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Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 400 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Hard Disk: 700 MB    4x CD-ROM

WarCraft III
July 15, 2002 | Eddie Park

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The various structures that can be built are dependent on several factors. Each structure carries its own price in resources. Furthermore, the allowance of building structures is dependent on what RTS players commonly refer to as a Tech Tree. For example, the Humans can build a Town Hall and Barracks at any time, but most upgrade their Town Hall to a Keep in order to construct a Workshop. In turn, the Keep can only be upgraded to a Castle when an Altar of Kings is constructed, which in turn allows construction of a Gryphon Aviary. Each Tech Tree is unique to a race in its branching. In a welcome breath of fresh air, the number of structures that can be created is significantly less than the numerous ones in StarCraft, simplifying the process and making town management considerably less stressful. However, WC3 is careful not to make things too primary – there’s still a wonderful amount of flexibility in deciding when to build what. Commonly referred to as a Build Order, players often form specific building plans, creating structures that play off the Tech Tree and conform to their own strategies. A player needs not build every structure on the Tree in order to win, but rather only needs to focus on the structures deemed important and necessary.

Each race also approaches construction in a different way. The Orcs are the most basic, with one Peon able to build one structure. However, as mentioned earlier, these structures can be upgraded to bear spiked barricades which harm any enemy melee unit that assaults them. The Humans are capable of Cooperative Building, where assigning more Peasants to the construction of a structure allows for faster completion times, though at the cost of gold and lumber. The Undead, similar to the Protoss in StarCraft, can summon structures into being, and can cancel a structure in progress if necessary in order to recoup a percentage of resources used. The Night Elves use Wisps to create tree-like structures which, as mentioned earlier, can uproot themselves to travel, fight, and consume trees to regain health.

While the game proceeds apace, the world itself cycles between day and night. During the night, the vision of units is affected, Creeps (mentioned later) go to sleep, and the Night Elves gain certain advantages they lose during the daylight hours.

The Titans empowered a number of races to help them…
Of course, one can’t fight a war with buildings alone. Fighting units, like structures, cost a certain amount of resources to train. In addition, which units a player can train are based on what structures are available, which further makes the Tech Tree and Build Order of great importance. Again, this is where Blizzard shines as the masters of their craft. Each race has a fairly huge spread of combat units available to them, each of which are incredibly unique and diversified in their roles. Units are commonly split up into several attributes, including ground attacks, air attacks, ranged attacks, special abilities, and spellcasting abilities. Some units may specialize in ground attacks, others air attacks, while others may be capable of both.

One of the new features that I absolutely love, but that some players may hate, is the fact that the Food Cap has been significantly reduced from that of StarCraft. The Food Cap is a number that determines how many units can be built, with each unit costing a certain number of Food Cap points to build. In StarCraft, the max of this number was set to 200, meaning that players could amass huge armies and basically overrun the opposition with sheer numbers if given the chance. In stark contrast, WC3 sets that number to 90, making it impossible to create anything more than an army of modest size. In addition, they’ve also imposed an Upkeep tax. When the number of points is anywhere from 41 to 70, a small percentage of gold is taken from all gold mined, reducing the intake. When that number goes beyond 70, the Upkeep tax gets kicked into high gear and drains a large percentage of gold from all that is mined. In this way, WC3 forces players to be selective about what units they build and encourages them to send those units into combat faster. A player in WC3 can conceivably win by using groups as small as 10 units at a time – something that was considerably harder to do in StarCraft.

Speaking of groups, formations have finally made it into the WC series, another feature that StarCraft definitely could’ve used. When multiple units are selected and told to move, they will naturally set themselves into a formation and move accordingly, with faster units stopping and waiting for slower units to catch up in order to maintain the formation. The formations are also intelligent, with weaker groundfighting units typically placed in front while more valuable units get placed behind. Heroes are typically placed in the middle back as well, presumably for maximum protection and support. For those that prefer chaos to order, formations can be bypassed with a simple keystroke.

Thankfully, the intelligence of units also extends to building construction as well. When constructing a building, units will automatically move out of the way when the construction point is selected. I can’t recall the number of times I had to manually move units out of the way in StarCraft just to make room for another structure, and this new feature is more than welcome.

The new spellcasting and ability features in WC3 deserve special mention, as they are a huge step up from the StarCraft system. Like its predecessors, WC3 gives spellcasting units a pool of Mana from which Mana points can be burned to cast spells. There are now several kinds of spells: those that can be cast, passive spells, which typically cost no mana and are always in effect, and aura spells, which grant special bonuses to any friendly troops in the area. Those of you that aren’t into micromanagement should be happy to learn that many of the castable spells can now be set to Autocast, meaning that the computer will take over the duty of casting said spell whenever an opportunity presents itself. For example, Crypt Fiends have the ability to use Web, which forces flying units to the ground. While normally this ability would be a pain to implement in the midst of combat, it can be set to Autocast, meaning that the Crypt Fiends will automatically drag any enemy flying units out of the air when engaged in combat. This puts a new spin on things, making even the most fumble-fingered strategist able to cast spells with impunity by simply changing a setting, and is a welcome addition to the world of WC3.


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