Warcraft 4 – what we want to see

Don’t get too excited – Warcraft IV has not been announced. Yet we can bet that at some point, its release will be inevitable. Now that StarCraft II has officially left the room (of Blizzard’s main development office), there must be a bunch of designers twiddling their thumbs and trying everything they can to not get assigned to World of Warcraft. Sure, StarCraft II still has two expansions coming, along with tons of patches, but if we know Blizzard, Warcraft IV is probably at least partly in development. Hell, StarCraft II was probably in some stage of development infancy in tandem with the tail end of Warcraft III.

Above: Ah, Warcraft, you weird, crazy game you. Feeling a bit red-headed and step-childy, now, aren’t you? 

A few of us at GamesRadar were seriously hardcore into Warcraft III. It may have never achieved the legendary status of StarCraft, but dammit if it didn’t steal our hearts with its lovely hero-centric, nearly economy-free take on traditional RTS gameplay. Some people weren’t happy with the de-emphasis on macro and the sharper focus on micro, but we loved it to its low-poly bones. We’re not saying it’s better than StarCraft; we’re saying it’s different, and that’s what makes both of them great. We still have some gripes with Warcraft III, though, so here’s what we want to see in the next Warcraft.

No Swiss army knife units

At the competitive level, Warcraft III is a game of many unit options distilled down to just a few powerful combinations. Many of the coolest units on paper are just not practical in competitive play. This isn’t really because they are weak, but rather that there are other options that are just too damn useful in too many situations, with no real counters. Let’s take as an example, the Mountain Giant versus the Druid of the Claw – two Night Elf units designed as heavy-hitting, late game melee units. As tanks, they have relatively high hit points, although the Mountain Giant has considerably more. Sounds like an easy choice then – until you realize the Druid of the Claw is a top-tier melee unit and a healing, support spellcaster. Wait, what?

Above: The poor, poor Mountain Giant. Look at his sad face. All he wants to do is club enemies into smears with his tree 

That’s right: in some cool-ideas gone crazy frenzy, the designers of Warcraft III created certain units that have way too many abilities, leaving more specialized units out in the cold. The Druid of the Claw is a spellcaster that can heal itself and other units for huge amounts of health, can cast an Area of Effect spell that increases damage, and it can transform into a heavy melee unit. Another example is the Raider – an Orc unit that moves fast, takes reduced damage from ranged units, can bring air units to the ground so that melee units can hit them, and has an unlimited ability to stop units and heroes from moving, and this ability can’t be dispelled in any way.

The problem is that Warcraft III went for a system of “soft” counters – hardly any unit has really powerful bonuses against another unit, which is the opposite of how most RTS games work. We want to see diversity of units in Warcraft IV, just like we see them in StarCraft II – when units have proper counters, diversity increases as opponents choose different mixes of armies to counter each other. Some people enjoyed the soft counters of Warcraft III, but apparently they were happy with seeing Night elves build Druids of the Claw and Orcs build Raiders in easily 95% of games.

Massing/rushing as legit strategies

Massing, particularly in Warcraft III, refers to going for pure numbers of a particular low-tier unit in an attempt to overwhelm your opponent early on. It is similar to rushing, and the two are often combined (but not always). Both are dependent on being able to do damage to your opponent’s base in the early game. At the competitive level, neither of these approaches are used much because they aren’t effective (except for tower rushing, but we’ll deal with that below). We understand that some players don’t like dealing with massing and/or rushing, but the lack of it makes the strategies less diverse.

The problems that cause this are a few small things that add up. First, teching (going up the tech tree super fast and only building a few early units) and expanding (building a second base early to reap extra gold) are too cheap with too few risks. The higher tier units are so integral to the power of one’s army in the long run that if you try to mass early units and overwhelm your opponent, if he’s able to survive, you’re generally screwed. We know that this dynamic isn’t such a bad thing actually, but the problem is that it’s too easy to survive early attacks due to powerful built-in base defenses and even specialized towers designed for the sole purpose of fending off hero attacks.

