Four years ago, Bizzard Entertainment's Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness was a revelation -- a real-time strategy game with addictive gameplay, especially when played over a network against other human opponents. If you're a Warcraft fan from way back, or you've never had a chance to get hooked on this fierce battle between orcs and humans, now you've got a great opportunity: the Warcraft 2 Battle Chest is here.
The newest incarnation is a box set containing Warcraft 2, plus the Beyond the Dark Portal expansion set. That means that you can play 54 different scenarios (which gradually increase in difficulty, making them great training tools) against computer opponents. In addition, you get the ability to play Warcraft over the Internet using Blizzard's battle.net system. Finally, the package includes a comprehensive Warcraft strategy book.
Back in 1996, Warcraft 2 drew in game fans with its originality, simple yet engaging game play, and an appropriate mix of action and strategy: You command a collection of humans or the more bestial orcs. Through the development of your economy (mining gold, cutting wood, drilling for oil, building farms) you gain more resources with which to raise and train an armed force. The most successful players are usually those who know how to balance resource gathering with warfare.
This new edition doesn't change the game play, graphics, or sound, but it does give you free access to Battle.net -- meaning an unlimited number of battles against growing, learning human opponents.
The included strategy book is wonderful, containing invaluable information on all the structures and units available, as well as possible strategies to adopt for success in both multiplayer and single player gaming. The back of the book contains cheat codes as well as all the Battle.net maps.
Battle.net is a great place to wage war against unknown opponents from around the world. The site does get busy making it slow at times, but facing many human opponents is well worth putting up with a little lag. There's usually no problem getting into a game. The problem lies in winning. These games can be extremely difficult, so choose your allies carefully and strategize fast.
Warcraft 2 Battle Chest is a wonderful repackaging of an easy-to-learn, action-packed strategy game. The original scenarios are as entertaining today as they were when first released four years ago. This is one game that has and will stand the test of time. If you've never tried it, you should give it a chance -- it will work even on slower Macs and its price can't be beat. If you're an old hand at Warcraft and don't need the strategy guide, consider the $20 Warcraft II Battle.net Edition instead.
RATING: PROS: Entertaining, easy to use, inexpensive. CONS: A little outdated, graphics a bit poky by today's standards, battle.net is busy and can be slow. COMPANY: Blizzard Entertainment, 800-953-7669, http://www.blizzard.com. LIST PRICE: $30