Warcraft III: Reforged Thoughts

Over the last few weeks, I’ve played through the full campaign of Warcraft III: Reforged (minus the Rexxar campaign, because bleh). It was an interesting experience, but it does leave me with some mixed feelings.

Arthas and Illidan face off in Warcraft III: ReforgedOf course, Reforged has been met with some really harsh criticism, but I think that says more about how hysterical the gaming community has gotten than it does about the game itself. It is so, so exhausting how every single game is the worst, most broken thing ever now according to the commentariat. No wonder so many developers have trouble taking our feedback seriously.

That’s not to say it’s not a game with some issues. It’s just that they’ve been blown so wildly out of proportion. It’s super frustrating because there are valid complaints to be made, but at this point it’s hard to make them without feeling like I’m adding my voice to the screeching mob of embittered gamers who just hate everything.

As it is, I will say that I feel they could have done a bit more to modernize the mechanics. In particular the limited unit selection feels really bad to go back to after being able to control my whole army at once in StarCraft II. The pathfinding could be better, too.

Also, while the improvements to the cinematics and unit models are stellar, the terrain is a bit more hit and miss. With the exception of a few tilesets (like Ashenvale and the Broken Isles), it feels like the terrain wasn’t updated as much as the units, and the contrast between the two can be a bit jarring.

Would be really nice if the custom game AI had been improved, too. It’s very one-dimensional in its strategies right now, so if you don’t PvP there’s pretty much nothing to do once you finish the campaign.

Night Elf units in Warcraft III: ReforgedIn general, the game doesn’t hold up as much as I’d like. I mean, it actually holds up really damn well for a game of its age, but in its day it was a masterpiece, and now it’s just good. Not enough tweaking was done to bring it up to today’s standards.

It doesn’t help that this is following on the heels of the Age of Empires II remaster, which was damn near perfect. It hit exactly the right balance of modernizing the mechanics without altering the soul of the game, and it set a very high bar for other remasters to live up to.

On the other hand, it could have been a lot worse. Let us all give thanks that they backed off from their original plans to rewrite the story. That would have been horrible.

On the subject of the story, again it is starting to show its age. It is still a good story, but it doesn’t feel like the earth-shattering masterpiece it did back in the day. There’s not really anything wrong with the story that’s there, but it just feels a bit thin by modern standards. StarCraft II’s massive, sprawling campaign full of between mission dialogue has spoiled me. Warcraft III’s campaign feels rather thin by comparison.

Again, it’s still good, and if you’ve never played it, I still recommend it. It’s just not as mind-blowing as I remember it being when I was a kid.

It was interesting and a bit sad to compare how much things have changed in World of Warcraft. Now, WoW has done a lot of great things with its story, and don’t let me send the impression I’m saying WoW is bad or ruined everything, but there are a lot of specific things it has screwed up. It was very refreshing to go back to a time when Night Elves were scary, Jaina was badass, and Kael’thas was actually a three-dimensional character.

Gods I missed Cairne.I’m glad I revisited it, and there’s still a lot to love about the game, but it did leave me with a certain “you can’t go home again” kind of feeling.

BlizzCon 2019 Leaves Me With Mixed Feelings

This is a sad day. While it may have had its disappointments before, BlizzCon has always felt a bit like Christmas morning to me. But nowadays Blizzard’s games have strayed far from what made me love them, and after they started creeping on female employees’ periods and stomping free speech to appease China’s government, I’ve decided to tentatively boycott future purchases.

A preview of Overwatch 2's new Sojourn heroStill, I’m watching the coverage. I have to for work if nothing else. The reveals so far give me a bit of hope, but perhaps not enough to turn things around for my dying love of Blizzard.

Yes, J. Allen Brack did open the convention with an apology for their screw-up regarding Hong Kong, and to be fair, he sounded pretty sincere. But waiting until now undermines that sincerity, and so far that apology is not backed up by any action. I’ll need to wait and see if this really changes my opinion in the long term.

Before I go any further, I will mention I’ve had a terrible week filled with health problems and other misery, so if I’m bit more ruthless in my rantiness than usual, I apologize.

