When Warcraft III: Reforged was revealed November 2018, more than 16 years after Warcraft III’s release: Reign of Chaos rejoiced fans of the fabled series. The aging but beloved games (including the expansion of The Frozen Throne) underwent a fairly major redesign together. Blizzard, scheduled for release in 2019, announced a late-stage delay that moved the release date to January 28, 2020. No problem; it had to secure Blizzard’s reputation for shine. Of course the latest character models, modernized graphics, and fresh cutscenes will be worth the extra wait.
Warcraft III: Reforged complied with its delayed publication, and you can enjoy it now. Whether you want to be playing is another problem. All who follow the tale know that fans have checked the Metacritic user score with more than 27,000 reviews, bringing it down to a disappointing 0.5 (out of 10). What had gone wrong? What went wrong? I played through Warcraft III: improved campaigns and destroyed in multiplayer matches to see where the game is and why so many people are so mad at what Blizzard offers here.
Longtime Warcraft III players already know what the game is all about and luckily the core gameplay hasn’t changed. Warcraft III: Reforged is still Warcraft, but with some fresh graphics that are certainly more appealing to newcomers (and accessible). You will need to set up a home base, collect resources from nearby forests and gold mines, train economic and military units, upgrade buildings and tech units, extend your borders and eventually scour enemies from the world. There are cycles of day and night which affect the viability of the unit and the fog of war, adding more strategy. This is classic real-time strategy stuff (RTS) and any genre fans who haven’t played original Warcraft III when it was released all those years ago can jump into Reforged and find something to like.
To make things extra interesting — and distinguish themselves from other RTS giants — Warcraft III features heroes that level up and gain access to new skills as they acquire experience. Heroes have inventories where products are stored, either bought or pillaged during gameplay. Some objects passively confer extra power or protection on the hero while others can be used to cure or shield close allies. Heroes can be revived when fallen in battle, for a price. Such aspects of roleplaying game (RPG) tackled into the traditional RTS base are a major part of what makes Warcraft III so fun, and that’s still there.
If you’ve been considering buying the game and haven’t played Warcraft III at all in the past, the price of $30 is only fair admission for the campaigns. We spread through many races with all the missions originally included in Warcraft III: Chaos’ reign and expansion, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. They’ll take up to 40 hours to run through, longer if you’re making a point of reaching all the available side quests. Any game that good, disregarding the remake issues, is not a bad investment that provides hourly entertainment for less than a dollar. Remember that all of the campaigns can not be accessed at once. You must start with the prolog or human campaign, unlocking other entries as you finish the last one. That might be a downside for longtime players, but it’s far less a problem for newcomers.
The Warcraft III campaigns are still holding up and worth your time 18 years later.
Blizzard added a new “story mode” difficulty to the newbie campaign, though the regular difficulty that I used to play through was easy enough for anyone who has been playing an RTS in the past. Some map formats have been slightly changed to suit better with World of Warcraft (WoW) mythology, and some units have been shuffled around, but otherwise there are no plot updates that have been addressed before.
Custom games are readily available on Blizzard-made maps to play against machine or human opponents (think skirmishes where you start with almost nothing and build your way up), and custom games are also available for download and play by other players, such as tower defence. Versus mode offers ranked games with just a few clicks against other humans. Multiplayer has its fair share of problems (which I’m addressing in the next section), but I’ve always had fun getting stomped by Warcraft III pros after all.
As for the graphical redesign, I don’t mind much of what Blizzard has accomplished. Units and structures are of higher quality, 4 K support is available and the game obviously looks much more modern than it used to. In-game cinematics have also been reworked, but not quite as spectacular as what was seen in a 2018 teaser. In 2019 Blizzard said it wasn’t going to go quite for the zoomed-in look to match better with the original title, but for many fans this is still a sticking point. As for gaming in general, you can zoom in to a point where the view is very useless. It would have appreciated a little more room on the zoom out; coming from other RTS games sometimes it feels a little claustrophobic.
