Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Blizzard has made its reputation from developing record selling games
that focus on quality, not quantity. Following in the success of Starcraft
and Warcraft 1/2, the Californian based developer has decided to take its
position in RTS gaming up a notch with features such as 3D graphics and
the introduction of 4 unique races.
Blizzard has always managed to build hype of its upcoming releases
through its vast multiplayer community as well as press participation with
many teasers and small amounts of information being released periodically.
Warcraft III has been no exception - the game has been mentioned all over
the net along with displays and posters showing in stores everywhere. The
question, of whether it lives up to the hype seems to have been answered
by the gamers, showing record breaking sales of the game already.
The RTS genre has pretty much hit a standstill in terms of innovation,
with the usual improvements being that of superior graphics, or extra variation
in units and weapons. The idea behind RTS games has always been the same
– that is build a base, get men, and kill the other guy.
Warcraft 3 aims
to add to this with its new “RPS – role playing strategy” focus. In order
to achieve this blend of RTS with RPG, several changes to typical RTS gaming
have been made. Most notable is the introduction of “heroes” who can advance
in skill by gaining experience - A typical RPG characteristic. These heroes
stay with the player through multiple missions, and can level up, gaining
access to different and more powerful spells, as well as the usual mana,
health and damage increases. In addition an inventory is available, to
store potions, scrolls and items which can be used to boost attacks or
grant special abilitites.
Blizzard has also made further implementations, both positive and negative.
Some, such as the “Idle Peasant” button (guess what it does?) and auto
repairing/spell casting (healing, for example) are the smartest things
I’ve seen a developer do for an RTS game and I wonder why they haven’t
been seen earlier.
Others such as “upkeep” - a tax on gold harvested based on the number
of units in your army (30% upkeep if your army goes over 40, 70% over 70)
is extremely annoying and can slow down the mid/late game significantly.
It is probably designed to discourage rushing, and encourage expansion,
but the size of the upkeep is still particularly annoying. Another feature
is the 90 food limit – considering some units can take up to 7 food, this
has been another extremely irritating idea and just forces players to have
to resort to killing friendly units so that more advanced ones can be built.
To its credit through, the small food limit along an abundance of spell caster units available
can force an increase in diversity in the game so that it is not possible
for a player to mass a single unit and overwhelm the enemy. Still, a slightly
higher limit would have been more desirable.
A new feature in Warcraft 3 from its predecessors but not new to RTS
games is that of damage and armor types – different weapons and armor deal
or absorb different amounts of damage. For example fortified armor will
take less damage from normal weaponry, but greater damage from siege attacks.
Blizzards attempt to create this hybrid has brought about both the benefits
and flaws of both genres. The introduction of Heroes does diversify the
gameplay and creates a change to the RTS scene. However, attempts to further
increase the RPG influence such as the lower unit cap and upkeep tax fall
short of their intended goal, as all they do is create a thorn in the side
of players. There is simply too much micromanagement as an RTS game for
the RPG influences to be able to bypass. Additionally, the usage of the
heroes can have an impact of the balance of a game but the scope of their
abilities is still fairly limited with the bonus coming mainly from having
extra damage and health.
One feature of Blizzard games that has always come through strongly
is the storyline. Blizzard tends to build games around a storyline, rather
than build a game and slap together a story for the game to work with.
Unfortunately with the introduction of 4 unique races and through the fact
that RTS games are always designed with campaigns to play through each
race fully, the storyline in Warcraft 3 shows a complete lack of inspiration
by midway through the second campaign. Without giving too much away, expect
a lot of people to start killing each other and have lots of betrayal just
to give the storyline a direction to head.
Graphics is one aspect of a game that will always get mentioned, and
Blizzard does not disappoint in this area. Although the ability of the
engine is somewhat limited – no zoom or vertical panning, and only some
rotation, the rendering of the units and portraits is superb. The system
requirements are relatively low and even users with 3-year-old cards can
play the game smoothly (my experience with this was testing the game with
a TNT2 16M card as well as a 64M Geforce2 Pro). The game supports resolutions
from as low as 640x480x16 all the way up to 1600x1200x32, with customizable
details on texture quality etc.
The cutscenes are excellent, and allows the game to follow a flowing
story as the game follows from the players control into the in game cutscenes.
Spell and attack animations look great, as does the landscape with water
and transparency effects.
The sound effects – in particular the unit speeches are entertaining
and funny, in line with Blizzards past history. For those who are not familiar,
try clicking any unit several times, and listen to what they have to say
after the 3rd or 4th response. A couple of lines that I believe the ESRB
probably missed were ones such as “Stop touching my ‘bear’ ass” and “I
said a bow string, not a G string”.
The actual gameplay is amazingly well balanced, to be able to have 4
unique races with different units, attacking strengths, and even harvesting
methods. In addition to the Orcs and Humans, the two new races that have
been introduced are the Night Elves and the Undead, along with a lot of
other NPC units such as centaurs and murlocks. For those new to the Warcraft
series, the manual provides ample background, as well as a playable prologue
of the game in which unit and building controls and techniques are provided.
The links from Starcraft and Diablo are clearly visible, for example
the spell similarities to Diablo 2 (raise dead etc) as well as “Passive
Auras” which give bonuses to all friendly units. The undead is also clearly
a take off the Zerg, with the “Blight” equal to the creep from Starcraft.
The undead are particularly repulsive at times, for example one unit
can regenerate by eating a fallen corpse, while their siege unit launches
corpses that explode into bone and blood fragments when a target is hit.
Blizzard seems to have decided to ignore Naval units in WC3, focusing
mainly on land, with some air units. The only resources are gold and lumber,
a further simplification to cater for the RPS genre.
In the multiplayer scene, Blizzard has made several advances in its
Battle.net interface. It is possible to have pre-arranged partners for
team games, where your scores are shared and listed as a team. Also,
the server is able to select a game based on your directions, such choosing
the option for a 2v2 on any selected maps and the server will match you
up with others in a game. This is done instead of having to view a list
of open games and join one individually. Blizzards move to have individual
zones for servers in which characters are not linked between each has served
to improve server stability and eliminate notorious net splits. I don’t
have much personal experience in multiplayer, but I am told that it is
quite well balanced, and 2v2 games are quite enjoyable J
Overall Blizzard has managed keep up it’s reputation with Warcraft 3,
while not being spectacular is still of a very high standard that we have
come to expect from the company in recent years. With further support from
the development team Warcraft 3 will grow and thrive in the online community
as a leading multiplayer game.
Final score: 90%
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