Diablo IV:

Huge disappointment.

Everything about this reeks of an attempt to appease the edgelord fanboys who didn’t like Diablo III. It feels like they’re basically trying to pretend D3 didn’t happen. No returning characters, no indication that they’re picking up where Reaper of Souls’ cliff-hanger left off, no mention of the growing power of the Nephalem, no mention of saving Leah’s soul, no reckoning with Imperius.

A screenshot from Diablo IVOh, yes, and skill points are back, so you rest assured that once again get your build from Google and feel superior to everyone who didn’t! Who needs flexibility and meaningful customization?!?

Even the environments feel painfully uncreative. Just the same moors and deserts every Diablo game is apparently required to have. Take us to Xiansai or Skovos and I’d actually be excited.

Honestly, if Diablo III hadn’t happened, this would be an exciting sequel to Diablo II. But in a world where Diablo III exists, this feels like a step backwards in every possible way.

Except the graphics. Those are pretty awesome-looking.

Shadowlands:

I’m not sure how I feel about the new World of Warcraft expansion.

For most of the cinematic, I was terrified they were just going to make Sylvanas the Lich Queen, which would have been the Worst Twist Ever, but then… then things got interesting.

The cinematic trailer for World of Warcraft: ShadowlandsFrom a lore perspective, Shadowlands looks genuinely intriguing. Delving into the afterlife to confront a heretofore unknown threat is daring. It reminds me of Mists of Pandaria; it’s a setting we’ve heard of before, so it doesn’t feel like a total ass-pull, but we know basically nothing about it, so it’s a total blank slate to create new lore and stories.

That is deeply appealing.

On the other hand, Shadowlands appears to be the most unambitious expansion to date in terms of gameplay features. No new race, class, or even allied races.

The only new feature of any note appears to be Covenants, which sound like Legion’s class hall campaigns but fewer in number and therefore theoretically more fleshed out. That does sound cool, though. Encourages alt play, which I like.

Not sure that’s enough to win me back to WoW at this point, though. If they’d announced a permanent end to the faction conflict, or free to play, or an end to the restrictions on flying, I’d be ready to hop on the bandwagon, but as it is I’m on the fence on Shadowlands.

Arcturus Mengsk:

So after years of people asking for Valerian to be playable in StarCraft II co-op, we instead get… his father, who worked for Amon, the villain of co-op.

The Dominion Fleet calldown ability in StarCraft II co-op missions.Sure. That makes sense.

I don’t really feel the need for new commanders in co-op at this point, so I won’t be heartbroken if the new ones are no good, but yeah… this was not a good choice.

Overwatch 2:

Somewhat surprisingly this is what has me most tempted to break my boycott right now.

First off, that cinematic trailer was bloody amazing. Overwatch cinematics usually are, but this one takes the cake. Epic, fun, emotional. I loved Tracer posting a picture of her girlfriend in the cockpit of her jet.

Overwatch 2 itself is essentially a huge expansion pack for the original game that fleshes it out to what it should have been at launch. There will now be a story campaign and repeatable co-op missions that sound a lot like StarCraft II’s co-op.

This is what I wanted Overwatch to be from the start. Finally we’ll get to advance the story and explore this beautiful world Blizzard created.

Oh, yeah, and we’re getting Canadian representation. There’s a new Toronto map that looks fantastic — TTC streetcars! A Jamaican restaurant! — and if I’m not mistaken I’m pretty sure I saw a red maple leaf badge on the new hero, Sojourn.

A preview of Overwatch 2's Toronto mapYeah, this could win me back.

My one concern — aside from Blizzard’s recent scumminess in general — is that it looks you can’t solo the story missions, which could make for an unpleasant experience. SWTOR taught us how well story-driven experiences work with four player PUGs (poorly).

We’ll see what other news comes out over the coming days and weeks. If this BlizzCon had come in a different context, I would be far more impressed. As is, it’s a struggle for them to crawl out of the hole they’ve dug themselves… but there might be a sliver of hope yet.