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WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos

by Jim Bray

“It has been nearly fifteen years since the war between the orcs and humans ended. An uneasy peace settled over the land while, for years, the drums of war were silent. Yet the kingdoms of men grew complacent in their victory - and slowly, the defeated orcish clans regrouped under the banner of a new visionary leader.

Now a darker shadow has fallen over the world, threatening to extinguish all life - all hope. The drums of war play upon the winds once again - rising urgently towards the inevitable hour when the skies will rain fire - and the world will tremble before the coming of the Burning Legion.

The Day of Judgment has come…”

- Introduction to WarCraft III, as per Blizzard Software’s Web site

Fans of real time strategy games have a terrific new title for their collection in Blizzard’s long-awaited update of their WarCraft series.

WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos continues giving gamers an excellent and addictive adventure, while updating the technology and adding a few new wrinkles just to keep things interesting.

From the elaborate, beautifully animated cutscenes to the new graphics and changeable overhead view of the field of battle, this new version is well worth playing. I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as the Orcs Vs. Humans action of WarCraft II or the humans Vs. aliens of StarCraft, but that's more a personal preference - and, when all is said and done, it’s a welcome addition to Blizzard’s line, and to the real time strategy game universe.

WarCraft IIIWhen you first load it, WarCraft III begins with a great cutscene that depicts Humans and Orcs at each other’s throats, hard at battle. All of a sudden, the characters are slaughtered as meteors containing evil thingys fall from the sky; the Prophet appears to Thrall, an Orc warchief, ordering him to take his people to Kalimdor. Thus begins your adventure.

One of the things I love about real time strategy games is the way you have to establish your base and your supply lines, building your forces as your resources allow. And there’s plenty of that in WarCraft III as well, though there are also some missions in which rather than operating from a base you’re sent on a quest - and you don’t have an increasing supply of your own minions on which to fall back. This is similar to some levels in StarCraft and, though they weren’t my favorites, there’s nothing wrong with them.

Fortunately, most levels require resource management whereby you build and upgrade your facilities, gather resources and research new technologies that you can use to elevate your combat levels. Warcraft III’s resource system consists of two major elements: gold and lumber.

Your missions are laid out almost like chapters of a book, and most consist of a main quest along with some optional “sidetracks” you can pursue as well. The animation of the characters is up to date, and the backgrounds are gloriously detailed.

And there’s a new view control whereby you can swing down from your “on high” view to approach ground level. It’s kind of neat, though I wished you could also zoom out higher to see more of the playing field at one time (and thereby more easily grab onto your forces in one swell foop). These are very minor criticisms, though.

The vocals are well done, too, though too often the action stops (or the mission is delayed) while the characters act out a setup to the scenario - or set up the next scenario. These are fun to watch for the first few times, but after a while I found myself hitting “escape” and getting directly to the game (you can find out what your quest is supposed to be from the menus, at any time).

WarCraft III

The animation during these setups is pretty good, but nowhere nearly as spectacular as during the cutscenes.

Warcraft III is really two games for the price of one: there’s a Single player Campaign mode and a separate Multi-player mode.

Single player mode gives you some 36 levels whose quests generally consist of finding a particular prize, saving a particular character, surviving attack for a specific time period, etc. It’s fairly easy to play, especially if you grab the cheat codes from Blizzard’s Web site.

The Multi-player mode reminds me of WarCraft II, where you begin with a few peons and mine natural resources, build a camp, a army and then fight, fight fight! If you’ve played any of WarCraft’s earlier versions, you should have no trouble getting a handle on this one - and that’s the way it should be!

WarCraft III also includes upgradeable Heros, which gain experience points as the game progresses. Heroes can also be upgraded with new abilities, including magic strength and/or evil spells.

As one would expect from a new WarCraft, Blizzard piles on many new characters and buildings. Each of the four main races (Human, Orc, Night Elf and Undead), has its own unique technology tree and building design. Human and Orc development is similar to the last version of the game, though you now get new units including Sorceress and flying Gryphons.

The game runs very well, with resolutions up to 1280x1024, and with rich colors and sounds. The graphics are clean, and kind of cartoony, which is fine with me.

My only real complaints about the game are the abovementioned lack of a zoom feature for the view. Also, changing the game resolution doesn’t seem to change the size of the viewable area, which would seem to be the whole point behind a higher res (that, and better detail, of course)

The bottom line? If you liked WarCrafts I or II, or StarCraft, or any of the other “real time strategy games” on the market, you’ll undoubtedly while away many a happy hour on this new version.

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.


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January 31, 2006