So, if you've been on the internet anytime in the past seven or so years, you may have heard of a little phenomenon called World of Warcraft, or WoW for short. If you have, you might know about how popular it is; the game has over 10 million subscribers (according to wiki). Now, you may have wondered at some point, "Why is this MMORPG so popular?" If I had to give one single reason as an answer to this, then it would be: "Because the game that directly proceeded it and set up the story, Warcraft III, is so ungodly awesome." What Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is to the turn-based strategy 4X genre, Warcraft III is to the real time strategy genre, if not more. This is about as close as you can get to a perfect game.
I'd like to expand on a couple of things I brought up in the above section: the cinematics, and the cutscenes. First is the cinematics.
|You have to admit, that looks pretty dang nice.|
|You're going to be seeing cutscenes like this a lot, and that's a good thing|
I know I've talked about the superb cinematics and cutscenes, but I haven't really talked about the graphics of the game itself. As you could see from the gameplay screenshots, the game uses a 3D engine. So, back in 2002 when the game was released, this game of course had pretty darn groundbreaking graphics. How do they stand up today? Not too bad, actually. Most everything has the "sharp" corners common with early polygons, but the level of detail on all the models is really pretty amazing, and everything is perfectly functional. Now, I've said this before, but graphics have never really mattered to me when playing a game. As long as it's not so ugly I can't stand to look at it, a game generally gets at least a "passing" score from me. So perhaps I'm not the best person to talk about graphics. Still, I do like to think that my impartiality towards good or bad graphics has a plus side: it allows me to look at functionality very clearly. I'm not so focused on how things look, I'm more focused on how they work. Now, in Warcraft's case, things work great. The default views gives you pretty much all the functionality you'll ever need, but if you need to look around a clump of trees of want a closer look at a character model, then there are zoom and camera turn options. Additionally, the terrain, regardless of the age of the models, still looks excellent, and all the movement in the game looks natural and fluid. Idle animations, moving, death animations, you name it, they all look great.
Next up is the sound. I already talked about the voice acting, so all that's left is the music and the sound effects. First the music. Now, this is quite possibly the weakest part of the game, because it's only good and it's not great. Every race has two tracks that seamlessly fit together, and every track fits the race quite well, capturing their "feel." In addition, there are a few non-race specific tracks that usually play during cutscenes. Much like the other tracks, they fit the mood well. It's nothing amazing, but in it's favor you'll probably never get bored of hearing it, and you'll be hearing it a lot. So overall pretty good. The sound effects are more in the "excellent" range with everything else, however. Nearly every spell, attack, and ability in the game has its own effect, and every effect is well done. Somehow, the "heal" spell just sounds like it's healing. I've long said that after establishing that sound effects have quality and/or quantity, there's not much more to say, and the same holds true here. Good music, great effects.
Warcraft III is a superb game. Addictive gameplay that keeps you coming back after every victory (or defeat), unique races, great visuals, and an amazing campaign are just some of the reasons why this will always be remembered as one of the best games ever made. I've yet to see an RTS that matches up to this game, and I doubt I ever will.
Gameplay: The gameplay in Warcraft III simply can't be beat. Deep and complex yet approachable at the same time, the game style ranges from RTS to RPG, and remains near impossible to pull yourself away from all the time. Varied races and units, cool heroes, excellent controls, and great level design all come together to form what is quite possibly the best RTS experience known to PC games.
Story: I don't generally rate the story in video games, but with this game I just had to. The story in Warcraft III is not the best I've seen in a video game. It does come pretty close though, in terms of the storytelling. Now, I could talk about how it's especially good because games aren't about having the story told, they're about experiencing the story as it happens. But I won't. That the topic for an editorial of its own, and could never fit in a short ending summary. Rather, I'll simply leave you with this statement. Warcraft III has an actual story. No, not just a plot, not just a way to get from mission to mission, but an actual honest to goodness story. It has a narrative, and characters you can care about. And that's something you will rarely, if ever, find in any other RTS game, or in the vast majority of games in general.
Visuals: The game engine may seem a little blocky at first, but after you get used to that there's really nothing to stop you from loving the visuals in the game. Everything in-game is perfectly functional, but what really stands out is the amazingly well directed cutscenes and the stunningly good cinematics. Really, I can't communicate in words just how great these are. Very strong visuals.
Sound: Great voice acting, good music, and a full range of sound effects are really all you could ask for in a game (which is not to say more couldn't be done, but you'd be hard pressed to find an RTS that takes full advantage of the massive potential that exists in sound. The genre is hardly the best platform for it). A nice little bonus common in Blizzard games is when you click on units multiple times and they start saying funny stuff (lots of Monty Python quotes in here). My favorite one is from Kel'Thuzad, the necromancer: "50,000 gold a year in child care and they call it a cult!?"
Game Content: Warcraft III has pretty much everything you could ask for, as far as content goes. Four amazing campaigns (a total of 34 missions, I believe, not counting the prologue) with a great story and multiple difficulty levels, that you'll want to play over, and over, and over again; a great custom map scenario, with maps ranging from 2 all the way to 12 players; and a custom map creator. I was tempted to give this area a 9.5, because the map editor is very confusing and difficult to use (as my brother would say, "You have to be at least a level 3 programmer to use it."), but it is not impossible to figure out, and the fact that they even included it at all is enough. And please keep in mind, this review does not include the expansion. I have yet to play Frozen Throne, which has a few campaigns of its own, as well as a bunch more maps. Trust me, you won't get bored of this game for a long, long time.
Overall: When I think of the "pinnacle" of real time strategy games, I think of Warcraft III. I'd recommend this game to anyone who doesn't play games strictly for the visuals and can't stand having to try more than once. Even then, the cinematics are probably good enough to tide over anyone who needs eyecandy, and on normal mode the difficulty isn't too bad. Besides, you can just play custom maps on easy with a handicap if you really need to. So, yeah, I guess there actually isn't anyone I wouldn't recommend this game to. Maybe if you really hate RTS games. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off the play the expansion...
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