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Blizzard Entertainment



T (Teen)



Q3 2002



- Great detailed 3D graphics enhance gameplay

- Story is terrific

- Musical score and sound effects are some of the best around

- Battle.net again provides one of the easiest to use and well-structured multiplayer setups



- If you give into the temptation to use the single-player cheats, you might ruin the overall enjoyment and challenge of the game

- Seven years was too long to wait for a series this good to continue

- Cut-scene graphics arenít as polished as FMV cinematics



Review: Disciples II: Dark Prophecy (PC)

Review: Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom (PC)

Review: Hundred Swords (PC)



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WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos

Score: 9.5 / 10


Way back in 1994, developer Blizzard released what would become the beginning of a long string of PC gaming hits, the real-time strategy fantasy title WarCraft, which introduced many to the world of Medieval-like Azeroth where orcs and humans were constantly in a life-or-death battle. The subsequent year, Blizzard one-upped themselves with the magnificent follow-up, WarCraft II, still considered one of the best PC games ever made. After that, well, it almost seemed like Blizzard forgot about its flagship property as they worked on the StarCraft and Diablo universe-related games, all the while promising to eventually get around to creating more WarCraft titles for the legion of fans. After a WarCraft adventure game fell by the wayside, Blizzard at last announced they indeed were creating WarCraft III. Finally, seven years after WarCraft II was released, Blizzard has unleashed WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos (WC3) into the gaming realm. And was it worth the wait? Yes. WarCraft III enhances the real-time strategy (RTS) formula it helped define while taking advantage of todayís superior computer hardware to create one of 2002ís best titles so far.


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The game is scorching the PC game sales charts, with over a million copies sold already. Blizzard shipped an unprecedented 4.5 million units into the retail market to fill orders, and considering how good the game is thereís no reason to believe that WC3 wonít quickly sell out by the upcoming Christmas season. Thereís a plethora of reasons why WC3 is garnering accolades from gamers and critics alike. All aspects of the game are incredibly well crafted and designed for a completely enjoyable gaming adventure.


I will caution you in this regard though: this game is in need of some serious processing power. According to the requirements, 128MB of RAM are necessary with 256MB recommended. Believe me, the 256 are needed if you want to really enjoy WC3. It will run with 128MB, but expect some choppy cinematics and gameplay when thereís a bunch of structures and units on-screen at the same time. Most people with the faster Gig/+ Pentium III or IV systems that are increasingly coming standardized with 256MB RAM will get the most out of their WC3 gaming, while people like me (with my 667MHz Celeron and 128MB RAM) will just have to save up for a new PC.


Gameplay enhancements are everywhere in WC3. While the basic build-a-base-and-large-army-and-battle-your-way-to-victory RTS tactics still hold true in many instances, there are now more choices than that to garner victory. And now many missions will fail if you spend all your time worrying about building the biggest military. Some missions require speed and stealth instead of an overwhelming troop deployment. To start with, itís not just a choice between orcs and humans as in the previous WarCraft titles. Not only do you have orcs and humans, now you can choose the Night Elves and the Undead. The only complaint here is that you must play each race in the order the game unfolds in single-player mode instead of letting you decide which race you want to play. But once you finish the single-player missions by completing each of the four races story arc, you then have autonomy to focus on whichever race you want.




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A couple of the other new features include the ability to train up to seven units at one time. This is a big time saver as far as training peasants, peons, wisps, and acolytes, which serve as the gatherers of lumber and gold and also provide the muscle to construct your base structures. But be cautioned to pay attention to the amount of resources needed to train the amount of units that you want.



Speaking of structures, each race has their own unique structures that comprise their base. The human and orcs are basically the same as before, but the Night Elves and Undead have unique base-building structures.


For instance, the night elves, with their strong ties to the World Tree and nature itself, build structures that are rooted in the magical powers of the land like the Tree of Life, the Tree of Nature, and the Tree of Eternity. (They are a forest-dwelling race, if you havenít guessed already.) Another improvement is the restriction on the amount of units you can have at one time, capped by the food limit of 90. This way, one army canít grab an advantage by simply creating a large-numbered force and ignore the other strategic aspects of gameplay that make WC3 a rich and rewarding experience.


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One of WC3ís most welcome additions is the inclusion of the hero class to your races. These are the powerful and legendary figures that lead your forces into war. It is Blizzardís attempt to fuse some role-playing game style features into the classic RTS gameplay. WC3's heroes remind me to a certain degree of your Diablo character because you have an inventory of special magical and power items such as rings and mantles. By defeating enemies, your heroes gain experience points to upgrade their specialized attack abilities.


However, in another surprising twist to the storyline, WC3ís heroes are flawed. Not all the human and night elves are the perfect and virtuous heroes you would expect. On the flip side, the same can be said for the orc heroes, whom you would assume wouldnít have a single good bone in their massive bodies, but that assumption isnít entirely correct, as you will find out. Besides the heroes and basic units for each race, thereís tons of Tolkienesque characters throughout the game: satyrs, dragons, huge spiders, furbolgs, ogres, wendigos, enormous wolves, gnolls, murlocs, and golems are just some of the many creatures youíll encounter through the various lands of Azeroth. They are non-playable characters that call the landscape of Azeroth home, but in some missions you can actually hire some of them as mercenaries and control them until they die in battle or the mission itself ends.


Graphic-wise, the WarCraft series has undergone a complete transformation, now sporting true 3D visuals whereas the previous WarCraft titles were played using a top-down 2D look. The game has a remarkably similar look to an excellent RTS game I played last year, the largely overlooked Battle Realms. The beautiful and lush environments and character models are colorfully detailed, bringing the land of Azeroth to a vibrant life that must be played on a high-end system to really truly be appreciated. The FMV cinematics are just gorgeous, better than the Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie visuals. If you buy the WC3 Collectorís Edition, you get a DVD with all the gameís cinematic scenes combined for viewing. This alone is worth the additional $15 dollar difference from the Standard Edition. The cut-scene graphics arenít as impressive as the FMV cinematics, but are adequately done.


