Today, WarCraft 1 & 2 get their first-ever digital launch—and it’s on GOG

When we last spoke with Blizzard Entertainment about one of its biggest classics, the original , the chat came with a surprise announcement: the original PC game was now for sale online for the first time, and not on Battle.net. The game’s launch on GOG prompted many technical and logistical questions, and after answering those, Blizzard confirmed an intriguing “one more thing” about the first two RTS games coming to GOG.

At the time, these had no release date.

Turns out, the wait was surprisingly brief.

GOG and Blizzard have officially opened a veritable Dark Portal to the first-ever digital-download version of its first two PC RTS games, and (which includes that sequel’s awesome expansion pack). Right now, you can buy both as a combo pack for $15, or buy them separately for $6 and $10, respectively. And we’ve played them!

GOG got axe for you

Just like this month’s re-launch, GOG has rebuilt ‘s executable to run with modern operating systems and monitor resolutions in mind. Meaning: nothing has been remastered. Instead, players can expect “integer scaling” as an option for any monitor resolution they have so that the original artwork and sprites fall into a proper 4:3 ratio whether they appear in a window or full-screen mode. Other GOG-specific bonuses include optional anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering. (As with , I would advise players to ignore these pixel-blurring options, but if that’s your jam, then by all means use them.)

The problem with this is the same as in : in many of the “integer scaling” modes, lets your mouse cursor float away if pushed against the right or bottom edges. This happens when you move the map around with your mouse, which is way more common in an RTS than in a game. I prefer moving an RTS map via the mouse instead of arrow keys, so this issue bums me out. The solution has been to pick the generic “fullscreen” option, which fixes the mouse-boundary issue but adds much blurrier pixels (and messes up my Windows desktop once the game quits out). I’ve asked GOG for help with this issue and will update this section with any pointers they send.

Additionally, GOG’s version of includes a “vanilla” binary without many of the modern display adaptations. The reason is that this version includes Battle.net support, which requires leaving the executable in its ancient 2.02 state. Just like the 1999 launch of this game’s “Battle.net edition,” it requires a valid CD key, which GOG packs into your purchase. (GOG’s version of doesn’t require this.) And, yep, Blizzard’s servers are still alive and kickin’.

But once again, GOG has loosed a “Battle.net” game of old that requires a stomach-turning combination: you have to open specific ports on both your PC and your router, and you have to subject your machine to some pretty ancient netcode. As Ars’ Peter Bright said last time around: “Running this game and opening up your network to it is going to make it extraordinarily easy to hack your computer. We have built numerous safeguards over the last 15 years to try to reduce the risks of exploitable network code, and this game removes all of them.” (Click here to read the full screed.)

In good news, you can either directly connect to other computers on your LAN or fake a LAN connection by using a VPN program like Hamachi and loading an old-school online IPX session to play eight-player versus matches.

Bombs are great!

Meanwhile, the original has been repackaged to boot into a DOSBox emulation session, essentially running DOS within your OS of choice. And, you know, it works in that funky-but-functional DOSBox way. (Thanks to this DOSBox support, works in both Windows and MacOS; with its customized binaries sticks to a Windows-only release on GOG.)

But I have a hard time recommending as anything other than a historic relic. This game saw Blizzard boldly dipping its toes into the nascent real-time strategy universe, which meant dealing with early ’90s expectations that anything outside of slow, rigid, turn-based tactics was “too fast.” The result is a painfully ponderous experience in desperate need of quality-of-life fixes across the board.

wasn’t just a “WarCraft but slightly better” kind of sequel. It was the true fulfillment of the original game’s potential—first on a mechanical level, then supercharged with incredible pixel art, sound design, and army balance. It’s a no-brainer recommendation for every proud mouse-and-keyboard gamer in the world, from the wistful and nostalgic to the RTS-clueless, because its early take on the genre combines slower speeds with good ideas and an endearing, fresh-faced universe. There’s a reason was embraced as its own world of characters and lore, as opposed to laughed off as a Tolkien rip-off, and is the primary source of that reputation.

If you want to open your wallet to GOG and Blizzard today and dive into a DRM-free game, skip the bundle and grab the $10 package. Its massive single-player campaign, boosted by the critically acclaimed expansion pack, will keep you (or an excited kiddo) busy for fifty quintillion hours, give or take. And since it’s DRM-free and the CD key is only required for the vanilla Battle.net mode (which, again, we don’t necessarily recommend), you might find a way to get your paid copy of the game onto a second computer and boot some satisfying IPX-based versus combat. (Every parent who reads Ars Technica should do this with their kids. It’s the responsible thing to do.)

These are the remaining two games GOG and Blizzard teased earlier this month during  GOG launch. We think it’s now up to the Blizzard Classic team to put out a “new” old game from here on out, and is on deck.

Latest Articles

Related Articles