Those pining for Warcraft III’s classic look, particularly because the classic client is gone, aren’t entirely doomed. Blizzard featured a toggle between Classic and Reforged Graphics to turn back and forth. Unfortunately, support for the ultra large monitor is missing, and the UI was not reworked to fit higher resolutions. Played on a 2560×1440 (QHD) monitor, the UI looks enormous and crowded into the show centre. With subtitles and hint popups turned on, the screen ‘s center square easily gets loaded with details to the point that it’s hard to see the action.
Comparing a screenshot of Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition and Warcraft III: Reforged demonstrates clearly what I mean. At least on a midrange gaming Machine, the game runs fairly smoothly. I witnessed one crash on the first day and it was a crash-free ride from there. But there’s not much hope for those who don’t have a PC as modern—something that didn’t have any problem running original Warcraft III.
PC specifications allowed a big move forward (never mind the comparatively large size of the installation), and the Reforged client replaced the classic version. Many who were happy with classic Warcraft III were limited to finding an old copy and playing LAN via internet matches or single player matches. That’s just not going to do for many people , particularly as we dig into some of the flaws that come with Warcraft III: Reforged.
I’m not a Warcraft III diehard player and would expect more time spent playing Warcraft II than its sequel. That doesn’t mean I can not see why fans of Warcraft III are so upset. I imagine Blizzard launching a Diablo II remake with these types of tricks and how I would ask for a swift refund. Warcraft III: Reforged remains in the centre, instead of coming out fully remastered or totally re-made. As I write this article, there is a lot of outrage going on and it’s up in the air whether or not the full force is justified. But digging beyond the initial excitement of playing Warcraft III back into the game, it becomes obvious where Blizzard went wrong.
Character animations are mostly static and janky. No update has been provided from the settings menu, to the point that you still need to open a.txt file to change hotkeys (yes, right). Custom games, once a big draw for Warcraft III and the laboratory from which online battle arena (MOBA) multiplayer games like Dota 2 and League of Legends have been born, now all belong to Blizzard and are subject to his discretion.
There are no profiles of players, no rankings and no ligaments. Tournament mode has been scrapped. Ladders and families, it appears, arrive at a later date. You can not play custom games with players from other regions (the player pool is shrinking), and you can not build or load existing custom campaigns. These are all features available in the original Warcraft III. There’s a popular bug in Versus matchmaking mode to boot, which will stop you from entering a match after you’ve found one.
It could (should) have used useful feedback to make the game even better.
A few days after the release of the game Blizzard issued a statement to clarify their stance. Blizzard reiterated its long-term dedication to Warcraft III: patches for classic version graphics, portrait animation bugs, and UI bugs are being strengthened. It’s unclear if this involves scaling of any sort. Leaderboards and clans are also expected to return at a later date, with further details coming in. By the end of the day, this is positive news but concerns remain. Why not include this stuff at the launch? Why was this so much a surprise on release?
Blizzard ‘s success with the remake should have been immediate. It will have members from a dedicated group of players who are better involved. It could (should) have used useful feedback to make the game even better. Warcraft III: Reforged is a bit of a mess right now, but they should have predicted at least the mess. Along with the simple change to a system that won’t require any kind of situation in Dota 2 (where Valve took the MOBA idea and ran with it to the bank), Warcraft III: Reforged in this state doesn’t seem like a love work. Particularly compared to Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition — another classic RTS remake which received much praise when it was released late 2019 — Warcraft III: Reforged is a disappointment.
Considering the uproar around Warcraft III: Reforged — including the acronym Warcraft III: Refunded — and even Blizzard recognizing the outcry of instant refunds, you probably won’t want to go for an impulse purchase.
Warcraft III: It does not seem like a labor of love forged in this state.
I used to have fun playing Warcraft III mostly: Reforged but I should be considered a casual one. Others who want a story-driven campaign will certainly have a lot of fun with hours of quality content as well as RTS and RPG elements mixed together.
Gamers hoping for a nostalgic ride back to Azeroth will be let down, however. Overwriting the classic customer is an additional slap in the face of loyal supporters, and I’m sure that many fans wish that no sequel had been made. None of these things support the declining image of Blizzard, and it’s becoming hard to trust the business that was once praised for taking its time to shimmer games.