“Poke. Poke. Poke. Is that all you do?”, “Me not that kind of orc!”, “Why don’t you lead an army instead of touching me?”. Click on an Orc units long enough and these are some of the amusing phrases that you will hear.
Fifteen years after its original release – the same amount of time that has passed since the war ended in the game – I feel inclined to share my endless love of Warcraft 3. A game that I have plugged thousands of hours into over the years, but one that I keep coming back to due to the humour such as these little phrases, interesting gameplay mechanics, and quirky cartoon graphics.
Warcraft 3 covers darker themes including war, genocide, exhuming the dead, and an exodus. Hardly light stuff, but it rarely felt heavy. Blizzard cleverly juxtaposes these dark overtones with humour and quirky in game cut scenes that feel theatrical due to the camera being positioned at a 90-degree angle.
Rather than becoming jarring, though, these less serious moments help the game strike a balance between technical, fleshed out mechanics and lighter, less serious elements. Blizzard straddles this fine line with such aplomb that it borders on dizzying. I could just as easily be absorbed in mastering the endless ways you can tackle foes as I could be giggling about a giant tree building getting involved in a battle.
Back in 2002, I spent a few minutes during every playthrough just clicking on units, gleefully hoping to hear a new phrase. Each race has their own quirky qualities, interesting character designs, the aforementioned humorous phrases, and colourful buildings that drip off the screen.
All of these things may seem superficial, but when you’re an hour into a difficult match, the difference between wanting to continue or leaving can be impacted by a lack of humour, uninteresting characters or bland colour scheme; issues that I associate with a lot of RTS games and as much as I love a lot of the realistic RTS games out there, they often lose their lustre over time.
Yet, even though I feel it is important to mention these inclusions, it would be worthless if the gameplay was bad. Thankfully, this is not the case. Blizzard have carefully considered the game mechanics so it’s not only fun to play, but each race has been finely balanced. There aren’t any “No Teutons” moments here.
The four races have their own unique strengths and weaknesses; Night Elves can turn invisible at night to pounce on passing enemies, but can not regenerate health during the day; Orcs are strong in close combat, but have weak ranged militia; the Undead can reanimate corpses, but this could be undone by casting dispel; and humans are equipped with powerful ground units, but were weak aerially. For each strategy, there is a capable counter and this is one of the main reasons why WC3 became a staple in gaming competitions for years.
Another is that the small unit cap meant micromanagement plays an integral part in the gameplay, enabling units to be easily grabbed and moved while in battle. Tactically controlling units wasn’t just an option, it was essential if you wanted to beat an opponent. Warcraft 3 was punishing on those who tried to mindlessly spam units as they would only function as cannon fodder for the opponent’s heroes (special units that can be levelled up from 1-10) to gain experience points.
As these hero units become more powerful, they could attain special powers such as passive auras and powerful spells that can influence battles. This RPG element lessened the importance of late game units or spamming militia, as a powerful hero – or group of heroes – could dictate the flow of battle. However, heroes are not invulnerable and if you aren’t micromanaging them closely, they could be taken out, which is particularly problematic as these units take progressively longer to respawn the more powerful they become.
Warcraft 3 gives you the tools to pull off an endless number of strategies and if you want to risk it all and head into battle with all of your heroes at the frontline, you are free to do that – just be prepared to face a devastating loss.No matter how many times I have played this game, I am still learning how to better approach certain strategies and I can’t see that trend ending any time soon, especially since the game keeps getting updated (the last one was released on 4 April this year).
For a long time I was eagerly waiting for Warcraft 4 to be announced. But, honestly, does the perfect RTS require a sequel? I mean, even one of the orc units who hated being poked, relinquished after a while, saying: “Ooh, that was kinda nice!”
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