PC gamers need not look further than Warcraft III


by Matt Morain

Part III

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos

Console – Personal Computer

Genre – Real-Time Strategy/ Role-Playing Game (RTS/RPG)

Maker – Blizzard Entertainment

Price – $49.95

Blizzard Entertainment has seemingly developed a successful pattern for designing computer games:

1) find novel idea,

2) make sequels and

3) have each one surpass previous as best-selling PC game in history. Warcraft III proves to be no exception.

Premise? Simple. You progressively control four different races (Humans, Orcs, Undead, Night Elves) as you struggle to beat back the evil Burning Legion that has come to claim the land once again. Put aside petty racial differences in a united effort to expel the foul intruders. The nifty part in this is that you must complete each campaign before advancing to the next, and each race’s fate is intertwined with the one before and after it.

The control is fairly straightforward with an intuitive interface. Troops and individuals can be controlled in a lump group or on a single basis. Each character has specific traits with menus as well. Attacking, gathering and building is easily done with the menu system; even novices should be able to pick up the game and play with no problems.

The starkest change from Warcraft titles of yore is the 3D interface. The transition to the third dimension was as welcomed as it was logical to do. Serious RTS gamers require a more comprehensive interface nowadays, and Warcraft III flawlessly delivers. The animation rendering can be chunky at times, but is hardly even noticed and certainly above scrutiny when the expansive, awe-inspiring, knee-trembling, thought-provoking and pants-wettingly breathtaking faultlessness of WC3 is taken into account.

The painstakingly crafted animation scenes that set up the plot in between chapters are truly something to admire and behold. The finished product of what were undoubtedly endless nights of vigilant attention to detail is something to rival HDTV DVD technology and enough to drop your jaw on your keyboard. Take time out to watch fully animated building sequences. Observe as beams come into place and the banners get hung. It’s a small touch but it’s definitely more interesting to watch than the three in-between stages for a Keep’s creation in Warcraft 2.

An ingenious facet of game play is the addition of Upkeep. Once your army’s population reaches a certain point, your workers only bring 70 percent of a resource back for use; the rest is collected as tax to fund your massive force. At the next stage of population influx, it gets cut back to 40 percent. This factors in greatly to add realism to both game play and personal strategy.

Heroes advance, gain levels, learn spells and become a more integral focal point than ever before. Each Hero has three basic spells or skills that can be leveled up and one Ultimate spell that can literally turn the tides of a battle. Protecting Uther Lightbringer or Fenris’ar Gul behind the town walls or at the back of the regiment to complete a mission might have worked in Starcraft or Warcraft II, but here is an instance where it pays off to battle-harden your champion. A level 10 veteran is much more effective against the Burning Legion’s elite than a level one sheltered Nancy-lad.

As always, Blizzard Entertainment provides free online gaming with its Battle.net option. New additions include the greatly evolved ladder system and the ”Arrange Teams” option, which allows you to team up with friends and fight together against other groups of teammates. A record of your ladder wins and losses are recorded as your stats and you even get a special avatar (a picture that is displayed by your name) if you specialize in one race. This gives WC3 endless replay potential.

Optional side quests, neutral units and exploding sheep round out the extra features in Blizzard’s opus. Completion of non-essential but beneficial missions yield valuable artifacts that aid your hero in his main quest. Neutral units can react with hostility (Gnoll Overseer) or indifference (Pig, Little Villager Boy), changing your development expansion or battle plan. Click on a critter (sheep, pig, cow, etc.) for about 20 seconds and guiltlessly giggle at the ensuing livestock explosion. A guilty pleasure, but pleasure nonetheless.

Add in portrait facial expressions, Monty Python references, and 15-20 hours of single-player mission time and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos is, without a doubt, the best game for PC for fall 2002, if not all time.

Reviewer’s Grade: A+ (99%).