Hail all ye heroes: return with me to the lands of Azeroth. There are new foes, allies, and mysterious perils haunting us from the past. The Naga have raised their scaled hides from the seas, and the Undead Scourge continue to consume the last pockets of resistance in Lordaeron. The forever changed Illidan begins a new quest, while the Watchers' wardens relentlessly seek to return him to his eternal prison. It is a dark time, and none can say how long people of Azeroth shall survive...
The Frozen Throne's story begins with the Watchers pursuing the escaping Illidan across their war-torn homeland. Little do they know, Illidan has enlisted the aid of some new allies. The plot continues by revealing the tale of the newly formed order of Blood Elves, a group that still fights the Undead Scourge. These beasts seem to be unstoppable foes, as every ally who falls to them is doomed to join their horde. This final installment in the Warcraft saga ends with dissention within the Scourge's own ranks as factions from the former Burning Legion vie for greater power with Arthas the Undead King. Through scripted events, the cast of characters comes alive as you learn about their motivations and goals in a world torn by constant battle. Some fight for justice, others for vengeance, and a few because they have no other choice. It is a very well-done story which continues what began so long ago in the original Warcraft PC game. The Frozen Throne certainly keeps with the quality that people have come to expect from Blizzard in recent years.
As Blizzard's first game to go truly 3D, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos allowed for many graphical options and display resolutions to run on a variety of different PCs. Because The Frozen Throne is an expansion pack, Blizzard could not do anything extreme to alter the engine. Instead, they chose to increase level of detail beyond the already impressive Reign of Chaos. Everything from the buildings to the unit and character models are well-detailed and unique. There are also new tile sets with which mappers can play. The most interesting of which is the Orc's decimated home world of Draanor. The pyrotechnics displayed by the new Seige Engine anti-air upgrade and the Blood Mage's ultimate skill, Pheonix, light up the battlefield as swords swing, arrows fly, and giants call out their challenge to the enemy while pounding on their chests. Battles between large and varied forces are truly a sight to behold.
Blizzard has a history of having decent voice acting in their games, and The Frozen Throne is no exception. Not limited to just the story, the units themselves have often entertaining lines to hear if clicked on (much like in Starcraft, and Warcraft 2 before that). I still chuckle when I hear a hapless militia man's attack order confirmation of "That's it, I'm dead.", or a Goblin Zeppelin's "Are you threatening me?" Many fans are delighted with the new audio tracks as well, and I was particularly fond of a new take on a classic Warcraft II song. Other sound effects accompany every building and action, creating a very lively battle ground with sounds of ringing swords, thundering hammers, and whistling arrows.
In a game like this, control can make or break the experience. Fortunately for The Frozen Throne, things have improved since Reign of Chaos. The ability to queue building construction orders on your workers (such as telling one peasant to construct 4 farms at once), queue unit upgrades, focus fire air units, and set more spells to auto-cast are all new additions. Hotkeys are available for the experienced player, but the ability to play purely with the mouse remains for those new to Azeroth. Reign of Chaos has already set a new standard in terms of the amount of control you have over your units during battle, but The Frozen Throne has raised the bar for base management and construction.
I, personally, can deal with lackluster story, graphics, sound, and even control. However, if the game is not fun to play, I simply cannot remain quiet. Fortunately for The Frozen Throne, this is not the case. The single player campaign is executed flawlessly, though some may note a conspicuous absence of Orcs. There are 3 new main campaigns, and none of them really stick to the race rules found in Battle.net play. Over the course of the campaigns, you are introduced to most of the new units and heroes, as well as discovering some familiar faces such as Illidan, Kil'jaiden, and Arthas. The new locations keep things fresh and introduce some new gameplay elements, such as the ability to befriend or battle new sub races. The finale is at once a cliffhanger and very conclusive, thus leaving the Warcraft saga wide open for more gaming goodness.
As well-done as the single player campaigns are, though, this game really shines when taken to Blizzard's free online service, Battle.net, to wage war against friends. Each of the four original races have been modified in a number of ways to maintain the precarious balance Blizzard has achieved between them. Blizzard has made some changes to some less popular units, too, to encourage their use. Also included are some specific racial improvements that enhance the versatility of play.
Of course, these changes are simply icing on the cake. What are really exciting are the new heroes and units. Each of the races has a new avatar, and there are five new "neutral" heroes that may be enlisted by any race. There are nine new heroes, now bringing the total to twenty-one choices with which to lead your armies. From my own experiences online, I have already seen a much larger variety of heroes and tactics from game-to-game. In addition, each race has been given 2 new units with which to wreak havoc. These new additions can certainly turn the tide of a battle. They are all fairly powerful and definitely help make each race's play style more distinct, with many new strategies and tactics to master. Also, the new buildable shops offer many useful items for your heroes to carry into battle. Anything from Healing Potions to Orbs of Lightning can be purchased depending on your race.
Other small but welcome changes to gameplay include text messages along with the "construction complete" audio cues which tell you which building or upgrade that has just been completed. Another large change is a reduction in resource costs to build units and structures. Unfortunately, there are far too many alterations to cover in-depth. Suffice it to say, I am very excited about this expansion to an already great game. I believe it will keep many fans awake into the wee hours of the morning and skipping work for Warcraft III all over again.
If you own Warcraft III, you are doing yourself a disservice by not picking up The Frozen Throne. It is a very worthy addition to Blizzard's line of high quality games. It feels like every aspect of Warcraft III has been tweaked and fine-tuned to the point of leaving me wondering how it could possibly be better. Thank you, Blizzard, for another amazing game.
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