If someone asked you to name an iconic RTS game, then there’s a good chance that Warcraft would be among the first few games that you think of.
Indeed, the three existing Warcraft RTS games are all classics, though they may be overshadowed by the far more successful MMORPG that hardly even needs to be named at this point.
In this list, we’ll include a brief overview of all the Warcraft games released so far.
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Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
Release date: November 23, 1994
Platforms: MS-DOS, Classic Mac OS
First, we have the game that started it all – Warcraft: Orcs & Humans! And though it may seem overly simplistic by today’s standards, the first Warcraft game was quite influential in the 90s, primarily because of how it helped popularize multiplayer when it came to RTS games.
Story-wise, the first entry in the series only set a basic premise that the future games would build upon. Orcs, a once-peaceful race from the world of Draenor, have become corrupted and violent.
Using the Dark Portal, they invaded the human kingdom of Azeroth, which must do everything in its power to fend off the brutal invaders. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans doesn’t place as great a focus on the story as its sequels do, but the way it handled the plot was more than adequate for the time.
On the gameplay front, it features two factions – Orcs and Humans. And just like with the story, the core mechanics established by the first game would be further refined in the later installments: there are only two resources to gather, gold and wood, and the game focuses on small armies that need to be controlled with some care.
Needless to say, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans had all that made Warcraft RTS games great, and the sequels would only expand and improve upon the foundation that it built. It was released only for MS-DOS and Classic Mac OS.
Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness
Release date: December 6, 1995
Platforms: MS-DOS, Classic Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation
A sequel titled Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness came out just over a year after the original game, and though it didn’t differ much in terms of graphics or the mechanics, it expanded and streamlined the overall experience. It also received a single expansion titled Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal.
The game depicts the events following the fall of Azeroth, with the remaining survivors fleeing to the northern human kingdom of Lordaeron.
Naturally, the Orcs attack Lordaeron in what is called the Second War, and there is a greater focus on the story, though much of the lore and the events that take place during Warcraft II and its expansion get retconned later on.
From a gameplay standpoint, not much has changed compared to the first game. Of course, new units were added to the mix, the overall experience was re-balanced and improved, and the graphics look better than in the first game, but it is only with the next installment that the real changes would take place.
The game was originally released for MS-DOS and Mac OS, but it was also ported to the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation in 1997. The Windows version, however, only launched in 1999 on Blizzard’s Battle.net.
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos
Release date: July 3, 2002
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Classic Mac OS, macOS
Six years after the second game’s expansion came out, a full-blooded sequel finally dropped – the amazing Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. The third game brought the franchise fully into the 3D era, and the graphics were quite something in that day and age.
The game has got a total of four campaigns, as it introduces two new factions: the Undead and the Night Elves.
The story revolves around a series of events that happened before the arrival of the demonic Burning Legion to the world of Azeroth: the fall of Lordaeron to the Undead Scourge and the Orcs’ exodus into the yet-unknown land of Kalimdor in the east, all building up to the climactic battle against the demonic hordes.
With a total of four factions, Warcraft III is much more interesting and dynamic than the previous installments, as there is a much greater variety of tactics that the player can employ with each faction’s unique units.
Add to that the better-developed story, the 3D graphics, and the stunning cinematics that hold up surprisingly well even today, and it’s not difficult to see why Warcraft III was such a hit.
A year later, an expansion titled Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne was released, and it picked up where the story left off in the base game, featuring three new campaigns: Night Elf, Blood Elf, and Undead (the Blood Elves being a tweaked and reskinned version of the Human faction that is only playable in the campaign), all the while the orcs got an RPG-esque bonus campaign.
In addition to the new single-player content, the expansions added several multiplayer maps, along with a selection of new units and various minor gameplay refinements, and it was as well-received as the base game.
Warcraft III: Reigns of Chaos was released for Windows, as well as both the Classic Mac OS and the new macOS (OS X), though the Frozen Throne was never released on the Classic Mac OS.
World of Warcraft
Release date: November 23, 2004
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS
After Warcraft III, Blizzard took Warcraft in a different direction. World of Warcraft is a game that definitely needs no introduction, as it is one of the most popular MMORPG games ever made.
