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RELEASE DATE (NA): July 2, 2002 GENRE: Real-Time Strategy
// review by SoyBomb

Let chaos reign.

In both the original Warcraft and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, the plot was very simple: the Orcs were trying to take over the Human lands, and depending on which campaign you undertook, you would either guide the Orcs to victory or drive them back into the Netherworlds from whence they came. When Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos was released almost seven years later, I'm sure fans of the series were surprised by the significant increase in depth of the storyline. Taking place after the defeat of the Orcish Hordes (thus proving the Human campaigns in Warcraft II to be canon), the game provides, in order, storylines for the Humans, the Undead Scourge (one of two new races in the Warcraft universe) comprised of zombified terror seekers, the Orcs, and finally the Night Elves. Each campaign takes place chronologically one after the other. Though there are many minutae in the plot, the bottom line is that, slowly but surely, the Burning Legion, an army of demonic creatures, shall overwhelm and destroy the entire world. It will eventually come to pass that the Humans, Orcs, and Night Elves must all band together to stop the onslaught of the Burning Legion led by Archimonde, an extremely powerful demon, after he is raised by a pair of possessed and ultimately ill-guided characters. Unlike the previous Warcraft titles, your missions are learned through in-game cinematics, rather than simply being presented to you in a debriefing.

Warcraft III adheres to the usual tropes of games past. You establish your base, first by mining tons of gold and hacking away at the forests for lumber (at the same slow speed as before), then by constructing new buildings and training new units to defend yourself. There are also plenty of opportunities to research weapon, armor, and spell upgrades for the various types of units. Now there's something I definitely have a beef with: why do I keep having to re-research upgrades over and over again when my characters move to a different settlement? Do they immediately forget everything they know once the enemy is dead? Is my Axethrower saying, "Yeah! We won! We'll never need to have an increased throwing range ever again!" And then he bashes his head on a rock and forgets his newly-learned skills. And math. Don't forget math. Once you have established yourself well, it's time to enter the darkened fray and defeat your enemies in a bloody bruhaha to the death, not to mention reprimanding the innocent buildings for being built by the wrong race with your swords in the process. That's building racism. Plus, enemies will likely come to you first, ready to demolish that while you have so elegantly erected. Kill 'em all...

But not every mission is as cookie-cutter as this. Some give you a limited number of followers, forcing you to get from one location to another with limited support. You can't upgrade anything or train new characters (though you can usually pick up a few additional warriors along the way), so your strategic brawling skills must come into play. And then there are the missions with a timer. I strongly dislike those. They typically involve fending off enemies from your base for a specific amount of time; the game does its best to send as much destruction upon you as possible within that timeframe. It even occasionally cheats, sending more creatures your way that can normally be spawned. What cruelty! What heartlessness! What the heck?

Characters have more personality and wackier flapping jaws to match.

With more races to conduct, there are far more units to keep track of, although each race has an army with more or less equivalent units to one another. I personally felt that the Orcish Hordes and the night elves had weaker units than the Humans or the Undead, though I could partially attribute that to the fact that those campaigns played out later in the game and thus should have been more difficult. What was more surprising was how Warcraft III took a step backward — a devolution, if you will — by not including any sea expeditions, a feature that really took Warcraft II to the next level. What happened to all of our trusty ships? You won't be able to take that beloved Juggernaught out for a spin. (Only in the expansion pack, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, do sea-faring vessels make an appearance.) As well, the user can now select up to twelve units at a time, as opposed to nine in Warcraft II (and four in the original Warcraft), making it even easier to quickly transport your armies.

In seven years, a graphical upgrade was practically inevitable. Worlds are now rendered in the new craze known as the "third dimension", and you can use the mouse wheel to modify your viewing angle a bit. Characters, too, are now polygonal; the models aren't exactly mind-blowing, but they get the job done. Each individual unit gets its own animated 3D portrait as well, and boy, do they look downright goofy. Everyone looks like they're constantly chewing a cud on the battlefield! The userface has also received a makeover, though its functionality is more or less the same. There is also a new soundtrack, but it feels as though it has been pushed farther into the background than ever before. On the plus side, there is far more voice acting, including the legendary gruntish voice of the Orcs!

Despite the upgrades and modifications, Warcraft III did not feel as though it gained much of a challenge. In fact, only a few missions seemed notably difficult, though you can now select a difficulty setting to truly tax your senses. But overall, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos is more of an evolution of the series, rather than a revolution. Basically, if you enjoyed the first two, you'll still love the third entry. With more than enough references to previous Warcraft games to please the fans, Warcraft III is a solid sequel to an already great series.

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