Every 2 years, Blizzard kicks out another title to suck away my free time. Warcraft 3 is no exception. Combining an innovative matchmaking online service with outstanding game play, not to forget about the intertwining of the races in the single player campaign; Warcraft 3 is a winner.
I must start out by saying that I was one of the “chosen” to participate in the Warcraft 3 Beta test. Having that privilege, I knew what was coming in the full version. Regardless of the amount of knowledge of “what was to come,” I had no idea it would turn out this well. The Warcraft 3 Beta had nothing but online multiplayer gaming; the boxed version CD installed an outstanding single player romp, plus the added bonus of a complete world editor to create your own custom maps.
Under usual circumstances, with my very short attention span, I have a hard time “getting involved” with a game. As such, a long drawn out story is really at the bottom of my list of wants in a game. I need something to grab me, urge me to continue and do so with eye candy. Warcraft 3 did all of this, and more.
Having four races to balance was a large task for Blizzard to arrange so everything is “equal.” Even more so, I am sure that intertwining the races in a complete single player storyline was a monumental task. They pulled it off well. I am impressed, and that, my friend, is also no easy task.
With a fine getting started tutorial for the new comers, off we head for the first of 4 “large” campaign trails, one for each race. Separating each phase is an outstandingly rendered cut scene to give plenty of eye candy and a much-needed break from the action. This is not all. Not only is the DVD quality cut scenes a plus, but Blizzard also desired to carry the story, campaign and chapters from one spot to the other with an in game rendered movie, complete with quality voice-overs. This can not be over stated. In fact, I would pay $6.25 at the local theatre to see a full-featured movie involving the cast and crew of Warcraft 3! The scenes not only draw you into the story line, but also give a direction and reason to move along to the next chapter. Included are also the options of changing the difficulty level from Normal to High and back again before the Chapter starts or after failing miserably at the end. An added bonus is the “credits” that are available after completing the single player missions. The in game rendered scenes keep flowing with more Blizzard humor while the fine people that had a hand at getting Warcraft 3 together appear. Quite a joy to watch.
Blizzards free Battle.net service has always been a draw for many gamers. Unfortunately for me, I am still stuck in the dark ages because I suffer from DSL envy. Cable/DSLis not available in my area. Regardless, I have never spending $60 on a game for an over blown chat client. Warcraft 3 takes care of a few of my online gaming gripes by getting rid of the annoying “sit in a chat room and beg for a game” crap. After loading up the game, you log in to Battle.net, click the “play game” button. You then select your options to include game type (1 on 1, 2 on 2, Free-For-All, etc) and give each of the available maps a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” Battle.net matchmaking service will now attempt to find a competitor of equal skill and selected options… usually within seconds. This feature saves oodles of time. Another new feature is a “Friends” list to which you add your neighbor or someone across the globe. You
then get automatic private messages when they log on, what game they are joining and when they exit Battle.net. These features can also be tweaked if you have “many” friends to avoid constant messages spamming your screen. In addition, you can invite your friends for a ladder match against other arranged teams. This, I feel, is needs to be included in all online games.
Do not get me wrong; multiplayer has many other available options, such as LAN play and custom games online. In addition, you can play with or against the computer and as many computer controlled opponents as you wish (well, largest map included with the game is 12 players).
Something that I fell in love with that was included in Nascar was the ability to replay what just happened. Later on, more titles included this feature and I really enjoyed them. There is something about Real Time Strategy games that you just plain need a replay to be there. RTS screams the need for a replay feature.
Often times, when I get totally stomped online, I wonder, “was that person good or did they cheat?” With the replay feature included in Warcraft 3, you can play back the action from the viewpoint of any player or remove the fog of war completely. Not to mention, you can speed up the action up to 8x normal and pause to see how you stand at particular points in the game. This is positively the best thing that could happen to real time strategy. Developers, take note, this is how it is done.
Blizzard did pull out all the tricks while making the four races, though. Given the fact each race has three different “hero’s” to choose from with totally different abilities, weaknesses and strengths, the game play is always a surprise. Understand that this is not a normal “build as many units as you can
and walk through the other persons base” kind of game. Not only was a limit placed on the amount of units you can build, based on each units “food” requirements, but a gold “tax” is instrumental in punishing players that stay in the high end unit count range. As an alternative, Warcraft 3 took the route of having “powerful but weak” characters, the hero’s, a central focus in the battles. It took me many games to throw out all previous conceptions of Real Time Strategy and attempt to grasp that very concept.
Even though I never mastered the art as of this writing, rushing is still a concern early in the game. Funny thing is, every time I was “ready” for the pending rush, it never came. When I wanted to jump up the tech tree to gain an advantage, I would find an enemy hero pillaging my town while I madly click around trying to defend. Talk about frustration. Well, just one more game…
Now comes the juicy stuff. No matter what game I have played, there is and will always be stuff that I would have changed or I do not like about it. Warcraft 3 is no exception, but keep in mind that it was, at times, difficult to uncover these flaws.
Even during the Warcraft 3 Beta, I had this overwhelming urge to “zoom out” the camera “just a little bit.” It just seems to me that I am so close to the action that I would like to see the “overall” picture and not be so up close and personal. The side effect to this, though, is that you are not allowed to see all of the units in any other detail than the high quality that is displayed during the game. You can rotate the camera 90 degrees each way and roll down to ground level, but I have yet to find any purpose of that, besides watching your enemies nurtured hero die face to face.
Another feature that I pound on my desk and rant about often is “custom controls.” I do not like it when a gaming developer tells me what my controls “should” be. I understand that to keep the flow of what each races building are named, the hot keys need to be formulated to jive with that. Great, but should be able to adjust them if I wish. Players that use “random” races will feel my pain more than consistent race choosers.
Blizzard has done it again. They created another quality title for me to add to my collection and steal my waking moments from me. Any true gamer will understand the meaning of: “What if I did this differently… then, the battle would have turned out differently.”