As someone who has rarely dallied in this style of real time strategy game since first playing Warcraft III all those years ago, Warcraft III: Reforged definitely felt like a throwback. Instead of plunging players into epic scale battles and grand campaigns that take days, if not weeks, to complete, Warcraft III has you carefully juggle heated skirmishes and resource management in tandem, and now Blizzard have given it a visual spit and polish as they jump on the remaster bandwagon once again.
Playing through the campaign in 2020, it takes on a linear, more narrative structure that feels at odds with where the genre is today. There’s definitely an RPG aspect to how these missions play out, but while your hero’s progression carries over from chapter to chapter, the camps and units you’ve spent time building are lost as you enter each new scenario.
Armies in Warcraft III fall under one of four playable factions, each with their own unique traits and units that will inform your playstyle. However, it’s the heroes that really stand out here, commanding small warbands and unleashing powerful spells that can turn the tide of battle if used effectively. It was these heroes that birthed the MOBA genre as we know it today. For those who don’t remember, it was the Warcraft III mod Defence of the Ancients that paved the way for League of Legends, DOTA2 and a multitude of copycats.
With an estimated 40+ hours of gameplay between Reign of Chaos and Frozen Throne (spanning 62 missions) there’s plenty of campaign to sink your teeth into. Then, for those wanting to throw down against other human generals, online play is just a few clicks away with various match sizes and maps. This is Warcraft III at its purest, with narrative threads tucked to one side as players grapple with base building and the constant threat or roving enemies.
So what exactly does Reforged offer over that original 2002 release? Side by side there are some pretty obvious differences, at least in terms of graphics. Warcraft III has been given a total makeover with structures, environments, and character models all being tarted up for an era where 1080p is now the bare minimum. That said, everything still animates in the same way it did almost two decades ago, character movements now looking clunky and fights being just as scrappy.
On the road to release it was never crystal clear whether Reforged would proffer a simple visual update or would be more akin to a full-on remake. The end result leans towards the former, with much of the fan backlash since launch claiming that Blizzard hasn’t delivered on some of its initial promises.
Cinematics have been lifted straight from the old game whereas in-mission cutscenes have been slightly reframed, often failing to convey much drama, even during the most iconic campaign moments. It’s certainly a step back in scope from what was originally demoed at BlizzCon 2018.
Those who have managed to avoid the initial wave of criticism may find themselves having a ball with Reforged – it all comes down to what you expected from Blizzard’s latest release. Still, there are some technical problems that are hard to overlook including the occasional framerate drop and an issue that prevents campaign missions from being played in classic mode (using the game’s original assets). A number of online features have also been lost, such as clans and ladder matches, and though they’re set to be reintroduced in an update, the shared game client means they’ve also been removed for anyone playing the original game.
While some will bemoan the lack of work that has gone into remaking Warcraft III, hardcore fans may prefer a largely unchanged version of the game. It does everything you’d expect from a remaster though Blizzard could certainly have been more ambitious in experimenting with one of its most beloved titles. Either that, or they should have better communicated exactly what Reforged was from the start.