DOTA. That should be all I need to say.
- Adds new units, new balance, and a full single player campaign
- Finally adds boats back in
- New locals are vibrant and colorful
- Added tons of new heroes and content via patch downloads, all for free
- Upgrades to the map editor made custom maps go from "crazy" to "completely insane"
- The definitive version of Warcraft III
- New campaign's story isn't as good and ends on a cliffhanger
- Graphics haven't been touched up at all
|This menu screen has been etched in my brain forever.|
The LongSo after Warcraft III was awesome and I loved it and all that, I was pumped for the expansion The Frozen Throne. I was at summer camp when I bought it, and was super excited to go home and play it. What I didn't expect was that this would be the start of an obsession, one that has continued all the way to this day. Because with The Frozen Throne came the better map editor, and with the better map editor came DOTA.
But we'll get to that eventually, because first I have to review this game on its own merits.
|"On its own merits"...with a DOTA screenshot|
The Frozen Throne continues where Reign of Chaos left off. The Burning Legion got sufficiently stomped at the World Tree, though the tree was destroyed and most of the world is now roasted. Arthas is still out there, as is Illidan (a fallen Night Elf) making trouble. Illidan is especially being a twit, uniting with the Murlocks (a water race) in an attempt to take over in the Burning Legion's wake. Once again the various forces have to ally, though this story is a much darker one that focuses heavily on Arthas' continued fall from grace rather than the overarching war.As it stand, the story is a decent one, though it doesn't reach the heights of Reign of Chaos. It has a few shocking moments (like the ending), but as it stands it doesn't break from the norm. There's some human racism and a few other things to spice it up, but the world isn't exactly brought to a new depth here, and while it's fun and diverse the missions tend to get "samey" (with the exception of the Undead campaign).
It does have an interesting Orc campaign that plays more like an MMO than an actual RTS, focusing on giving you two heroes and a few random units. Surprisingly, only the first chapter is on the disc, the rest have to be gotten via patch downloads. It's a nice twist, though an actual Orc campaign might have served better.
|The new areas are cool, though the graphics still look mediocre.|
But where The Frozen Throne shines is with its improvement to multiplayer and balance. Each race gets one new hero giving them a total of four and, since you can only have three heroes during a match, deciding which one to use becomes a big decision. The new heroes are well balanced and fix previous problems (like the Orcs not having a healer hero), but then they added more. Before you could recruit mercenary unites from random guild halls hidden throughout multiplayer maps, but now they actually have unique heroes there too. Want to summon a Panda warrior to fight for you? You can! It's crazy and adds a level of unpredictability to matches, which the game certainly needed.I won't go in detail regarding the new unites, suffice to say that they give the game what it needs: a fresh take, a better balance, and a whole lot more replayability. I didn't really get into Reign of Chaos' multiplayer, but I really got into Frozen Throne's. Something about it sticks better, like Brood War compared to the original Starcraft, and for that I suggest it over the original's.
Blizzard also gave away a ton of new heroes via patches, introducing new character models and new spells and everything, which is really cool. Normal companies would have charged for these, but with Blizzard they just came with the patches. Good show, and it also revamped the multiplayer every time. They still patch this game to keep it balanced, which shows their constant dedication.
Enough of that, time to talk about DOTA.
|My friends and I call ourselves the "Dota-rds," showing you exactly how mature we are.|
So one of the things I mentioned in my Reign of Chaos review was the fact that these games have an insane map editor. Well, in The Frozen Throne Blizzard just said "screw it" and unleashed the floodgates: you can do just about anything you can fathom with it now. People have made full-fledged JRPGs, actual MMOs that save your progress even after you quit, super complex tower defense games, racing games, wave-based defense games, and the list goes on. By allowing people to make custom spells (the biggest map editor change between Reign of Chaos and Frozen Throne), people could now make entirely new heroes with entirely new skillsets, as well as devise their own items and effects. It was this craziness that led to the phenomenon that is DOTA.
