Written by  :  Lucas Schippers (59)
Written on  :  Jul 10, 2002
Platform  :  Windows

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Blizzard's first 3D RTS, and an excellent game to boot!

The Good

I was wary of Blizzard going 3D for Warcraft III - after all, I felt Westwood's Emperor: Battle for Dune was largely hampered by the almost complete lack of personality of its 3D units. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Blizzard has managed to craft a 3D engine that allows its units to shine in the traditional Blizzard way. It manages to straddle the fine border between cartoonish excess and hand-drawn realism, and I applaud the programmers for that. Aside from the graphics, the design of Warcraft III is uniformly excellent. You get four races to play with, and each is involving and offers a spread of unique challenges and intricacies. Furthermore, the story is engaging, and plot has for the first time in RTS history become as important as the action going on in the field. I really was interested in finding out what was going to happen, especially once you get up to the end of the first campaign... Blizzard has also reinvigorated the concept of hero units. In past RTS games, "hero" or unique units usually were part of mission-specific goals, requiring you to protect them at all costs. While these unique units might have sported slightly higher damage rolls or special powers, I usually found myself squirreling them away in the most protected parts of my bases so that they would not die an untimely death. Warcraft III completely changes this mold, now enabling you to place hero units at the forefront of battles where they belong. These hero units (each race gets three to use) are incredibly powerful, and if you do not field one or two on the battlefield, you are usually asking to get tromped. The orcs' Swordmaster, perhaps the coolest hero unit, is capable of spinning in a blade-wielding frenzy, chopping down multiple enemy units in no time. I also really loved the fact that the game rewards you for exploring the entire map by offering neutral units to defeat in exchange for experience points for your hero. As your hero increases in levels, he or she gains more and more powers. Furthermore, sometimes defeated neutral units drop items that can further bolster the power of your hero.

The Bad

I really, REALLY hate upkeep. In Warcraft III, the size of your army dictates how much gold is deducted from your income due to taxation. Thus, if you're fielding a relatively small army, all the gold your workers collect will flow into your coffers. However, once you build up your army to respectable numbers, you'll find more and more gold vanishes even before it reaches your coffers. Thus, if you launch a major attack against an enemy while burdened by high upkeep, you'd better hope you win - otherwise, the loss of gold due to taxation will render you almost incapable of defending against a counterattack. Upkeep is probably useful in stopping rushes in multiplayer and encouraging more strategic play. Fine and dandy. But what's the point in single player games? Often, you'll be facing three or four separate enemy camps, all bent on wiping you out. With the deck stacked thus against you, why cripple you even further with upkeep? I found this aspect of the game to be the most frustrating, and I hope Blizzard does not make this a recurring feature in future RTS products.

The Bottom Line

Take Warcraft II, stir in some Starcraft, blend with a 3D engine and some innovation and you get Warcraft III. Also, I highly recommend the cool special edition, if you can find out - all the extras are worth the $70 price tag.