Reviewed: July 17, 2003
Released: July 1, 2003
Canít wait for your next fix of RTS heaven, or is it just too painful to think of how long you still have to wait for the World of Warcraft? Well, Blizzard is not turning a deaf ear to your bellyachings of pain. Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne is in stores now so any of you who already own the original and for some unfathomable reason havenít picked it up, GO GET IT!!! I appreciate your loyalty in waiting to see what GCMís take on it will be, but come on. This is an expansion pack for Warcraft. Itís Blizzard. If it sucked I think one of the signs of the apocalypse would be fulfilled.
Anyway aside from the fact that this is really just an exercise in pretty words, because Iím telling you to get something that you should already own, Iíll give you a short recap of the game. You get to play three different campaigns (this is only an expansion you know) each with about eight missions and a plethora of in-game cinematics. There is also an RPG style bonus campaign with one mission that takes at least 5 hours to complete, and two more that you can download later and of course there are the usual map editor, battle.net, and single player options. Basically, take all the good stuff about Warcraft III and kick it up a notch.
If youíre reading this then either youíve played Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and are just wondering if you should shell out the cash, or youíre thinking about picking this up with WCIII (Blizzard will probably release a combo pack of them eventually). Either way you should know the basics of the controls and nothing has been radically changed so thatís the good news. You now expect bad news and sorry to burst your bubble, but there is none. If for some strange reason you are reading this review and have no prior knowledge of Warcraft or the style of gameplay I refer you to my review for the original title (which incidentally is required to play this expansion pack).
Not only are there new heroes and units for all four of the original races, but there are also four neutral heroes, and a neutral race or two in addition to all of the random creeps and creatures. It all balances pretty well though. While the Naga are really tough (theyíre one of the new races) they lack a lot of the complexity of the other four so they arenít quite as versatile. The other races are basically NPCs. The Drenai and the Forgotten Ones are only seen for a couple of levels and only the Drenai are ever under your control. There are a whole host of other little beasties, critters, creeps, demons, neutral characters and buildings, etc. so things never get boring.
Just when you thought it couldnít get any better. Not only are these graphics a hefty step above those in WCIII (if you donít believe me watch the credits despite the cheesy song and look at all the head shots) but also they added three new tile sets for the levels, and weíre not talking just dirt thatís colored green and itís supposed to be a new planet or something. No try floating islands, or coral reefs that have surfaced. These levels are stunning. There are ruins, ruined buildings everywhere (yes there is a difference), trees, plateaus, even a mountain you climb to fight a giant harpy.
So alright, the settings are excellent. What about the characters? As mentioned above the head shots are much smoother as are the animations and line quality (in the expansion they are much smaller and smoother). The characters are highly detailed, each with unique idle animations, walking speeds, attack animations, etc. Each unit is truly a unique entity, and while the same units will eventually sync up there are even little variations in that.
The new effects that have been added are awesome. Fire pillars, and locust swarms, and healing waves oh my!! Almost all of the new hero abilities are useful in addition to just looking sweet. There are few things better than tossing enemies high in the air from spikes thrown by your hero, or watching them crumple under the claws of your bear familiar. All the other old classics look just as good as always too so I really have no complaints.
Alright all the nice little bangs and whistles aside, you want to know about the cinematics, because, I donít know about you, but Blizzard the only company that produces movies of this quality. If they ever did a Final Fantasy style movie Iíd sell my eyeteeth to see it. Hell, Iíd sell my grandmother to see it. These movies are no disappointment either. The opening has got to have one of the best wave and storm animations Iíve ever seen, even if the whole thing is a little dark. The ending, wellÖ I wonít give too much away, but they still do unbelievable textures and ripple effects and the lighting is absolutely stunning. Watch the chain in the foreground too. The only real complaint I have with the graphics at all is that opening is dark, and when you drop below the wavesÖ lets just say Iíve seen better transitions.
Again Blizzard has pulled out all the stops with sound effects that no matter how often you hear them donít ever really get old. The best illustration of this is the set phrases of the characters. With Rastafarian Trolls, Dwarves that shout ďMortar Kombat!!Ē, and other such creatures this is a completely original cast of characters. The heroes they added are no exception. Personally I never get tired of hearing a witch doctor tell me to ďdonít worry, be happyĒ or the Pandaren Brewmaster who shouts ďI bring Pandamonium!Ē
Bad humor aside the voice acting is kept up to par from the original, I even think they have the same cast members. Sound effects, etc. Itís all good. Pay very close attention to the music though. It does a very good of staying peripheral, but if you listen you will find something that sounds more at home in the ďLord of the RingsĒ or on the music stands of the London Philharmonic.
Twenty-six new levels, with two more on the way, an improved campaign editor, and numerous improvements to the battle.net experience, and all the variations on the game play and you still ask if this is a good deal. Ok, ok it does retail for something in the hood of $35.00, which is a bit high for these kinds of titles. But itís nearly a complete game by itself, so quit your whining and shell out the cash because you know youíre going to anyway.
If all the features that come with the game arenít enough value for your hard earned gaming dollar, well youíll be playing for at least 60-80 hours on the campaign alone. Anything after that will have to depend on how interested you are in the game and how much you like whupping people online. Donít forget the downloadable levels either because if theyíre anything like the first one then thatís another ten hours at least for free.
Youíve wasted enough time here reading this. You already have the game so stop reading, get back to the conquest and donít be surprised if this is all just set up to whet our appetites for World of Warcraft when that releases.