While the derisive reaction to Blizzard’s Diablo Immortal mobile game will likely be what BlizzCon 2018 is remembered for, there was one pleasant surprise last November when the company announced that Warcraft III: Reforged would bring modern graphics and upgrades to one of the most beloved and successful real-time strategy games of all-time.
Den of Geek attended a Blizzard-hosted event in Irvine, California in May, primarily for the purpose of going hands-on with World of Warcraft: Classic and the upcoming Battle for Azeroth patch, Rise of Azshara. But we also spent some time with the Warcraft III: Reforged demo!
Here are our hands-on impressions of the remaster of this classic real-time strategy game:
Nostalgia with a Fresh Coat of Paint
The Warcraft III: Reforged demo provided by Blizzard featured the Culling of Stratholme, which tells the story of Prince Arthas Menethil purging a city about to succumb to an undead plague. It’s a well-known moment of character development for one of Warcraft‘s most iconic characters and is often referenced as the turning point for Arthas, as he begins walking down the path that will turn him into the Lich King.
Blizzard has remade The Culling event before as a dungeon in World of Warcraft, but RTS fans will be happy to know that Warcraft III: Reforged remake stays true to the original game. The remaster offers high-definition graphics, but you can still clearly see the original inspiration for all of the character models underneath the new coat of polish.
That polish now includes mouths that move in sync with the voice lines and expressions of emotion on characters’ faces. Significant visual improvements are also apparent in Arthas’ in-game abilities and in the destruction that is left behind when a building is set on fire. It all comes together nicely to create a deeper feeling of immersion than what was possible back in 2002.
The game’s user interface is also more visually appealing, too. The original game covered the entire bottom of your screen with information, but Reforged has a less cluttered mini-map and item pane, leaving more room for the action on the screen.
Smarter, Faster, and Yet Still the Same
It’s been a while since I’ve played the original Warcraft III, but Blizzard also made games like Warcraft: Orcs and Humans and Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal available on our demo computers so we could compare the difference between the older games and Reforged.
The most obvious difference besides visuals is a significant improvement in how the game’s AI moves units around. In the original Warcraft III, units could get flustered if you tried to do too much at once. Units would bump into each other or take the long way around structures or obstructions encountered in the field. Warcraft III: Reforged offers a much smoother, cleaner experience.
The AI is clearly smarter and capable of getting the job done without the frustrations of the past. That said, the game still feels very much like what you would expect from Warcraft III. A good comparison would be the changes in gameplay and overall feel between Starcraft and Starcraft 2. Reforged‘s modern sensibilities are apparent, but this is still the RTS you know and love.
Tweaked Maps and Narrative
While Warcraft III: Reforged is true to its roots in many ways, Blizzard isn’t completely ignoring the 800-pound gorilla in the room called World of Warcraft. Blizzard has said in the past that some of Reforged‘s maps and even character developments will be tweaked to be more in line with what WoW players would expect. For example, The Culling of Stratholme map layout is much closer to the layout of the dungeon in World of Warcraft than the layout in the original game.
Blizzard has also said that some Warcraft III characters who have since gone on to develop larger story arcs in World of Warcraft may be given a slightly larger presence as Reforged as tells its story. Characters like Jaina Proudmoore who have become major protagonists in WoW may now offer additional dialogue as a nod to what the future holds.
The Map Editor Is Back and as Important as Ever
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the original Warcraft III without talking about the map editor the game shipped with. Blizzard fans have long used map editors in both Warcraft and Starcraft to create some truly memorable ways to keep playing when they are done with the main campaign.
The original Warcraft III editor was, of course, used to create a custom map called Defense of the Ancients. This map is single-handedly the source of an entirely new genre of video games called MOBAs. Games like League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Blizzard’s own Heroes of the Storm can all trace their existence back to a fan-created custom map in Warcraft III.
We were told by multiple developers that the map editor players know and love will return in full, but that Blizzard is also considering a few tweaks to streamline map creation and make the entire process more intuitive. It will be interesting to see what players can do with custom maps in 2019 and beyond once they get their hands on the more efficient tools.
Blizzard Executive Producer and Senior Vice President Chris Sigaty told Den of Geek during an interview that Blizzard will come up with a way for players to easily organize and search through the numerous custom maps that are sure to become a big part of Warcraft III: Reforged‘s story in the years to come. We mentioned that Starcraft II has an “Arcade” feature built specifically for this purpose and Sigaty said that he could see Reforged offering a very similar setup.
Warcraft III: Reforged features remastered versions of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne expansion. It’s slated for release in 2019 for PC.
Jason M. Gallagher is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.