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WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos

Developer: Blizzard | Publisher: Blizzard
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 07/03/02 | Genre: RTS

I remember when the original WarCraft was released. Blizzard, a relatively unknown company by the public, attempted to create a Real Time Strategy game that would rival all competitors. They succeeded with WarCraft and later went on to revolutionize the genre once again with WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness. Not content to continue making WarCraft games, Blizzard's next Real Time Strategy title was StarCraft. Originally thought to be "WarCraft in space," Blizzard surprised us all with an original game that improved upon the RTS formula and revolutionized the genre yet again. In fact, players still actively participate in StarCraft multiplayer games on Battle.Net. But no matter how good StarCraft is, Blizzard will always be known for the WarCraft franchise. While they could have gotten away with making another StarCraft game, Blizzard has gone back to their roots in WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos. To ensure the best possible RTS experience, Blizzard has had War 3 in development for over three years... While the wait has been long, the final product is yet another classic Blizzard title that totally redefines the genre.

You will find two different flavors of WarCraft III available at retail. The first is the collector's edition that includes the game, a DVD, and other goodies. While this set is pricey, it will probably be worth the money to the die-hard WarCraft fan. The other version available only contains the game and leaves out the extra goodies found in the collector's edition. If you are fortunate enough to find any copies of WarCraft III left on the store shelves, you will notice that the box stands out. Instead of using the new "PC Gaming" standard packaging (the smaller box), Blizzard chose to ship WarCraft III in the older style, larger box.

I had no problems installing the game. However, when booting up, the title takes a long time to start off. The WarCraft logo will just sit on your desktop for several minutes before it actually loads. Once the game does load, I ran into no technical problems. Within the games menus, you can customize screen resolution, speed of the mouse, sound and music volume, etc. It is important that you make sure you get the screen resolution you want before beginning a game. You cannot change this option while in the middle of a game.

There are several different modes to WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos. However, to summarize these modes--you have the single player campaigns and the multiplayer modes. Like in past WarCraft titles, the single player mode has a story that progresses as you go through the levels. However, in War 3, Blizzard is really concentrating on the multiplayer mode. I was told by a developer at E3 that their goal in developing the single player campaigns in WarCraft III was make a tutorial on how to use the different races and utilize their abilities. While I was disappointed to hear that, I have found that the single player game is a very rich and exciting experience. Eventually, you will be able to play through four different campaigns. These campaigns represent the different races that exist in WarCraft III. While the Orcs and Humans return to the game, two new races join them--the Undead and Night Elves. You first begin the single player campaign with the Orcs. This campaign lasts for eight chapters. After progressing to a certain point in the Orc campaign, you will then have access to the Humans. Their campaign goes on for nine chapters. Eventually, once you reach a certain point, you will then have access to the Night Elves and Undead. Their campaigns last seven and eight chapters.

Lets point out the obvious here--there are only 32 single player chapters--or levels--in WarCraft III. I am very disappointed by the low number of single player missions. However, Blizzard always releases expansion packs. Lets hope that they create some awesome new missions for us to play when they release an expansion pack. (It hasn't been announced yet, but I am sure it will be announced before E3 2003) Now that we have stated the bad, the good news it that these are the best single player missions I have ever played in a RTS game before. Each chapter begins and ends with some sort of cinematic sequence. For the first time in the RTS genre, I was totally engrossed in the story. Not only is the story good--but there are a variety of missions. Instead of sending you out in each level to build up a base and destroy everything on the map, each chapter provides you with Mission Objectives and Optional Objectives that the player must discover by exploring the map. At certain points on the map, the camera can zoom in and a cinematic sequence may begin. This can provide some drama before taking on an enemy by providing the player a reason to win the fight. For example, at one point in the human campaign, villagers are being sacrificed to a demon god. As you stumble upon the ceremony, the player will watch the villagers being sacrificed?Ķ After witnessing this, I was ready to kill the beasts who performed this heinous crime.

