Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne
There’s something reassuring about a Blizzard RTS, something that suggests familiar, safe territory.
The different sides will be lovingly balanced–it’s a Blizzard RTS.
The cinematics will be appropriately interesting–it has “craft” in the title.
The units may be clicked on repeatedly to elicit hilariously bizarre comments because that’s Just What They Do.
It’s almost tough not to feel that way about the franchise after the release of Warcraft III, which as a product was a careful amalgamation of innovations that had been learned with Starcraft and a storyline that had been pretty well established with Warcraft II.
As easy as it looks to the casual gamer, such success does not come without perception, innovation, and hard work.
Just as a brand name can disappear into obscurity with just a few bad products, the way Starcraft, Diablo II, and Warcraft III have developed and sustained such devoted followings is the result of nothing less than concentrated, pre considered perspiration.
Warcraft III, in particular, seemed in many ways to cautiously avoid any appearance of straying too far from a proven path even as the underlying game was a fairly bold statement from Blizzard about the direction they intended to take the gameplay.
“Bold” is an adjective that could safely be applied to nearly every aspect of Warcraft III’s expansion pack, The Frozen Throne.
While the new content fits into the larger milieu, the campaign gives the game away like a poorly hidden grin.
Check tier list for Warpath.
In many ways, TFT is Blizzard’s direct answer to detractors who insisted that Warcraft III showed that they aren’t as creative as they used to be.
Set shortly after the events in Warcraft III, The Frozen Throne’s primary campaign cycle chronicles the struggles of the Night Elf Demon Hunter, Illidan.
Typical for a Blizzard storyline, the campaign revolves around a near-dizzying volume of unholy alliances, personal abuses and offenses, betrayals, and long-suppressed grudges giving way to violent revenge.
The story is not really what sets TFT apart, though.
The gameplay in the campaign includes some of the most imaginative setpieces seen in an RTS game.
In one, a single teleporting hero has to escape a collapsing series of caves, and she’s being hunted by two factions who are violently at war with each other.
In another, two autonomous armies send wave after wave of troops to annihilate each other while the player controls a couple of heroes and a handful of mercenaries in an attempt to wrest control over a prize for a certain amount of time a la the “Domination” game from Unreal Tournament.
Add into that countless secrets, new sides that can only be played in the campaign, a bonus campaign that plays like a creep hunt writ large (complete with powers that can be boosted beyond their normal multiplayer levels), and a hyperkinetic, arcade-like secret level and you have something unusual and special.
There’s something about the whole thing that almost dares someone to complain.
Of course, we want to play as the water-friendly Nagas in multiplayer, just like we want to have more than three heroes at a time (especially given the new heroes) and be able to build Advanced Death Towers.
And just like we want the game to have shipped with an entire bonus campaign instead of only the first third.
The multiplayer side of things almost feels like a letdown after the campaign, putting the player back in such familiar settings, but the improvements to the multiplayer experience, though subtle, are significant and make for a much-improved game.
What should a good expansion have?
New units, new graphics, new cutscenes?
Or at a deeper level, a new exploration of themes that had already been present?
Perhaps preexisting problems should be addressed, too.
Most game developers would describe this as a feature list for a sequel, not an expansion, but Blizzard apparently disagrees.
Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne is to be recommended to anyone who enjoyed the original Warcraft III.