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Jan 30, 2020

Thoughts on Warcraft III Reforged (ongoing)

Well, my favorite PC game of all time has been remastered and reworked into Warcraft III: Reforged, and all my childhood dreams have come true... or have they?

Yesterday I streamed my first reactions of the Warcraft 3 Reforged campaigns and, while I remained as optimistic as possible throughout the first few missions, ultimately I ended the day in a disappointed funk. Though I like the game's models, the truth is, Blizzard got all their priorities wrong and delivered a straight-up underwhelming, misleading product. And I can't figure out why! This is the company that made modern masterpieces like Starcraft II and Heroes of the Storm, both with amazing models, UI, gameplay, and features, but then they release something that feels like an unfinished beta project made by amateurs.

I'm trying to remain positive, even though the game's score on Metacritic was 1.9 yesterday and has dropped all the way down to 1.1 as of posting this. Blizzard can't ignore that, can they? My hope is that they listen to players (for once), refund us all their money, set Warcraft III's classic launcher back to its old self, and then just start over and try again. No harm, no foul. They can come back to us in a year or two when they've released a polished product. But until then, it just feels off.

Anyway, enough ranting. My purpose in making this post was actually more constructive. I'm here to make a list of the things I like and the things I don't like about Warcraft 3 Reforged as I play through it. This list will change quite a bit as I add things to it in the coming months, so feel free to check back. These may give useful data for a future video on the Abelhawk channel.

Things I Like

  1. Stacking items - This makes it so much easier to justify carrying around potions, and on levels like "The Key of the Three Moons," you don't have to drop an item just to pick up another crystal to merge into the combination item. Genius!
  2. The models - At least in their appearance on the map (see the model portraits in "Things I Dislike" below). They'll make great options for custom maps. I'm also really impressed with how the different looks for separate heroes (like all the paladin and dreadlord variations) and how it helps things stay varied in the campaign.
  3. New death sounds - It's cool to have a randomized assortment of battle death sounds, though it is a shame they couldn't do it with all the creeps too.
  4. Spell and particle effects - Absolutely beautiful and perfect, from what I've seen so far. The only exceptions are the level up and revive hero animations, which are disappointingly bland.
  5. Stratholme - If every level in the game had the level of nuance and attention that "The Culling" has, I think the reforging of this game could've been rather beautiful. The minibosses, the change of the level's layout, and the higher difficulty makes the level much more fun to play for both new and old players.
  6. Some of the in-game cutscenes - There are some examples of changes to cutscenes that really add to the game, such as showing peons repairing boats while on rowboats. And Arthas's Frostmourne cutscenes were fantastic. Why can't they all be like that?
  7. The continuation of the Exodus of the Horde - I laughed when some people thought that Thrall's adventure meeting Sen'jin and the Darkspear trolls while en route to Kalimdor was new content. This was a bonafide upgrade to the game, since the original extended demo was a custom campaign inexplicably with no dialog files. The murloc sorcerer model and the naga murloc race were welcome additions to the game.
