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Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos Review
It's just an outstanding game, filled with all the charm, all the detail, and all the lasting appeal that characterizes all of the finest games ever made.
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos needs little introduction, and neither does Blizzard, the company that created it. The worldwide July 3 release of Warcraft III, which shipped about 5 million copies in its first run, seems like a suitably momentous occasion, given that the game itself is both so highly anticipated and has been such a long time in the making. Considering that many have long since preordered the game and that the remaining copies are likely to fly off the shelves, giving a critique of Warcraft III almost seems like a moot point. It's like trying to convince someone whether or not to go see a movie like Star Wars: Episode II. Fortunately for those who intend to play it no matter what anyone says, they'll find their time with Warcraft III to be very well spent. Sure, Warcraft III isn't a revolutionary departure from the conventions of real-time strategy gaming. But it's as good of an offering in the genre as there's ever been, featuring a superb story, carefully refined gameplay, plenty of depth, the best online multiplayer mode in any real-time strategy game to date, and the excellent production values you'd expect from a Blizzard product. So if you're looking for some validation to go with your preorder, there you have it.
On the other hand, if you're looking to inform yourself about what's great and what's not quite as great about Warcraft III, read on. As the sequel to one of the undisputed classics of PC gaming, Warcraft III has some very big shoes to fill. The previous Warcraft game, together with Westwood Studios' Command & Conquer, popularized the real-time strategy genre and introduced a number of ideas that remain conventional to this day. And Starcraft, the follow-up to Warcraft II, was an even more phenomenal success. Talk about staying power: Though Starcraft was released back in 1998, a lot of people still play it. Can Warcraft III truly live up to this heritage? Yes. It has everything that made both Starcraft and Warcraft II before it the blockbuster hits that they quickly became. Warcraft III has lots of great characters, and its fantasy-themed world has tons of personality. It's got fine-tuned, well-balanced gameplay, it's got a quick pace, it's got some new gameplay twists that should surprise even the most hard-core real-time strategy gamers, and it's simply a lot of fun. For good measure, it ships with the powerful Warcraft III world editor utility, allowing devout Warcraft III players to build their own maps and scenarios, thus greatly extending the life of the game for themselves and for others.
Make no mistake: Warcraft III is a real-time strategy game. Originally announced back in 1999 as a hybrid strategic role-playing game, over the course of its development, Warcraft III shed many of its role-playing pretensions and became what by all means is a true sequel to its predecessor. The game relies on many of the real-time strategy conventions you're probably familiar with by now. The goal of a typical skirmish is to start gathering resources (gold and wood), build up a base, build up a force of various units, and use that force to destroy the enemy's base and to repel any attacks against your position. You control the action primarily with a mouse by clicking on individual units and buildings or dragging boxes around groups of them, and you can also use predefined keyboard hotkeys to quickly perform some actions. So Warcraft III doesn't reinvent the wheel.
What it does is let you play as four different, uniquely appealing factions. The human alliance, which comprises elves, dwarves, and humans, returns from the previous Warcraft games, as does the orcish horde, consisting of the brutal green-skinned orcs, the trolls (their wicked cousins), and a minotaurlike breed called the tauren. The entirely new playable factions include the undead scourge, a mix of evil human occultists and their nefarious zombie creations; and the night elf sentinels, a purple-skinned race of warrior druids. The game reduces the scale of the typical real-time strategy battle, putting you in charge of a relatively small number of powerful units rather than countless weaker ones. Warcraft III also lets you recruit hero characters who start out strong and soon grow even mightier as they gain experience from battle. Hero characters aren't just powerful in their own right--they can often bolster the abilities of nearby units, making them an essential component of any Warcraft III army. Furthermore, Warcraft III's colorful maps tend to be populated by plenty of dangerous denizens, together with your main opponents. These creatures can bar passage to key strategic locations, and defeating them earns your hero character much-needed experience, as well as some valuable artifacts.
Warcraft III adds some much-needed variety to the traditionally slow early stages of a real-time strategy battle. Typically, the initial build-up period in such games is merely a race to get to the best units first. That's somewhat true of Warcraft III, but at least you're not just going through the paces while you construct your base. Instead, in a typical match against the computer or other players, you need to quickly assemble a small force for your hero and get out there and start exploring and fighting, because experienced heroes are far more powerful than inexperienced ones. Exploring the territory and battling miscellaneous monsters makes the early game plenty interesting in Warcraft III, especially since you need to keep checking on your base. Even choosing your starting hero makes for a significant early decision, as each faction has three available--typically some sort of pure fighter (like the samurai-like orc blademaster), a support fighter (like the human paladin), and a caster (like the undead lich). Later, you can have all three of your faction's heroes out in the field simultaneously--however, only your first one is free. All heroes gain up to four unique special abilities as they gain experience levels, which can turn the tide of a battle when used correctly. Every hero type is different, viable, and deadly, so even learning which ones your opponents have selected is important, giving you yet another reason to quickly try to scout out enemy encampments.
- Player Reviews: 328
- Game Universe:
- World of Warcraft (PC, MAC),
- Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne (PC, MAC),
- Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (PC, MAC),
- Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal (PC, MAC),
- Warcraft II: Battle.net Edition (PC, MAC),
- Warcraft II: The Dark Saga (PS, SAT),
- Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (PC, MAC),
- World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (PC, MAC),
- World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (PC, MAC),
- World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (PC, MAC)