As you may have noticed, over the past couple of weeks, our posting schedule fell apart rather drastically. There are many reasons for this, and you probably don’t care about any one of them. We apologize for the lack of communications, and we’re making a concerted effort to get things back on track, more or less. Starting here, with a new episode of the HUNT, wherein we play and discuss none other than Warcraft III.
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos was released by Blizzard Entertainment on July 3rd, 2002. As a sequel to Blizzard’s highly popular Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, it was highly anticipated… and as the game was announced somewhere in September 1999, the resulting long development cycle only served to fuel the anticipation. Warcraft III beta keys were in high demand, and cracked beta copies circulated wildly… not that we here at Blue Screen of Awesome would know anything about that.
Warcraft III was finally released to expected high praise, shipping four-and-a-half million units to fill demand. Review scores were high, reaching 92/100 on MetaCritic (with 40/40 positive critic reviews, no less) and 93.08% on GameRankings. The (inevitable) expansion, Frozen Throne, released July 1st, 2003, scores similarly, reaching 88/100 on MetaCritic and 90.75% on GameRankings respectively. Both the main game and the expansion scores a bevy of This-Game-Is-Great-type awards, which (through the magic of the Internet Wayback Machine) you can read all about right here.
Warcraft III made some sweeping gameplay changes compared to its predecessor. Most notably among these is probably the game’s use of Heroes: RPG-style special units with different skills, levels and skillpoints, and inventories. Each race had access to three unique heroes — the expansion increased this to four, and introduced some non-race-specific ones — and the way Hero costs were handled meant you could get your first Hero fairly quickly and almost for free. Heroes and their skills and items were central to the gameplay in Warcraft III, to the point where good Hero micro-control could be as effective as the traditional massed-army.
The Warcraft III game world was more detailed and involved than the Warcraft II one. To support the process of levelling up Heroes, each map was dotted with a number of random monster — ‘creep’ — camps, colour-coded to indicate difficulty. Another addition was the inclusion of neutral buildings that Heroes could use to recruit new units (or Heroes) or buy items. The game had a fully functional day-night cycle, too, which significantly influenced gameplay: most neutral monsters were ‘asleep’ during the night, and some units and races gained special bonuses or penalties during either time.
Where Warcraft II had two races, and Starcraft had three, Warcraft III upped the ante once more with four distinct races. And like in Starcraft (and unlike Warcraft II) the four races all had unique attributes with regards to building styles, units and general gameplay. While the old hands Orcs and Humans were still outwardly fairly similar (though expert players would probably disagree here), the new additions — the Undead and the Night Elves — shook up the established rules severely.
On the other hand, Warcraft III kept a lot of similarities to Warcraft II. The resources to gather are still Gold and Wood (Oil did’t make the cut, sadly), and the unit limit is still determined by building special ‘farm’-like buildings, up to a maximum allowed unit cap of 100 (the addition of the Upkeep system, though, differentiates Warcraft III even here). Each race processes through the tech tree by upgrading their ‘main building’ twice, each time unlocking more buildings and upgrades. Control groups are still limited, allowing up to 12 units per group.
Warcraft III was praised both for its engaging single-player campaign, which focused on character-driven conflicts and famously opened the way for World of Warcraft’s setting, and for its highly balanced multiplayer, which is still played to this day. The game’s moddability was also praised: Warcraft III is equally famous for the many mini-games that spawned from it, including such names as Footman Frenzy, Hero Line Wars and the ever-popular Tower Defense, a genre that (while certainly not new) enjoyed a great boost in popularity partially through Warcraft III’s efforts. And let’s not forget Defense of the Ancients, the Warcraft III mod that spawned an entire genre.
Warcraft III and its expansion work on Windows (XP, Vista, 7) right out of the box.
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