Occasionally we find new games that unexpectedly are received with so much criticism, unanimously beaten to a metaphorical pulp so intensely by otherwise diverse and contradictory player communities, that a formal review seems more than superfluous. It's happened a few times for us at Gamereactor. Metal Gear Survive, Fallout 76, Anthem. Almost every time, it's been out dubious pleasure to account for the devastation, often before the dust has completely settled. Warcraft III: Reforged, ladies and gentlemen, marks the latest chapter in this miserable tale.
Perhaps because the game's actual content - a timeless real-time strategy core focused on dramatic heroics, a multi-track campaign and user-created content - will be recognisable to many, it's hard to not turn the game's attention to the circumstances of its release. Over the past few years, Blizzard has repeatedly made unfortunate comments, prompting criticism. There was, of course, the Diablo Immortal debacle, a reveal that halved the value of the company's shares. Since then, Blizzard also found itself in the media spotlight following a controversial happening featuring a critical, out-spoken tournament winner. And now, we can add Warcraft III: Reforged to the list of unfortunate outcomes for the legendary studio and publisher.
We don't equate the individual controversies here, not can we hope to adequately explain them. In fact, we don't want to rely on an international trade war, tournament regulations, industrial expansion or other relevant facts for this review. We don't know enough about those aspects. The thing is, every conversation regarding Warcraft III: Reforged inevitably, and imperceptibly, is going to focus its sights on not the game but its developers and publishers and the inflamed state that both parties have long been in. Maybe more so than any other studio, Blizzard needed a success story to mitigate its gradually more skeptical fan base.
But that's not what ended up happening, because Warcraft III: Reforged really is a disappointment of epic proportions. At first glance, the game seems like a fairly harmless remaster with revamped graphics and new network infrastructure. The facade, however, cracks rather quickly. Where do we start? The game is plagued by tons of technical problems, the nostalgic UI seems unnecessarily bleak, and the graphical updates appear half-baked and inaccurate in the game's universe, and online options have been turned down to the absolute minimum.
Warcraft III appeals to people for a variety of reasons, but let's differentiate between its categories or players. First, there are the fans of the adventure's universe and thus the campaign's rich narrative and character gallery. This group will be disappointed since the new version is hardly an exciting reinterpretation, but rather an old campaign with slightly retouched graphics. The visual enhancements aren't even good either because the level of detail in the game fluctuates greatly, making the units in the game fail to harmonise with the others as they used to in the original.
It's clear that certain aspects have been tweaked while many other aspects have been left untouched. The campaign itself, which, among other things, depicts Thrall's exodus from the eastern kingdoms to Kalimdor and Arthas Menethil's tragic fall from grace, is a great core to work with. Sadly, however, we found both of the campaign arcs became corrupted around the third and fourth missions. A dire issue, that's for sure.
The second group consists of those who love to bounce off each other in lethal online matches where strategy and reaction speed are in the spotlight. For them, a mediocre online dimension awaits. Here we have a simple versus module where one can queue up to be pitted against other players with no rankings or fine-tuned search filtering options. Not much has been done to make the game's brutal online matches more accessible for novices or rusty veterans either. The fall re-release of another strategy classic, namely Age of Empires 2, didn't release without difficulties either, but the developers had actually added a simple but invaluable training module as a springboard to the game's hectic online aspect.
The third group is, of course, the players who loved (and hopefully still can love) Warcraft III for its user-created content and the tools that were made available for that very purpose. For this group, the more restrictive user agreement and the implications of not only the financial and legal aspects but also the creative and social aspects will disappoint. We were glad that we got to once again fool around in Wintermaul and Tower Wars, game concepts that were conceived in the original Warcraft III. How many new, memorable and interesting game modifications will users create in Reforged? Not many, we'd assume.
To summarise; Warcraft III: Reforged will disappoint every group of fans in some way, from false advertising and mediocre graphical updates to technical issues and creativity-limiting user agreements. We can definitely still praise, honour and love the game for the unmistakably phenomenal core that still exists under all the rubble of broken promises, but that's it. The part of the game that almost two decades after its initial launch has been re-released in a bad state still retains some appeal. It's a far cry from what Blizzard could have delivered though.
Warcraft III: Reforged is a miserable affair and we're getting discouraged just by writing about it at this point. The game is a hollow reissue of one of the most important and high-quality games of its generation. This game truly helped to put Blizzard on the map all those years ago, and this remaster simply doesn't do it justice. It's a weak doppelganger and its additions seem inadequate and its shortcomings unforgivable. If Warcraft III: Reforged had been a true copy of the original with a higher resolution and increased frame rate, then the result would have at least been a sufficiently practical, albeit unambitious way to experience the game.
As of right now, Warcraft III: Reforged doesn't even offer that. It's a neglected opportunity to reintroduce an old classic to new and old players on Blizzard's part and, more importantly, a missed opportunity to cleanse the progressively nastier taste that the publisher's actions have left in our mouths for the last couple of years.