Warcraft 3 is finally coming back. Due out in the middle of next year, the classic campaign of Arthas gone bad has gotten a substantial overhaul. Here's everything we know about the game so far.
All your old custom maps are compatible
The most important news: all your old maps will work with Reforged just fine. Reforged is a combo package with Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne, and anything that was playable with either game will work automatically with Reforged.
Additionally, The Frozen Throne is compatible in multiplayer with Reforged as well. You'll still have to deal with the full-length unit bar blocking the bottom of the screen, but it'll work. They might not look quite the part, depending on the custom assets used and how much they can be swapped with Reforged's updated textures. But there's a fix for that too.
The map editor returns, it's just as powerful
Reforged systems game designer Michael Scipione and production director Tim Morten explained in an interview that the remaster would ship with a map editor - just like Warcraft 3 did - and it will retain the same functionality that fans remember.
That's perhaps the biggest selling point: Warcraft 3 was beloved for its custom maps. They helped popularise DotA and a wave of MOBAs, all manner of tower and hero defence games, Footman Frenzy, Mario Party-style minigames, and countless other creations.
Fans were hoping Starcraft 2 would take custom maps into a new stage. Similar hopes were had for Dota 2 as well, but not having the same ease of use and issues every time a new patch was released dented the growth of custom games in Valve's MOBA.
Reforged is a solid chance to bring all of that back. How many people are willing to drop $44.95 to have that part of gaming back isn't known. That said, the Crash Bandicoot remasters and the upcoming Spyro bundle go for $49.95, and Crash sold just fine.
The fullscreen unit bar is gone, and fullscreen cinematics are here
At a distance and from the standard isometric perspective, Reforged seems fairly simple. It's the same game, cleaned up a bit, retooled for modern systems.
The difference, however, is best seen when the campaign cinematics kick in. Because the full-length unit bar has been scrapped (as modern machines have no trouble rendering more action on screen), cinematics play out in full view. There's no giant portrait of Arthas next to subtitles anymore, which helps illustrate the work Blizzard has done on the textures.
It's an enormous difference, and you can see that clearly in this side by side video from AllTimeGaming:
Expect changes to ranked matchmaking
While Blizzard has been actively sourcing feedback from the professional Warcraft 3 scene that's still alive - mostly in China - they also used Blizzcon to get suggestions from fans on changes to the multiplayer. One direction the devs want to rework, as Morten explained, was the old XP system.
Warcraft 3 used to rank players on experience points, where points were gained or lost depending on the outcome of a game. You would level up after a certain point and the top 1000 players would be ranked based on their total XP gained.
It was rubbish, pure and simple. And if the team have their way, they'll work it into something better. There's no specifics on what it would look like exactly, and if the feedback is forceful enough they may end up keeping the XP system entirely. But they'd rather not.
Not everything is the same
Here's a fun change from the originals. Blizzard chose the sixth mission from the Human campaign to show off Reforged, the one where Arthas breaks ranks with Uther, deposes him as the king, and sets forth into Stratholme to purge the city of infected before Mal'Ganis resurrects them.
But in Reforged, the map has changed. Players start from the bottom right, instead of the top right as they did in the original mission. The city itself is more streamlined - there's no bridges over water, less cramped spaces, and in all players should be able to finish the mission a fraction quicker.
The changes to The Culling mission are also designed to fit with Startholme's layout in World of Warcraft. It's an eye towards the other benefit of Reforged: WoW fans who aren't familiar with the original lore from Warcraft 3.
Expect balance changes
The most precise feedback given to the Reforged team from the pro scene was about balance, although they couldn't outline what changes people could expect.
One balance change that will remain for now is the unit population cap. While modern computers are capable of rendering vastly more units, Warcraft 3 is unique in how the upkeep mechanic is tied to the population of a player's army (unlike Starcraft and most RTS games of the era). Morten explained that fiddling with that balance was a very tricky proposition, but the team is open to looking at options if there is strong enough feedback.
It's harder to determine the HP of units now
A small mechanical quirk with the removal of the full length unit bar is that it's actually a little harder to determine the HP of individual units. Keeping units alive is a massive part of managing battles in Warcraft 3, especially in competitive play where you're juggling several abilities, hero items, the hero abilities, and constantly manoeuvring armies around.
Traditionally, unit portraits were squished together whenever you were looking at a group of units. The advantage of that was you'd be able to tell if a unit had full HP - because it would saddle up alongside the HP of the next unit in the group.
Now, however, there's more space between units and their HP bars. It sounds counter-intuitive, but that cleaner design actually makes it harder to judge at a glance the status of each unit's health - at least until they take enough damage for their HP bar to turn yellow, then red.
Tiny factors like that matter more at the professional and higher levels of ranked play, although it can crop up as a problem in UMS maps if you're trying to juggle large groups of units.
You might notice some tweaks to the story
There's no plans to do away with the broad strokes of the Reign of Chaos or The Frozen Throne stories, but the team are actively looking at the amount of lore that's been developed throughout World of Warcraft.
The Reforged developers explained throughout Blizzcon that there might be some tweaks to cutscenes and dialogue to incorporate part of the direction Warcraft 3 characters - like Sylvanas, for instance - would later take in World of Warcraft. It's not meant to change the overall direction or tone of missions, but rather to keep it generally consistent with what players have - or will experience - in World of Warcraft.
The author travelled to Blizzcon as a guest of Blizzard.