Review by leettari

"Very good strategy game, but some things are missing.."

Very hush-hush

The Frozen Throne, the long-awaited expansion pack for Blizzard’s critically acclaimed Warcraft III, has finally begun in earnest. One of the greatest aspects of the original Warcraft III was the richly textured, multi-dimensional campaign, which allowed players to experience the story from the distinct perspectives of each of the four races. Although Blizzard remains hush-hush about the specifics of the new campaign, its been rumored that we’ll finally be able to delve into the depths of Illidan Stormrage’s character along with bringing Arthas’ tragic story to a close. With all that out of the way, I’m sure most of you are most interested in reading about the new units, skills, spells, and gameplay revisions that Blizzard is bringing to the table. As the Beta stands at this particular moment, Blizzard has radically redefined the fundamental gameplay elements of Warcraft III, a drastic deviation from Blizzard’s typical expansion pack philosophy of augmentation, not revision.

Unearthing New Layers

Unsurprisingly enough, Blizzard has finally added a ‘magic’ type damage to the former trio of normal, piercing, and siege. This change has two considerable ramifications. Firstly, units with spell immunity are immune to magic-type attacks. Secondly, magic deals double damage versus medium armor. Building construction times, for the most part, have been notably decreased. Additionally, the gold costs of all buildings and units have been decreased by approximately 15%. Certain units now have an ability to turn themselves or another unit ethereal by casting a spell, rendering them immune to all but magic attacks. When a unit is in ethereal form, they are unable to attack, but they are still able to cast spells. And finally, creeps now give considerably lower gold rewards. Kill a group of level 1 gnolls and you can expect to only receive 7 gold or so per head, while top-level creeps may drop around 60 gold. Though there are dozens of other minor revisions, these are the most structurally significant. Blizzard will be including various neutral heroes, but the only one available for testing at this time was the Dark Ranger, who was as thoroughly unremarkable as your typical spell-casting mercenary.

It’s also worth noting that Blizzard has done a fantastic job with the new units with respect to graphics and voice-acting. These new units are gorgeously colored and animated. Perhaps most noteworthy of these is the Human Dragon Hawk, almost pterodactyl-like in bearing and menace, as well as the rippling shades of the Phoenix. The Blood Elven Spell Breakers are an exotic substitute for the plain-vanilla Footmen and have more than a passing resemblance to the Elven warriors present at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. The voice acting for the new units is arguably superior in comparison to the original units, as the Blood Mage radiates a deep, inbred arrogance, while the Crypt Lord sounds like someone you’d rather not run into at night. Those of you eagerly anticipating the Pandaren Brewmaster will be in for a real treat. His voice puts most anime dubs to shame, and his animation looks like something that could’ve come right out of Samurai Shodown. There are still some rough spots in the new art, however. A few of the unit portraits (the Dark Ranger and the Dragon Hawk, particularly) as well as the icons (such as unarmored) look either crude or humdrum and could benefit from some brush-up.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/03/03, Updated 07/03/03

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