Warcraft III Beta Report: The Orcish Horde

How do the orcs stack up against the humans? How have they evolved since Warcraft II? Read our report on the orcish horde to find out.


 Orcish Heroes:
The Blademaster
Blademasters represent the pinnacle of orcish swordsmanship, and serve as their warchief's personal honor guard. The wind walk ability allows blademasters to move invisibly amongst their enemies, while mirror image creates identical illusionary duplicates of the hero, ideal for confusing enemies. The greatest blademasters have learned the elusive bladestorm technique, which turn the hero into a whirling cavalcade of steel.
When most people think of Warcraft, the unending struggle between the orcs and humans comes to mind. 2847311Yesterday we went into detail on the units and capabilities of the formidable human alliance. Today, we'll delve into the orcs, the bloodthirsty enemies of the human forces who are well known for their seemingly endless ranks and reckless abandon in battle. Heavily influenced by the green-skinned mobs of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, the popular Games Workshop tabletop strategy game, the orcs in Warcraft are actually a cunning lot, well known for their brute force and their powerful magic. Controlling the orcish horde doesn't mean you'll only be dealing with orcs, though. In Warcraft III, the orcs have been joined by the race of minotaur-like folk known as the tauren, a race of deeply spiritual and honorable warriors who would also like to rid the land of their oppressive foes. Not the type to disregard potentially beneficial alliances, the orcs are excellent teammates in large-scale confrontations--but they're also able to hold their own in single competition.

Orc bases may appear crude, but their defenses are impressive.

The orcs were favored by a majority of Warcraft II players because of how powerful some of their units were in that game. It wasn't hard at all to create a group of bloodlusted ogre-mages that could overwhelm just about anything. Now that the orcs have returned in this third game of the series--and no longer have ogres on their side--many players are undoubtedly wondering whether or not the faction can continue its dominant ways.

A trio of orcish heroes surrounds and defeats a night elf invader.

Many different types of warriors make up the orcish ranks in Warcraft III, although there is no shortage of the classic green-skinned orcs. Seemingly endless numbers of orcs and trolls make up the faction's foot soldiers, while the towering tauren provide the heavy support. A variety of beasts accompany the horde into battle, so lack of variety should not be a concern for those who play as the orcs Warcraft III. There are three different heroes available, all with their own distinct style and set of remarkable capabilities. The powerful tauren chieftain embodies the orcish style of play, while the blademaster is a finesse character inspired by Diablo II's whirlwinding barbarian. Meanwhile, the far seer is one of the most dangerous magic users in the game, boasting incredible area-effect spells and unsurpassed scouting capabilities. These heroes will form the backbone of every orc army.

But what can the orcs bring to the table in Warcraft III that could possibly fight off the superior technological capabilities of the humans and the magic of their elven counterparts? What will inspire fear in their enemies, now that they do battle without their ogre-mages? We examine the many different facets of the orcish horde next.

The Orcish Forces

 Orcish Heroes:
The Farseer
The farseer is a greatly respected and equally feared member of the horde, and rides a grizzled, old wolf. The farseer can use his precognitive power of farsight to reveal terrain and hidden units at a great distance. During confrontations, the far seer can issue forth a devastating chain lightning spell, which rebounds from enemy to enemy. At the pinnacle of his powers, he can invoke a powerful earthquake, which sends great cracking fissures throughout the earth, severely damaging all structures in the area and immobilizing any units.
The greatest portion of most orcish armies will be made up of their aggressive footmen, the grunts, along with troll headhunters. Grunts are armed with a simple ax and light armor, while troll headhunters hurl spears with deadly precision. Like the grunts and ax throwers in Warcraft II, these basic units are relatively cheap, so it's fairly simple to quickly produce a small mob. Combining your hero with a couple of these units is a good way to gain experience for your hero early on. For protracted battles, the tauren can be called upon, as they are much hardier soldiers than their grunt companions. The tauren use both a pointed horn and a massive flail to attack their enemies, while their warstomp ability inspires them to deal an even greater amount of damage than normal.

Advancing toward the more costly units will grant you access to the bestiary structure, and with it, the orc horde's mobile forces. Wolf riders are a select group of orcs who have proven capable of fighting astride a savage wolf, both with their melee weapons and with their weighted nets, which can immobilize ground forces and flying targets alike. Wyvern riders are among the orcish elite--they fly high above the battlefield, tossing envenomed spears while atop their lionlike mounts, which tear apart enemy aerial and ground forces with claws and fangs.

Troll hunters can see farther at night--here they lead an orc assault squad to the heart of a night elf base.

The orcs' largest monstrosity is the imposing kodo beast. The great monster currently can't attack (Blizzard plans to change this), instead serving as a mount for an orcish war drummer, but it can be bid to devour any single enemy. Unless the kodo beast is quickly slain by its enemies, the devoured enemy will be slowly digested. As for the war drummer, he boosts the base attacks of all units in his vicinity. Blizzard plans to give the kodo beast's drummer other abilities as well. While not equipped with the complex machinery of the humans, the orcish army can surprise its foes with some of the inventions at its disposal. To lay waste to enemy encampments, you can wheel out the catapult, which accurately lobs devastating fireballs great distances.

