Blizzard’s classic RTS returns and offers more than just visual upgrades.
Before making its mark on MMOs, Warcraft was legendary for its real-time strategy titles. Along with Command and Conquer, Warcraft revolutionized the genre while offering a timeless story. On January 28th, Blizzard will return to its RTS roots with Warcraft 3: Reforged which launches for PC and Mac OS. Let’s take a look at all the major differences that the remaster will have over the classic version when it first launched.
The biggest difference between Warcraft 3: Reforged and Classic is the massive graphical upgrade. Character models, units, buildings, environments and so on have been remade from the ground up, showcasing the likes of Jaina Proudmoore and Arthas Menethil in stunning detail. Battle animations aren’t being significantly upgraded, taking the same number of frames in Reforged as they did in the classic version. But other features like 4K resolution support allow one to truly appreciate the crisp new visuals.
Redone Cinematics and HD Cutscenes
To that effect, numerous cutscenes and cinematics have been revamped as well. This is best seen in the intro cinematic “The Prophecy” with all assets being redone and looking higher resolution with incredible texture quality. However, even the in-game interactions have seen some significant upgrades. Instead of Uther and Arthas standing around in a fixed perspective shot with talking heads and dialogue boxes, there’s now detailed facial and body animations with mid-shots of their character models. Even something as simple as Jaina leaving Arthas is now presented as a cinematic scene with camera cuts and the like.
Modified Campaign Maps
Reforged will have the same campaign by and large but some maps are seeing hefty changes. The Culling of Stratholme, for instance, is different from the original game. Blizzard went about changing this to emphasize the importance of Arthas as he began down the path to ruin. It’s also meant to further align the area’s look with that of World of Warcraft. Players can also expect the Exodus of the Horde prologue and the bonus Founding of Durotar campaigns to be included with Reforged.
The overall dialogue is being re-recorded, which should bump up the quality significantly. It also doesn’t hurt that the dialogue in interactions is fully lip-synced, allowing the characters to fully convey the scale of their emotions. The script for the voiceovers will remain the same though as will the story.
No Story Changes
A lot has happened in Azeroth since Warcraft 3. Since World of Warcraft fleshed out the lore behind different characters and locations, Warcraft 3: Reforged will reflect this like Silvermoon City using elven buildings from The Burning Crusade and Jungle Stalkers now appearing more like bog beasts. Expect to see female Demon Hunters and Death Knights as well.
That doesn’t mean the story by and large will be altered. After senior producer Pete Stillwell initially said there would be more parity between the lore of Warcraft 3 and WoW, Blizzard executive producer and VP Robert Bridenbecker told Polygon that the team “veered away from doing that as much. Fundamentally, it was an amazing story, and everybody agrees it was an amazing story we don’t need to break that.”
The Frozen Throne
When it first launched, Warcraft 3 was initially just the base game with The Frozen Throne expansion coming later, not to mention its additional Acts added in patches. Warcraft 3: Reforged will include both in one package, so you can continue the story right after Reign of Chaos ends. The expansion contains two new protagonists, the return of sea units, eight total neutral heroes and more, which should help round out the Reforged package that much more.
More Accessible for Modern Players
If you tried playing Warcraft 3 all those years ago and found it tough to get into, Blizzard understands your pain. There was no “easy mode” per say. As lead artist Brian Sousa told GameSpot, “It was either hard or really hard, and so now, even me, I remember playing missions over, and over, and over.” The objective was thus to make things a “bit more accessible” for today’s players or those who new to the genre as a whole. Again, this doesn’t meant the game itself is changing or will play differently. “We just want it to be a little bit more accessible and look better for today’s players.” Basically, there will be an Easy Mode for the campaign to help ease new players in.
UI and Quality of Life Improvements
Warcraft 3’s patch 1.28 released in April 2017 and helped lay the groundwork for Reforged by introducing more viewing options, patching various exploits and issues like disconnecting from Battle.net when games were finished, etc. Subsequent patches introduced 24 player lobbies and upgrades for the World Editor. All of this was absent in the base game. Even the UI is seeing some improvements though players will still have the option to use the Classic interface.
Warcraft 3’s World Editor is nothing to laugh at. It was instrumental in creating Defense of the Ancients, which would spur the MOBA craze behind Dota 2, and Blizzard has promised “millions” of custom games for tower defense, action RPGs, survival matches and more in Reforged. For those who want to use the World Editor in Reforged, it will include all of the custom maps from the base game. However, it’s possible to customize the UI, use Reforged’s model-creation tools and more.
“Hundreds” of Balance Changes
It wouldn’t be a remaster without some significant changes to balance. Blizzard is planning “hundreds” of changes to different units and heroes and will even change up some maps that give advantages. How this will pan out remains to be seen – professional players and fans want the experience to remain unchanged (save for modern visuals and matchmaking, of course). If the balance is changed too heavily, it could lead to blow-back. These changes will be going back into Warcraft 3: Classic as well so there’s additional pressure to ensure the changes go off without a hitch.
Multiplayer will rely on Battle.net integration in Reforged. Lobbies have already been increased to accommodate 24 players and it’s possible to group up with Battle.net friends. Considering how dodgy multiplayer was back in the day and how much Blizzard has sorted out its issues over the years, the Battle.net experience should be a significant step up.
Classic vs. Reforged
If you own the classic game, you can play against those who own Warcraft 3: Reforged. The two versions will be cross-compatible and it should be possible to link accounts between the two versions. Just remember – even if you don’t agree with the balance changes, you’ll need the latest patches to play against Reforged owners. However, this means an expanded player base for both contemporary RTS fans and those who prefer sticking with the classic version.
Post Launch Content
There will be post-launch support for balance changes and the like but it’s possible that Blizzard could add more content. This will largely depend on feedback from fans and may not necessarily mean new campaign content (though the development team isn’t outright nixing the idea). Additions to the World Editor in the form of new assets along with more skins and variants are on the table though.