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I played Wacraft III a bit when it was in its prime. I remember enjoying what I played so I figured when Warcraft III: Reforged came out, I would dive back in. But after what happened with Reforged, I played the classic version instead. And when I say “the classic version”, I mean the actual classic version. I did not launch Reforged and switch the presentation to classic. Luckily, I still own the Warcraft III Battle Chest which contains the base game and its expansion – The Frozen Throne. I installed both from the discs and patched it up to version 1.27b. I followed these instructions.
Developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos was released for PC in July, 2002 and The Frozen Throne expansion pack was released in July, 2003. A remastered edition called Warcraft III: Reforged was released in January, 2020. Now I didn’t really follow its development but Reforged turned out to be a mess and still is as of this review. It was supposed to come with new content and didn’t, some of the already existing content was removed, its got technical issues, and worst of all it replaced the original game so if you want to play Warcraft III through the Blizzard launcher, you have to play Reforged. It comes with a switch to change the presentation to Classic but it’s not the actual Classic game. When I launch Reforged I’m greeted with this very choppy menu background. Evidently it’s a common thing. After reading about all the issues, I decided to install the actual classic game. If you decide to do the same do keep in mind that official multiplayer is only supported through Reforged as of this review. However, there are other ways to get online games going with older versions or the actual Classic game if you will. For this review, I’ll only be covering the single player.
Set in Azeroth, the plot revolves around the return of the Burning Legion, a demonic army who wish to consume the world. The plot is spread across four campaigns and covers the actions of the game’s four races – the humans, orcs, undead, and night elves. The Frozen Throne continues the storyline and features new factions. It even comes with a Horde campaign that’s separate from the main storyline and chronicles their kingdom in the early days. I have to say the main story did keep me engaged but the voice acting is hit or miss. Some performances are simply better than others.
I think there’s a couple of things that make Warcraft III unique. The first is that it’s a real-time strategy game with RPG elements. Like any other RTS, you choose a faction, build a base, and command units. However, you can also command a Hero or multiple with special abilities. They can earn experience, level up to become more powerful, and use items found in the maps. The second is the Custom Game mode. This mode lets you play offline against the AI on various maps. Warcraft III does support custom content including Custom Maps and Campaigns. It comes with a built-in World Editor that allows players to create custom content. Warcraft III is known for its modding community which have created some extremely popular mods including maps, campaigns complete with new voice work, and even new game modes. Perhaps you’ve heard of Defense of the Ancients. It’s a mod for Warcraft III which spawned a standalone sequel in 2013.
The main storyline in both Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne is spread across multiple campaigns, one for each playable race or faction, and each campaign consists of multiple chapters. I like how each one slowly introduces you to the mechanics of each race. The core mechanics of the genre remain the same but each faction does some things differently than others. They each have their own unique set of units. You’ve got ground, ranged, and air units, and units that are best for destroying buildings. You’ll always command one or multiple heroes throughout the story and heroes have special offensive and/or defensive abilities. They can pick up special items that are often found by destroying buildings or by defeating certain creeps in the map and will store some in their inventory for use later. These items can anything ranging from a health potion to boosting one of your hero’s attributes.
The campaigns will have you completing various objectives across numerous maps. There is a minimap on your HUD which will show you the areas you’ve discovered and you can remove the fog of war by exploring more of the map. The campaigns are more than just simple RTS scenarios and The Frozen Throne mixes things up even more. You’ll have to protect NPC’s, destroy bases, and one mission even has you hiding from enemies. I’ll be honest and say I’m basically a novice when it comes to real-time strategy games so I appreciated the campaigns teaching me the mechanics. I usually got through the first two or three chapters in each campaign with relative ease and then would struggle to complete the rest and normally got my ass handed to me.
If you’re a novice like myself, Warcraft III will be a learning experience and it doesn’t help that the AI cheats. In the Custom Game mode, it can micro and macro manage like nobody’s business but it’s also exploitable if you know what you’re doing. Your build order is important. Like many games in the genre, you need resources to build your base, upgrade it, and create an army. Based on my experience with other RTS games, I like to build my base and get an army started before I go out and explore or try to take on my opponent. That is how it works here as well but there’s a little more to it and if you don’t understand how to play properly, you can easily get destroyed. When up against the AI in Warcraft III, you need to be pretty aggressive and you need to level up your hero or heroes. Heroes can unleash devastating attacks and/or activate abilities that can benefit your other units. Warcraft III places a focus on heroes and small armies and knowing what each units’ strengths and weaknesses are is a big part of battles.
