Review by doctari

"A slight disappointment"

Introduction

For a long time it seemed that Blizzard entertainment could do no wrong, just about everything they touched turned into solid gold. I loved the first Diablo and Warcraft II, and Starcraft is still my favorite RTS of all time. I had high hopes for the endlessly delayed Warcraft III, but in the end I have to say that those hopes were not met. ''Warcraft III'' certainly isn't terrible, but it pales in comparison to Starcraft and many other RTS games.

Gameplay: 7

The gameplay in Warcraft is a blend between a traditional RTS and a roleplaying game, but instead of being the ''best of both worlds'' it ends up being a rather shallow game that's neither a very good RTS nor a very good RPG.

The potential certainly was there though: we get four wildly different sides with lots of (in theory) interesting units to play around with, heroes that gain levels and special powers etc. In practice, though, it doesn't go very deep. Due to the large number of melee units, fights tend to end in chaotic free-for-all brawls where it's very hard to keep track of what's going on, let alone use special abilities. Sure, if you micromanage, you can pull of some neat tricks, but these hardly ever have the impact of, say, using an EMP burst or Psionic Storm as in Starcraft. On the whole, Warcraft III seems to reward brute force over tactics, which in my book makes it a pretty crappy RTS.

I also really don't like the emphasis on fewer units. Supposedly, this was done to prevent ''rushing'' tactics, but in the end I think they made rushing even easier, since heroes and some other units are so strong that they can easily cut through just about everything without backup. Sure, having mixed forces helps but it's not a necessity. Also, air units (except for the really powerful ones) seem to be nearly useless and there are no naval units at all.

The game includes some RPG elements, but they add very little. The advancement of your hero is restricted in the campaign mode, and boils down to simply selecting a single skill each level. Since you can gain ten levels and there are exactly ten possible things to upgrade, your hero will end up with every possible skill anyway, so there's no room to customize your character other than by means of some items. There are also usually some small side quests in each mission, but these are without exception very simple ''fetch'' quests.

In my opinion, the mission design is this game's saving grace. While about half of the missions are still standard ''build base and kill everything'' affairs, there are lots of interesting quests that require you to survive for a certain amount of time, collect something before the enemy does, coordinate your attacks with an ally etc. These are all very welcome and prevent the game from falling flat on its face, even though some parts like the undead campaign are still quite boring.

It's also a shame that in most missions little strategic planning is required: gold is always available in abundance (you reach the unit cap long before you're out of gold), and you usually don't have to move from mine to mine like in Warcraft II and Starcraft.

Regarding the difficulty, it's a shame that the default setting makes things a bit too easy, while the ''Hard'' setting is really punishing. Some sort of middle ground would have been appreciated.

On the plus side, the game plays really smoothly and the interface is great. You can queue orders, set rally points, and use hot keys for just about everything. The friendly unit AI is also good in general: units will engage enemies on their own instead of standing motionless while being picked off from a distance, prioritize threats correctly etc. I also really liked being able to allow units to auto-cast certain spells.

Story: 6

Blizzard tried really hard to come up with a truly complex story, but for me it just didn't work. There are so many characters and plot lines to keep track of that it just becomes confusing. I also think that most of the dialog and twists are quite cheesy, and there are some many cut scenes and interludes that it seriously slows down the gameplay. Still, it's nice that they made the effort.

Graphics/Sound : 8 (Graphics: 7, Sound: 9)

Like with all other Blizzard games, the sound is superb. Unit acknowledgements are funny as ever, the voice acting is good (although the dialog is cheesy), and the sound effects and music are very well done.

Graphically, Warcraft III looks OK. The visuals are cartoonish and colorful, which suits the game well. The animations are great and really give the units personality. On the down side, the polygon count of most characters is pretty low, and the graphics really don't hold up in all the close-up cutscenes. Oh well, at least the game runs smoothly even with lots of units and spells on screen.

Value/Longevity: 8

Warcraft III's campaign mode is pretty lengthy and should take at least 25 hours to complete on normal difficulty, and after that you can always try again on ''Hard'' although it's doubtful whether the game is good enough to warrant a complete replay.

After you've completed the solo campaign, there's still the multiplayer, but I don't think it has the longevity of Starcraft or Red Alert 2. There's simply not enough depth here to make me addicted to the multiplayer, although it's still a nice diversion from time to time.

Overall, though, Warcraft III offers fairly good value.

Conclusion: 7

Warcraft III is not what it could and should have been, IMHO. The potential is there and the game's presentation and interface are superb, but the gameplay just doesn't hold up. To its credit, Blizzard came up with some really enjoyable missions, but ultimately most of them lack both strategic and tactical depth. The RPG elements could have been a nice touch, but they're too shallow to really make a difference.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/05/03


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