Happy 20th Birthday, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos
Blizzard Entertainment was primarily known for developing real-time strategy and gaming games before Overwatch and World of Warcraft. They did dabble in other genres during the 90s, creating hits such as Rock n’ Roll Racing and The Lost Vikings, not to mention the genre-defining Diablo. Their meat and potatoes in the late 90s were the twin Starcraft and Warcraft franchises. Warcraft was mostly forgotten by its futuristic sequel, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, which came out in 1995. RTS fans had largely moved on to the immensely-popular Starcraft. Blizzard then released Warcraft III on July 3, 2002.
The game’s original Starcraft three factions were expanded to include four: the Alliance, Night Elves, and Orcs. The characters and buildings in Blizzard’s RTS were first represented as 3D models rather than 2-D assets. The hero-focused gameplay introduced roleplaying elements. Players were encouraged to hunt “creeps,” which allowed them to use their characters to upgrade their tech trees and defend their base.
Warcraft III’s rich story and complex characters were my favorite features. The seemingly endless customizability of the tools included with the game was a delight. However, I will admit that I wasn’t very good at the core game. My Warcraft IIImultiplayer crowning achievement was when, as Night Elves, I made my starter building units self-destruct. Then, I directed my main production building’s uprooting and allowed it to eat a path through the trees. After that, I went to bed to watch TV for twenty minutes. My opponent had searched the entire map and found no trace. I was stunned to return.
Warcraft III added to the fantasy world that Blizzard would explore in World of Warcraft. Its most lasting and widely-respected legacy is the games created from user-generated content. MOBAs are rooted in the “Aeon of Strife,” a map created for Starcraft. However, the Warcraft IIImod Defense of the Ancients really got things started. It’s not an exaggeration that League of Legends wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for Warcraft III. Warcraft III is probably the most creative title of the past 20 years.
Modern Blizzard being the modern Blizzard, found a way around all this. The company released Warcraft III Reforged in 2020. This remaster and expansion was so poorly received that Blizzard offered refunds without questions. It would have been enough. Reforged also effectively replaced the original 1GB title. Battle.net users received a 30GB download. The bulk of this represents the enhanced visuals that the owners of the original title were not allowed to access. This is a fitting, sad footnote to one of the most important games of the 2000s. Today, it celebrates its 20th birthday. Warcraft III, happy birthday! We are sorry they made you feel so dirty.