Warcraft II is a real-time strategy game. In Warcraft II one side represents the human inhabitants of Lordaeron and allied races, and the other controls the invading orcs and their allied races. Each side tries to destroy the other by collecting resources and creating an army. The game is played in a medieval setting with fantasy elements, where both sides have melee, ranged, naval and aerial units, and spellcasters.
Warcraft II allows players to play AI opponents in separate Human and Orc campaigns, and in stand-alone scenarios. Most of the campaign missions follow the pattern "collect resources, build buildings and units, destroy opponents". However, some have other objectives, such as rescuing troops or forts, or escorting important characters through enemy territory.
The game's map editor allows players to develop scenarios for use in multiplayer contests and against AI opponents. The editor runs under the Mac and also under either Windows 95 or, if the WinG library was installed, under Windows 3.
The scenarios can be played against the AI or in multiplayer games with up to eight players participating. The DOS version initially provided multiplayer games by null modem cable, modem or IPX, and Mac players could also play via TCP/IP or AppleTalk. Blizzard quickly released a facility to connect with Kali, which allows programs to access the Web by means of IPX.
Economy and war
Warcraft II requires players to collect resources, and to produce buildings and units in order to defeat an opponent in combat. The Human Town Hall and Orc Great Hall produce basic workers that dig gold from mines and chop wood from forests and then deliver them to their Halls. Both buildings can be upgraded twice, each increasing usable resources per load from the workers. Players can also construct Shipyards, which can produce both combat ships and Oil Tankers. Tankers build construction offshore Oil Platforms and then deliver the oil to buildings on the shoreline. As all three resources are non-renewable, players must use them efficiently,; forests players can also serve as defensive walls in the early game when combat forces are small.
Workers can also construct Farms, each of which provides food for up to four units, and additional units cannot be produced until enough Farms are built. Farms, being very tough for their cost, are also employed as defensive walls.
Humans and Orcs have sets of buildings with similar functions, but different names and graphics, for producing ground, naval, and air units. All but basic combat units require the assistance of other buildings, or must be produced at buildings that have prerequisite buildings, or both. Many buildings can upgrade combat units. When advanced units appear, the Orcs have a strong advantage in ground combat, while the Humans have the more powerful fleet and spellcasters. The most advanced ground combatants on each side can be upgraded and taught some spells, which are different for the two sides. Some campaign missions feature hero units, which are more powerful than normal units of the same type, have unique pictures and names, and must not die, as that causes the failure of the mission.
In the largest area of the screen, to the right, the Orcs (the player's, in blue) attack a Human town and its defenders (red). The flaming buildings are close to collapse, and the burnt ground to their right is the remains of a razed building. This is a winter map, and the ice enables ground units to walk over the shallow part of the sea.
The main screen has five areas:
- Along the top are the menu button and counts of the player's resources and Farm capacity.
- The largest area of the screen, to the right, shows the part of the territory on which the player is currently operating. This enables the player to select friendly units and buildings.
- The top left is the minimap, which shows the whole territory at smaller scale and highlights the part on which the player is currently operating. By clicking or dragging in the minimap, the player can select another location to appear in the larger display.
- The unit descriptions in the area in middle on the left shows the units and/or buildings. If units of the same type are selected, this area have an icon for each unit, showing the unit's vital statistics including the unit's health.
- If a single unit or building is selected, the area at the bottom left shows the actions the object can perform and all completed upgrades that apply to this type of unit or building.
Initially most of the main map and minimap are blacked out, but the visible area expands as the player's units explore the map. The fog of war completely hides all territory which the player has not explored, and shows only terrain but hides opponents units and buildings if none of the player's units are present.
All functions can be invoked by both the mouse and shortcut keys, including game setup, the menu options and some gameplay functions including scrolling and pausing the game. Units and buildings can be selected by clicking or bandboxing, and then their actions can be controlled by the mouse or keys.