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WC3ís sound, musical score, and voice-acting elements are extremely well done. The voice acting especially is excellent, much better than what is the standard game ďnormĒ. In fact, thereís probably many a Hollywood movie producer that would be envious of the performances of WC3ís incredibly talented voice actors. My favorite voice was the 221-years-young dwarf Muradin Bronzebeard, who unfortunately is killed at the end of the human missions.


On the control side of the gameplay, WarCraft III still retains the classic mouse-and-keyboard point and click action RTS games are known for. A template for all the hot key commands is located on the back of the game manual, and it comes in handy while you get adept at the main shortcuts that are necessary to effectively control your forces. This is another of the superlative features of WarCraft III that make it such a PC gaming gem. You never have to worry about controlling your army, because with a few keystrokes, you are able to handle both the regular troops and the heroes that are in your war party.


Even though it has no bearing on WC3ís actual gameplay, I thought it was worth mentioning how uproariously comical the gameís closing credits are. Thereís coverage of an Azerothian football game, a fictional behind-the-scenes look at filming one scene from the game, and a rock concert by Arthas where you have to make sure you read the subtitles. They are rib-cracking hilarious. Another chucklefest can be had by repeatedly clicking on in-game characters enough times to elicit the jocular catch phrases that have become a trademark of the WarCraft series. It seems that thereís at least six or seven for each separate unit, so if youíre looking for a lighthearted break from the furious Azeroth fighting, try clicking on some of the characters and see what they say.


A big feature of WC3ís control is the artificial intelligence of the army under your command. Even without you physically directing them to action, they will react to the environment to give you the best odds of winning any battle. For instance, if you move your grouping of troops to the center of a battle, while your attention is directed to an attack on your town, the now-unattended soldiers will still fight effectively in cases where they arenít totally outnumbered. Each member of your force will, with the aid of the gameís AI, figure out the best chance for victory and attack the likeliest unit or structure that will assist in attaining triumph until you are able to again control them with direct orders.


Add on top of everything else a great storyline that weaves together each of the four races through the entire single-player game. Further detailing the world of Azeroth, the history of each of the main races is told in a fantastically written novella form in the game manual. Thereís a new threat to the fragile peace that has settled over Azeroth. Itís the Burning Legion, who after thousands of years and with the help of the Undead, plan to enter Azeroth through one of the portals that WarCraft is infamous for and take over the entire world of WarCraft. In a unique twist that becomes apparent as the story unfolds is that the three formerly enemy races (in one form or another) of the humans, orcs, and night elves, must work together if Azeroth is to survive the Burning Legionís wrath.


Difficulty and challenge is definitely there, if you stay away from using the single-player cheat codes. Even if you have played many RTS games before, donít expect to just breeze through the game, because WC3ís difficulty level even on normal is tough. If you donít use the proper strategy for each particular mission, you will find yourself unsuccessful and re-starting many of the gameís challenging missions. Each individual mission can take 30-60 minutes, bringing WC3 somewhere in the range of 30-50 hours of single-player gameplay. Your total gameplay hourly figure can increase if you take on the optional side quests that can be fun undertakings, but arenít necessary to complete the mission objectives. This isnít quite the 200+ hours you can get out of the RPG Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, but donít forget about WC3ís well-structured multiplayer mode. Online gaming, especially using Blizzardís own Battle.net service, will tack a lot of additional gaming time to the whole WarCraft III package, making its higher-than-usual cost (for a PC title) worth every penny.


In fact, WC3ís multiplayer has been revamped and honed along with Blizzardís Battle.net online multiplayer service to make getting online and into a game ridiculously easy. And not only that, now Battle.net can set you up in games against players with similar skills, so you wonít have to worry about squaring off against someone who plays the game ten hours a day and will absolutely annihilate you, which wouldnít bring much enjoyment to novice RTS gamers. This is done using the Anonymous MatchMaking feature of Battle.net that clandestinely checks your record and matches you up with players with a similar record. I am able to log onto Battle.net, choose what type of game I am interested in playing, and get started within five or less minutes. The only other Battle.net experience I have is with Diablo, which was similarly easy to set up and get started in fun online gaming. Battle.net is a huge part of the reason Blizzard has had the success it has attained with Diablo I and II, StarCraft, WarCraft II, and now WC3.


If all the above-mentioned goodness isnít enough, thereís also a very detailed and full-featured world editor included so you can create your very own scenarios and 3D maps. You can script for units, magical spells, and events. If youíre talented enough with a PC, there is also the option to create in-game cinematics using .mp3 sound files. This is actually the same editor that many of the WC3 developers at Blizzard used in creating the game, so if you ever thought you had what it takes to be a part of a game development team, hereís your chance to prove it.


WarCraft III is one of those rare games that you canít really find any problems with. PC gamers that are into classic RTS action canít go wrong purchasing WC3. This is a nearly perfect A+ title of the genre. If you have the system that can handle all the processor-pushing visuals, then by all means pick up the best PC title Iíve played so far this year. With the engrossing single-player missions, stellar multiplayer, and the incredibly detailed world editor, WC3 is my early choice for PC Game of the Year. Enjoy it while you can, because with the MMORPG World of WarCraft currently under development by Blizzard, thereís no guarantee WarCraft IV (or even a WC3 expansion pack) will ever appear to carry on the award-winning RTS WarCraft universe lineage.


 - Lee Cieniawa


(August 8, 2002)


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