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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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27 comments

  • nightasasin - August 24, 2010 9:43 p.m.

    I dont feel that all the heroes are are completely unbalanced. I get what your saying though.
  • sniperscope - August 24, 2010 9:58 p.m.

    I totally agree with absolutely everything you're saying. And I need a Warcraft IV.
  • TizzleSniper - August 24, 2010 10:58 p.m.

    i love the Warden for the nightelves (i hate the demon hunter) the decent AoE ability, the very good (IMO) shadow strike (slows, poison, and good initial dmg), and Blink, OMG blink was so much fun bouncing around the enemies base casting Fan of Knives weakening the enemy, then blinking back to my base to recharge on moon wells. to bad i never really got into W3. just because of how everything worked (the econ penalties are BS). the heros were fun and all, but to me it just distracted from what an RTS should be. R.I.P Pylo.
  • Genericide - August 24, 2010 11:31 p.m.

    I'm not good enough to play hardcore at any rts, let alone a blizzard one where even the lowest noob could rip me to pieces; so I can't comment on complaints about the main game like these. However, the custom maps in Warcraft 3 kept me playing until just a year or two ago. DotA is the obvious one, having formed several other stand-alone games based off of that single mod. But there were ridiculous amounts of other games in W3, from tower defenses to maze games to murder mysteries to sims-esque life games and on and on and on. As long as this is continues in Warcraft 4 I would play it for years on end all over again.
  • Fiirestorm21 - August 24, 2010 11:32 p.m.

    Definitely raise some good points, none I have any problems with off the top. I dearly hope they release it on down the line. I love WoW, but I don't want Warcraft to become all MMO.
  • Onepersonwithnoopinion - August 25, 2010 12:40 a.m.

    Why can't they just make a new IP?
  • Bitchslapthehomeless - August 25, 2010 4:14 a.m.

    God, I'd love a Warcraft IV. I agree with most of this. I like the heroes, but I would like a LITTLE less dependency on them. I didn't like that if your hero went down, your army was pretty much useless. Overall, (I know I speak blasphemy) I like WC3 more than SC2.
  • Firenzeta - August 25, 2010 5:26 a.m.

    Nothing. I want them to get the next two episodes of Starcraft II done ASAP!
  • jmcgrotty - August 25, 2010 7:03 a.m.

    It's pretty simple: The one thing that Warcraft 4 needs is a picture of the box with the words "cancelled" stamped across it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • mEgAzD - August 25, 2010 11:25 a.m.

    You have my sentiments Mr. Keast. This is coming from a Fighting game player lol.
  • Bluesharp - August 25, 2010 4 p.m.

    more worried about how SC2 expansions turn out than WC4 speculation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • GamesRadarJuniorWildlifeEditor - August 26, 2010 7:47 p.m.

    Very good article. more. Please.
  • 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.

Showing 1-20 of 27 comments

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