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An adventure 18 years in the making: Long-lost Warcraft title leaks online

Nearly 20 years ago, Blizzard had a plan for a new Warcraft title that would depart from the series’ RTS roots. Where Warcraft and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness had focused on the strategic aspects of an all-out war between the Alliance and the invading Orcish Horde, Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans would focus on one specific character, an orc named Thrall. Thrall was found as a babe and raised by humans hoping to create a warrior who would remain obedient to his human masters.

The game was nearly complete when Blizzard shelved the concept and opted not to release it. Their reasoning was simple: The adventure genre, which had sustained and defined PC gaming from the launch of Mystery House in 1980 all the way through titles like Grim Fandango in 1998, was passing. Sales of point-and-click adventures were down, and Blizzard felt the core gameplay of Lord of the Clans was lacking. The game has never been released until now, courtesy of Reidor of the ScrollsofLore forum.

I’ve sat down to play some of it, and it seems very nearly complete. There may be some missing voice work, but the game is completely playable (there’s even a guide to getting it up and running on Reddit for the interested). With that said, be prepared to take a serious step into déjà vu if you haven’t played a point-and-click adventure game in a decade or two. The game’s interface offers you the option to look at objects, interact with them, or to eat or speak to them. Inventory items are clicked on and dragged to use them on various items.

From what I’ve seen of the early puzzles, it’s by no means a bad game — the bit where Gazlowe the goblin describes a samoflange in particularly ascerbic terms is amusing in its own right — but it also highlights the limits of the adventure game genre of the time. Thrall, for example, will tell you that the robes and gloves you’ve just stolen don’t fit him if you try to put them on at the wrong point in the early game. Walk outside to the appropriate point to wear them, and he puts everything on without protest.

The game’s art and cutscenes are drawn to look like cartoons, and the basic visuals hold up surprisingly well for a game developed nearly 20 years ago. At the same time, this isn’t an Azeroth that seems particularly familiar compared with where the world is now. One particular scene in the game (shown above, but I admit to not playing that far in the title) shows Deathwing, the metal-plated insane dragon responsible for the entire World of Warcraft expansion, Cataclysm, smoking a hookah while conversing with Thrall. The likelihood of this occurring in the now-established canon, even prior to Deathwing’s decision to destroy Azeroth, would have been minute.

There’s no word on how long the game may remain available, so if you’re curious, grab it while you can. The cancellation of Warcraft Adventures marked the end of Blizzard’s attempts to tell personal stories in the Warcraft universe, but the basic story of Thrall remains — he went on to become leader of the Horde and a major player in the World of Warcraft storyline. And if you looked forward to Warcraft Adventures only to be disappointed, here’s your chance to see it once again. We also took a recent gander around Azeroth pre-Legion and have a Legion review in the works — so stay tuned.

Thanks to Nyn for the tip on this one.

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