There’s two important things I had to learn. The first was hotkeys. You can use the mouse to do everything but you’ll get things done a lot faster if you know the hotkeys to perform certain functions. I would definitely recommend looking up the grouping keys. The second was creeping. Each map contains a bunch of neutral or hostile NPCs known as creeps. In the early goings, it’s a good idea to kill as many as you can because each kill results in experience for your hero. You want to creep and level up your hero faster than the opposing team. That’s important and can often be the difference between winning and losing matches. The more powerful your hero, the better off you’ll be. A good strategy is to level up your hero a bit and then harass the opponent as in attack their base, kill some of their units, and destroy some of their buildings if you can. I struggle with either the build order or creeping.
After numerous skirmishes against the AI in the Custom Game mode, I realized it took about an average of twelve minutes before the AI would rush my base and wipe my shit out in any 1v1 matches. As a result, any kind of success I had in defeating the enemy, even if it was just a small skirmish, was immensely satisfying. Luckily, there’s plenty of maps that allow for multiple factions so you can set one or more as allies to help you out. Despite the fact that I suck, the AI is often predictable. I would recommend checking out the Advanced Melee AI mod. It improves the AI by featuring dynamic strategies, personality profiles, and enhanced micromanagement. The mod also supports several languages and the AI will actually taunt you which I thought was humorous. I played several matches with the mod and was immediately impressed. I still got slaughtered but they were less predictable making for more interesting matches.
The way I think, my initial thought when playing these types of games is to create a big army. I want to send units out to explore and battle but also leave some behind to defend my base. It always bothers me if I leave my base undefended. In Warcraft III you’ll want to send your hero and some units out to creep as soon as possible. Just leaving your units standing around and waiting as you build up your base and army isn’t always the best strategy. I learned that pretty early on after the opposing team decimated all my buildings and killed all my units, leaving me feeling deflated. You need to be aggressive and explore the map. Creep, harass, and build.
Because of the game’s focus on small armies, you need to be mindful of what kind of units you deploy, which ones to take with you, and which ones you leave behind if any. Some factions have abilities that basically let you turn worker units into soldiers and you can utilize that as a means of defense. You really need to know the factions in and out. You need to know where to place your units, what opposing units to attack and when, and what your heroes are capable of. Having a big army doesn’t guarantee victory. After deploying enough units, you’ll have to be mindful of upkeep which is like a tax system. With upkeep, you won’t earn as much money from gold mines.
Both Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne come with a lot of maps with all kinds of layouts set in different locations and weather conditions. You’ll come across creep camps, gold mines, and merchants. You can hire mercenaries, buy and sell items, and even buy transports like ships that can take your units across bodies of water. When choosing a map in the Custom Game mode, you can configure different options, including what factions will be enemies and/or allies.
One of the things I really like about Warcraft III is the visual presentation. It’s bold, colorful, and features some neat details. The weather effects along with the animals and creatures roaming around help breathe life into the maps. When buildings take enough damage they catch fire, blood will be spilled during battles, and you can see the skeletons of dead units. Looking at it now, you can definitely see the game is dated. Character models are blocky and jaggies are noticeable. There’s no anti-aliasing in-game but you can force it through your video card’s control panel. When characters interact, you’ll see their faces on the HUD and because their mouth movements don’t really sync up with what they’re saying it just looks like they’re eating something and I find it amusing. The audio work in Warcraft III is excellent. From the soundtrack to the sounds of units chopping wood, it all sounds great. The soundtrack is filled with orchestral tunes that perfectly fit the theme and action. It contains a lot of what I’ll call adventurous-sounding stuff. Units will grunt and shout, heroes will frequently spout lines, and you’ll hear a lot of clangs, bangs, and screams of agony during battles. On the technical side, I encountered no issues.
If I have any complaints with this game, it’s that the HUD is a little too big for my liking and you can’t zoom the camera out far enough. But I easily got passed these issues and really enjoyed my time with Warcraft III. The blending of real-time strategy and role playing elements really make this feel like a unique experience. In my opinion, it does feel more like an RTS game than an RPG, but that combination adds nice a twist to the genre. It’s a shame that Reforged has basically consumed the Classic version. It wouldn’t be so bad if Blizzard hadn’t fucked it up the way they did. But even if they didn’t, they should still let players access the classic games if they already own them. Because now if you want to play the true classic game, you have to go through a lot of extra steps and even more if you want play online. Regardless, I would say it’s worth the effort. Despite the strong multiplayer component, Warcraft III does offer a lot of content for solo play. Furthermore, there’s plenty of mods out there.
I would absolutely recommend Warcraft III to any fans of the RTS genre. It’s got a pretty good story, unique gameplay, and a lot of depth. The gameplay still holds up and whether you’re in it for the solo experience, multiplayer, or mods, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy the game. Definitely check it out.