Warcraft III Reforged still offers an excellent multiplayer experience, but the competitive scene has been dismantled

By Dick Page 30 Jan 2020 0

Blizzard, a hype machine masquerading as a game company, recently dropped their much anticipated and much pre-ordered remaster of what was once their flagship title: Warcraft 3. We’re going back into the mists of time, almost eighteen whole years ago, when real time strategy still involved building bases and harvesting lumber rather than farming mobs in the jungle. It’s the game that hosted a mod that birthed a genre that made esports finally something to be taken seriously. But does this classic hold up? Pretty much! And has it been ‘forged’ anew enough to justify the additional thirty bucks? Nah, not really.

These new graphics are very pretty, which is something that I can get into more in a full review of the remastered campaign. For multiplayer, their impact is somewhat more limited. The biggest graphical change relevant to multiplayer is the addition of new models for different heroes. Now, rather than all your Death Knights looking identical, some of them will have a desaturated paste of Arthas’ face from the campaign mode. To be fair, a lot of the models are very different from one another. It is nice to see some variety on the battlefield, and if you have a death wish you can zoom in to watch your tiny soldiers from cinematic-height instead of paying attention to what your opponent is doing.

warcraft 3 reforged multiplayer screen

It is great to have a very good and very pretty RTS that runs on integrated graphics cards. I got it going on my laptop at 720 resolution with all the bells and whistles turned on at the cost of only a slight loss of framerate. It also runs with the original graphics if that’s more your jam.

The most obvious problem is that Reforged removes Warcraft III’s laddering and skill-based matchmaking systems, as well as player clans. When you are trying to attract new players to a game with a dedicated and experienced audience, this is a major goof. It’s not very neighborly to drop a newbie into a match with players that can build a force five times as fast as you. From the opposite perspective, there’s also no way a competitive Warcraft III scene could redevelop without a ladder system. So much for competitive W3 at Blizzcon.

warcraft 3 reforged multiplayer night elves

A lot of players have been reporting bugs in multiplayer. For myself, I had games that refused to start and matches that wouldn’t form. Restarting the game fixed it for me, but it was still annoying. Of course, you’re also going to be dealing with players dropping from the game for totally unknown reasons. You can still stick around and conquer the empty map if that gets your endorphins going. Getting into a good match can be frustrating.

Guess what though: Warcraft III is still an incredible multiplayer game. The original innovation of hero units keeps the scale of the matches tight and leads to interesting strategies relying on powers rather than swarms of units. Needing to level up your hero by hunting non-player mobs on the map is still a great way to get players into conflict early and start putting some units at risk.

warcraft 3 reforged mobs

It has four factions that are exquisitely balanced and yet play very differently. The versatile Humans can build much faster than most and have flexible units that lack critical weaknesses. Orcs deal heavy damage in melee and are tough enough to outlast trickier tactics. Night Elves use magical debuffs and ranged attacks. The Undead sacrifice their own units and resurrect corpses on the battlefield.

Take a look at each faction’s basic worker unit, for example. Human peasants can work together to raise buildings faster. Orc peons hide inside the building under construction so they can’t be targeted directly. Night elf wisps harvest wood without cutting down trees. Undead spread out the traditional worker tasks among different types of units, and summon their buildings so that these units are free to take on other jobs.

warcraft 3 reforged beta sample

On top of that, you’ve got the interesting day/night system that changes a multitude of variables including how far you can see, whether the mobs are asleep, and whether the Night Elves can just straight up vanish. Oh, right, and your heroes can pick up items and equipment too.

But who is this game for, really? If you’re a player who’s been with this game since the beginning, do you really care about the spit and polish Blizzard has added? I suspect you already know the answer. If you’re a new player, are you ready for an intense and potentially demoralizing multiplayer experience?

warcraft 3 reforged cinematic

Gamers who are fans of a franchise can be passionate and loyal to a fault. It’s easy for anyone who loves the media to marry themselves to their own idea of what the product is, based on what it means to them. It would be easy to dismiss the overwhelmingly negative reaction to Warcraft 3 Reforged as just fanboys not getting what they want, but that would be a mistake.

Reforged isn’t just a case of a media giant letting down their most intense devotees. It’s also a half-baked product. In its current state, it’s hard to recommend Warcraft III Reforged’s multiplayer component to either newbies or nostalgic franchise fans, especially at full price. For new players it’s pretty but too hard; for veterans it’s pretty but soft and uncooked in the center. If you missed out on Warcraft III’s fantastic competitive scene when the game launched, you’re out of luck. The lightning that led to a hundred hero brawlers has not been bottled again.

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