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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 only sonÖ
The single-player experience of WC3 is typical Blizzard stuff in terms of storyline. Heroes introduced, one hero goes bad and converts to other race, other races are introduced, world is threatened, races band together to defeat threat to world, conflict ensues, uneasy truces follow with multiple plot threads left hanging. And I stress the word ďmultipleĒ Ė WC3 has enough hanging threads to weave nets for every fisherman off the coast of Maine three times over.

Playing the single-player game, however, is a great way to introduce players to the strengths of each race, as well as break up the monotony of the ďdefeat all opponentsĒ play that multiplayer consists of, which is what I suspect Blizzard had in mind anyway. Players start very briefly with the Orcs, followed by the Humans, the Undead, the true Orc campaign, and finally the Night Elves. Along the way, they are gently and slowly introduced to each raceís various units, structures, and abilities.

The objectives themselves are quite wide in range, and can consist of guarding something, eliminating a threat within a certain time limit, or simply harvesting a certain number of resources. While not all of the objectives are diverting, they do provide a welcome change when gamers want to do something other than build and conquer.

In addition, almost every quest comes with several main objectives, which may or may not be revealed at first, as well as additional side quests. While the completion of side quests doesnít seem to do more than give one the warm glow of satisfaction one gets from doing everything, they do provide even more variety to the single-player quests, and will no doubt drive players obsessed with completion insane with frustration, as the later ones can be quite difficult and will sap the resources of a player away from the main quests.

The Alliance
Love it or hate it, Blizzard insists that, unless you plan on holding a LAN party, all multiplayer games must be played through its online service, better known as Battle.net. Once connected, players can either spend time in one of the various chat channels or go straight to one of several game-playing options.

Anonymous matchmaking is the main way of hooking up a game of WC3. When selected, players can specify what kind of game they want, how many players, and what maps theyíre willing to choose from. Once this information is selected, Battle.net matches players with comparable skills and choices and sets everything up. In my humble opinion, this is a great feature, as it eliminates a lot of the problems players have had with StarCraft ladder rankings being fudged by players playing off each other and so forth. Itís also great for those players who only wish to run and hide after being soundly trounced by an opponent, as the defeated have no idea who just beat them and the victor canít publicly broadcast the name of the player they just OwNed.

For those that would rather play with arranged teams versus anonymous opponents, an Arranged Team Games option is also available. It works just like Anonymous matching except for the fact that a player can choose their Allies beforehand. For those that want to dump the anonymity altogether, a Custom Game option allows players to play with other players they know on any map.

As with other Battle.net games, players interested in seeing how well or poorly theyíre doing in the world of WC3 can check their stats via the official Ladder Statistics, which are updated on a daily basis.

For those that have yet to experience the RTS goodness of any Blizzard game, WC3 is a thing of finely-crafted beauty in terms of multiplayer. First of all, there are four wildly unique races from which to choose, each with their own slew of combat units, Heroes, and unique approaches to life on the battlefield. While four may seem like a paltry number to those used to having access to 6 or more, I should remind readers that Blizzard has always paid painstaking attention to the balance of their RTS titles. To perfectly balance even two races is a monumental task, let alone four, yet Blizzard has managed to pull it off nicely. Though itís still admittedly early in terms of time since its public release, at no point do I get the feeling that one race has an edge over the other. Every race has the ability to counter the strengths of every other race with proper planning and development, while at the same time, every race can also exploit the weaknesses of every other race, which in turn can be trumped by the aforementioned countering, and so on and so forth. Again, creating something like this is not a simple thing, but itís a formula that Blizzard has literally spent years and several smash hit titles developing, and WC3 reflects the current apex of that development.

The sheer amount of flexibility inherent within each race is also not to be overlooked. You could line up a hundred expert players that specialize in the same race, and each one could potentially have an entirely different play style and set of strategies from the next. As mentioned earlier, Build Orders alone can shape the strategy of a player, and itís a rare case when a player decides to build every structure and every unit thatís capable of being built in order to win a game. In most of the multiplayer games Iíve played, I have yet to build every structure or unit. Further proof of this is evidenced in the chat channels devoted to each race Ė units dismissed as garbage by one player will be defended as being highly prized by another player, both of whom may be highly ranked on the ladders.

Itís also difficult to describe the edge-of-your-seat tenseness caused by a typical multiplayer game. When a game is started, you can only see your tiny section of the map, and other areas must be explored before they are revealed. Even then, the fog of war prevents players from seeing whatís going on outside the vicinity of their units, and much of the tenseness is caused from the waiting period for an ultimately inevitable attack.

The fun, of course, is multiplied when playing with friends. The ability to team up with a friend and match anonymously versus another team is a welcome one, and paves the way for even more strategies based on team play rather than free for alls. Iíve actually had the opportunity to play several custom games with my friend and fellow IMG associate Michael Phillips, and all of those games, win or lose, have been some of the most intense online gaming experiences Iíve ever played. I can only imagine playing a four on four game with your friends, each one using the race of their choice, supporting each other and sharing the same field of vision as you attempt to vanquish four opposing opponents, who in turn are trying to do the same to you. Itís possible setups like this, as well as many other possible combinations, that make the multiplayer aspect of WC3 even hotter than the Burning Legionís collective tails.



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