Warcraft III: Frozen Throne03 Apr 2003 0
Warcraft III was a much-anticipated sequel to an already successful franchise. Overall, it met the challenge of living up to the hype as a great real-time strategy game. It is a great game with a solid and interesting single player campaign and some of the best multiplayer gaming on a smooth and painless matching service (Battle.net). Although it did not reinvent a genre or really do anything out of the ordinary, Warcraft III just had the feel of a tight, well-done, and fun game. Most successful games usually enjoy an expansion pack, so it was really no surprise that Blizzard announced Warcraft III: Frozen Throne as an expansion pack to the popular game. Warcraft III: Frozen Throne promises a slew of new units and heroes along with new maps and a new single player campaign as well as several twists to the old game. It would be easy to be cynical and think of Warcraft III: Frozen Throne as a simple milking of the fan base that just added a few units and some content. Based on my first encounter with the beta, I am far from cynical.
The Obvious Changes
The most obvious changes come in the form of new units and new maps. All of the new heroes are interesting and well suited to the races that they will serve in the final game. The new units add depth, and combined with the other major changes (more on those later) should make the game more interesting. The new tile sets and maps look very good graphically and the maps are interesting to play on. Perhaps most interesting are the neutral heroes (available to anyone at a neutral building) and player built item shops. The neutral heroes make it harder to predict an opponent's overall strategy based on their race, since it is possible to have two or even three heroes that are not race-specific. However, the game still only allows three total heroes, based on any combination of race-specific and neutral heroes. The single player campaign is not part of this beta, but is an anticipated feature that should add much to the expansion.
In addition to the obvious changes, several subtle interface and control tweaks polish the game. Some of these tweaks are only immediately obvious to an experienced Warcraft III player, but all are very welcome additions. For example, now tomes (items that enhance stats) are automatically consumed when they are picked up, even when the hero's inventory is full. This eliminates frustrating inventory situations when dealing with items and makes the game move slightly faster. Another interesting interface feature is now a "shadow" of a building will appear at a build site as the peasant unit moves to build the building. This makes it much easier to lay down a line of structures, easing base management. Random game searches now "downsize" to the upper right window so the player can still chat with other players while waiting for a game. There are many other small interface tweaks (like a line of gold bars that indicate how many wisps are in a mine) that are helpful, yet almost invisible. New support for clans and teams for team play are added to Battle.net, making playing with friends even easier. All of these changes are nice, but they are just the entry fee in my opinion, in order for an expansion pack to be worth a player's time it needs more than a few tweaks and new units.