|Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment Genre: Strategy & War Expansion For: WarCraft III|
|Min OS X: 10.1.3 CPU: G3 @ 400 MHz RAM: 128 MB Hard Disk: 700 MB 4x CD-ROM Graphics: 16 MB VRAM|
When Blizzard puts out a game, competing game companies should sit down and take notes. Blizzard’s games don’t have cutting edge graphics, eye-catching gimmicks, or a barrel of industry buzzwords. Blizzard doesn’t necessarily try to revolutionize or innovate every time they put a title out. Blizzard doesn’t rush half-broken games out the door, and they’re more likely to listen to a fan than an analyst. They know what sells games: stupendous game play.
Warcraft III came out a little more than a year ago, and no one should have been surprised by how many “Game of the Year” awards it won or by how well it sold. No one should have been surprised by how damn fun it was to play. And I don’t think anyone was. Putting out the best computer games in the world is just what Blizzard does.
Soon after the release of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, Blizzard released the Frozen Throne expansion pack. It’s got a slew of new features and improved game play, and it’s as exciting as any stand-alone games that have come out in the last few months. A lesser company would have charged us a little more money and called it Warcraft IV.
The Frozen Throne has more to it than any Blizzard expansion yet — more than most stand-alone games. Frozen Throne boasts 17 new units, shops, clan support for multiplayer, an improved level editor, and too many little game play improvements to list.
Previously, on Warcraft III …In Reign of Chaos, the story strayed from the usual Warcraft formula of Orcs versus Humans and introduced two new races, the Night Elves and the Undead. The Undead Scourge was sent to destroy the world of Azeroth by the Burning Legion, an un-merry band of demons. The story begins on the continent of Lordaeron, where Orcs and Humans were still fighting, unaware of the imminent arrival of this common foe.
Both the Humans and the Orcs later flee to the continent of Kalimdor, where they encounter the ancient Night Elves, guardians of the forests. The three races form an uneasy alliance and by the end of the original game, the Undead Lich King Ner’Zhul is frozen in ice and Archimonde, ruler of the Burning Legion gets torn apart by tree spirits. Archimonde was definitely finished, but you know the show must go on if one of the bad guys has only been frozen in ice.
The Frozen Throne opens with a gorgeous cinematic, in which we learn that, after the fall of Archimonde, the banished Night Elf Demon Hunter Illidan has raised an army of Naga (think aquatic Zerg) in order to exact revenge against his enemies. The Naga add a fifth race to the game and provide for a host of twists and turns in both the plot and the game play. See them as an indication of how serious this expansion is about adding as much to the game as possible. If only they’d been available as a new race for multiplayer.
The story is about what you’d expect from Blizzard. Better than a lot of games but not quite as interesting as the game play itself. I really think Starcraft was the peak of Blizzard story telling, and it’s one watermark I’d like to see them surpass.
The Night Elf Sentinel campaign involves the new Warden hero, Maiev, obsessively hunting down Illidan. There are many encounters and battles with the Naga, many references to characters from past Warcraft installments, and a hunt that eventually takes us back to Lordaeron, where the Night Elf heroes Tyrande and Furion join Maiev on her quest. Most of the Night Elf levels forgo the base-building style of game play and take more of a dungeon-crawl approach. By the time the Alliance campaign started, I was really looking forward to some good old-fashioned Warcraft resource management.
With eight levels, a few implausible plot twists, and a decent surprise later, we move on to a more exciting and much more building-based Alliance campaign. The scattered Alliance forces left behind on Lordaeron have begun to walk down a dark path. I suppose endless battles with vast armies of the walking dead would drain the light from anyone. Aside from a passion for torching the Undead, the Elves, who now call themselves the Blood Elves, are filled with a hunger for magic. They team up with the slimy Naga to — you guessed it — find Illidan. By the end of the campaign, you might be a bit worn out by the endless plot twists, but the final level is a lot of fun.
In the Undead campaign, you’ll get to hear the phrase “Frozen Throne” in just about every cut scene. Arthas declares himself king, the High Elf Sylvanas (remember her?) returns as an undead Dark Ranger, and Archimonde’s old cronies are set on dethroning Arthas. Ner’Zhul calls out to Arthas from the Frozen Throne. His powers are waning and so are Arthas’. Arthas, the demons, and Illidan race to the Frozen Throne, and there are betrayals and some more plot twists along the way. It’s best to ignore the story once you get this far and focus on what the Scourge are all about: amassing huge armies and purging the land of your enemies. The first mission is all about slaughtering peasants. Bring your mean streak with you.
The Orc campaign is not part of the main storyline and is not your usual game of Warcraft. The story follows Thrall and his tribe as they settle the Kalimdor Barrens to establish the new nation of Durotar. The RPG-style game play can get a bit tedious at times, especially in areas where scads of enemies who no longer pose a threat to you keep re-spawning. It’s definitely best that they designated this a bonus campaign. For what it is, it’s quite a bit of fun, but it might not be for everyone.