  8. World of Warcraft foreshadowing - I wasn't keen on Blizzard retconning everything to fit with WoW's storyline, but I think a fair amount of transition would have added quite a bit to the game. So far, I've seen stuff like golems in Northrend being called "Followers of Loken," and I'm interested in seeing more subtle hints like that.
  9. Minimap ping improvements - Minimaps can now have icons on it that stay lit to indicate quest markers or moving enemy locations, like on StarCraft II. Nifty!
  10. Quel'thalas - Even though it uses the Lordaeron Summer tileset, Quel'thalas feels like a brand new area with its whimsical, fey-like twisting aspen trees, and the elven buildings and units make a somewhat confusing area on Warcraft III into a unique area that just feels elven.
  11. Silvermoon - "The Fall of Silvermoon" level is fantastic: There are more ways for the runner to reach Silvermoon, the fight that turns Sylvanas to a banshee is scripted so you don't miss it, and the city itself is beautifully laid out and has some fun mini-boss fights in it.
  12. Dalaran - Though I think it's kind of dumb there are essentially 13 archmages to fight in the map, the scenario itself is so much more fun. The archmages each have different abilities that make them distinct from one another (Antonidas summons like ten water elementals, another has mirror image, another teleports around the battlefield, and one summons enraged elementals instead of water elementals).
  13. Reign of Chaos / Frozen Throne merge - I really like how they made Reforged a single game, so that they use assets from the Frozen Throne in the Reign of Chaos campaigns. This allows for more realistic cinematics without weird placeholders, as well as fleshing out the Exodus of the Horde campaign with naga units, and allowing things like runes and other Frozen Throne items to be used on Reign of Chaos maps.
  14. Dropped items - One change they did make to many of the campaigns' maps is having the heroes (and sometimes buildings) drop items more often. This includes runes, which are much better used than in Frozen Throne where they're tossed all over the place to the point where the game isn't even hard anymore.
  15. Night elf ancients - The ancients look absolutely fantastic. Their animations better fit their movement speed, their textures look great, and overall I'm just super impressed with now night elf villages look now. The Tree of Life in particular is greatly improved, as he has better animations for upgrading, and his higher forms of Tree of Ages and Eternity look more distinct.
  16. The Crossing - The new secret mission on the Curse of the Blood Elves was revamped, and the difficulty is much more challenging, which I enjoyed. There are also secret areas where you can get items to help you out, with the challenge of choosing whether to defend the lanes more or risk getting the items. The only thing I didn't like is that I think if you lose, you have to start over instead of it just telling you your score and moving onto the next level. It takes away its "optional" feel to have to manually get out of the map and skip it and get onto the next one, and the map won't get completed unless you do ALL the waves. That's more of an achievement-level thing.
  17. Fade filters - I've noticed on missions like King Arthas that there are new fade filters in the game. When Arthas speaks telepathically with the Lich King, the "dream" filter looks frosty and criss-crossed like a frozen window. Very cool, and it makes me wonder what other filters they have. Knowing this game though, that's probably the only one. And they seem to have taken out the red filter that flashed whenever Arthas felt the pain associated with the Lich King's messages.
  18. (hopefully more to come)

