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Blizzard Entertainment
Strategy & War
Release Date

WarCraft III Multiplayer Beta
March 4, 2002 | Andy Largent

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Night Elves have three equally powerful heroes in the Demon Hunter, Keeper of the Grove, and Priestess of the Moon. At later levels, the Demon Hunter can assume the form of very powerful demon himself, and the Keeper's damage aura can greatly help friendly units during battle.

A vile and powerful race, the Undead rule both the night and day. Faithful Acolytes do the work of mining gold and 'summoning' buildings. While this summoning process is slower, an Acolyte is free to move about and start working on something else immediately after it has begun. Ghouls, one of the weaker fighting units, have the task of harvesting lumber.

Like the Zerg from StarCraft, the Undead spread their disease along the ground, and their buildings can only be constructed on this Blight. The Blight also provides regeneration benefits for Undead units. A few very powerful units like the Abomination and Frost Wyrm inspire fear in enemies, though zooming in on them its not hard to see why. Town defense is heavily bolstered by towering Zigguarats which will defend against both ground and air attacks.

Undead heroes include the Death Knight, Dread Lord, and Lich. The Death Knight's spell of Animate Death can easily turn the tide of battle by resurrecting the six most poweful fallen characters in the vicinity to fight with you. Smart players will also want to use the Dread Lord's Vampiric Aura to help Undead units steal life away as they attack.

Graphics: The Extra -D Makes All the Difference
I'll be honest in saying that I wasn't too thrilled to hear WarCraft III was going to be making use of 3D technology. At the time of the announcement, hardware acceleration still seemed unnecessary in my mind. But more than the fears over needing to upgrade hardware, I also saw it as a genre that wouldn't really benefit from being in 3D. Like hardcore Mario platformer fans, it was hard to imagine breaking the RTS from the 2D isometric world of sprites and tiles.

Let me just say that after seeing it in action, I take it all completely back. WarCraft III initially feels much the same as a 2D RTS. The superb Blizzard artists have done an excellent job of giving the units in WarCraft III an amazing array of color and life, especially considering the few number of polygons they had to work with.

The real difference 3D makes is by being able to zoom in on the action. Immediately that hillside --which would have only been a shaded brown tile in a 2D game-- becomes a huge obstacle which your units must hike up and over. Buildings gain a sense of true depth, and the animations of characters in combat are all exceptionally done. The world of WarCraft comes to life in 3D, and it gives me great confidence that Blizzard is going to be able to move beyond 2D in all of its games.

That being said, one of the sacrifices Blizzard made to keep the playability of the game high was to lock the camera at one angle. Hardcore Myth fans used to rotating and orbiting freely might feel constrained by the controls in WarCraft III at first. But Blizzard often shoots for the common denominator with their games, and a strong argument can also be made that many gamers found Myth's system of controls too complicated to easily pick up and play.


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