Review by neothe0ne

"Not all that glitters is gold, but chaos is a good term for this"

Pros:
The Hero system
Good stories in campaigns
Can create units, spells, items, the works
Mod-friendly
Totally 3D, including a semi-controllable camera

Cons:
Normal games aren't fun or balanced
World Editor is the buggiest piece of **** I've ever seen
Not enough UMS/custom games because WorldEdit is so hard to use
JASS trigger system is memory leak galore, whether you admit it or not
Editing terrain height is hell on earth
Load times take ages.. and what is it loading?
Very slow-paced game
More luck than skill

WarCraft III is Blizzard's newest addition to their top-notch Real Time Strategy collection. It has a lot to add to the community: a very powerful World Editor, very deep and long campaigns, a 3D engine, and clan-friendly Battle.net. But.. you knew the "but" was coming, right? There's always a "but." Blizzard, I'm dissapointed in you. Better to stay old and true than to introduce new and buggy, and this is more buggy than new, too. The Reign of Chaos has begun.

There are four races in WarCraft III, and two campaigns for each. The stories are all very well thought out, are deep and epic, and all lead to the same conclusion. The Orcs aren't doing well, and Thrall will, hopefully, lead his people to glory. The Night Elves aren't doing that well either, since they've got some forest fires and possessed sorcerors. The Undead are coming to take over the world, ect. The real center of the WarCraft III story, however, is the Human campaign. Here, you will meet Arthas, the center of the action. He is the heir to the throne of Lordaeron, and you will witness his slow corruption and eventual murder of his father and conversion to Undead Death Knight. Yes, I know I made the story sound lame and stupid there, but the story really isn't like that.. well, it is. There's a lot of corruption and betrayal themed throughout the campaigns, and this IS the Reign of Chaos, where "peace" doesn't exist. You are immersed in the world of WarCraft because of the deep stories, and of course the cinematic cutscenes and sweet videos.

The graphics of WarCraft III are pretty good. They look and feel cartoonish and unrealistic, yet keep a medieval look even though some stuff is high-tech, such as Marines and "flying machines." There's lighting, shadows, all kinds of 3D effects. The textures are detailed, the units look right, and animations such as water effects look right. The problem with the graphics is directly tied into gameplay, and we'll get into that later. You don't need all that great of a computer to play WarCraft III in its full potential, but its full potential isn't much different from its minimum requirements. The pictures in WarCraft III are terrible, though. Remember those cool backgrounds in StarCraft, of the Hydralisk and the beautiful planets? They're gone, replaced by the overhyped and overrated Japanese anime-style sketches. This is the first sign that something is seriously wrong here.

The music of WarCraft III is okay. The only distinct and good songs are those for the Humans, since the Orc, Undead, and Night Elf themes are basically sound effects that sound like a bunch of Stomp-wannabes. The sound effects are very good. The voices sound like what you would imagine, and they have a few funny lines when you poke them a lot. I wish this was WarCraft in space, because the lines aren't as funny or entertaining as those from StarCraft. Fantasy and medieval folks obviously don't have as much to say as punk soldiers and proud aliens... The sound effects of swords, arrows, blizzards, and explosions all fit nicely into the game. It may just be my taste, but I think the sound effects stand out over the background music too much. It's not like StarCraft, where the sounds seem to mingle together and balance, but you may be better off with the sound effects being in front. Besides for the Human themes and maybe one or two other race themes, the background music IS practically sound effects.

And now, the ultimate killer of WarCraft III, the area of the game where Blizzard can try as hard as they want, and only make things worse. The gameplay. WarCraft III is a slow-paced game, where it takes a long time to build and upgrade, and relies more on luck than number of units or even skill. Every unit in the game has a range of damage they can do, and some can vary by 2 hit points or hundreds. The damage variety is a good addition for custom games, but in single-player games, it shifts winning towards the luck side and away from skill, and it only gets worse. WarCraft III features a huge bunch of spells, and for the most part, whoever uses hotkeys and clicks fastest wins the battle. Another feature in a lot of spells is auto-cast. This will automatically cast the spell when some checks of the AI prove true or whatever, which is a good and bad thing. Again, it destroys skill and micro-management, and it also doesn't work as well as you'd want it to. The spells and abilities of WarCraft III destroy any faint shadow of balance, and with every new change and addition, it only mixes the pot a bit more. With 15 patches for the original and 9 patches out for the expansion, it's amazing that Blizzard can't get its act together.

