun as I am! 🙂August 15, 2018 at 3:28 pm #1710
Yeah, I definitely feel a lot of what makes this game great is through the polish that went into it.
I’m up to level 12 in the Human campaign. This level is actually pretty interesting, with lots of islands everywhere. There’s 15 in total right?August 20, 2018 at 12:58 pm #1751
There are 14 levels in each of the base campaigns, and 12 in each of the expansion campaigns.August 21, 2018 at 9:44 am #1763
Ah, right. Yeah, I’m doing level 14 now and it’s certainly a step up in difficulty from the previous ones, haha.
sorceressParticipantAugust 26, 2018 at 10:03 pm #1784
I successfully completed both of the campaigns in the first half of the month. I’ll talk a little about how I found them:
– The earlier missions are quick and easy (you can do the first 6 missions in a single night) and they serve as a gentle introduction to the gameplay.
We have to realise that RTS is a well established genre nowadays, but in 1996 that was not the case. These early levels do feel *too* easy now, but back then they were important for teaching the basic mechanics of RTS, and I do still have fond memories of playing them in the early 2000s (when I got the game). They offer a nice variety of objectives:
For example, learning how to harvest resources and construct buildings in the first level. Also dealing with gold/wood/food as resources. In the second level, we learn how to control unit groups and some basic combat. The third level introduces the tech tree, with naval units and oil as a resource. The fourth level builds upon this, by having us assault another island with both ships and transports.
This all sets the scene for later levels, as they all involve some combination of (1) building a base and managing resources, (2) Guiding a group of units through a hostile environment. (3a) assaulting an enemy on another island. (3b) assaulting an enemy on the same island. What changes are new units being made available in the tech tree, and of course the map layouts!
– The middle levels (7-10) take less than an hour each on average, and I was working through two each evening. There are some very memorable gems here, like the building a castle on the island mission, and the river run with cannons along it. 😀 Perhaps some of the most fun levels in the game are these middle levels. Not too slow, and just challenging enough.
– The end levels (11-14) are all slow paced, taking over an hour each (one per evening). I found most of these quite boring to be honets, and I was actually dreading starting some of them because I knew what I was in for. The human-L14-finale is perhaps the most interesting of the batch, and I actually chose to play through it again towards the end of august.
In the second half of the month I played several melee games vs computer AI, and made a couple of my own melee maps using the Map Editor, and played on that vs the computer AI as well.
We were going to have an online multiplayer session at some point, but it never happened.
I took a look at the expansion pack ‘beyond the dark portal’. The main thing to note are story-driving hero units having a far greater presence. I did play through these campaigns a couple of times back in the day, but I didn’t complete much this month. There are a few nice levels here, but some poor/rushed/unoriginal levels do sour the campaign for me. In short, it offers nothing particularly different gameplay-wise from the original, but expansions all tend to be like that, don’t they? 🙂
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