It wasn’t the first MMORPG ever, but it definitely helped bring the genre into the mainstream spotlight, something that led to an avalanche of MMO titles being released in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
World of Warcraft lets the player create their own characters by picking from eight races that were divided into the Alliance and the Horde, each race with a unique racial ability of its own, and each having access to only several of the original.
The player would then level their character up and be able to take part in various PvE and PvP activities such as dungeons, raids, duels, battlegrounds, etc.
But of course, World of Warcraft has received a ton of expansions over the years, and while the first two mostly expanded and improved upon the foundation set by the “vanilla” version of the game, the expansions that would come later would tweak and change the game beyond recognition.
So far, eight expansions have been released for World of Warcraft:
- The Burning Crusade
- Wrath of the Lich King
- Mists of Pandaria
- Warlords of Draenor
- Battle of Azeroth
All in all, though World of Warcraft is nowhere near as popular as it used to be in its TBC/WotLK heyday, it still brings in millions of players from around the world and remains the most popular MMO in the world.
Release date: March 11, 2014
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
Originally titled Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Hearthstone is a digital Warcraft card game that’s heavily inspired by Magic: The Gathering, like most other card games of this type that have been released over the past few years.
Hearthstone has the player picking one of the base classes from World of Warcraft, each represented by a prominent figure from Warcraft lore. Each class has a unique power that can be used to complement the player’s deck.
Naturally, the game features both single-player and multiplayer modes. There is no campaign, so the single-player content comes down to playing matches against the AI. As for multiplayer, there is a casual and a ranked game mode.
In addition to that, there’s the Arena mode, which has the player construct a deck from random cards.
Then there’s the Brawl mode, which is a weekly challenge mode that provides the player with specific deck-building guidelines, and most recently, there’s the new Battlegrounds mode, which is based on the auto battler genre – another trend that has gained some popularity recently.
All in all, Hearthstone can be both deceptively simple and deceptively complicated, but what is certain is that it is a fast-paced and highly addictive card game that would most likely appeal to fans of this genre. It is playable on Windows and macOS, as well as on iOS and Android mobile devices.
World of Warcraft Classic
Release date: August 26, 2019
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS
World of Warcraft Classic launched fairly recently in August 2019, and it is just what it sounds like: the original, unadulterated vanilla experience that’s free from any expansion content.
All of the new races, classes, abilities, and areas introduced later on are completely absent and the game is currently entering the sixth and final phase, Naxxramas, which was the final patch before the launch of the Burning Crusade.
That said, World of Warcraft Classic is just vanilla World of Warcraft remade to run properly on new hardware. It will appeal to anyone feeling nostalgic for the “good old days,” and it allows those who never played the original game to experience it for the first time.
At the moment, it is unclear just what the future holds for Classic, but there are several theories e.g. a linear progression to “Burning Crusade Classic”, an optional progression where players would get to stay on vanilla if they wish, or even prestige Classic servers that would reset every two years or so.
Some have put forth the theory that Blizzard might instead continue with “Classic+”, adding new content to World of Warcraft Classic, potentially areas and content that originally never made it into vanilla, but this seems highly unlikely. In any case, we can only wait and see, but a remake of the Burning Crusade seems like the most likely future for Classic.
Much like the current version of World of Warcraft, Classic is playable on Windows and macOS.
Warcraft III: Reforged
Release date: January 28, 2020
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS
And finally, we have Warcraft III: Reforged, which is also exactly what it sounds like – a remastered version of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.
Unfortunately, though, what was a highly-anticipated remake of a classic game turned out to be a big, undercooked disappointment. The game infamously holds one of the lowest user ratings on Metacritic, but why were the fans so outraged?
Well, many were quick to notice that the final product didn’t exactly deliver what it promised, lacking many features, as well as the remade cinematics, both the in-engine ones and the CGI ones.
Overall, many felt that it made Warcraft III worse rather than better, particularly when it came to the multiplayer, not to mention that the game was plagued by technical issues upon launch.
Ultimately, rather than being a worthy remake of a timeless RTS, Warcraft III: Reforged felt like little more than a prematurely-released, low-effort cash-grab on Blizzard’s part, and it didn’t earn them any fan’s trust.
And those would be all the Warcraft games released so far! Be sure to check back from time to time if you’re a fan of the Warcraft games, as we’ll keep this list up-to-date as new games (or news related to upcoming games) are released.