Well, technically this is not the first or second Warcraft game, and yet I deem it the breakthrough for the franchise.
Before Warcraft III
Back in Russian 90s, PCs were almost non-existent for us kids. They were expensive, purchased by few families, if they were, they had an honorable place at home, almost sterile environment around them, and in general parents bought them for work purposes rather than for gaming. The majority of home-based kid gamers migrated from NES to Sega Genesis during 90s, and only in 2000s they started acquiring their own computers.
There was also a boom of “computer clubs” in late 90s where you could pay to play expensive consoles like PS1 (parents would never, ever spend money to purchase it!), and later PCs with local network. The nature of computer clubs suggested competitive PvP and hot seats, so naturally people prefered fightings on consoles, and first person shooters, turn-based strategies (HoMM) and RTS matches on PCs.
By the time the gamer majority actually managed to play RTS on PC in said computer clubs, Starcraft kicked in, and Warcraft II was not even installed in most venues. Me myself saw the game first at my friend’s in 1997 (?) where we barely played an hour. But it was quite enough for me to fall in love with it, its style, setting and everything! And ever since for a couple of years I sated my lust to play the game in a computer club – on PS1, with a joystick! I did not get shit from briefings, did not remember a single character or location name except funny orc clans’ names (Bonechewer lol), so the story went unattended.
Warcraft III in 2002
By the release of Warcraft III everything changed. Blizzard was already well known as the developer of huge hits Starcraft and Diablo, some people played Warcraft II before. And PCs started to become a must at homes, not just offices. So: the new RTS (a popular genre), from a well-known game developer, an enhanced sequel to the previous game and its general availability to people at their homes have made it almost a must to purchase, install and play for everyone! Gameplay, sound, design and most engaging stories did not hurt at all – and localization actors’ casting was simply brilliant. The translation was not that good though (“Grom Bully” instead of “Grommash Hellscream”, “Farion” instead of “Malfurion” are one of the quirkiest examples), but we had no original to compare, so it slipped the radar.
So Warcraft III became a huge hit, many unit and character phrases became catch-phrases far beyond gamer community – even to those who did not play it. And that settled the foundation to the upcoming WoW fanbase and players in general. For most gamers, it was the first game in the franchise they played – and loved, so this is why I consider it the Game Where It All Started.
Side note: this is also why WotLK is considered “the bestTM expansion”, because it finalized the story of major Warcraft III protagonist/anti-hero/antagonist of the both RTS games: Arthas. And this is why WoW had most subscriptions in its history during the said expansion – people came to see how his story ends, and after that they felt that they saw the finale.
Now Blizzard finally released the reworked, enhanced version of one of its major hits in the whole game industry. It’s a must-play for every WoW player – not only because of its significance to the franchise and game history, but also as a foundation of everything in WoW.
It was the game that enhanced a noble hero humans / savage villain brutes Tolkienesque conflict into the universe that we know and love now. It introduced The Burning Legion, all known eredar, nathrezim, annihilan. It introduced Thrall, Arthas, Illidan, Maiev, Jaina, Sylvanas, Kael’thas, Tyrande, Malfurion, Cenarius, Cairne Bloodhoof, Grommash Hellscream, Muradin, Rexxar, Akama, Lady Vashj, Anub’arak, Kel Thuzad. It told their stories very personally and from their point of view – you get to play all of them. And you witness first-hand one of the most important sagas in lore: the second invasion of Burning Legion and the fall and the ascension of Arthas as the Lich King. Cherry on top is a small, almost RPG-like campaign – it is Rexxar-centered and tells the story of founding of Orgrimmar and where Beware, beware the Daughter of the Sea… takes its root.
My Impressions About the Release
Today I’ve downloaded the 30GB of the release version with fingers crossed. My laptop is 5 years old, and even back then it was merely not bad, but not the latest tech marvel at all. Moreover, I played Reforged beta in November, and it was just awful: everything was so freezing and slow even with the lowest settings.
Well, Blizzard’s trademark optimization for microwave ovens and hairdryers nailed it again! I was able to play smoothly enough even with the highest graphics settings, but I opted for middle for better experience. This problem’s off the grid!
Missions loading screen is a bit weird, it shows just the loading bar, and opens the background map only by when loading is complet and “Press any button to continue” message appears. I hope this could be fixed.
The rework of menus is simply amazing, they offered something completely new and much more engaging!
In the morning I’ve played through the first short three missions of the Prologue – the Exodus of the Horde from Lordaeron to Kalimdor. The game itself is what it says on the cover: Warcraft III Reforged. I didn’t have to get used to the new models, every look and movement of the units is exactly the same as it felt back in 2002. With a small and vital exception aka the game feature: the detalization is an eye candy! And more often than not you just happen to scroll in and just watch how everything happens: the fights, the construction, the peons cruising with gold and lumber – as close as possible! A bit counterproductive to playing an RTS game, yes, but in campaigns I can indulge myself for that!
For some reasons, the Russian localization version was installed by default, and there’s no option in settings to switch it to English. I don’t know yet if I can install an English one, but for now I decided to play with localization – partly for nostalgic reasons, and partly because I want to check out the new acting.
Localization is pretty nice. They kept all the iconic and canonical dialogues from 2002 intact, word-for-word as I remember them, except they fixed the names and aligned it to World of Warcraft realities. No more Grom Bully, yay! But it also meant that they had to record voices from scratch. A number of actors (and iconic ones) from 2002 are deceased, so most voices differ too. Normally I’m not a fan of localizations – and I play WoW completely with English interface and voices – but this one would do. It’s not the iconic one from 2002, but at the same time it sounds… better (fans would eat me alive for that).
I was also surprised how I liked the long forgotten feeling of playing a single player game. You just plunge into the world of Azeroth, and there is no watch on minimap, there are no daily or weekly resets, no goals to complete. You just follow the story in a well-known and beloved world – it’s the most soothing and relaxed feeling, as if you’re suddenly lying in a boat in a peaceful stream, and you don’t have to row or worry about the destination and travel time… All you need is to enjoy the view!
Blizzard did an amazing job of delivering this nostalgy hit in a new shell. Every minute spent waiting, every cent spent for purchasing were worth it.
Too often I advise to go and play Warcraft III in my blog posts if you’re a WoW player and you missed it before – well, you could not find a better time or opportunity to do that.
My only regret about the release is that it’s the busiest time in WoW now, with patch just out and Ny’alotha opening today… When shall I play the RTS?!
P.S. Seriously, go play Reforged :) You’ll love it.