Written by: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor
3) Warcraft III (or why I nearly broke my keyboard)
I don’t care who you are or how hardcore you game. If you have been alive for the last decade, you’ve heard of Warcraft. Perhaps you only know about the World in which this Warcraft occurs, but you’ve heard the name. Well, before there was the MMORPG that consumed nations, Warcraft was a fairly popular real-time-strategy game. It put Blizzard on the map, combined humor and action in a way few games have since, and lead the way for the future sport of Korea, Starcraft.
For me, Warcraft III will always be my favorite. The balance between the various factions seemed spot-on, and the new RPG elements changed the way we play RTS titles to this day (a trick Blizzard learned from their lesser-known title Diablo).
While most of the game was standard RTS fair, the final mission stood apart as an entirely new and exciting mission. You see, video games like to play it safe when it comes to objectives for the player. Most levels will involve getting from point A to point B, or destroying the enemy base at point C. In an RTS, often you’re tasked with building a certain number of units, or harvesting a special mineral. Even in action games, with escort missions and tiered objectives, the variety was lacking. Blizzard decided to change all that with the “Last Stand” mission.
Why I Nearly Broke My Keyboard
Nowadays, you can’t play a Mario game without encountering a Last Stand. For those of you unfamilair with the term, a Last Stand mission pits you against an overwhelming horde of enemies, fighting them off to the bitter end. This is not to be confused with the Horde method of level design, in which the waves of enemies eventually stop. In the Last Stand, you’re goal is not to survive, but to endure for as long as possible. This is the Alamo, and you will make the enemy pay for your life with a thousand of theirs.
Like this, but with more orcs than abs
At the end of Warcraft III, your number finally comes up. An ancient evil has arisen and threatens all of Azeroth with destruction. United with the Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and Humans, you make your stand by Mount Hyjal. There, under the Great Tree, elder powers conjur a binding spell. If you can but hold the line, you will prevail.
But Archimonde the High Demon King is not one to bow down to such pitiful barriers.
I set down a defense of towers and soldiers, spending every last ounce of gold for a mercenary wolf or goblin or dwarf. My ranks swelled with archers and knights, with powerful shamans and muscle-bound ogres. This should have been an easy fight. Should have, but was not.
With each wave, my numbers dwindled. Armies of the undead threw themselves at me like waves against rocks, eroding slowly but surely until my fortress of men fell. I still hear the screams of the serfs, their axes useless against the claws of the ghouls.
Next came my orc gauntlet, bolstered with the ancient tree defenders of the Night Elves. But flying monstrosities burned by wooden allies to cinder, and the maddening cries of the damned drowned out the howling wails of the orc peons. My second layer of defense was gone.
Finally the horde arrived at the doorstep of Hyjal, and into the waiting arms of my elves. The warriors fought valiantly, spending their blood to buy time for the wisps of the Great Tree. For a moment, ever so brief, it looked as though we would hold. And then he arrived.
Towering over the landscape, his lizard-skin gleaming, Archimonde drove through the line like a battleaxe through a neck, his lust for death sated only by the anguished gurgles of my people. In seconds, the battle was over. I had lost. Before my last soldier fell, I committed one of the most grievous sins of the PC gamer: I restarted.
Thus went my second and third plays through, always failing to stave off the emissaries of evil. On my fourth try, it was already nearing two in the morning and I was out of energy. Archimonde crushed my last warrior beneath his cloven foot and began a triumphant march toward the Great Tree. I was about to quit when my bottle of Mountain Dew slipped off the desk. With catlike reflexes I caught the bottle, but saw too late that the game was ending. The screen went dark and my fortress fell.
And then a cinematic started. This Last Stand had been a suicide mission from the start! As Archimonde approached the Tree, victorious is his conquest, ancient powers swirled around and caught him in a snare. His life energy was bound to the tree, trapped within a massive cocoon that would save the world at the expense of countless lives. I had won, several times in fact, and never known it.