In 1994, Blizzard Entertainments Warcraft: Orcs and Humans revolutionized the real-time strategy genre, bringing a pleasing amount of depth and a subtle simplicity to a relatively-hardcore genre. Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness released in 1995, and not only introduced an all-new level of shine and polish, but also introduced many gamers to the world of online competition. The bar was set high for Warcraft III, and with Reign of Chaos, Blizzard proved that they are truly the kings amongst fantasy RTS fans.
Utilizing the core premise of the previous two entries to the series, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos once again put players in charge of a very basic set of troops. Initially, the player is tasked with creating a town focused around a central stronghold. Once the base of the town has been established, basic units are allocated to gather various resources. The resources are then used to build further structures, create new solider-type units, purchase upgrades, and so on.
Warcraft III differed from its brethren by the scope and premise of performing such tasks. Its true that most of the missions followed this guideline, but there were others that did not. In many of the campaign-based missions, players didnt have to create a base of operations – their main goal was to survive or to ensure the survival of others. Sometimes a player would have to defend a city or character for a set amount of time.
Also new to Warcraft III were the heroes. Though stronger characters of specific classes were available in Warcraft II, WCIII gave these entities names and particular powers. Heroes could gain levels by slaying enemies and the newly-added creeps, creatures that attack any players they encounter. The addition of heroes allowed Warcraft III to have a more character-driven focus, both by giving the player a central role to occupy most of their time and efforts with as well as giving the plot a logical narrative point-of-view.
The plot is essentially the one area where Warcraft III got a significant overhaul. The previous two entries had a plot, no doubt, but their presentation was limited to a few still-shot scenes with scrolling text and a handful of prerendered cutscenes. Warcraft III finally inserted cutscenes directly into the gameplay, with the plot elements often playing out in real-time before, between, and after player action.
Warcraft III is also the first game in the series to break the mold of having only Humans and Orcs as playable units. Though both Humans and Orcs have their distinct campaigns, Undead and Night Elves became available also with their own storylines. During the course of the game, allegiances between Heroes from various factions switch allegiances, conquer foes, and rise through their respective ranks.
The world and story created for Reign of Chaos proved to be a huge success for Blizzard Entertainment. Gaining a 92 on Metacritic and several Game of the Year awards, the game became a commercial and financial success. An expansion pack was later revealed, titled The Frozen Throne (with which many variants to the standard online play were created, most notably Defense of the Ancients), and not too long later, the Warcraft III Battle Chest was released, including Reign of Chaos, The Frozen Throne, a bonus DVD, soundtrack, art book, and more. The Warcraft III Battle Chest is still available at many game retailers today, giving the game a nearly eight-year shelf life (so far).
Of course, one of the biggest draws to Warcraft III today is its tie to World of Warcraft, the enormously popular MMORPG. The world of Warcraft III literally became the World of Warcraft, both through the general design of both games, the characters and classes available, as well as obvious plot elements.
The success of this series as a whole cannot be denied. Each game to be released under the Warcraft umbrella has been wholly worthwhile. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos has proved to be one of the most popular real-time strategy games of all time, and it is most certainly not undeserving.