Is Warcraft III: Reforged really that bad?

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Warcraft III

Source: Windows Central | Blizzard Entertainment

Last week Blizzard launched Warcraft III: Reforged, although you’d be hard-pressed to have noticed. Blizzard did minimal marketing for the game in the run-up to launch, with very little shown off since the game’s reveal at Blizzcon 2018.

Warcraft III: Reforged should’ve been, could’ve been a total slam-dunk for Blizzard. Warcraft III was arguably the title that spring-loaded World of Warcraft, with its immersive world, intriguing characters, and industry-leading RTS gameplay that still holds up even in 2020.

What the fel went wrong?

Why people are mad

Warcraft III

Source: Windows Central | Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard has been under a bit of a microscope lately, for what feels like near-constant major screw-ups across its brands and within its fan community. We have the staggeringly tone-deaf Diablo Immortal “pay2win” mobile game announcement, followed by the high-profile banning (followed by a subsequent u-turn) of a Hearthstone esports player for publically supporting Hong Kong protestors fighting for freedom. You might have thought Blizzard would learn from repeatedly upsetting its fans, but alas, apparently not.

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When Warcraft III: Reforged launched last week, it became immediately apparent that Blizzard had falsely advertised the game, with promised features omitted, while removing fan-favorite features from the base Warcraft III client, which has now been fully replaced with the Reforged version in Battle.net.

Warcraft III

Source: Windows Central | Blizzard Entertainment

Clans, profiles, and a ranked ladder system are gone. Classic custom campaigns have also been removed, with user-generated content becoming the property of Blizzard automatically, as the company pre-emptively attempts to fend off the possibility of losing a second DOTA (the genre was originally inspired by a Warcraft III custom campaign, which blew up with League of Legends). Losing so many features from the base client, as well as the base client itself, is a slap in the face of Warcraft veterans who have stuck with the game for the past 17 years.

Finally, there is a litany of small bugs and anomalies that betray Blizzard’s previous image for quality and polish. The UI is incredibly sluggish, moving UI elements often overlap or get frozen, in our own testing. People have also decried the “stiff,” amateurish-looking animations (which were outsourced to a smaller developer), while also being frustrated that the upgraded cinematics Blizzard previously advertised are now missing in action. Also, some Naga units seem to have human ears, despite the fact they evolved (devolved?) from elves. GAME BREAKING.

Is it actually that bad?

Warcraft III

Warcraft IIISource: Windows Central | Blizzard Entertainment

As a casual Warcraft III fan who enjoyed the game purely from a single-player perspective, I’ve had a lot of fun going back in to experience the events prior to World of Warcraft once again. Admittedly, I didn’t play multiplayer much, so skip over this if you aren’t interested in my opinion.

Visually, Warcraft III: Reforged isn’t particularly impressive by modern standards, but I’m not sure anyone was exactly expecting to be blown away. It’s nice being able to zoom right in and see detailed characters and models, depicted in a way not seen before. That said, I agree with the community at large that the animations are rough, giving Warcraft III: Reforged the stylings of a game from a far smaller studio, rather than something deserving of the Blizzard name.

The art style is also a little odd for a Warcraft game, leaning a lot further into realism than the original game, or even the Warcraft models from Blizzard’s MOBA, Heroes of the Storm. The graphics still aren’t exactly what I’d describe as bad, though.

I am, however, frustrated that the new cinematics Blizzard previously teased aren’t actually in the game, and instead we have the same old Warcraft III isometric cutscenes from 17 years ago with updated models. It would’ve been nice to have experienced the story in a new dimension, alongside the story tweaks Blizzard was planning to do to bring the game in-line with new lore established in World of Warcraft and various recent books. Blizzard backpedaled on that, although I had no idea they were doing that until I’d actually purchased the game. Great.

My main take away from Warcraft III: Reforged is that, honestly, it remains one of the best examples of a story-driven RTS, all these years later, and despite the problems. It’s a testament to how great the original was, that despite this rough coat of paint, the hero-oriented systems, light RPG mechanics, and the engaging story still makes it far more interesting than the vast majority of modern RTS games, at least to me. I could’ve gone on that same nostalgia trip without spending the $30 asking price, though.

For casual fans like me, they’ve added very little, and for hardcore fans, features are either missing or muddied. It’s frustrating that Blizzard doesn’t seem to have given the game the respect it deserves.

Blizzard should’ve learned from Age of Empires II: DE

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft launched Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition to widespread praise this year, having painstakingly worked with the hardcore Age of Empires II community to bring modernization to a game with a similarly passionate following. The difference between the way Blizzard and Microsoft handled those respective communities feels a bit like night and day.

The backlash towards Warcraft III: Reforged could’ve been avoided

A lot of the backlash towards Warcraft III: Reforged could’ve been avoided with greater communication, coupled with the fact Blizzard exists under a microscope right now. Not to delegitimize any of the issues with the game — they are of course numerous — but Blizzard could’ve weathered this if they had treated Warcraft III’s fanbase with the respect they deserve, rather than hoping to cash-in immediately on their decades-long passion for the franchise.

Microsoft set up a dedicated Insider Program for Age of Empires II Definitive Edition, as they do with Xbox, Windows, and many of its other services and games. Blizzard has forums and runs public test servers for some of its games, but rarely do these exist in the run-up to a game’s launch. Warcraft III had a multiplayer beta, but I’m unaware of any public testing access for the game’s story, which would’ve allowed Blizzard to gauge feedback more accurately.

Age of Empires Insider

Source: Microsoft

Like I noted earlier, I had no idea Blizzard canceled the planned updated to Warcraft III’s story until after I’d searched for it online, finding an old Polygon article on the matter, where Blizzard describes vague “feedback” as the reason for going back on it. Some kind of, I don’t know, Insider Program might’ve helped get the word out a bit more broadly.

Age of Empires II offers players the ability to experience the game as it was when it originally launched, or the modernized version, with dozens of toggles and settings that give players complete control over their experience. Warcraft III: Reforged does this too, but it’s by no means as extensive as what World’s Edge and Forgotten Empires did with Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. Why not include both the original campaigns and the planned updated campaigns, and allow players to tweak at will? Even now, Blizzard’s website for Warcraft III describes the game’s “four hours of reforged cutscenes,” despite the fact they were removed.

Another frustrating blow to Blizzard’s legacy

Warcraft III

Source: Windows Central | Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard seems to be rapidly cementing itself as a company that no longer takes its fans seriously. It probably doesn’t help that the company fired several hundred people last year, many of whom worked in QA and community liaising, only to then re-advertise those positions later.

It’s quite possible that no company on earth has, or will provide more raw entertainment hours to me than Blizzard Entertainment, which is why it’s so impossibly frustrating to have to write another article like this. What happened to the Blizzard that shipped games when they were polished up and ready? What happened to the Blizzard that was transparent with its fans?

Sure, many of those slamming the game on Metacritic are people just jumping on the latest outrage bandwagon they saw on YouTube, but for actual fans who are genuinely frustrated — they’re mad because they want that Blizzard back. Warcraft III was absolutely the wrong game to try and make a quick buck on.

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