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Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne Preview

publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
developer: Blizzard Entertainment
genre: Strategy

PII 400, 128MB RAM, 8MB Video Card, 550MB HD
ESRB rating: T

release date: Jul 01, 03
» All About Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne on ActionTrip

What can be said about this game that has not already been said? It's a great game - one for the ages, and I would recommend this game to you in a heartbeat if you were an RTS veteran or a PC game newbie making your first game purchase. It's that good. Blizzard has earned accolade upon GOTY award upon critical acclaim, and tossing more praise at them and WC3 would be the epitome of repeated redundancy.

So what do you do when you have one of the best games money can buy, worldwide notoriety, awesome commercials that bring in new gamers on a daily basis and a rabid fanbase that rivals small countries?

Release the Expansion!

For those of you not living under a rock, you know full well that the beta for Blizzard's latest massively popular RTS has been under way now for a week or so, and your jolly 'ol ActionTrip editors got their hot little hands on the beta (and you didn't! Neener!), so we could tell you what we think. So, without any more verbal bravado and not a whit more ado, here's what we think.

When last we left the story of WarCraft III, the combined forces of Thrall's Orcish Horde, and the Humans from Lordaeron (who fled to Kalimdor to escape the Undead Scourge, led by the fallen Prince Arthas) led by Jaina had allied themselves with Furion Stormrage and the Night Elves to destroy Archimonde and the Burning Legion in a bloody, gory battle that can only be described as epic in scope. But the questions remained - with Arthas still allied with the Lich King, what evil does that dastardly duo have in store for our heroes? And what of Illidan Stormrage? I'm sure the Night Elves may have something to say to our wayward Demon Hunter! And will the peace between the Humans and the Horde last? And to what end? For the answers to those questions, and so much more, tune in to The Frozen Throne, same War-Time, same War-Channel!

Okay, a little more verbal bravado and ado.

The expansion pack brings the inevitable new units, which change the face of each of the four sides and either takes them in a new direction, or enhances what they do best. Certain seemingly unbeatable strategies can now be easily countered with the right units, and new tactics and strategies can be generated with the new enhancements and the addition of neutral heroes.

The Orcs have become the ultimate raiders, with units that pack a serious punch. They have added a Troll Hero to their ranks, called the Shadow Hunter, as well as a Tauren Caster - Spirit Walker - who can raise those expensive fallen Tauren units if they fall in battle, as well as a Troll Batrider, a flying unit that lobs burning bomblets that eat buildings for breakfast with a side of fries. Toss into the mix of enhancing your Troll Headhunters into Troll Bezerkers, who can enhance their damage-dealing potential at the expense of taking greater damage themselves, and you find yourself with a powerful, yet expensive army that can hit hard. Very, very hard. The problem with this is, if that army is overrun, replenishing it is an expensive prospect, so battle management is a must.

The Humans have become the masters of magic, with the Blood Elves coming to aid their Human allies in their trials. The Blood Mage, the Blood Elf hero, is an offensive caster (no, he doesn't smell or curse, he casts offensive spells, you ninny) who is fully capable of dealing a significant amount of damage to an area. Couple in the Blood Elf Spell Stealers, and you may find your Bloodlusted Grunts are not so Bloodlusted anymore. Spell Stealers are immune to magic, and will steal the positive buffs from your armies and grant them to his fellow troops. The Blood Elves have also brought their Dragon Hawk steeds into the Human folds, which offer a less expensive air unit than the Gryphon Rider, and has the ability to create a cloud that shields an area from ranged unit attack. And the dwarves have also been hard at work, creating an enhancement for the already tough Steam Tanks. They mounted a rocket launcher on top to create the Rocket Tank - a ranged building killer. The addition of these new units make the Humans a very balanced force that can fend off a prolonged attack, disable enemy casters and are quite strong in their own right.

With the escape of Illidan Stormrage, the Night Elves are joined by the Warden, who are responsible for keeping the peace in Night Elf prisons. These warrior women are capable of closing the distance between them and their foes in an instant - and can also use this ability to get out of a jam just as fast as they got into it. With the Warden comes the Faerie Dragons, an air-based unit that casts Mana Flare. This ability punishes spell casters whenever they invoke a spell, including Heroes. They can also turn ethereal to avoid taking damage - ethereal units cannot attack or be attacked by conventional weapons, but can be damaged by spells and by units that deal Magic damage. The Night Elf Druids have also been augmented by the ability to cast spells in animal form - Faerie Fire for Druids of the Talon, and Roar for Druids of the Claw. The last (and easily the biggest) addition to the Night Elf army is the Mountain Giant. These lumbering behemoths of stone are powerful units, capable of dealing and soaking up incredible amounts of damage and can rip trees from the ground to use as an enormous billy club that pounds buildings into rubble. The Night Elf army has become a late-game powerhouse to augment its early-game weaker units. If you let the Night Elves take root, you're in for trouble.

Last (but most certainly not least) comes the Undead. With the addition of the Crypt Lord, the Undead gain another unit that can create units from the corpses of fallen enemies and allies. The Crypt Lord is a heavy-duty Hero that can create Carrion Beetles, as well as grow a spiked shell that deals damage back to those foolish enough to get too close to this lumbering behemoth. The Scourge also has use of ancient Obsidian Statues. These moving pieces of art do not attack, but can steal mana from your forces and replenishes the magical stores of its allies. It can also create an aura that increases the regeneration of your armies. But if you need another air-based unit, the Obsidian Statue can break free from its pedestal and become the Black Sphinx, a flying unit that does Magic damage - useful for taking out those ethereal opponents who think they're safe.

The Necromancers also get a boost as well - once Skeletal Mastery is researched; one out of every two skeletons created becomes a Skeletal Mage. And you no longer need to rely on the death of your enemies to replenish your undead forces. The Meat Wagons, which originally carried corpses into battle, can now exhume the remains of the dead that have been buried on the field of battle long ago, and are ready to offer those remains for sacrifice. The Undead Scourge are once again the masters of massed, cheap (mostly free) troops that quickly can turn the tides of battle against an already weary opponent by using their own dead even more effectively against them.

Sounds like a lot, right? If I'm right, you're already planning out tactics in your head, of how to use these new Heroes and units in battle. But wait, there's more! Hit the Tavern, and you could soon find yourself in the presence of a new Hero - who cares only for the color of your money. The Dark Ranger, a tortured Elf woman whose mastery of the bow brings swift death to her foes, and the Pandaren Brewmaster, a giant bear who fights with bisento in one hand, and a keg in the other (my kind of bear!). These Heroes care little for whom they fight - only for the thrill of battle, and for the right price, you could quickly find them under your command. And those Heroes need items, too. But some of those shops are guarded by some powerful Creeps in the early stages of the game. Blizzard answers this by allowing each race to build its own shop that the player and his allies can buy items from - such as Orbs that enhance attack, or Potions of Healing, or instant Buildings in a Bottle, which can put down near anything you need to quickly secure an expansion. These additions can totally change the way you spend your hard earned gold.

Of course, this isn't all the changes that The Frozen Throne brings to the table, but it is a good amount. Blizzard is doing exactly what it has done so fluidly in the past - take an already great game and create another great expansion to the game so all the gamers who thought they had done it all will fall in love with the game once more. Hell, it happened to me. Pass the Claws of Attack +9, please. I have some rushes to counter.



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