Reviewed: July 16, 2002
Released: July 3, 2002
One CD. You hear me out there? One CD. Thatís all that you need to play Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. I was totally amazed when I saw the system specs and the level of graphics and depth to the game that only one CD was in the box.
My amazement aside, welcome back to the world of Azeroth, where Orcs and Humans are at it again. Building armies, razing towns, and generally mucking up the beautiful countryside with their silly wars. Whatís new then you ask? Why buy this bad ass RTS? Well weíll start with the little things. Thereís two more races. Now itís not just Orcs and Humans, but an army of the undead and Night Elves as well. Additionally you now have heroes to contend with who get badder as time goes by.
Look, I could go on and on about all this stuff, but let me give you the game in a nutshell. Take Warcraft and then combine it with Starcraft and Diablo. You get the best of all three worlds. Oh, and you want that in 3D? No problem.
They finally fixed it. The one thing that really bothered my about Warcraft was that whether you played the Orcs or the Humans it was really just what you wanted your stuff to look like rather than any differences in strategy for the game. Both races were evenly matched, and there was no real advantage of one over the other. Now, not only are there very specific units to each race, but there are significant differences to what they can do and how you can play them.
For example, the humans can form their peasants into a militia when the town is attacked, thus increasing their attack power and greatly assisting your defense. The Orcs on the other hand can ring their buildings with spiked barriers to damage any ground-based attackers and the peons can bunker down in the farms and use ranged attacks from inside. Itís great.
This whole game is just fantastic, because the one thing that could have ended up making the whole works unwieldy is the thing Blizzard pulled off brilliantly. That is the hero interface within the Warcraft control scheme. The controls are basically the same as in previous Warcraft games: point and click, hotkeys, and command icons, etc.
What makes this incarnation so different is that your heroís can not only gain experience (which means not only better stats, damage, and armor, but also means better spells and passive abilities), but also can carry items, which includes anything from healing and mana potions to scrolls of town portal, and stat or damage increasing items (a Cloak of Intelligence for example). All of these items are already hot-keyed so you can access potions and scrolls at the touch of a button, which is helpful in those tight situations, and say all that isnít enough to save your hero. Thatís no problem; you can build an altar in town to resurrect them if they die.
Blizzard didnít just carry over the more than two races idea from Starcraft they also brought in the sequential storyline. This could be a bit of a peeve (depends on your opinion), but I like it. You cannot choose which race you want and just barrel on through the game. The quests of each race tell an arc of the whole story, which is that of demons and the Burning Legion returning to Azeroth to wreak havoc and destruction. Thereís more drive and direction to this game than the other two.
Thatís not the best part though. Thatís not what puts the stank on the game. There are random monsters on the maps and day and night cycles that not only affect your vision, but also dictate whether wild creatures are sleeping or awake.
Most random creatures carry treasure; gold at least, and the real bad asses have items. You can hire mercenaries and have goblins scout for you. You feel much more like youíre adventuring in a world rather than just some constructed level. This is the perfect spring-board for the launch of the upcoming World of Warcraft, so kiss your normal life good-bye and jump right in to this hot little slugfest, that is if you brought your campaigning gear and a good general.
Few studios can bring life to computer graphics like Blizzard. They have jaw-dropping cinematics, absolutely killer special effects, and in game graphics that pop like champagne corks (and other things) at the Playboy Mansion.
Theyíve improved on the Diablo II cinematics with Warcraft III. The grass on plains looks real. The crow in the opening was as well rendered as the flea was in The City of Lost Children. That level of detail is amazing. The people in these movies look just as real. I thought the old man in Diablo II was amazing, but the people in here are better. There are textures over everything. Even the syncing for the voices is perfect. There are literally no flaws in these movies.
Game graphics donít suffer either. They stay true to the look of the original Warcraft games, but seamlessly blend them into 3D. Thereís also one of the best water effects Iíve ever seen from a game with this perspective. The settings are lush, green, and vibrant. They emptied the whole box of Crayolaís to paint the backgrounds, and it shows.
Character designs are just one of the places this game excels. They may be a little boxy, but donít knock it for that. Most often you canít even tell because of perspective. Orcs have wolf riders, Humans have paladins that carry the traditional anvil on a stick, the Undead have meat wagons and demons, the Night Elves have hippogryph riders (hippogryphs for Peteís sake). There is distinction to everything, and quality behind it all. Blizzard shirked on nothing.
The music floats in and out during gameplay, but what you do hear is great. War drums, violins, a big brass section, they went all out, only thing missing is Flight of the Valkyeries and Elmer Fudd singing ďSpear and Magic HelmetĒ.
Voice acting is equally as good. There is no one who sounds like they shouldnít, and in most cases the Peasants, or other random encounters have voices that are the same as in the first two games, so itís almost like coming home.
Overall, the sound isnít that impressive, but it isnít supposed to be an overriding part of the game. Itís more of a subtle touch for mood, which was executed nicely.
This limb-lopping slugfest is worth every penny. That is, of course if you can meet the recommended system specs. Youíre going to need a killer rig to run this game as it ďneedsĒ and ďwantsĒ to be run. Sure, you can run it on those minimum specs but do you really want to?
Thereís a lot of game time involved here, with the average mission taking about thirty minutes or more to complete. Youíre looking at spending a whole lot of time at the computer, and thatís if you complete every mission on the first try. If thatís still not enough for you thereís always the multiplayer option, and while I never played Starcraft online, and thus cannot compare them, this interface pulls out all the stops. Youíll probably want a broadband connection (cable modem or DSL) to really make this game shine online.
But wait - thereís more! If you act now Blizzard will also throw in their most complete level editor to date at - get this folks- no extra charge! Thatís right, all the mission creating goodness you can get your hands on to frustrate and bamboozle your friends and enemies. You can even use your own mp3 music in the levels you create.
Buy it. Buy all four collectorís edition versions of it so you can make a neat mural on the wall. Buy so many copies you can bathe in them. Gorge yourself on Warcraft III because this game is more fun than a barrel of cod, and if youíve ever had a barrel of cod youíd know what Iím talking about.
In short: the sound is good, the graphics are better, and the gameplay handles like a dream. You want some icing? Thereís a plot - and not some half-assed last minute rush job. This thing has legs. Blizzard has always been able to push their plots, and Warcraft III is no exception. So stop reading about the game and go get it already so you can start to savor every last bit of this amazing sequel.