And that leads us to another major killer of WarCraft III. In other RTS games, like StarCraft, the advanced units you get later in the game pawn and destroy weak starting units. In WarCraft III, your basic fighter has as much a chance as winning as one of those oh-so-good advanced units. Factors that matter in here include move speed, attack range, cooldown rate, and of course, the build cost. All these numbers don't go together, and don't have any balance between them. The other deciding factor is the type of attack your unit has and the type of armor it has. Different attacks have different advantages and disadvantages over certain types of armors, and this can multiply your attack thrice as much as it should do or cut it down so much that it does nothing at all. There are ground units, flying units, and water units like ships. Micro-management of units is almost worthless in this game, since you only need to control a group with a hero or two, and tell the hero to cast a spell while the others hack away. WarCraft III, in all respects, has failed as a RTS for normal games. What can the modding community do to fix the problem?

Surprisingly, not much. Blizzard keeps saying that WarCraft III was made to be mod-friendly, and comparing it to StarCraft and looking at the number of "professional" campaigns that launched almost immediately makes their claim seem to be true. The problems with WarCraft III don't lie in gameplay alone, though. The biggest highlight of WarCraft III was supposed to be the World Editor, but Blizzard already knew it was doomed to fail. Why? Because from day one, Blizzard never officially supported the editor. And if I was in Blizzard's position, I wouldn't support it, either. World Editor features the terrain, units, and doodad layers, like in StarCraft Campaign Editor. Locations are more useful and easier to manage in their new form, "regions," and you can still modify tech trees, unit availability, triggers, map information, plus the new features of editing/creating items, spells, commands, and custom scripts. With so much potential, what could go wrong? Everything.

One of the first problems you will encounter in World Editor as a beginner is the terrain. There are two kinds of cliffs. Generally, one is dirt and the other is grass. These cliff types can NOT be placed next to each other or you'll be thrown into the wonderful world of hell on earth. You'll have terrain so corrupted and messed up that it's impossible to fix, and you'll have to start your map all over. If you go beyond cliff levels and discover the height system, you're in for an even bigger treatment to chaos. Using raise/lower height and using cliff levels in the same place will seriously corrupt your terrain, also making it impossible to fix, and if water is involved, Lord have mercy on you. If you stay with a simple and "noobish" approach to your terrain, you'll be fine, and you can start working on the real content of your map.

But, you'll discover another hiccup in the path to creation, and that's the Trigger Editor. WarCraft III uses a system known as JASS, which is raw code full of calls and functions that require extensive knowledge to master. Fortunately, Blizzard has included a GUI, which makes things easier... or does it? First, the GUI isn't even a shadow of what JASS is capable of. Second, even if you do do a good job at triggering in GUI, you'll most likely have so many memory leaks in your map that it'll take more than five minutes to exit a long game. There are functions built into JASS that allow you to destroy objects that no longer get used, and thus free the memory and prevent the leaks, but these are hard to master and take much more time than most people would care to spend. Now, JASS sounds like a powerful tool for some professionals, right? Wrong. The Triggers have to be either fully GUI or fully JASS (custom text). The GUI can insert a action for CUstom Script, but unnecessary and cluttered JASS is the result in execution. If you convert your GUI triggers to JASS, you can't convert them back, either. JASS is such a complicated system that only one-way conversion is possible, and directly converting from GUI to JASS leaves the clutter there. Cleaning up these JASS triggers isn't too hard once you understand, and the editor always informs you when you try to save if something is wrong with your functions and calls and all. And that goes to the other issue.. loading and saving maps.

When you make a new map, it can take a long time until the editor paths out the map and lets you start working. Imagine how long it takes to load a map that's got many triggers, many units and doodads, and many imported models and files. Yeah, quite a long time. And when you're saving your map, be sure to save as a new copy. You never know what can be corrupted with each additional save, so it would be smart to save as a different file every time. Terrain is the major issue here, of course, and terrain editing is most common thing that can sink your map.

That's not to say that World Editor is impossible, though. There are many impressive maps floating around Battle.net, waiting to be discovered, but in the meantime, they are outnumbered and shadowed by below-mediocre maps that plague Battle.net like no other. Triggering spells can be total sweetness to view, but the worth of doing that is reflected in the number of quality maps for WarCraft III. Even the number of quality campaigns for WarCraft III is far fewer than the number for StarCraft, and StarCraft was never meant to be modded! The deciding factor for replay value in a RTS is the map maker, but I'd happily kiss this map maker good-bye. There is little replay value in a game where everything is the same old slow and boring, with little or no innovation in maps or game styles because it's too hard and impractical to do.

Blizzard Entertainment has failed us. I would really have liked to give this game a higher rating, but I just can't. There isn't enough replay value or replay capability in this game to justify the money or time. That Frozen Throne may have sparkled and glittered at first, but the sparkle is fading and the throne will soon be clean for a new reign. Sooner or later, someone else is going to take over as king of RTS, and the only candidate seems to be Electronic Arts. What is the world coming to?


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 01/18/05, Updated 01/18/05


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