There is a lot of voice acting in WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos. The voices are very well done and make it much easier to get into the story. However, I did find one element missing. When a character is speaking, you will see a character on the bottom of your screen. This person will talk and move his mouth?Ķ however, the lip synching is absolutely horrible. I am not sure what Blizzard was thinking here. If they were going to have moving lips, they really should have made sure they moved along with the words spoken. However, this is just a minor gripe and you ignore this problem as the game goes on.

The graphics in the world are wonderful and can range from bright and colorful to dark and mysterious. The animation is also top of the line. To further engross yourself in the world, players can use a wheel mouse to zoom down into a camera next to the characters on screen. You can also use insert and delete keys to rotate the camera left and right. However, once you let go of the keys, the camera will return back to the standard angle.

Besides the move to a new 3D engine, the biggest change in WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos is the addition of heroes into your army. Each race can have up to three heroes per battle that each have their own unique abilities. The interesting part about these heroes is they gain experience points. Once they level up, new abilities can be learned and more HP and Mana is given to them. They can also carry up to eight items that can be found after killing enemies or purchased from merchants. These items can be potions, recall scrolls, or magical items that increase their stats and abilities. If your heroes die during battle, you can bring them back to life at a special building you can build at your base. However, bringing a hero back isn't always cheap. As the hero rises in levels, so does the cost to bring them back to life. In the multiplayer mode, some people have found little need to have heroes in their army. However, since the first hero you have is free and only eats up a little of your food resources, it is usually a good idea to at least have one. When you start adding multiple heroes, their experience from battle doesn't rise as fast and I found the cost of adding a second and third hero to not be worth it.

My personal favorite race is the humans. I spent almost my entire time during the Beta playing as them. They are a very versatile group that can adjust to almost any opponent because they don't have any big strengths or weaknesses. However, the other races can be fun as well. You may find that the Orcs, Night Elves, or the Undead suit your playing style better. No matter who you chose, Blizzard has worked hard to ensure the game is balanced. Patches were introduced in the Beta that got rid of bugs, tweaked units, and stopped "rush" attacks from being successful. While there are no apparent problems with the game being unbalances at this time, Blizzard has always addressed these problems in the past with patches. I am confident they will continue to do this as they continually release some of the most balanced and playable titles on the market.

I am a little disappointed with a few features of the game that I feel should be addressed. First of all, you can only group twelve characters at one time. True, the maximum number of food resources you can have is 90--so you can't ever get a whole lot of units, I found it would be very helpful to increase the number of selectable units to at least 24. With the food resources so low, you will have to be careful to build an army of units you are going to use. It is important not to build without thinking things through as to how you will attack the enemy.

Another problem I have is the Upkeep feature that is new to WarCraft III. What is Upkeep? Think of it as a tax system. There are three levels of Upkeep?Ķ none, light, and high. When you have light or high Upkeep, a percentage of your gold that you mine is deducted to pay for your troops. The larger your force is, the more Upkeep you will pay. While it does help to include it in multiplayer mode, why is it in the single player mode? At least in the multiplayer mode, if players choose to rush and fail, their Upkeep costs would cause them problems trying to regroup. Come on Blizzard--take the Upkeep out of the single player portion of the game!!!

Is WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos essentially an upgrade to StarCraft? No. While I will always love StarCraft and consider it one of the greatest 2D Real Time Strategy games ever created, WarCraft III has evolved the genre. The reason why sequels exist is because the developers find new and creative ways to make you play a game again. They do this while adding new features to improve the genre and learn from their past titles. While StarCraft fans may be a little hesitant to give up their gaming time in a Science Fiction based RTS and moved to a slightly slower-paced Fantasy world, I encourage you to at least give WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos a try. This is the best RTS game I have ever played and breathes new life into a genre plagued with many clones. Even Blizzard will have a hard time topping War 3 in the future.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 07/05/02
ESRB Details: Blood, Violence
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Screenshots for WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos

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