Above: This little group is dangerously close to the equivalent of massing Footmen – one of the most pathetic strategies in all of Warcraft III (except for the purposes of embarrassing your opponent – it’s like choosing Dan in Street Fighter) 

Early on in Warcraft III’s history, it was believed that there was a rock-paper-scissors dynamic to basic strategies that went like this: Massing beats expanding (because the expander spends resources to expand and thus has a smaller army), expanding beats teching (because the techer doesn’t have enough units to stop your expansion and your increased income will overwhelm even his high tech units), and teching beats massing (for reasons explained above). With easy, cheap expansions available to almost every race, massing isn’t really an option. So everyone either techs or expands. Now, we know this is a bit different for team games, but the inherent problems stem from solo play and bleed into team play in weird ways to complicated to explain here. While we’re talking about expanding…

All races need to be able to expand

If you read the manual for Warcraft III, you’ll find that it explains how the Undead are one of the best races at expanding because they don’t need a town hall to mine gold. It sounds great in theory, since you can spend a smaller amount of gold on what’s called a Haunted Goldmine. In fact, the Undead are the absolute WORST at expanding because you need a town hall to make defending your expansion feasible. So instead, they actually have the most expensive expansions (they have to buy the Haunted Goldmine and the town hall).

What this results in is the Undead player teching as fast as possible (remember, he can’t mass, except in a few cases) and never, ever building an expansion. Undead players won’t build an expansion even if their opponents have two or even three goldmines running. Luckily, they aren’t screwed most of the time because Undead heroes are super deadly late game, as are their units, but unless they seal the victory, they’re on a ticking clock as their opponents accrue more and more gold.

Above: Ahaha, silly Undead, you don’t get to expand, even though your opponent already has an expansion up. Also, where’s your Death Knight, noob? 

Expanding is a time-honored strategy in RTS games. It creates a lovely risk-reward scenario that builds tension for both teams. Warcraft IV needs to think long and hard about how its races expand, because they ended up totally different from how they were intended in Warcraft III.

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  • ryan-johnson89 - November 5, 2014 2:49 p.m.

    I have won games without a Hero even
  • ryan-johnson89 - November 5, 2014 2:47 p.m.

    Adding to your comments about expanding undead, why not just build a Few Ziggs instead of a Town hall near your Expansion, It works well for me an I get 2 gold mines right off the bat most of the time, an quickly get to Flying units which I wait for my enemy to attack an they don't know I have a mass army of flyers waiting in the shadows near there base. as my Ziggs pick off there units im also killing there base
  • jameson14 - February 10, 2013 3:44 a.m.

    Lol nice! But check this out :
  • gabriel-nebiyu-melaku - May 24, 2012 5:06 a.m.

    I will cry the day this game is released.. Warcraft 3 was a huge part of my teenage years. Warcraft IV please..
  • SandroTheMaster - September 8, 2010 5:23 a.m.

    How Warcraft 4, the sequel to one of the most imaginative RTS that actually dared to play with an RTS core mechanics, should be? Simple, make it exactly like Starcraft 2, the most derivative RTS made in recent years that is so lackluster of innovation that didn't manage to introduce a single change or improvement over its predecessor. How didn't I realize that the secret in making things better is just making them the same?
  • walrusthewill - September 3, 2010 10:21 p.m.

    the problem is that starcraft 2 isnt done - the team that worked on WCIII is the one that worked on SC2, so WC4 wont start until all of the expansions are out for SC2
  • Svenice7 - September 2, 2010 12:15 a.m.

    Warcraft 3 is the best RTS game bar none. Startcraft 2 (C&C5, lol) is a joke, its so inferior to WC3. WC3 has such amazing multiplayer complexity. Reading your article , you make some interesting points, but a lot of your comments suggest you are not a pro player. Point1. Firstly your comments regarding mountain giants & druid of claw. OK Bears (Druid of claw) are a lot cheaper than Mountain Giants and are a great melee massing unit and can heal and roar. But the Mountain giants hit points make it an amazing tank in battle and when things are getting tricky combine it with the taunt ability that draws in all other units. This taunt ability shields all your lower grade units. This is one of the most useful Night elf commands. Anyone just massing with mountain giants is clearly a noob. Anyone playing NE should look at the mountain giants as a support unit, rather than a massing unit. I like your points about some Heroes being overpowered, I agree that the Demonhunter (Night Elves), the Death Knight (Undead) and the Blademaster (Orcs) are the stronger heroes, not so sure your opinion of the archmage. The archmage is weak and can be easily taken down. It probably only useful if you are mass towering and hoarding gold, in a 1v1 game. Blademaster is great hero, but I find alot of noob players using it, concentrating on the hero, but not actually winning the game, remember he has no aura/heal ability. And any skillful player can soon eat him up with dust. I find the Death Knight probably the best hero in the game. Its so hard to take out a skillful player. Demonhunter is good, but not so good on maps without potions of invulnerablity, as he has no heal spell or invis spell. Your theory about undead, where its expensive to expand and haunt gold mines. I find it very easy to expand with undead and cost effective, by building a ud tower and increasing your food limit and don't forget its not that expensive when you can unsummon your buildings and get the gold back! WC3 forever. Not sure about WC4 (they will probably ruin it!) ..HawkeyeFortune..
  • weremoose - October 31, 2011 9:51 p.m.

