Where was I? Oh yeah, I wrote about Warcraft 2 and Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness. For some reason Roman numbers don’t work very well online, so I’ll stick with regular numbers. So, what happened after Warcraft 2?
Well, as pretty much every RTS fan must remember: Warcraft 3 happened. Oh my god, what an epic improvement on the game that was. It was one huge leap forward for gaming and I completely missed its initial release. I had moved away from games for a bit, only playing some NHL 2001 or something like that on the odd chance and some Final Fantasy VI. This was in 2002, the game had been out for a short while and after messing about with some copy I got myself the Battle Chest.
A Warcraft Battle Chest was nothing more than the game and its expansion with two guide books. Warcraft 3 was fully called Warcraft III: Reign Of Chaos and the expansion was ‘Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. The time between Warcraft 2 and 3 was a bit vague, things had transpired but it was pretty tricky to figure it out. Also, the storyline was hard to follow in Warcraft 2 because I never played for very long at one time, so the names didn’t stick. With the fabulous promo video and the epic cut scenes and clearly outlined story, Warcraft 3 was something new, something else and something wonderful.
It was a summer holiday and I had to work a lot at the supermarket that year, but during the holiday of my parents I would play all the time when I wasn’t working. I actually threw my matrass down next to the PC so I could save time. Ridiculous, I know, but I was that insanely into it. To follow the whole campaign and learn of the characters like Arthas Menethil, Thrall and Grom Hellscream (already a favorite from the past along with Korgath Bladefist) and ofcourse Illadan Stormrage. It was miraculous and completely immesive. The game was good for hours and hours of unlimited, unchallenged gameplay.
This was the game you were discussing with your friends, this was a story that you wanted to have retold and tried to trace. It was by far the best thing Blizzard had done this far and the whole sales numbers proved as much. Warcraft III is at the base of the succesful DOTA and League of Legends games and set the bar for RTS games for years to come. So while playing it, I was living in the Warcraft Universe and every moment I wasn’t, I was still there in my head. It was great stuff.
Where the previous games had named characters, these had personalities. That was one of the things that Blizzard may have taken from the likes of Red Alert and Command & Conquer. Having characters with personalities helps the player in feeling part of the grand narrative. Something the man from Blizz understood like no other I suppose.
What also helped, was an environment that felt more natural and alive, not the barren wasteland that you were left with in the pervious games. There was a better ambient sound to accompany the setting and critters that you could kill, but also random mobs. Marauding gnolls, rampaging ogres and the ever present Murlocs. Also, the campaigns where you had to rely on skills and fast commanding were so much better and fun to engage in. Landing in Kalimdor with the Orcs really felt like finding a strange and mysterious land, not just the next puzzle. Corrupting the land with the undead felt a bit grimy and wrong, but also awakens the sadist in you.
To me these were major innovations in the game, though probably not as unique as it felt to me, but very significant.
Not just single player fun
For me personally, I’ve never been a great online player. Frankly, I sucked on the battle net servers. Battle Net had been launched already for Starcraft players a few years previously, to faciliate online playing. Interesting enough, the online playing was the future and Blizzard was one of the few companies really getting that.
Not only that, the game was so big, that you could discuss it easily with your friends who had started playing it. Funny enough, one of my best friends held the game wrapped up for 12 years before engaging in it, recently finishing the game finally. It was a weird throw back to discuss some elements in the game, since many of them where later sort of rectified in the ongoing narrative of the game in World of Warcraft.
Out of an ocean of mediocre games, this one rose above and beyond and was for me definitely the one that got me hooked forever on the game. It was not long after that WoW was released, which I didn’t start playing at first. I took some time… but I did start with the novels.
It’s just before I got into the biggest and I think best MMO of all time.