It’s been years since Blizzard has released a new Warcraft title, and the nature of the market has changed dramatically. The previous Warcraft titles — which pit Orcs and Humans against each other in a fantasy setting — were sprite-based 2D titles that helped to set the standard for an entire generation of real time strategy titles. Warcraft III uses brand-new technology to create a much richer gameplay experience while still retaining the qualities that made the first two games so much fun to play.
While previous Warcraft games were straight-up real-time strategy games, senior game designer Rob Pardo says that Warcraft III’s single-player mode will incorporate more role-playing elements. Although the game is still mission based, there’s a story now that helps to fill out the gameplay experience.
Players can assume the role of Orcs, Humans, Undead or Night Elves as they square off in a lush 3D environment rendered using OpenGL. It’s a big improvement over the chunky, cartoony sprites seen in previous games. The 3D environment can be deformed and changed by special spells — Pardo demonstrated as a magic-user cast a spell that caused the ground to ripple and undulate underneath enemy troops; another magic-using unit cast a spell that made a grove of trees be reduced to stumps.
Still, there are elements that take you back to classic Warcraft gaming (ask a unit to build a structure and you’re rewarded with a satisfying “Yes, my liege,” for example).
Each race in the game features unique attributes and unique unit types. Humans are technology masters that can change their environments, create weapons and machines, and domesticate animals; Orcs depend more on brute strength and melee combat; Night Elves harness the forces of nature and use stealth to their advantage; Undead legions can generate new units from corpses on the battlefield.
The different races in Warcraft III are well balanced against each other — sure to be an important factor for Warcraft III’s multiplayer mode, hosted via Blizzard’s own Battle.net servers. The size of engagements between enemy forces will be smaller than what Blizzard fans had to adjust to in Starcraft, said Pardo, but they’ll be no less intense, especially in multiplayer battles.
The game also features the concept of heroes, which can lead forces while completing quests. Pardo explained that heroes could collect special items and gather experience. Neutral buildings, altars capable of recharging health and other attributes, strongholds and temples help to fill out the landscape.
Warcraft III is coming later this year, and will be released both for Mac OS and Windows. It’ll carry a retail price of around US$50. Look for more details specifically about the Mac version to appear around the time of Macworld Expo New York in July.