Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne Review

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Graphics: 8.5
Sound : 8.0
Gameplay : 9.5
Multiplayer : 9.0
Overall : 8.8
Review by Andreas Misund Berntsen

Starcraft: Brood War was undoubtedly one of the best received expansions to date. The gameplay of the original Starcraft was excellent, but the series got just what it needed to make everything even closer to perfection. Warcraft 3's gameplay is also very good, so the question is whether this new expansion does what Brood Wars did for Starcraft. A huge effort has been put into making both games as balanced as possible, but before Frozen Throne was made the developers studied how people played their game; what units they used; which were either too strong or too weak, and pondered about what they should add to even things out and make things even more interesting. I'll go into what has been added once I elaborate on the storyline.

After Archimonde and his gang of monsters were defeated at the battle of Mount Hyjal things started improving in the world of Warcraft. A lot of damage had been done, but the night elves went back to the forest in an attempt to heal and rectify the damage done. The orcs left and settled in the Kalimdor Barrens, a place Thrall and his people could finally call their own - hopefully to be left alone. The humans settled reasonably close to the orcs, but their forces had been severely shortened. With a peace treaty in hand, the orcs and humans would hopefully live in peace. The undead are undoubtedly still around, so Arthas, newly crowned King of Lordaeron, wants more power and control of the rest of the world. Secondly, the former night elf Illidan wants to seize a mystical artifact that would render him immensely powerful. Arthas and Illidan race to find the Frozen Throne, but they'll find that a night elf warden by the name of Maiev is chosen to put a stop to Illidan and put him back in the prison he escaped from. This is by far not a small task, so the main campaign revolves around the chase and as usual, the fight between good and evil. After you're done with the Night Elves the story continues with the other races, so those interested in the single player mode will plenty of entertaining hours ahead. The main campaign has similar gameplay to that found in Warcraft 3, especially when it comes to the strategic element. It's interesting, because you'll usually not just have to build a huge army and plow through the enemy. Instead, you'll often have to manage several smaller groups, each with their own objectives. The plot in the main campaign is quite entertaining, but what really keeps you playing the game is the intensity of the levels; the way they've been built, the recurring attacks from vile sea-creatures (or whoever), and the climactic final battles. Cut-scenes rendered by the engine are used normally at the start and end of a level, and sometimes when important things happen during it - but Blizzard didn't forget that customers still like to drool at the pre-rendered videos, and you'll have plenty of opportunities in this expansion.

The second campaign included in the expansion is different from the first in several ways. It focuses entirely on the orcs, who have now started settling down their new homes close to the humans, who just can't seem to stay in one place. The plot starts with an Ogre / Orc who stumbles across a dying orc messenger. Rexxar, the Ogre, agrees to deliver the message to Thrall, the leader of the orcs, whose camp is fairly close by. Once there, the Ogre who is usually happy with his own company, decides to stick around. It seems Rexxar will be needed, because unforeseen events are near...

The aspect of heroes has also been changed somewhat in this expansion. Each race has a new one, but at times you'll also be able to purchase neutral heroes - much like renting a hireling in a role-playing game. Each race can also build merchant houses, which work very much like the goblin merchants from before. Here you can get a number of scrolls, potions, upgrades, and such. Plenty of new units have also been added, and the trend this time around seems to be balancing what's already in there. By this I mean that several supporting units have been added, usually to counter spell casters. My favorite will probably have to be the Mountain Giant, not only because he looks like a big walking rock, but also because he can pick up trees and use them as weapons. The Crypt Lord is a cool new hero that the undead can use, who is in fact nothing less than a huge beetle. This hero can launch spike attacks from the ground, which damages and stuns units. The undead also have a new support unit, which can be set to replenish health and mana during combat, or whenever you need. Listing all the cool new units would take a pretty long time, but let's just say that the guys at Blizzard have added enough to make things even more fun.

The sound effects and music library has also been updated, naturally to include the new units, heroes and monsters, but the new background music also sounds quite good. The music ranges from being quite subtle and ambient, to more emotional and louder pieces. As usual it's funny to click units many times to piss them off, but at times it sounds a bit overdone. A Jamaican sounding voice-over has also been included, for reasons I can't comprehend. In my opinion it doesn't fit at all with the rest of the units, but I guess they chose it as a comical addition.

Graphically this expansion does what it's supposed to - it expands upon the original game. The polycount is still about the same, and you can forget about sweet dx9 effects, but the artistic quality in the modeling, animating, and level design just makes everything so charming. Warcraft 3 has a distinct look, and now it's just better than ever.

Additions have also been made to the multiplayer aspect. As you would expect there are some new maps, but in battle.net clans and automated tournaments have been added, which are extremely useful and practical if you're forming a clan. Multiplayer used to work very well, and now it's just awesome and a lot of fun. The PC itself can still be a very good competitor, but online you'll find both easier and harder opposition. Actually, the second campaign was to some extent included to show off the new features in the improved level editor, which let you implement even more RPG related features into your maps.

Conclusion:
Making a good expansion isn't easy, because many tend to not include, or improve enough, to convince players to make the purchase, but by now Blizzard has enough experience to know just what gamers want. Frozen Throne's single player mode is quite deep, with a reasonably entertaining story, and plenty of action and humor. The improved gameplay is a major factor, because everything just works better now. Those who like and play a lot of Warcraft 3 have to purchase this expansion, just like those who enjoyed and played a lot of Starcraft had to purchase Brood War. There are a few annoying things in this expansion, but the thumbs definitely go up for this one...