Warcraft 3: Reforged Review — Please Blizzard, Not Like This
Warcraft 3: Reforged is the latest disappointment in a long string for industry titan Activision-Blizzard.
Strap in ladies and gentlemen, this one’s complicated.
Warcraft 3 is one of the seminal games of the last twenty years. Not only does it stand on its own as a great real-time strategy game, but its influence is still felt across the industry. Without Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos and its expansion, we wouldn’t have the massive resurgence in popularity of tower defense games and the MOBA genre wouldn’t even be a thing. Oh, and Warcraft 3 led to a little game called World of Warcraft, which you might’ve heard about. Maybe.
Which is, when Activision-Blizzard announced at BlizzCon 2018 that they were not only slapping a gorgeous new coat of paint on the old girl but also had plans to “do more with it”, fans were understandably very excited. Heck, I’ve even used up space in news articles about the game waxing poetic about how much the original game means to me!
This should be a slam dunk. A Patrick Mahomes deep ball. The gameplay is still the exceptional gameplay we enjoyed in 2002. Really, all Activision-Blizzard had to do was make it pretty and not a dumpster fire. Do that, and you’d probably sell tons of copies easily. Well….about that.
Warcraft 3: Reforged is, without a doubt, a dumpster fire. The bugs and issues are almost too numerous to even get started, but let’s talk about some of the bigger ones. The one I ran into the most was with all the connection issues across both single-player and multiplayer. Getting into online maps (especially custom maps) was very hit-or-miss during the first few days. And now, with all the backlash, getting into a game takes forever. If you want to play single-player and not have to deal with poor matchmaking, good luck.
For the first three campaigns, every time I finished a campaign map, it would load the next map and then quit out to the “Defeat” screen immediately. From there, I’d either have to back out the mode or quit the game altogether to get it working again. A cursory glance on the internet tells me that neither of these issues is unique to me. In some ways, it almost doesn’t matter how good a game is if you literally can’t play it.
And while the individual models do look good, I was hard-pressed to tell much a difference in the heat of battle. You played so zoomed out from the action, that having higher-poly models doesn’t really matter as much as you might’ve hoped. Plus, it’s not like the updated in-game graphics are being taken advantage of in most of the cutscenes.
This is the biggest issue for a lot of people. The updated cinematics that Activision-Blizzard demonstrated when the game was announced are, for the most part, not here. The opening cutscene is absolutely gorgeous. Everything else makes you feel like Activision-Blizzard blew their entire budget on that cutscene, looked at the old ones, and thought “they can’t tell the difference.”
Understandably, fans are upset about what looks like a bait-and-switch. In a lot of ways, I’m right there with you. However, when critiquing a game it seems important to only focus on what’s in front of you. Things change in development, sometimes drastically. So, I recognize and sympathize if you feel duped by Blizzard. However, that issue, while important as you’ll see below, has to be kind of put aside in this review.
What I won’t put aside is arguably the biggest problem with the game. Activision-Blizzard has put a new Terms of Service requirement in that it seems like it will kill the game before it even gets a chance. Basically, any custom map you create in Warcraft 3: Reforged belongs to Activision-Blizzard. You can’t say, develop one of the biggest crazes in gaming with their engine and then go make money off it. No, if you do something cool, Activision-Blizzard actually did something cool. You might’ve been there, but really, who can say?
Truthfully, this makes sense from Activision-Blizzard’s standpoint. DOTA 2 and League of Legends continue to be some of the biggest games in the world and that genre was incubated in the original Warcraft 3. Sure, Activision-Blizzard gave it the old college try in putting out their own version with Heroes of the Storm. However, it was too late to the party and then the studio killed the esports scene basically out of nowhere.
If you’re Activision-Blizzard, you don’t want to miss out on that juicy League money once again. If somebody makes the next big thing in your engine, you want a piece of that pie. Preferably a big slice. Actually, you just want the whole pie. However, this ToS pretty much guarantees that no one is going to bother developing cool new maps in Warcraft 3: Reforged. Why would you waste your time?
Maybe in 2002 when getting your hands on game dev software was tougher, this move makes more sense. In 2002, many young gamers had nowhere else to go if they wanted to try their hand at game development. But we’re not in 2002 anymore. Getting into game dev has never been easier. Activision-Blizzard is a creativity vampire. They don’t have any of their own anymore, so they’re here to suck all yours away. It’s disgusting.
But here’s where it gets complicated. When you’re in the game, it plays just like it did in 2002. As someone who put countless hours into custom maps and the campaign back in the day, it feels like going home. On top of that, the Warcraft 3 story is still moving in 2020. The Culling of Stratholme is just as impactful today as it was 18 or so years ago. Getting to play through Arthas descent into madness is incredibly compelling. Seeing Grom Hellscream throw off the chains of demonic possession and slay Mannoroth for Orcs everywhere is still epic. This might be Blizzard storytelling at its best, and getting to relive it all again in a higher resolution has value.
That’s why this review is so complicated for me. This review makes me wish we didn’t give out review scores. When you’re actually playing the game and enjoying the story, it washes over you and is an experience everyone should have. Seeing this kind of epic storytelling in an RTS is rare and worth your time. However, there isn’t any scenario where I would recommend you buy Warcraft 3: Reforged.
Not only does the game feel like a bait-and-switch from what we were promised, but even taking the product as it is, the whole thing is a disaster for Activision-Blizzard. And even if the technical side of things gets better, Activision-Blizzard’s money-grubbing ToS won’t, which makes the game dead on arrival. No one is going to develop exciting new maps for this game. So, unless you’re just itching to play some Footmen Frenzy (and I wouldn’t blame you), there’s no reason to come back.
It’s just so disappointing. In so many ways, Blizzard was my childhood. Between Starcraft, Warcraft 3, Diablo 2, and World of Warcraft, I’ve poured countless hours into the worlds that the studio created. Thrall doesn’t desire this. Jaina doesn’t deserve this. Not even that heartless bastard Arthas doesn’t deserve this.
This wet fart of a release that Activision-Blizzard gave us feels like they’re stepping on my childhood and then spitting in its eye even as the teacher is pulling it off me. And the truly worrying thing is what this means for Diablo 4. Can we trust Activision-Blizzard to not screw that up too? If the last few years are any indication, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.