Review by Gruel

"Did you see the orc on the cover, does he look ticked or what?"

It took seven long years, but the third part of the popular Real Time Strategy (RTS) series is here! Warcraft III is made by the fine folks at Blizzard, who happened to be the same people to bring us other popular PC titles such as the Starcraft & Diablo line up of games. Warcraft has always dominated on the PC, thanks to its easy Mouse & Keyboard control scheme, and the massively fun multi player battles.

The first game came out way back 1994, and stunned the world as being the game to popularize the Real Time Strategy genre. The second game was released a year later in 1995, along with an expansion set the same year. Both games won many game of the year titles from mainstream publications such as PC Gamer. Blizzard then launched the second title on the Saturn & PSone consoles in 1996. It has been the only part of the series to be on consoles thus far. Blizzard then re-released the game in 1999. It combined the original & expansion games on one disc, and included Blizzard’s popular online playing service, battle.net (It wasn’t out yet when the game was first released in 1995).

Blizzard first announced the third installment in 1999, and it has been in development for a very long time. Before the game’s release date, Blizzard announced that they’re shipping several million copies to keep the game in supply. Let’s see if the game can live up to the hype.

In the previous games, the story has always been circled around the battle between noble Humans, and the ferocious Orcs, in the medieval land of Azeroth. In the aftermath of the second game, the humans wound up victorious, and have locked up most of the orcs as prisoners. Some Orcs escaped and formed new clans in hopes of starting a new war. The Night Elves race were long time allies with the Humans, but have separated themselves from them so they can be on their own. In the middle of all the chaos, new terror is now amidst because a new race has entered the fray. The undead arrived from the skies, and are threatening the existence of the very planet. Now the Humans, Orcs, and Night Elves must work together to save their own lives!

The Warcraft series is a real time strategy game. You start off with a main center of operations, and some workers. By having the workers gather gold and lumber, you can construct more building which can be used to produce new units, or for upgrade techniques. Once you assemble an army, you explore the land. Once you find the location of your foe, all you have to do is destroy all there buildings to make them lose! Sounds easy? Think again.

Each race has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. For example, certain Night Elves units can be invisible at night time. This makes perfect timing for exploring the map and gathering new information from the terrain. The Undead have the ability to raise fallen corpses into skeleton warriors. Orcs can steal your resources as they attack your base. Each race has their own specific ways of constructing buildings, training units, and harvesting resources. The diversity between all four races is something other developers should take note of!

Warcraft III introduces many new features into the series, for the first time. The most popular new feature is the addition of heroes to the game. Each race has three different heroes, one usually favors in attacking, the other in spell casting, and the third is average in all categories. The heroes gain experience points by vanquishing units. Once they gain a level, they become more powerful, and can learn new spells! Heroes can also collect items they find from vanquishing other foes such as healing & mana potions. If a hero perishes during a game, they can be resurrected with their same stats as before. The whole hero system sounds a lot like the way you play the Blizzard’s Diablo line of games, but you just have to try it out and see that it’s a whole new experience!

Another new feature in Warcraft III is the addition of neutral units and buildings. Neutral units can be anything from the sheep that wander the land, or the creatures that protect gold mines for future expansion bases. These creatures are perfect ways for heroes to gain experience points. Neutral Buildings come in a couple forms. One is a mercenary shop where you can hire special units to come join your side of the battle. These units can be anything from Ogres to Trolls. At the other shop, heroes can buy items to aid them later on.

There are also new elements in the main game engine, that weren’t used in the previous games. One element is the passage of day into night, and vice versa. As I mentioned above, certain races have specific strengths during times of day. This adds strategy that I haven’t seen in other RTS games. Another new feature is the upkeep system. This system taxes your income once you produce a certain amount of units. The more units you make, the less money you bring in. Blizzard says this is to help emphasize more on strategy, than using the massive rush tactics of old. After my first couple of hours of play, I found there theory to be right!