Brute force gets the job done right--these wild trolls are no match for the orcish horde.

The orcs would fall prey to the spellcasting forces of their enemies if they didn't have magic of their own, and a variety of spell-flinging options are available. The witch doctor is the more calculating of the two spellcasters, with spells that are most effective when used in the best possible location. Their stasis trap spell can immobilize units foolhardy enough to walk through it, while their sentry ward can be used to spy upon the enemy. Meanwhile, their ancestral guardian spell summons a powerful hydra that spits acid at any target within range, and it's especially effective when used within an enemy encampment. The orc shaman is the witch doctor's spiritual counterpart, and he works a different brand of magic. His purge spell negates all beneficial effects an enemy has and also slows it down. The lightning shield spell in an excellent defensive and offensive weapon, as it encircles a friendly unit with bolts of damaging energy. The shaman is also the orcs' source for the classic bloodlust spell--as in Warcraft II, it increases both the speed and the rate of attack of allied troops. Bloodlusted units even grow larger in size.

They may be impressive on paper, but how effective is the orcish horde when matched up against a real enemy? Find out about our experiences while playing with the orcs next.

Gathering the Horde

Some of the bravest orcs soar through the skies on lionlike wyverns, hurling envenomed spears at their enemies.

While a number of options are available to orc players in Warcraft III, some of the tried-and-true strategies from previous games work just as well as before. The grunt rush remains a viable tactic against some players, as pumping out a large group of relatively powerful orcish soldiers for a suicidal surprise attack can easily catch an opponent unawares. The orcs in the lower spectrum of the hierarchy are remarkably cost-effective, and they're easily maintained and replaced. Creating a constant flow of soldiers willing to throw their lives upon enemy defenses is a very orcish way to play, and it can prove both satisfying and effective.

 Orcish Heroes:
The Tauren Chieftain
The honorable tauren have allied with the orcish horde, and highest in their ranks is the venerable tauren chieftain--both an inspirational figure in battle, and a formidable combatant in his own right. The towering chieftain can bring down his axe with such strength as to send forth a shock wave of damaging force, while his endurance aura allows nearby units to heal and move at a much faster rate. The most powerful of tauren chieftains rise beyond the grip of death, and can reincarnate immediately upon being brought down.
Considering how melee-oriented the orcish armies are, it's somewhat surprising to see how popular a particular strategy involving ranged units has become. Many orc players substitute troll headhunters for the standard grunt and perform their rush attacks using ranged weapons. Much like the ax throwers from Warcraft II, these units can be surprisingly powerful after stronger ranged weapons have been researched--and with a tauren chieftain as their leader, they prove surprisingly long-lived. Combined with the mercenary aid of a goblin zeppelin, the tauren chieftain/headhunter combination can decimate enemy workers, crippling your opponent's supply lines.

Mad rushes aren't the only effective way to play as the orcs, although with the new upkeep system in place, it may seem to be. When opposing players rely upon an abundance of ground units, the defensive capabilities of the orc buildings becomes readily apparent. Even the lowliest of pig farms is capable of causing considerable damage to enemies when spiked barricades have been researched--this technology causes all close-quarters combat units to absorb damage when attacking orc structures.

Within the horde, even the lowliest of greenskins is expected to raise arms against the enemy, and the orc burrow facilitates this strategy. In an emergency, peons can be ushered into these defensive battlements, where they can begin tossing many a pointy stick. While perhaps not on par with the human guard towers, the defensive capabilities of orc encampments are not something to be trifled with.

Particular attention should also be paid to the powerful beasts that the orcs have at their disposal. Orcish wolf riders are extremely mobile, and they're at least as powerful as standard foot soldiers. Their greatest asset is their ensnare ability, which can trap an otherwise unreachable aerial target, dragging it down within arm's reach. The kodo beast also deserves a second look by prospective commanders--one beast can turn the tide of a battle by devouring a troublesome enemy hero in a single gulp.

The far seer's chain lightning courses through a pack of ogres, the orcs' former allies.

The magic of the orcs can be used in particularly troublesome ways as well. The orcs are quite capable magically, due to the great number of area-effect spells at their disposal. The witch doctor's ancestral guardian spell can be used to wreak undue amounts of havoc when cast within the confines of an enemy encampment, damaging buildings and killing workers with ease. It should also go without saying that the far seer's chain lightning spell can likewise work wonders on large enemy forces. While they have no ogre-mages this time around, the orcs do have shamans who can cast bloodlust on their strongest heroes, thus greatly increasing the amount of damage these units can inflict.

The orcs have always proven to be more than a match for their human counterparts, and their expanded repertoire of capabilities in Warcraft III makes them a promising choice. There are many different ways to approach launching an offensive with the orcs, and their heroes boast impressive powers that will be interesting to explore. While the new races have many wondrous abilities of their own, the orcs are far more than an old standby, and they should prove to be a contender throughout the life of Warcraft III.