I’m only a few hours into Warcraft III Reforged and I’ve already been met with equal parts excitement and disappointment.
As a game that I’ve spent so much time with during my youth, I was absolutely thrilled to hop back into Azeroth and experience the story of Warcraft III again with my adult eyes. In many ways, playing the game again felt like coming home to a freshly painted house. However, as I spent more time with it, I slowly realized that a shiny new coat of paint doesn’t necessarily mean a new coat of polish.
There’s a lot to like about Warcraft III Reforged, the updates to the visuals are well done, the narrative and storytelling hold up and the gameplay remains immaculate as always. However, in my short time with the game so far I found that for every good thing about it there almost always seems to be a caveat attached. Take for example the upgraded visuals, the game’s main focal point in terms of improvements, when I booted up the game it presented what was an amazing recreation of the classic WC3 opening. I was blown away by how good the lightning was and how expressive the character’s faces were. If this was the standard that they adhered to for remastering the rest of the game’s cinematics, that in itself would be a dream come true. Unfortunately, like Thrall violently jolting awake from his slumber, I found that this was not the case.
As I hurriedly jumped into the campaign, eager to see how the other cinematics were redone, I found that apart from the increased resolution, absolutely nothing was changed. No fancy lighting, no tweaks to the scene structure, not even updated character models to match the new ones they introduced in Reforged. It’s just the old cinematics updated to 1080p which was a huge disappointment for me.
Speaking of the new in-game unit models, the updated look is absolutely gorgeous and well designed. Perhaps what was most impressive about them is that, despite having a lot more detail to them, the new models still retain the original silhouette and form of the old ones which is quite a clever bit of design. A part of me does miss the old cartoony look of the characters and units, but that’s just personal preference.
On the downside though, the in-game environments didn’t get as much of a graphical upgrade as the unit models. The terrain looks bland, the trees, foliage, and water aren’t even in the same league of detail as the character models and the lighting is as plain jane as they come. The end result leaves the highly-detailed unit models to stick out in front of ridiculously lackluster environments.
Both the gameplay and the story remain largely unchanged and as such, they hold up even by modern standards. Playing through the Human Campaign, I marveled at how, even as an almost two-decade-long game, the storytelling is so well crafted and expertly married to the gameplay.
Take for example The Culling mission from the Human Campaign, where Arthas, driven by his obsession to prevent the Undead Plague from spreading, orders the purging of the infected city of Stratholme. The whole thing is structured as a race against Mal’ganis to kill as many infected people as possible. With this mission structure, I found myself focusing on how to beat the dreadlord so much that I started trying to figure out the fastest and most efficient way to slaughter these innocent civilians. I caught myself in full tunnel vision towards the goal while throwing my morals out the door for a brief episode of mania, much like how Arthas must’ve felt in the moment. It’s a brilliant moment of storytelling that I’m so happy to find out holds up to the test of time.
However, yet again on the other side of the coin, the game’s brilliant narrative is done a huge disservice by the bland and uninteresting in-game cutscenes that they’re presented in. Most of the time, the unit models just sit there talking to each other with minimal movement, simplistic blocking, and dry and uninteresting camera angles. There are spots in which the dynamic camera angles came in play such as the moment below but these prove to be the exception rather than the rule, which is contrary to what we were led to believe when Blizzard showed the feature off at Blizzcon 2018.
So far I’ve made my way through the Human Campaign, played a few multiplayer matches and that’s been my experience with the game so far. I’ll look to finish all of the story campaigns and play around with the other features and game modes before we come out with the full review in a few days’ time. If my first brush of the game is similar to what’s to come then it’s sure to be a gyrocopter of emotions.
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