Things I Dislike

  1. The model portraits - They look deadpan when they mouth their words and border on the uncanny valley in appearance. The colors, and especially the lighting and shadows, also just look so off.
  2. Very few new additions to the game - If people don't want new voice lines, at least give the option to have a different audio experience in the "Reforged" mode. Why not add achievements, or a new optional quest to each level in the game, or something that gives players motivation to play the campaign again? They even neglected to do things like make a new special effect model for a question mark (?) for turning in a quest, instead just reusing the exclamation point (!). Why? I just don't get it.
  3. Glitches - I haven't found any gamebreaking ones so far, but the FPS on "Ravages of the Plague" was pretty bad, siege engines don't seem to have an actual missile explosion when attacking, doodads play their animation when the camera moves over them, and I've noticed that when the Undead buildings get destroyed, a glowing particle hovers above it for some reason. Stuff like that.
  4. Campaign wording changes - By golly, Grom was named Grom in his first game, Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal! Why retcon his name to just be Hellscream? I think this George-Lucas bull honkey is unacceptable. And later on, even though Cairne and Thrall call them "wyverns," the in-game text refers to them as Wind Riders, and the name of the scenario itself is even renamed "Where Wind Riders Dare."
  5. Most of the in-game cutscenes - A big majority of the in-game cutscenes have static camera angles that sit there forever, a noticeably bland lack of meaningful animation, and are just generally downgraded from the original Warcraft III. No excuse there.
  6. The UI - It's just ugly. I hate the bland victory screens in between campaign missions, and the menus in the game and General Chat and crap are so unwelcome. The loading screens are also super inaccurate... They fill all the way up almost immediately, and then go on displaying dumb joke loading phrases (which got old like 10 years ago) like "betraying soldiers" and "waking peons" for many seconds afterward.
  7. Not fixing issues and inconsistencies - The Kul Tiras soldiers on "Riders of the Storm" and "The Fires down Below" are Stormwind blue instead of Kul Tiras green, and the bug that makes the wrong fairy ring spawn an item on "The Hunter of Shadows" hasn't been fixed. These are the very most basic of issues, Blizzard! Come on!
  8. Fountains - The fountains on the game look like little shallow basins of Kool-Aid instead of the mystical, glowing, fairy-encircled pools on classic War3. It's the most noticeable downgrade in terms of doodads and it really bugs me.
  9. No new voice lines - If Blizzard is going to remaster specific levels and even add new characters like Anasterian Sunstrider, then for heaven's sake, add voice lines for these new levels as well! It was anticlimactic to encounter the king of Silvermoon himself and for him to be as silent as a custom map's version. Have him say something to Arthas as he invades his city! And using an annoyed quote when the council mages are introduced in the Dalaran level? Why not just actually make a new line that introduces the side quest?
  10. Runes - Runes look like floating, spidery wrought iron spikes instead of the more ethereal glowing runes in the original Warcraft 3. It makes them hard to notice and breaks the suspension of disbelief. I really hope they redo the way runes look.
  11. Sound glitches - Sometimes sounds repeat, which is a weird glitch. Like, a unit will say something and then you'll hear the same sound a few seconds later. I think maybe death sounds have done this a few times as well.
  12. Quest text - The titles of the quests look like they're in superscript for some reason, which is really distracting. I think they also may have renamed some of the quests to somewhat dumb names, which I'm not a fan of. I also noticed some typos and inconsistencies since updates have been done that haven't been fixed yet.
  13. Blue night elves! - What. The. Heck. I got so excited seeing the previews for the night elves with a focus on the color teal, and yet they couldn't be bothered to just change their color in the actual campaign. It drives me nuts.
  14. Fel orcs - The chaos orcs—now called fel orcs—on the Hunter of Shadows just look bad. On Warcraft 3 Classic, they look mainly the same as their original counterparts, except they have red skin and glowing yellow eyes. On Reforged, it's as if different 3D modelers did the fel orcs without even looking at the original models they're based on. The grunts lose their beards, the peons put on little helmets, and their animations just look bad compared to their originals. I wish they had just focused on making their skin look demonic and giving them more gnarly tusks.
  15. Black Citadel - I'm not really sure why Blizzard revamped the layouts of Dalaran, Stratholme, and Silvermoon to the way they look on WoW but didn't bother to revamp the Black Citadel, or even to name it the Black Temple instead. It's kind of a dumb level with the element of sneaking around with the invisible draenei to disable defenses (which is listed as an optional quest but is clearly necessary), so of all the levels in this campaign, this map (and the battle with Magtheridon) could've used a facelift.
  16. Unfinished models - Certain models, most noticeably Illidan's purple portal model, have not been updated. Why spend so much effort updating every model in the game—including ones no one ever sees, like Tharifas—and skimp on stuff like this? Outdated models stick out like sore, polygonal thumbs.
  17. (definitely more to come)

Jan 9, 2020

Six-Word Memoirs

Why is it I have to wait at least five years to write about my creative works on Pretzel Lectern? It's like this blog just oozes nostalgia and has some kind of requirement for the creative works to age a little to make sure they're good enough quality. Anyhow, here are some "six-word memoirs" I wrote when I learned about them five years ago. Most of them reflect the somewhat sad state of my life back then, which is comforting now that I'm happy, prosperous, and optimistic. A salary job, Wellbutrin, and D&D have definitely helped.

Making games, drawing comics, pointy ears

I give, but no one takes.

I just wanted to see castles.

Always second best, except to myself.

My childhood is an archaeology exhibit.

Calvin and Hobbes, my greatest heroes.

Lying in a hammock, reading fantasy.

I drew a picture of everything.

A perfect family, but flaky friendships.

Forging a path without a lantern

Never enough gourmet food to eat.

If I were to make some six-word memoirs for myself today, I think they'd be something like:

D and D twice a week.

Life is good when there's food.

Too much free time is possible.

Ask me about my Google Docs.

When can I go see Stonehenge?

I've got a holiday in my head.

Nostalgia fades when the present rocks.