Blizzard returns to one of the longest-running franchises in gaming with Warcraft III: Reforged, a revamped version of a classic RTS game. Exclusive to PCs through battle.net, we couldn’t wait to try it.
I’ll readily admit that I never really got into World of Warcraft or any of its many expansions. The original Warcraft games are a different story though – I played the heck out of those, especially the second one. Just like how old time fans of the genre think of Doom and Wolfenstein when they consider FPS games, people will always go back to Command and Conquer and Warcraft for the Real Time Strategy genre when they think of the games that defined the genre. Sure, Starcraft and Company of Heroes were also great, but they came much later.
The massive success of World of Warcraft (and the fading popularity of the RTS genre) made Warcraft 4 feel increasingly unlikely, so for fans of the original trilogy Warcraft III: Reforged felt like “the next best thing” and great news. While I wouldn’t have minded an updated version of the classic (MS-DOS!) titles either, it’s been nice to go back to Warcraft III and see it restored with updates visuals and a few new mechanics.
Visually, no one should have expected a game that’s almost twenty years old to look on par with modern greats in the genre (including the upcoming Iron Harvest). But for a game that originally shipped on a single CD-ROM and was happy to sit on just 700 megabytes of hard drive space, things certainly look much-improved. Units look more detailed and better animated, as do the environments and the buildings that inhabit them. As with your units, these too have improved animations – although you have to destroy them to see it as they crumble. For fans of World of Warcraft, it’s also worth mentioning that the visual style now more closely resembles what can be seen in Blizzard’s MMO.
But while the visuals and audio have been upgraded, things could definitely be more refined. The cutscenes that were supposed to receive a big upgrade look a lot more like the 2002 original than I had expected based on the pre-release renders and videos we saw. In addition, I’ve seen a few little visual glitches and instances of subtitles not being rendered on screen, or even entire cutscenes not being shown as the audio plays in the background. The user interface that helps you control your units looks sharper than before, but “reforged” was supposed to also feature a redesign on that front – and this isn’t what I’d call a redesign by any definition.
Gameplay-wise, however, the old magic still shines through. The story campaign is still a great one, and the narrative blends well with the mission structure of the game. The gameplay very much resembles the classic RTS formula from the mid to late nineties, and it’s one of the best examples you can find out there. If you see that as the core of Warcraft III and stick with it, there’s a great experience to be had with Reforged – and I’m assuming the bugs will be fixed to give things a bit more polish. The community’s rightfully upset with the lack of features that was promised though, and whether or not those are going to be added is (for now) a big question mark. I’ve also heard rumbling about missing features when comparing the game to the original 2002 version, though many of those relate to multiplayer functionality and mod support. If you have a great deal of interested in that area of the game, then my advice would be to keep an eye out for Blizzard’s official word in the next few weeks. If you’re keen on playing the core campaign and heading back to a pre-WoW Azeroth, then Reforged has you covered. It appears this one needed a bit more time in the forge to make fans truly happy though….