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GamesFirst! Magazine

Preview:
WarCraft III


Of all the games I saw at E3, Warcraft III by Blizzard will, I think, be the next show-stopping title that gets millions of people to gratefully drop fifty bucks.  During the convention, several members of the Gamesfirst! crew crowded around the demonstration monitor, and I watched their jaws drop without a booth-babe in sight.  WC III was spectacular to look on, and as the demonstration progressed, I almost bum-rushed the keyboard jockey to get my hands on a little playtime.  

From reports, the design of WC III has changed significantly over the course of its development cycle.  The build at E3 features a 3D engine with a fixed isometric but zoomable perspective.  And the graphics are beautiful.  Each of the characters is lovingly animated with a variety of detailed facial expressions.  The terrain varies in elevation and is incredibly sharp.  Watching a catapult roll down a hill while leaving tracks in the mud was delightful. 

The setup is that demons have fallen from the sky and orcs, humans, dark elves, and the undead must band together to do something about it.  Originally, the demons were meant to be a playable race, but balance and level design dictated that they simply be the enemy.  Like Starcraft, there will be a campaign for each race which, taken in order, will tell a story.  The demonstration I saw focused mostly on an orc adventure.  However, I got to see a dark elf town – featuring living buildings that can move and attack – as well as an undead outpost.  The undead look something like the Zerg from Starcraft in that their buildings require a land-covering substance, a la the creep, to operate. 

The first big change from Warcraft II is the inclusion of different types of heroes.   Heroes, as if in an RPG, have individual names and can gain experience points.  With higher levels, they also acquire different types of powers.  Additionally, heroes can utilize various items such as cloaks that render the wearer invisible at night.  (There should be 50+ different items.)  When a hero dies, he can be resurrected, and heroes travel with you between missions. 

Next, the resource structure has been altered.  Peasants and peons will still mine gold but will no longer chop down trees or look for oil.  Instead, players will have to harvest mana crystals by roaming the countryside and killing independent monsters.  These crystals will be used to recruit heroes and in the construction of different buildings.  The developers have done this to encourage players to fully explore each map and add a different type of challenge to the game.

E3 featured a large number of Real Time Strategy games like Warcraft III.  Some, like Battle Realm – an orient-themed RTS – may have been technically more sophisticated, and others, like Empire Earth, had more large-scale battles and better multiplayer capabilities.  None of that dissuaded me from the superiority of WC III.  WC III is built around a story, a story developed over the course of two prior games.  A coherent, inhabitable narrative is proving itself to be the best and most user-friendly form of electronic literature, and as such I find games built with narrative specifically in mind far more compelling then their more code-oriented counterparts.  The tale of orcs and humans may be simple and straightforward, but I really want to find out what happens.  Whatever you want to say about the boys at Blizzard, they have proven themselves to be excellent storytellers.  

        

Matt Blackburn

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