The Warcraft III series consists of its original starter base game (Reign of Chaos, released in 2002) and its more widely known expansion (The Frozen Throne, released in 2003). It is a fantasy real-time strategy game created by Blizzard Entertainment and has been well known to be the spark of the WarCraft universe that led on to the creation of the widely popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft. During its prime, WarCraft III was known to be a competitive game and had several eSports (as we know it now) competitions held for it. More importantly, the game’s bundled map editor provided endless versatility for game enthusiasts to create a wide variety of experiences and gameplay which allowed for many mini-games within itself, some even growing to be even more popular than itself (Defense of the Ancients [DotA] and now DotA 2).
Here’s the link to some footage of the gameplay:
As I review this game, I refer to playing the Campaign and standard gameplay according to the original game and not custom maps made by the community.
Breaking the game down with the Elemental Tetrad:
Eliminate all structures of all opponents (in a standard game) or finishing the defined mission objectives. This follows standard real-time strategy games such as StarCraft and Command & Conquer games and it simply means annihilate your enemies.
This is where I feel WarCraft III shines over all other games in its genre. It uses its wide spectrum of characters to a story within a fantasy universe that we come to enjoy and love. The WarCraft universe has always been centered around wars and diplomacy between the various races to survive and it is no surprise that we see commander-like gameplay mechanics to suit this story.
The game is aesthetically acceptable at its time of release, it wasn’t the best in immersing me in its universe due to its blocky style but its varied and detailed environments, impressive cinematics and flavourful hero design did create a strong impression of the game. The gameplay however feels slow paced and sluggish which although helped to make the game easier and manageable but made not much sense in a war.
It takes ~33 strikes from an Orc Grunt to kill another Orc Grunt with his axe; that ain’t happening in real life man.
This game was made strictly for PC and I don’t think it would have been possible to re-create it on any other console at that time. Playing it on a controller would have been quite frustrating.
Analysis through other Lenses:
#31 Lens of Challenge
The game had varying levels of challenge as it not only had AI that pretty much straight up cheated for an edge, but it also allowed for LAN competition where human players play against each other. So whether it was in the Campaign or Multiplayer (through Battle.NET), we were sure to have a suitable level of difficulty. I agree that all games should try to use multiplayer to create that variable level of difficulty but I like how WarCraft makes sure that there is the fallback option of a good and challenging AI.
#32 Lens of Meaningful Choices
Crucial to any real-time strategy game, the game permits you to spend resources in any way you seem fit to surprise or counter your opponent’s army composition. WarCraft III makes the important design decision to place a higher population resource requirement on strong individual units that makes sure that no one can snowball the game out of control with the mindless accumulation of them. This ensure that there is no straightforward dominant strategy in the game (except for extreme ones that competitive players come up with).
#46 Lens of Economy
Of course, as mentioned above, this game is all about spending resources in the game’s economy. Securing of resources must be fought for and the thoughtful spending comes along with it as resources are rather scarce in the game. WarCraft III has this unique economic design called upkeep that basically reduces the income as your army rises in population. I believe this was meant to reduce snowball rushes with armies but what it means is that players are given the option of risking expansions early on, which ultimately provides more avenues of gameplay.
#01 Lens of Essential Experience
Ultimately, I think WarCraft III caught my attention because through the campaign, I could resonate with the heroes going through their struggles in their conquests.
The game does so with effective storytelling, unique and personalised characters and managing to capture the feel of leading troops into battle for their own agendas. The whole real-time strategy genre really fits into the theme and it ultimately creates an story-telling experience like no other that I have felt before.