Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the wasteland, along comes Beyond the Dark Portal. Set in the Orcish homeland, this expansion pack for Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness adds 24 new single-player scenarios and nearly 50 multi-player scenarios, all for a bargain-basement price.
Be prepared: The new solo scenarios are hard with a capital H-A-R-D. Even the most jaded orc or human will be challenged by the new levels, which thankfully dispense with the tutorial nature which made the early portion of Tides of Darkness somewhat tedious. In Beyond the Dark Portal, you start off with almost all of the technologies at your disposal, and you'd best be prepared to use them (strangely--and this is my only complaint about the expansion pack--you don't get everything right away, and some vital units are inexplicably unavailable in the early scenarios).
Apart from a new environment to represent the Orcish world, nothing has been added to the game. But there are some minor changes which affect gameplay, and require some new strategies to ensure success. The most notable change is the newfound emphasis on heroesspecial units whose survival is necessary. Many of these heroes appear in the circle of power missions found in Tides of Darkness, but others just fight alongside your troops with superior strength and endurance. They can be an excellent aid, but their death means failure.
The new custom maps are a diverse lot. For the most part, there is less emphasis on resource gathering than in the multi-player maps included with Tides of Darkness. This change has the benefit of making games less of a race-for-the-resources duel, allowing players more breathing room and time to plan strategies, as well as lessening the effectiveness of a brute-force attack at the onset of a game. Also included are a couple of strange maps for quick games: one with a football theme and one with a chess theme.
Fans of Warcraft II are split along two fronts: there are the single-players and then there are the multi-players. But whichever side of the fence you lean toward, this is a must-have. More challenging and more diverse than its namesake, Beyond the Dark Portal proves once and for all that you can never have too much of a good thing.