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RELEASE DATE (NA): December 1995 GENRE: Real-Time Strategy
// review by SoyBomb

Making the already difficult even MORE difficult.

Speaking in terms of difficulty alone, if Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness is like having a terrible nightmare, its expansion pak, Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, is the equivalent of actually living it. I had thought that Warcraft II had planted me in some rather sticky situations, but BtDP pretty much exacerbated that feeling into a full 24-mission game. It's hard. It's nut-cracking hard.

Built pretty much directly off of Warcraft II (the expansion pak requires the original game installed to run), this adventure follows the battles as the supposed "dark portal" is explored in greater detail. We are finally able to traverse areas in the homelands of the Orcs, Draenor. The swampy, unattractive terrain of the Orcs' birthplace is finally revealed. As the Orcs, your goal is try to create even MORE portals to the Human world, allowing more troops to sneak in and conquer the lands. The Humans, meanwhile, wish only to destroy the Dark Portal, the main source of their troubles and the primary entrance for the Orcish hordes. Heavy stuff? Not really, but it's reason enough to help out these characters.

Yeah, burn down those wretched towns! ...wait, why not steal the valuables first?

The overall gameplay is the same as in Warcraft II, but aside from the 24 new scenarios available, there aren't too many new additions. Unique units have been made available in the form of more heroic figures. Each race gets five special allies each who are, overall, stronger than typical units and may be crucial to your success. For the most part, they MUST stay alive or you fail the mission. (In the final scenarios, most of them are expendable.) They also play a significant role at one point or another in the game's advancing storyline. As well, there is also new music available while playing. I would have enjoyed more FMV vignettes between acts, but unfortunately, we get relatively little in terms of new cinematic sequences. Even the introduction recycles heavily from the source game's ending.

Was Beyond the Dark Portal enjoyable to play? As enjoyable as Warcraft II, yes. However, the immense spike in difficulty may turn away more than a few players. There were many times when I would just throw my arms in the air and declare that the current scenario was impossible to complete. To clarify, I EVENTUALLY finished all the missions, but I was more relieved than saddened when the game was over. Perhaps that's a bit telling... Either way, aside from some tough-as-nails missions, there really hasn't been much else added to make this a "definitive" expansion pack. What's new is nice, but what would be nicer is more that's new.

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