Reviewed by Bill ‘Mephisto_kur’ Walker
Warcraft and Blizzard are just so big if you know what I mean. It hardly seems that anyone could be objective and fair about Warcraft III. So I did what all reviewers should do in this sort of situation. I asked my wife. I explained what I like about the game and what I was disappointed about. She said I should shut up and write it down.
I am a diehard fan of the Blizzard RTS. I still, on occasion, load up Starcraft and Brood War. The stories are always good. Characters have depth and the dialog is always top notch. But I have always had a nag in the back of my mind. These games, Warcraft, WCII, Dark Portal, Starcraft - they are the same game. Blizzard refined the RTS genre to the point that these games will always be special the way Doom is special. Starcraft is what all other game makers strive to achieve, and most RTS games have the same basic formula. Gather resources, build this building to get that unit, upgrade this building to upgrade that unit. Almost all of the RTS titles on the market have the same way of doing things. It doesn't really matter whether you play as The Brotherhood of Nod in the CnC series or the Romans in the AOE series. The big question is "what innovation has Blizzard brought to the table this time?"
As usual, Blizzard has given us high quality sound. Voiceovers are exceptional, rivaling professional actors. The story comes across well and you get a sense of true emotion from the characters. Battle sounds are high quality, but standard for the genre. My only issue was the unit acknowledgments. Once again Blizzard has not taken the opportunity presented them to work on this issue. Any of you that have played Warcraft 2 will recognize most of them. You will also remember how repetitive and annoying they can be. Units have 1 to 3 phrases that they use to acknowledge movement orders. This is especially an issue when exploring due to how often you can need to change direction or attack something along the way. You will be turning this off fairly quickly. Music is mild and unintrusive - always a plus when you are trying to concentrate.
This game is beautiful. Colors are vibrant. Textures are sharp and give the illusion of depth. Its obvious the designers spent a good amount of time perfecting the water effects, from waves crashing on a beach to water lapping at rocks in a lake. Models tend to be low poly, but fit well with the general style of the game. Blizzard seems to have been attempting to maintain that "cartoony" quality they have always had in their games, and have, in fact, perfected it. Lipsyncing the voiceovers to the moving mouths of models would have been a plus, though. Sometimes it's like watching a dubbed Japanese kung-fu movie. There is no chugging at all even with many units in the game and setting all graphics to maximum on a decent video card. One noticeable thing is that increasing resolution does not give you more room in the game. Its just makes everything look better. I would have like to be able to see more area as a default, but the standard view makes sense because of the gameplay.
Gone are the days of the bum-rush. Warcraft 3 is much more balanced to smaller armies and good use of the game's powerful "heroes." The resources used are gold, lumber, and support slots. Each unit takes at least one support slot with stronger units taking more slots. Just like in Warcraft 2, you mine gold, chop lumber and build farms depending on which resource you wish to increase. Maximum support slots has been reduced from 200 to 90, making a large army practically impossible. Also, if an enemy destroys your farms, your troops get more expensive to maintain. This is called "Upkeep." If you have enough support slots for all your troops, your miners bring 10 gold per trip back to your castle. If you have too few farms to support the number of troops you have, the miners bring less and less gold back to your castle, greatly reducing your ability to maintain a war footing. The Heroes that have been added are basically ultra powerful soldiers. As they experience battles they can level-up, making them even more powerful. They can learn spells, carry potions and scrolls, or purchase items from merchants. Thankfully, it's ok for you to lose a hero sometimes. Now included is a building that will call heroes back from the dead...for a price, of course. Rarely does a single player mission say "Arthas must survive" anymore. It is now attractive to actually use the hero instead of setting them out of harms way. One thing that is a bit upsetting for me is the return of the "Survive for 30 minutes" style mission. I have always hated these. I would much rather be able to crush my enemies than sit in a corner trying to bolster my defenses against the inevitable 2 minute rush. The main single player campaign allows you to play as either Orcs or Humans, again. With minor unit updates and some changed alliances, the two factions are relatively unchanged since WC2.
LAN play is wonderful. The last of the IPX\SPX game series has fallen, long live TCP\IP. Warcraft 3 maintains the high adrenaline of its predecessors. Thankfully, the swarm attack has finally been removed. Anyone that has played Starcraft on Battle.net or in a LAN has run into the Zerg Swarm attack. To fix this issue in Starcraft, Blizzard had to change the balance of certain aspects of the game, which was quite unfortunate. This was obviously on the minds of the designers as they built this game. Since gameplay in both single and multiplayer has been scaled down to work with smaller armies, strategy has come back to the Blizzard games. In multiplayer, two more races have been added to the mix, as well. Night Elves and the Undead Scourge. Night Elves focus almost entirely on ranged combat and stealth. The Undead Scourge focuses on a more well-rounded attack, but relying on the dead as a means of unit repair and unit recruiting. Much of the Orc spells have been shifted to this new enemy, as well. Gameplay is smooth, and even when hosted on a slower system, there were no real issues with lag.
So, what has Blizzard done, here? Streamlining combat to a smaller force, making heroes an important part of the game, rebalancing the system for a more enjoyable gameplay experience. This is all well and good. I love the game. It's just plain fun. But in all honesty, Blizzard has failed. There is no innovation. Basically a brighty polished version of the original, Warcraft III is an evolutionary step, not a revolutionary one. Its still the same old formula, and I am a bit disappointed.