Blizzard introduced us to its brand new 3D graphics engine with this game. I have to admit, everything looks eons better when you compare it to the sprites from the last game. The buildings, units, and environments have more detail than before! You’ll notice when you move away from certain objects, that they’ll decrease in size until they get off screen. I love that touch! Did I mention how great the animation is in this game? I swear, Blizzard went all out in this area. The animations for attacks, spells, and buildings are the best I’ve seen out of any RTS game ever! There is one thing to nitpick about in the visuals department, and that is the loading times. They are a bit long, about a good 20 to 30 seconds for each game.

If you want the game to run at top speed at all times, you better have a good enough system for it. Of all of Blizzard’s PC games thus far, this one has the highest requirements. Blizzard recommends a 700 MHz processor, with a 32mb Video Card, and 256 ram to get this game to run at top speed in the highest settings. If you want to even run the game, you must have at least 400 MHz, and 128 ram. You might want to double check your system stats before you buy this game, or you’ll be forced to upgrade.

Blizzard always goes all out with the audio of their games. The soundtrack consists of tunes that fit the tone of game play right on the notch. Most of them have that classic war themed feeling to it, and makes you feel that you are right in the Middle Ages yourself. As a matter of fact, the Collector’s Edition of Warcraft III came with a soundtrack of all the tunes in the game. So you can listen to them whenever you want.

Whenever you click on a unit, you hear a voice of acknowledgment from them. Ever since the first Warcraft, if you happened to click on a unit several times in a row, they’ll respond with a joke or threat. The tradition carries on in this game! You’ll be going crazy over the stuff they’ll say, which ranges from Peasants whining about everyday life, to Yoda impersonations.

The campaigns in the game are awesome to play through. Unlike previous Blizzard titles, you have to play through these games in a specific order. However, there’s an optional two mission, prologue to complete. It teaches you how to control the game, and all about the new features introduced in the Warcraft series. Each main campaign is several missions long, and can take hours upon end to complete each one. If you don’t feel like going through campaigns, you can customize your own game by choosing a map, an amount of computer opponents to go against, and all the other little tidbits as well.

Blizzard included a Map Editor with the game. This enables you to make your own maps, or edit existing ones to your likings. If you know enough about triggers, you can create story based maps that you play in campaigns. You can login online, and share them with your friends. If you also look through the available units in the game, you’ll find a few surprising units from past Blizzard games that you can place to be hired as mercenaries. I won’t give any away, but I’ll just have to let you find them out.

Please tell me you didn’t get this game with your only intention to play it alone. Online play is one of the core elements of RTS games, especially with Warcraft. Now, up to twelve people can play online simultaneously! Blizzard included its popular online service, Battle.net, with the game. It’s completely free and easy to use. It keeps track of your stats for all games. It also posts league standings, and other tournament results. There is also a buddy list feature that is way easier to use than the one that was in Starcraft.

With Warcraft 3, Blizzard integrated a new feature into Battle.net that wasn’t seen in their previous games. It is the automated match making feature. Based on your stats, the game will find you an opponent who best matches up with your stats. This just isn’t for one-on-one games either. It can go for team games of two-on-two, three-on-three, you name it! It doesn’t take that long to find a match either. Usually you’ll find one within seconds. I believe the longest it took me to find a match was a good minute. If that automated match making doesn’t float your boat, then you can find a game the classic way by scrolling through a list.

If you don’t like the Battle.net service (shame on you!), than you have the option of finding games through LAN play. Blizzard use to include a dial-up feature so two people can play through modems. This was a favorite way for me to play with a friend before I got Internet access, or if I wanted to practice a game against a buddy, and not have it go on my record. It’s too bad Blizzard took out the option of Modem dial-up, but I’m assuming no one else takes that feature as serious as me.

RATINGS

Graphics: 9.0
Sound: 10
Game play: 9.3
Replay Value: 9.6

Overall: 9.4

Blizzard has done it again. Every game they release is a blockbuster! If you’ve been a fan of past Blizzard games or other RTS series such as Command & Conquer or Age of Empires, than I strongly recommend you go pick up Warcraft III right now. I recommend the Collector’s Edition. You get a lot of cool extras like a soundtrack CD, a cinematic DVD, and an artwork book.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/11/02, Updated 08/11/02


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