    I agree 100%. The author also left out play style as a balancing effect. For example, I role FS/SH as orcs and prefer to force my opponents to fight in confined spaces where my tauren can soak damage and my heroes are safely unreachable. When I use a TC as one of my heroes, I prefer open spaces where I can get a surround. Undead is my weakest race but they strike me as being all about keeping your opponent guessing. Raise an army of skeletons to attack his expo and when he ports there to defend, attack his main with your army. Humans seem best at hero assassination between Storm Bolt, slow and OP riflemen. Human heavy units are also fast and mobile so you can micro better than with most races. NE have always struck me as the most versatile. I have two orc strats, three human strats, two UD strats and about five NE that I can think of offhand. All that to say, I think Warcraft III was always intended to be a tactical game rather than a strategic one. What is your mode and angle of attack? When and how do you retreat? Where on the field do you keep your army, where do you force a confrontation, where do you avoid one? How do you keep your enemy off balance so you can expand?
  • Anduin1 - August 31, 2010 11 p.m.

    I feel like WoW has burned the Warcraft universe permanently. I honestly thought WC3 was an ok RTS and that the hero units were a joke. I'd rather they try their hand at a new IP rather than rehashing their tired series over and over again.
  • miasma - August 31, 2010 8:48 p.m.

    The thing I really hated about WCIII was the need to switch between 3 or 4 different buildings to build certain units. Granted, I am not a huge RTS player anymore because I find them too complicated and I just get rolled by 12 year old Korean kids, but I think if they reduced the unit building structures and maybe created add-on structures to existing barracks it would clear things up. Maybe I am a minority with this issue, but I yearn for the days of less-complicated RTS games. Who knows, it could be as simple as not smoking pot before playing so I can remember where I placed buildings too LoL :)
  • weremoose - October 31, 2011 9:31 p.m.

    lol I'd imagine you are a minority bro. If anything, War3's tech tree was too simple.
  • GamesRadarJuniorWildlifeEditor - August 26, 2010 7:47 p.m.

    Very good article. more. Please.
  • Slaanash - August 26, 2010 6:14 a.m.

    Y'know, I agree with some of the points, but others (Like the tower thing) make me thing that the writer of this article isn't that good at Warcraft.
  • Shadowhatchi - August 26, 2010 2:53 a.m.

    @Bitchslapthehomeless I agree, I also like Warcraft 3 better than Starcraft 2. Don't get me wrong Starcraft 2 is a great game I just like the overall setting and characters of the Warcraft series more.
  • CRUNKMUFFIN - August 26, 2010 1:43 a.m.

    Theres an odd Arthus typo, but not going to dwell on that I would love to see a new Warcraft even though im not an RTS player at all. Mainly for the story and to revive an old franchise.
  • Bluesharp - August 25, 2010 4 p.m.

    more worried about how SC2 expansions turn out than WC4 speculation.
  • mEgAzD - August 25, 2010 11:25 a.m.

    You have my sentiments Mr. Keast. This is coming from a Fighting game player lol.
  • Stuv - August 25, 2010 10:37 a.m.

    As long as this doesn't become StarCraft: Medieval Edition, I will be happy. I'd also like to see another race, one independent of WoW.
  • AuthorityFigure - August 25, 2010 9:13 a.m.

    RTS games are susceptible to imbalances, exploitations, glitching etc. This is because they're are too complex for their own good.
  • pinoklin - August 25, 2010 7:13 a.m.

    i am a hardcore undead pleayer and that has lead me to prefer the dreadlord over the dk any day i mean the dk might heal but puttiong an enemy hero to sleep for like 45 seconds is pretty similar to killing him lmao, combo that with health regen aura every time your units deal damage and you got yourself a pretty nasty unit....and i am glad i havent dload the patches lol and sieges can still own towers :) and imo SC sucks bawllz compared to warcraft.