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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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No one knows exactly how the universe began
For players unsatisfied with Blizzard’s predefined maps, spells, and rulesets, WC3 also comes with a World Editor that allows for the creation of both campaign and multiplayer maps. Players can pretty much create and add their own scripted scenario events, music, in-game movies, and the like. Blizzard claims that the tool itself is virtually unchanged from the editor the level designers used to create their maps.

Looking at the dizzying array of options the editor provides, it becomes apparent that virtually every aspect of WC3 can be edited and created if a player invests the time and effort in doing so. However, just from fooling around with the tool for a couple of minutes, it’s also apparent that time and effort have to be invested just in learning how to use the tool itself. Players can create and modify terrain, units, Tech Trees, camera bounds, and pretty much anything else within reason.

It should be noted that Blizzard does not directly support the editor. It is instead included for the convenience of players who wish to create their own maps or for those that want to rewrite the rules to suit their needs.

The beautiful, yet shy young woman…
As astounding as the gameplay is in WC3, the graphics themselves are something of a mixed bag, depending on who you ask. The major change from previous Blizzard titles is the shift from 2D sprites over to 3D polygons. While some have complained about the shift, I believe Blizzard is headed in the right direction, as more and more games are taking advantage of the flexibility that 3D polygon-based graphics engines have to offer.

That being said, the units in WC3 are decidedly polygonal – almost painfully so. Sharp edges and triangles stand out very clearly in both the units themselves and their close-up portraits. While not bad, they stand in sharp contrast to the smoothly-rendered models of other titles released this year. In a nod to Blizzard, this may have been more of a design issue than a choice, as the additional horsepower needed to smooth several dozen individual models running amok over a modeled landscape may have been a bit too much.

The sharpness of the models, however, is mitigated by the fact that they are supremely detailed. Each unit bears distinctive markings, coverings, and features that clearly distinguish it from others. Death Knights ride skeletal horses and wield massive saw-toothed swords, Night Elf Archers bear enormous bows and sport flowing blue capes, and Human Paladins exude power as they brandish enormous war hammers. It’s clearly evident that loving attention was placed on each unit, right down to the Peons whose only function it is to collect gold and lumber.

The animation of said units is also well done and quite detailed. As units idle, they will look around, sheathe their weapons, or pace nervously as they wait for orders. The close-up portraits themselves are also well animated and depict each individual’s characteristics and temperaments quite well.

Both the attention to detail and the exquisite animation are also lavished upon the rendered landscapes. As the landscapes are built in 3D, they can now more accurately portray elevations that were nothing more than drawn sprites in previous titles. Mountains actually tower above maps, impassable crevices yawn open like huge maws, and waterfalls actually flow down into pools of water below. Besides looking magnificent, this also makes navigation easier, letting players see at a glance what terrain looks traversable or impassable.

I also have to give special mention to the colors used – rarely have I seen a game with such myriad colors used in such striking combinations. WC3 is rife with color schemes which grace the units and the environments, giving everything a quality which only seems to enhance the fantasy aspect by which WC3 is based off of. I never really cared much before about what team color I was, but for some reason it makes a difference in WC3 – I must have Ghouls that wear red, or else. Don’t ask why, it just matters.

I should also mention the various CG movies sprinkled throughout the game. I never thought I’d see a game that could touch Squaresoft’s chokehold on the in-game CG movie domain, but WC3’s movies are more than a match for anything Square has put out. I’m not sure if they outsourced it or did it in-house, but it’s nice to see that there’s at least one team out there involved in the game industry that can match Square’s in-house assault team.

Being a 3D title, WC3 naturally sports various settings that gamers can use to increase performance depending on their setups. Among the features that can be set are gamma, resolution, model detail, animation quality, texture quality, particles, and lights. My current setup, which consists of a G4/867 and a GeForce 3, had no trouble running WC3 at 1024x768x32 with max settings under OS X. I tested the same setup under OS 9 and experienced no real performance boosts.

However, gamers with weaker setups may want to check out IMG’s forums, where players have mentioned improved performance under OS 9. Blizzard lists a 400Mhz G3 and a 16MB video card as the requirements, though I suspect that a system with slightly more horsepower is required to enjoy the game with fewer or no slowdown problems, especially given the fact that games can see dozens of individually animated units slugging it out on one screen at a time.


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