DOTA (for the uninitiated) is actually an acronym for "Defense of the Ancients." It was based on an old map type called "Aeon of Strife" (or "Aeon of *whatever*") back in the Reign of Chaos days, though these weren't particularly enthralling because they used pre-built heroes and broke the balance something awful. But with the ability to edit spells, character models, and more, The Frozen Throne was prime for an upgrade. And they did upgrade it. Oh boy, they did.
|That's some crazy stats.|
So here's the general gist behind DOTA (and the MOBA genre it invented). There are two ancients on either corners of the map, and the goal is to destroy (or defend) them. There are always three lanes leading between them, with a river in the middle that allows free traversal between the lanes. There are also multiple shortcuts on either side (you can see the map in the lower left corner of the above screen shot) through trees and forests, which also allows for sneak attacks due to hiding spots and lack of vision. Everyone only controls one hero, while the main "creeps" are spawned by the AI. All the creeps ever do on both sides is spawn and run directly for the ancient, attacking whatever the find along the way (usually each other). There are tiers of towers guarding each pathway and, ultimately, the final base. Your goal is simple: outlevel or outbuy the other heroes, bust through the towers and into the base, and destroy the ancient. Then you win. Easy.The tricky parts come later. First off, there are over ninety heroes to pick from in the current DOTA iteration, which is insane. Since all their abilities lead to completely unique playstyles, you'll have to be familiar with most of them to both know to play your hero and what you are up against, lest you underestimate them and die to an unknown spell effect. To earn money in this shindig you can either kill creeps for a small amount of coin, sit around (since you get money based on time anyway, albeit very slowly), or murder enemy heroes for fat bank.
There are also tons of items, including many that can be fused later into better, more powerful artifacts. You have your mix of consumables, armor, weapons, etc. with varying complex effects. Many even give you spells to use.
So basically you have to manage your hero while still working together on 5 v 5 player teams until one emerges victorious. It's a rush, and since there are so many heroes, items, and playstyles no two games are the same. Games are pretty quick relatively speaking (usually 30-45 minutes) meaning you can burn through one and still have time to do stuff the rest of the day. Like more DOTA.
For a custom map, DOTA is crazy in how well balanced it is. While some heroes have their obvious foils (one is straight up titled "Anti-Mage"), when two balanced teams square off it can be a very difficult war of attrition. It's gotten so popular that Valve is straight up porting the game into it's own standalone title (with the brilliant name of DOTA 2), changing literally nothing least they mess up the immaculate balance. And they still haven't given me a beta key, which pisses me off, but that isn't part of this review.There are problems with DOTA, the biggest being the bar of entry. DOTA is insanely complicated, with hundreds of items and nearly one-hundred heroes to learn and keep track of, with new things being added and changed constantly. I was lucky in that I started back when the game was still young, so it was a gradual learning process was the game was improved and patched, but for a newcomer it's completely overwhelming. It doesn't help that the community is full of impatient jerks. If the Xbox Live community is a bunch of profanity spewing twelve-year-olds, than the PC community is arrogant elitists, who don't give anybody even a chance to improve before insulting and slandering them. It can take a substantial time investment to understand DOTA, and even if you are good people will still treat you badly. It's an awful community, but that's why you 1. Always play with friends 2. Ignore the haters.
|Almost done with DOTA, I promise.|
Still, for those who persist they'll find an insanely addicting sub-game within the Frozen Throne main game. I started playing this game "officially" during my freshman year in college, our entire dorm floor forming a league and basically going in and kicking the crap out of everybody and everything on Battle.net. Many of us have kept it up to this day, still booting up The Frozen Throne almost nine years later to throw down on some DOTA (though most got into the DOTA 2 beta without me, so now they play by themselves. VALVE! You are ruining my social relationships!) . It's addicting, fast, and very fun, and it's totally crazy this evolved from just somebody messing around in the map editor.
|Literally at the crossroads.|
Back to vanilla The Frozen Throne, the graphics haven't seen much of an upgrade, but they certainly prettied up the effects and the lands you traverse. The music is still just...there, which is fine I guess, but it doesn't stand out at all. It's really about the new units and unique map editor, with the multiplayer being so solid you are willing to forgive the fact the game looks ancient by today's standards.
|Though the set-pieces still look pretty nice.|
As it stands, even today The Frozen Throne is a worth investment for any fan of RTS or RPG action. The core gameplay still holds up, and there's a large group that still competes online. The upgrades to the single player aren't substantial but the new units are, making the game considerably more fun to play, even by yourself. But if you hate the core game you are guaranteed to find something you'll love on the online custom games, with the craziness in the maps coming out of the woodwork. Though it's true most of the talented developers have moved to Starcraft II, there's still plenty to love here, and considering you can get the whole collection of Warcraft III games on the cheap, there's been no better time to dive in.Were I just rating The Frozen Throne's single player, I'd probably give it four out of five stars. But with the inclusion of DOTA, which makes The Frozen Throne my most played game of all time, I can't give it any less than five out of five. This was a life-shattering phenomenon for me, and a way I met and bonded with lots of new friends and allies. I even met a ton of awesome people over Battle.net because of it, people I keep in contact with to this day. It's been a crazy ride (one I hope continues once I get my hands on DOTA 2), and for that I can't award it with a score any less than perfect.