Warcraft III - Hands On

We take a hands-on look at Warcraft III - Blizzard's third installment of the Warcraft series and their first 3D game.

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This morning we hit the show floor and met up with Blizzard producer Rob Pardo, who showed us the current build of Warcraft III. According to Pardo, the game is only about 30% complete; much of the game's magic spell system hasn't yet been implemented, and two of the game's five playable sides, the Burning Legion and the fifth, as-yet-unannounced faction, are still in production and weren't ready to view. Despite the game's relatively unfinished state, and the fact that Warcraft III will in fact be Blizzard's very first fully-3D game, it already looks excellent.

Each of the game's units are highly detailed and animated well, especially the game's heroes - if you've been browsing the screenshots, you'll be able to tell which units are heroes and which are standard troops by virtue of the fact that all heroes wield glowing weapons. The current build had three tilesets available: the standard grassland set, a desert set, and a wintry, snowy set. Each tileset is fairly well detailed; for instance, the winter set has volumetric fog. In addition, each tileset will have a number of different details, including campfires that flare up when units pass them, and Warcraft II's completely gratuitous animals: seals (in the winter tileset) and sheep (in the grassland tileset); the desert tileset has boars. The animals don't seem to serve any particularly useful purpose (much like Warcraft II), but they can be senselessly slaughtered by your units (much like Warcraft II).

Pardo showed use three different scenarios across each different tileset, and played as both the Orc Horde and the Alliance. We got a look at several of the hero types, including the orc Blademaster and the human Paladin, as well as several of the unit types. According to Pardo, Warcraft III will shift its emphasis from having hordes of generic units onscreen to having fewer units with individual abilities, so that battles will be less about attrition and enormous, unruly armies and more focused on tactics. As an example, Pardo cited the resource-gathering activity of the orc peons; as with the gas mines of Starcraft, your harvesting units will only be allowed into mines one unit at a time.

In addition, Pardo cited the special abilities of several of the different units. Orc grunts, the standard foot soldier of the Orc Horde, might otherwise be unremarkable foot soldiers were it not for their ability to go berserk - to inflict extra melee damage in combat, but also take extra damage. Pardo also demonstrated a battle against the Scourge - specifically, against a small group of ghouls, the low-level infantry of the undead faction. As with the orc grunts, the undead ghouls aren't simple infantry; they also possess the ability to inflict disease upon their enemies. A ghoul's melee attack has a random chance of inflicting disease on its target; a diseased unit may not receive healing, and in addition, has its defenses lowered against further attacks from undead units.

Pardo also briefly discussed the technology trees of the different factions; though both orcs and humans will mine gold to fund their armies, they'll use their resources in different ways. The undead Scourge will instead draw upon the magic power of the Blight - an evil aura that radiates from their structures and corrupts the land around it.

Warcraft III is currently scheduled for release at the end of the year. For more information, be sure to consult GameSpot's Warcraft III compendium.

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