Review by Grenadier
"The next RTS masterpiece from the makers of Starcraft."
I'm sure we all remember the wonderful days of Starcraft, one of the most popular multiplayer games ever (second to Counter-strike). Starcraft was a massive improvement upon Warcraft II, which featured two races which were, in fact, complete copies of each other. Warcraft III takes all of those things that made Starcraft so much better and multiplies them a hundredfold. The end result is a masterpiece of an RTS, which is likely to remain famous even years after its release.
WCIII's control interface isn't very different from Starcraft. We still have that old-fashioned control card with the commands you can give your units (Attack, Move, Patrol, Hold Ground, and other abilities), and we can still build buildings, send out forces to attack, defend our own bases--put simply, the RTS control interface is still there in all its glory. However, everything else is so much better. We now have four races, one more than SC's three. And like SC, these races each have their own advantages and disadvantages over each other. For example, the familiar humans have to carry their harvested gold back to their gathering point, but the Undead can just warp it back home right from their gold mine. The downside is, the Undead are limited to erecting their buildings on Blight, a system similar to the Zerg Creep in Starcraft. Units are now completely different and much improved over the old, identical-between-races units of WCII. While the Orcs have foot soldiers like Grunts that can attack any land unit and steal resources from buildings, the Night Elves have Archers that can attack any visible unit, even flying ones. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. It's changes like this that let a player truly specialize in the usage of each unique race in order to use it to the fullest extent.
And I'm sure we've all heard about the Heroes that level up like RPG characters that can be used to strengthen armies to a great degree. Don't worry, they're there. In a custom or multiplayer game, you can have three heroes active at a time, and each has his/her own abilities that can be gained over time. Now, don't expect the characters to be all that customizable like in a fully-fledged RPG; the only thing you can customize is what abilities the Hero learns. Each level up (to a max level of 10) gives the Hero an ability point which can be used to learn a new skill or power up an existing one.
Like in Starcraft, your enjoyment of the game isn't limited to the story-driven single player campaign. For multiplayer, WCIII supports LAN and Blizzard's old Battle.net service that any SC/BW player should remember well. And you're not limited to 8 players per game; WCIII supports up to 12. Imagine a twelve player game with four three-player teams. Not to mention the fact that WCIII's WorldEdit program can be used to make maps with triggers, just like in SC, for maps with unique features and specialized types of games (like the famous Enigma Magic map of SC).
The only strike against WCIII that I can think of--and I'm sure people will beg to differ here--is how much attention you have to pay to the the battles, mainly the spellcasters. Since you're usually controlling Heroes who require attention to cast spells, you'll need some sort
Suffice to say, WCIII makes the same leap in gameplay that SC made so many years ago. I never thought it would be possible for this leap to be made in the RTS genre once more. And chances are, I'll be surprised once more when the next masterpiece is rolled out of Blizzard's factory.
OVERALL GAMEPLAY RATING: 10/10
Remember those cute little sprites that displayed all the action in SC and WCII? WCIII doesn't use sprites. It uses full 3D for everything, making it a much more advanced graphics engine than SC. For some reason, I noticed little difference in graphical quality on high detail from low detail, even on my nVIDIA TNT2 card. The spells look beautiful, and the face pictures for every unit is fully animated and very detailed--even the nonhumanoid units, like the Orc Tauren or the Undead Crypt Fiends. All in all, excellent graphics for a 3D RTS. Not perfect, of course, but still great. Certainly a wonderful improvement over sprites for everything.
OVERALL GRAPHICS RATING: 8/10
The most notable of WCIII's sounds are its superb voice overs. Class distinctions are made in character accents in the human race; Footmen and Peasants have low class Cockney accents while higher units like Knights speak like nobles. Character emotions are clear in the story scenes, and everyone reaches the right level of dramaticity.
The music isn't much of an improvement over SC, but it's not really important. At least it sets the setting for each unique race well.
OVERALL SOUND RATING: 7/10
WCIII's story is the logical extension of the one in WCII, but this time, it's actually narrated through its characters like in SC (Blizzard's really learned a lot from SC). I will, however, readily admit that the story isn't really all that interesting until the end of the first campaign. At that point, it becomes a lot more active and enticing, at the same rate that the gameplay action does.
The story opens from the point of view of Arthas, the young prince of Lordaeron, trained as a paladin. With the help of Uther the Lightbringer, he is sent to eliminate a strange plague turning the people of Lordaeron into zombies. And yet, he ignores the warning of a mysterious prophet, telling him to bring his people to a faraway continent and leave Lordaeron behind to avoid the coming of a great scourge upon the land. The story follows him all the way into a northern arctic wasteland, where he finds the great enchanted sword Frostmourne.
WCIII's story isn't bad, even though it doesn't reach the caliber of Final Fantasy. While it isn't really worth playing through several times, it's certainly much better than WCII.
OVERALL STORY RATING: 8/10
Well, as I said, WCIII has the same multiplayer capabilities of SC (besides Modem and IPX, since I'm sure no one ever used them anyway). It has support for the same Battle.net which we all know and love, the same Battle.net that we would play on hours while our parents screamed at us to get some work done. The nostalgia of it is powerful, but nothing unbearable. Add it to the campaign, and you can see that you MUST GET THIS GAME. NOW.
OVERALL REPLAY VALUE RATING: 9/10
REPLAY VALUE: 9/10
FINAL SCORE: 10/10
Comment: Take everything that made Warcraft II famous, fix it up with everything Blizzard did right in Starcraft/Brood War, and you get Warcraft III. It couldn't have been more worth the wait. Once again, Blizzard flexes its game design genius and throws it into a whole new realm of quality and excitement. Well done on this masterpiece, Blizzard. We won't forget it, and we'll eagerly await the next Warcraft or Starcraft game.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 07/26/02, Updated 07/26/02
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