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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Strategy key to Warcraft III
Warcraft III screenshot, Vivendi
Combat is central to Warcraft III

It has been four years in the making but at long last Warcraft III has arrived.

But is it worth the wait?

The stunning opening cinematics raise high hopes but the actual game looks very similar to Warcraft II.

The chunky graphics are instantly recognisable, though this time they are more detailed.

The Warcraft game world looks better too, and you can spin around the action and zoom in and out in a quasi-3D way.

Mix and match

The core of the game feels old-fashioned too. Like almost every other strategy game you must gather resources, gold and lumber here, to construct buildings to support different troop types.

The four races of Warcraft III, humans, orcs, undead and night elves, have very different units and it takes time to learn the best mix to complete the missions.

Warcraft III screenshot, Vivendi
All manner of units are under your command
It is tricky to get the balance of units right because there is a very low limit on the number that you can create. To make it tougher, the more units you support the slower your settlement grows.

This gives you little chance to build up an overwhelming force. Fast expansion and small, well managed strike teams prove key.

Some strategy veterans may dislike this because it means that battles can turn on the fate of a few units.

It can also mean that it takes a long time to wear down the opposition. You can find yourself pushing an enemy back very slowly rather than dealing them a crushing blow.

The early stages are forgiving and let you muddle through. Later on mastery of the mix of units is essential. Without fast fingers and a good memory you will struggle.

Hero worship

As well as grunts, ghouls, mortar teams and steam tanks you get a few heroes to lead your army.

Originally, Warcraft III was going to combine strategy with role-playing type quests. Your best units would learn from experience and amass magical items to make them more powerful.

Warcraft requirements
400 Mhz Pentium II
128 MB of RAM
700 MB disk space
4X CD-Rom
8 MB 3-D graphics card
While the heroes do quickly surpass the basic units they rarely get so powerful that they prove decisive. Sometimes micromanaging their special abilities in the middle of a battle can be irritating.

The big change with Warcraft III lies in the plot driving the game.

Warcraft creator Blizzard has tried to make each mission part of a much larger story whose twists, turns and strange alliances will be familiar to anyone who played Starcraft.

The missions are quite varied and do not always involve wiping out the foes. There are some you cannot win but just involve staying alive long enough.

But there is no chance to alter the outcome of the story and the terrible voice acting of the characters meant I soon stopped caring about who was betraying whom and just wanted to get on to the next battle.

If you have never played Warcraft before then this is a good game to start with. It is fast-paced, easy to pick up and challenging in the later stages.

But for dedicated strategy players it might prove too fast and loose.

See also:

27 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
23 Jul 02 | Technology
30 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
13 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
02 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
12 May 00 | Science/Nature
03 Jan 01 | Science/Nature
24 Jul 02 | Technology
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