Warcraft III - Reign of Chaos
by Blizzard Entertainment
What a year this is turning out to be for PC gamers. Just as it looked as though all the glory would go to the super consoles in 2002, the PC has it's richest summer ever in terms of top quality titles. The latest title in this glut of excellence is Warcraft III. Some would point to the Command and Conquer series as the defining moment for the RTS genre but on closer inspection, the Warcraft series was just as instrumental in shaping the genre into what it is today. Age of Empires was clearly inspired by Warcraft and that in turn has influenced many other titles. Warcraft III has long been a topic of discussion for many PC gamers the world over and finally the wait is over.
Those expecting a whole heap of innovations over the Warcraft II will be in for a surprise. Rather than bloat the title with tons of new features that would take ages to master, Blizzard has kept it simple, refined what was great about the series and added a few new additions. If you think about it this is Blizzard's way. Diablo II was not wildly different from Diablo. Blizzard's ability to refine their games should not be underestimated though. Warcraft III is so highly polished that the degree of professionalism displayed in this title shines so brightly that a pair of sunglasses ought to have been given away with the game.
The game has four campaigns that are each based around the four races that are in the game. The Human Alliance, the Orchish Horde, the Undead Scourge and the Night Elf Sentinels. The game also has a prologue which serves as a rather good tutorial, which is wonderfully subtitled. When playing through these campaigns, and it is a good idea to do so before playing a custom game, you will notice a key element of Warcraft III: heroes. Blizzard have added a RPG element to Warcraft III. You get a hero who levels up and gains extra abilities of your choosing. This allows you to customise your hero which adds to your involvement in the game as well as the replayability of the campaigns. Missions have a main quest and optional quests and completing these quests will help develop your hero. Thankfully your hero is carried over from the missions so as the campaign develops, so does the strength of your hero and the choices you make in assigning the extra abilities in earlier missions, will determine how the latter missions will play to a certain extent.
The main achievement Blizzard have made with Warcraft III, in my opinion, is that they have kept the gameplay simple. Since the release of Warcraft II there have been loads of RTS games that have come along and added plenty of innovative additions to the gameplay. Warcraft III only adds a sprinkling of these but overall it takes a streamline approach. Resource management is still there but is simple to maintain. Combat is also kept simple, as you never control more than about a dozen units, but has the additions of formations, which work brilliantly. A day and night cycle has also been included in the game for the first time. Some missions will require you to attack under the cover of night as the enemies line of sight is greatly reduced. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Blizzard haven't tried to bloat the game with features and by keeping it simple it is very easy to get into, difficult to master mind you, and as a result we have another Blizzard title that is perfectly suited for the multiplayer environment.
Blizzard have a proud heritage in multiplayer gaming. Diablo, Diablo II, Starcraft, Warcraft II have all been phenomenal success stories. Warcraft III is also assured a place in this hall of fame. Naturally Warcraft III uses Battle.net for Internet play. This time though there is a feature to be anonymously paired off with someone of the same ability. Your ability is worked out by how many games you have previously won or lost. Custom games and team games can also be set up. Friends lists can be kept so that if you have a preferred opponent you are alerted if they are creating a game or entering a chat room. No other developers do more to foster a healthy online community for their game.
Graphically the game looks very pleasant indeed. Don't get me wrong the graphics are not cutting edge but the colours are vibrant and they are totally appropriate to the game. Blizzard have certainly not skimped on the detail and the terrain is densely populated with plant life. The animation of the water is fantastic and the sight of the waves that hit the shore has to be one of the best animations in any game ever. Even on a modest specification PC, I was able to run the game at 1024x768 with no hint of slowdown at all. The game is completely 3D but it is a little surprising to find that you can't rotate the map at will, well not in the true sense anyway. What Blizzard have provided is a temporary rotation system. Pressing the Insert and Delete key will allow you to rotate the map clockwise or anticlockwise. Once you release the key though the viewpoint will return to default. This may seem a little odd but what Blizzard have done is to prevent you becoming disorientated by spinning the map around. Some might find this restrictive though. I suppose the best option would have been to provide both a 360 degree permanent rotation system as well as the one that has been provided and let the gamer decide between the two. A special mention must go to the FMVs in Warcraft III. People constantly praise Squaresoft's FMV in games like Final Fantasy X but those in Warcraft III are at least of equal quality.
Best of all though is the fact that Warcraft III is very deaf gamer friendly. Subtitles can be turned on in the sound options. This enables FMVs and all game dialogue to be fully subtitled. The only exception here is when you issue unit commands. If you order a unit to move to a certain location and they remark something like 'right away' it is not subtitled. This is the only thing out of the whole game though. The game even has a log that allows you to scroll back through all the conversations during a mission. Mission objectives can be recalled at any time too. The tutorial is fully subtitled. All text in the game is superb in that it is clear enough to read easily and remains on screen long enough to easily read (although you can use the log if you need to recap). Blizzard have done deaf gamers proud. Some people feared that manuals would be reduced to a mere leaflet with the introduction of DVD style packaging. Blizzard have showed that this need not be the case and have produced an excellent manual that goes into quite some detail in explaining what you need to know.
Warcraft III also comes with it's own editor. This is very easy to use and enables you to create your own scenarios, campaigns and maps that can be played as a single player or multiplayer game. What Blizzard have done by including such a useful too,l is to guarantee that the game will be played for many years to come as the Internet will soon be awash with great custom campaigns and maps.
Warcraft III is a must buy title. RTS fans will be amazed at how playable and addictive this title is. Warcraft II was a classic but Warcraft III makes it look average by comparison. The gameplay tweaks to the series have been spot on. The game feels very balanced and no race has a kill all unit which is always a healthy feature for a RTS game. The campaigns are all a joy to play and the learning curve is wonderfully gentle. If for some reason you have never liked the RTS genre then this could be the game to make you change your mind. Blizzard have succeeded in making a sequel that is both familiar and refreshing.
Overall Game Rating: 9.3/10 Surely a must for fantasy RTS of the year. Warcraft III oozes class in every department.
Deaf Gamers comment: The game caters for deaf gamers tremendously well.