Hands-on with Warcraft III: Reforged: A remaster done right

Throughout my years going to BlizzCon, there has always been a highlight of the opening ceremony. The Overwatch animated trailer was obviously the one for 2014, the Heroes of the Storm reveal was another one that stole the spotlight at the 2013 BlizzCon with the heavy metal music pounding away in the Anaheim Convention center.

This year, that highlight goes to the Warcraft III: Reforged cinematic reveal. It was, without a doubt, my favorite, non-esports announcement at this year’s BlizzCon.

Blizzard provided players with a short demo of the game, specifically the Culling of Stratholme, which includes the famous moment when Arthas hits the point of no return on his journey to become the Lich King.

Beautifully reforged

We began the demo with the in-game cutscene at the entrance to Stratholme. This is the first part of the remaster that deserves some critical attention. Completely redone, these scenes play out like in-game cutscenes from StarCraft II or World of Warcraft. Imagine the Wrathgate from WoW, but now in Warcraft III.

Character models are updated, voice lines are in sync with mouth movement, and you can actually see expressions on their faces. It adds a lot of nuance that simply wasn’t there in 2002 when Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos was initially released.

I only saw four small cutscenes, but I’m hoping that attention to detail continues throughout. I’m looking forward to seeing that final battle in Northrend between Illidan and Arthas right before Arthas ascends to the Frozen Throne rendered with more modern tech. As part of this reforging, I am hopeful that the cinematics will also get the same attention the in-game cutscenes are receiving. Arthas walking into Lordaeran to kill his father in high-def is definitely something I, and I’m sure many other long time fans, want to see.

Gameplay

The cutscenes are great and all, but the game rework is the most exciting aspect of this remaster.

Blizzard has obviously updated pathing AI, similar to what the upgrade they gave to the unit AI when they went from StarCraft to StarCraft II. We don’t get units wonkily running into each other when given too many commands, and they won’t go around the long way when blocked by other units.

The most accurate way to describe the gameplay update is to compare it to StarCraft II. In all control aspects, the games feel nearly identical, with Warcraft III: Reforged just at a much slower pace than the APM-intense StarCraft II.

You can see above that the UI has received a sizable update. The mini-map, unit info, and item pane no longer take up the entire bottom third of the screen. Additionally, you have that nice model of the unit on the left-hand side. This is for both units and structures.

Additional Features

Remastered cutscenes, gameplay, UI, these are just a few of the amazing things that are coming to players when Warcraft III: Reforged releases. But the most important thing that is being released is an updated map editor.

I can’t stress how important this is. The Blizzard community has long created amazing custom maps within both the Warcraft and StarCraft map editors. It’s part of the lifeblood of these games. The Warcraft III custom map, Defense of the Ancients, spawned the entire MOBA genre you see today: Heroes of the Storm, DOTA 2, Smite, and League of Legends. That’s how influential the map editor can be.

There are other, less conspicuous aspects of the game that have been updated as well. Blizzard has updated campaign maps in order to better reflect their place in Warcraft’s own lore that has been built over 14 years of World of Warcraft. The most obvious is the layout update to the Culling of Stratholme. It looks like the World of Warcraft version rather than the original Warcraft III version.

Then there are things like character development that are being tweaked. Expect Jaina to have a bit more presence, now that Blizzard knows her story arc. The same may be said for characters like Maiev Shadowsong.

From what we’ve seen, this looks to be a remaster done right. Things will be changed, but none of them will feel wrong. These changes will be Blizzard moving things around to more accurately reflect the universe they’ve created through almost 20 years of lore.

One of the most exciting possibilities is the potential to revitalize the Warcraft III competitive scene. We saw with StarCraft: Remastered, when Blizzard launched the KSL in celebration. I can only hope that Blizzard will look into doing the same with Warcraft III: Reforged.

Warcraft III: Reforged will release sometime in 2019, and it can’t be soon enough.