Two's company, Three's a horde.
Sound the war horns, my brethren, the time for battle has come! We have waited many moons for this day and, at last, the blood of our enemies will be shed like the hair from a mangy dog. The cry of Warcraft rings true throughout our land for the third time, so take up your steel and prepare yourself - the Reign of Chaos has finally arrived.
It has been a long time since the orcs were defeated. Years of peace have made the Human Alliance weak and disorganized. Because of the humans' pathetic bickering, a new orc war chief named Thrall has risen to power and managed to rally the Horde once more. The elves of Silvermoon have left the humans to fend for themselves and even good King Terenas has not been able to patch the widening rift between Alliance leaders. But all those problems will quickly fade away as a new threat is about to appear.
The story that unfolds in WarCraft III is some of Blizzard's best work yet and I won't spoil it for you here. Just prepare yourself for plenty of action, drama, and of course, strange twists of fate.
Aiding the progression of the single-player story is some of the best CG you've ever seen in a PC game. Characters are really brought to life with this handful of animated cut scenes. Even if you've seen the trailers, you ain't seen nothing yet.
For those of you who have fought in any of the previous battles, you'll notice that the plans remain largely unchanged. You'll need to build up a base to support an army and then proceed to suck the land dry of gold and wood. From there, it's off to train the best soldiers you can and wreak havoc on the enemy. Notably absent are the marine units (as in water, you StarCraft nerds), but there's a good chance you won't even miss them when you consider the wide assortment of additions.
One of these is an 'upkeep' penalty that is supposed to deter larger armies. As your army grows, a "tax" will take effect that limits the rate at which you collect gold. For example, peasants from towns with only five soldiers can carry 10 gold at a time, while peasants from a castle with fifty soldiers can only carry 4 gold at a time. I guess big corporations aren't the only ones skimming a little off the top these days.
The biggest additions to Warcraft III are the two new races - the Night Elves and the Undead Scourge. If you've already had a chance to read my preview, you already have a good idea what these two races are about. The Night Elves rely primarily on stealth and are strongest with ranged combat. The Undead are best and crashing, bashing, and smashing through anything that gets in their way. Even fallen enemies contribute to the cause, setting things up for one great big Undead party.
Each race has a set of heroes you can call upon to lead your army to battle. These super soldiers not only gain experience points for greater powers, they can also collect any treasures that you might find throughout the land. From potions of mana to magical armor, there are plenty of things to discover. But treasure isn't the only thing you'll find out there...
New for Warcraft III are the "Creeps" - neutral units that will attack anyone that happens by. From Dragons to Centaurs and Kobolds to Quillboars, there's plenty out there besides the enemy to keep you busy. These units can often be found guarding treasures or important locations, such as gold mines and neutral buildings where you can buy a few items or even hire a mercenary or two.
WarCraft III also features a day/night cycle that goes on throughout the game. During the night cycle, most units lose a small degree of visibility and sometimes you'll be able to catch a few of the neutral units asleep.
Visually, the bulk of Warcraft III won't knock your socks off. The CG is top of the line, but the rest of the game looks merely satisfactory, probably due to Blizzard's aim for low system requirements. But nothing looks overtly bad. Minor zoom levels will allow you to watch from closer up, but for the most part you'll play the game from the classic RTS top-down perspective.
Few games really take advantage of sound as well as the WarCraft series, a trend that continues here. Warcraft III manages to deliver another round of gut-busting, mouse-clicking fun. Just left-click the night away and enjoy the wacky lines that all your units will spit out. The Blizzard crew easily retains the RTS comedy crown.
The flow of the single player game is simple and straightforward. You can start out with a few training missions or just jump right into the Human campaign. Eight or so missions later, you'll move on to another race, until all races have been completed. Despite jumping from race to race, the game's story is able to hold together well and you'll never feel a break in the plot.
Of course, it wouldn't be WarCraft without multiplayer. Thanks to Battle.net's handy functionality, connecting and setting up a game is a piece of cake. You played the beta, didn't you?
The balance in the game is also good, but the Undead seem to hold a slight advantage. Undead "farms" can be transformed into defensive structures that can attack both land and air units. This gives them a defensive advantage since it's so easy to put towers all over the place. The Undead resemble the Zerg of Starcraft and can perform well with rush tactics. This is made possible since the lumber harvester also serves as the basic fighting unit. This "Ghoul Rush" can be defended against, but a player needs to set up proper defenses immediately.
You'll be happy to know that the pathfinding in the game is pretty good. For the most part, you'll be able to send units off to perform tasks without worrying about them getting caught up on something along the way.
Aside from the single and multiplayer games, Warcraft III also comes with a World Editor. This tool allows players to exercise their creativity and put together enough new maps to last until the next expansion - and knowing Blizzard, that'll be a long time.
Blizzard remains firmly on top of the RTS game with Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. Fans who have waited all these years will agree that it was well worth the wait. Enhanced gameplay combined with a great story and fantastic CG will give even the most peaceful elf a new reason to go to war.