I think nearly everyone who’s come within thirty centimetres of a personal computer has, at some point or another in their life, known that a remaster of Warcraft 3 was an inevitability. It’s arguably the Blizzard game, the one looked back on with such fond memories by players who lost dozens of hours to the campaign and hundreds of hours further to the game’s multiplayer.
It’s a game that personified a lot of what was thriving in gaming community back in 2002, keeping in touch with where the trends that were current at the time while also being so ahead of its time that it was able to spawn an entirely new genre within itself. It’s a monumental game, inarguably iconic for everything it did not only for real-time strategy games but for the industry as a whole. Which is why, with genuine disappoint in my heart, it stings to write that Warcraft 3: Reforged is an incredible disappointment and an unfortunate stain on the legacy of something that deserved so much better.
You don’t need me to sit here and tell you that Warcraft 3 is a good game; Eighteen years after release it holds up. I’ll freely admit to having been a bit too young to appreciate it when it initially launched, but playing through Reforged’s campaign made it abundantly clear why it became such an almost household name. The RTS mechanics are tight with single-player missions designed to expertly challenge players in a variety of scenarios that build on what the game first teaches you. It’s difficult to make a captivating campaign in an RTS game because an enemy AI can only be made to do so many things in a strategic sense and ultimately becomes fairly predictable.
Warcraft 3 skirts this by placing rules and restrictions on the player rather than the enemy, forcing you to change your approach constantly. That being said, if that’s not what you’re looking for, throwing droves of units at the enemy is also immensely satisfying, helped by hero characters having a notable presence on the battlefield because of their skills and abilities. Beyond the actual mechanics of the game, Warcraft 3 still boasts one of the most intriguing and tragic stories as it expertly tells the tale of Price Arthas’ corruption and inevitable fall from grace. While there are excellent stories to tell in the more external campaigns, Arthas’ journey to become The Lich King set the standard for tragic drama in video games nearly twenty years ago and continues to be a compelling narrative.
This is all to say that, unsurprisingly, Warcraft 3 is still a fantastic game. One that is unfortunately soured by a remastering that feels like a half-baked attempt at cashing in on any relevancy left in the game and only obtainable through nostalgia. Reforged is not a good remaster. There are objectively improved aspects to the game, that’s undeniable. Character models and environments look far better than they’re blocky originals but beyond their replacement, there’s really not much else that’s been improved.
The flaunted dynamic camera that was meant to enhance the in-engine cinematics is so sparingly used that I hardly recognised its presence beyond a couple of short moments that felt designed to be shown off in trailers and while I can’t speculate on the changes to updates to the lore within Warcraft 3 better fit into the greater universe established by World of Warcraft, a cursory Google reveals that the changes are negligible at best and non-existent at worst.
This isn’t taking into account the absolute technical mess that is Reforged. After finishing every campaign in the base game, without The Frozen Throne expansion, I experienced several audio bugs that saw characters repeating voice lines in and out of cutscenes, certain characters saying nothing despite them being imperative to the story and while I was fortunate enough to not experience any visual bugs, I was plagued by crashes. Let me elaborate on that, Reforged crashed my PC several times throughout the base game which became doubly frustrating due to an inconsistent auto-save feature that often meant I had to start the game’s lengthy missions over from scratch. After the fourth crash, I decided I’d seen enough, sick to death of losing upwards of thirty minutes of progress.
There’re little things as well. Things that you’d think Blizzard would recognise as being outdated by the standards of 2020. Why do hero characters still say the same three or four quips whenever you tell them to do anything; It grows irritating quickly. Units becoming stuck between structures that look spaced out enough for them to squeeze through.
Hell, even the graphical options are so bare-bones it’s almost like you’re not meant to tinker with the game’s finer visual settings, probably in the fears you’ll crash something. Given the time that’s supposed to have gone into bringing Reforged up to a more modern equivalent, I genuinely have to wonder how this release met the standards of a developer that is usually praised for their excessive polish and attention to detail.
Reforged is a hard sell. While the updates – however small and purely aesthetic – are nice, the complete package is painfully disappointing. Which is a disgrace really, considering the heritage and influence of Warcraft 3. A game as iconic as this deserved something far better than Reforged and one can only hope that through the magic of updates the game can one day come close to the remaster that Warcraft 3 has earned. Still, it should never have come down to that in the first place.
Last Updated: February 4, 2020