Better balance of hero utility
Heroes are what make Warcraft III great – they make it stand out from StarCraft, they give the game personality, and they focus player tension – you really, really don’t want your heroes to die. If heroes go away from Warcraft 4, we would be horrendously disappointed. They were a bold step in cementing the Warcraft series deeper into its RPG roots. Still, picking any old hero without thinking about it could spell doom for a player – which is fine, because then there is strategy to choosing your heroes. However, Warcraft III made the mistake of having some heroes be too obvious of a choice, to the point where they were the only
choice. The game is still being played today, and at high levels, it involves a handful of overpowered heroes in almost every game: the Archmage (Humans), the Demonhunter (Night Elves), the Death Knight (Undead) and the Blademaster (Orcs).
Above: It was ironic that the main hero of the Human campaign, Arthus, was a Paladin, which turned out to possibly be the most worthless Human hero. He’s relegated to the sad position of third hero, meaning he supports the others and is almost never picked as the primary hero
Notice that each race has its overpowered hero. This means that overall the game is balanced, since no one race is too powerful. But at the same time, the heroes are overpowered compared to the other options each race has. The problem, like Swiss army-knife units, is heroes with too much utility. As an Undead, you might want to pick the Lich as your starting hero, because his Frost Nova does massive AOE damage and slows enemy units. Except the Death Knight, with his Death Coil spell, can also do high damage, but the same spell can heal friendly units if you want. It’s all about versatility. As an Orc, would you pick the Farseer, with his ability to summon two (count ‘em) spirit wolves that can attack, scout, and tank damage; or would you choose the Blademaster, who with Wind Walk can turn invisible, run faster, pass completely through enemy units, AND do critical attack damage? Hint – turning invisible is huge in a game where killing an enemy hero can win the match.
For Warcraft IV, Blizzard needs to learn from the heroes that came to dominate Warcraft III. It’s not about how much raw damage a spell does; it’s about how useful it is in how many situations. The heroes in Warcraft IV need to have spells that are effective at the beginning of the game and effective late game. If there needs to be a system that changes the way heroes work based on when they are trained, so be it – it may make things a bit more confusing, but more options make for more strategies.
Put a stop to the tower problem
Towers are annoying in nearly every strategy game. No one likes to be killed by a stationary, dumbly firing unit that’s insanely tough to kill. Towers have their place in RTS games, so we’re not suggesting they just get rid of them altogether. But there needs to be a solution to the very real, pervasive black hole of funlessness they create. In particular, Warcraft has become a series about heroic legends clashing on war-torn battlefields. It’s not supposed to be about battle-scarred heroes plinking away at buildings.
Above: Hey, this is cool – we found some super early build with weird-looking Orc towers. They don’t look like that in the released version, which is well and good because we promise you some readers would get an ulcer just seeing the real Orc towers
There are two problems with towers in Warcraft III: pushing towers down an opponent’s throat is too easy, and for certain races (cough, Humans, cough), building forty towers inside your home base is too cheap. Some RTS games solved the tower pushing problem by making the foundations of towers, while they’re still being built, crazily weak to attack. This creates a problem where it’s too hard to throw up a defense of your own base when the enemy can just instantly knock down what you’re trying to build. Warcraft III actually has a weird, unique tower problem: through patches, the devs actually made siege weapons obsolete for dealing with towers. See, in order to deal with the tower problem, the devs changed the armor type of towers so that normal units could more easily take them down. This had a side-effect of making siege units worse at killing them. The inherent problem, of course, is that non-siege units sort of have to get in range of towers to kill them. So with Warcraft IV, the solution should be simple – give towers their own unique armor type – one that takes a lot of damage from siege units and regular units, and also make it easy to produce siege units before or in parallel to the time when your opponent can build towers on your front lawn.
Why are we so sure these changes would be the most important ones for Warcraft IV? They’re all intended to make the player have more options. Better balance means more choices, and just look at how the original StarCraft handled it: it stayed so popular precisely because its races were so well balanced. We’re not saying we want the races in Warcraft IV to be all the same – far from it. We just believe that if the races had every tool as a competitive option, the game could endure the way that StarCraft has, especially because with the advent of WoW, Warcraft is arguably a more recognizable franchise.
We could have talked about the single-player campaign, but really what gripes could we have? The single-player missions were fantastic in Warcraft III, and after playing StarCraft II’s campaigns, we see that Blizzard has clearly learned to make single-player even more fun during the intervening years. One main thing we’d ask is to just rip every story-ish game element straight out of StarCraft II – the hanging out in the bar and armory, the research options, and the “choose a side” missions would all fit perfectly in the Warcraft universe.
Above: The Warcraft universe’s story is ridiculously detailed – just take a glimpse in the giant manual for a near novella of backstory
Also - and it’s pretty safe to assume Blizzard is already planning on this – incorporate the story that has been developed by World of Warcraft. Make Warcraft IV happen post Cataclysm so that the Warcraft universe can continue its epic arc.
What do you think? Are our rants about balance totally crazy? What would you want to see in the next Warcraft?
Aug 24, 2010