Warcraft 3: Reforged artwork showing off the Night Elves

Warcraft 3 holds a very special place in my heart. It was the first game that I ever took seriously, and also the first game that I genuinely wanted to be good at. It thought me how to work together even with complete strangers, how to learn and grow from defeat, and it sparked within me the spirit of competition that burns to this very day.

So when I heard that Blizzard is releasing a remastered version of Warcraft 3, my excitement knew no bounds! A bigger and better version of one of my favorite games ever? How in the world could this possibly go wrong!? Well, as it unfortunately turns out, in so many ways that even half a year later it can't hold a candle to the original.

Warcraft 3: Reforged screenshot of Muradin

I'm afraid it's time for some smiting

I don't want to call Warcraft 3: Reforged lazy, because it really isn't. It took over two years to come out since the original announcement, so there was definitely a lot of time and effort put into it. That said, something has almost certainly gone wrong behind the scenes because even the simplest of features, things like customizable keybinds, are not present.

This isn't some sort of arcane feature that only the truly dedicated few care about either. Custom keybinds have been an important part of every single RTS game for quite a while now, yet the modern Warcraft 3 remaster doesn't feature any easy way to help you adjust them. Instead, you need to dig through your files and manually put in your keybinds like we're in the earliest days of PC gaming again.

Funnily enough, the somewhat similar Starcraft: Remastered has a simple and highly effective way of remapping your hotkeys. So it is clear that even Blizzard understands how important simple features like these are, yet it's still something that's completely missing in Warcraft 3: Reforged for no discernible reason. Now obviously this is not the biggest problem in the world, but it does serve as an excellent example of just how half-baked this whole remaster feels.

Warcraft 3: Reforged showcase of how the keybinds work

Is this really the most elegant solution?

As for the actual gameplay tweaks, the biggest changes in Warcraft 3: Reforged mostly revolve around the addition of new models, terrain and visual effects. While there are some that look slightly off, mostly because of how realistic they are in an otherwise cartoony world, the new visuals are for the most part pretty darn solid. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them have been heavily influenced by World of Warcraft's art style and overhauls, which does give the two games a bit of a stronger connection, along with an even greater sense of nostalgia for us older fans.

However, if you don't care about the new visuals, the good news is that you can simply and easily swap to the classic ones. Now I've seen a fair few complaints about how the classic visuals are just not the same, but personally I've not noticed any sort of major difference. So regardless of what sort of style you decide to go for, Warcraft 3: Reforged should still be rather pleasing to the eyes.

Warcraft 3: Reforged screenshot of the Undead

Yep, this is most definitely Warcraft 3!

As an additional little treat, Blizzard went the extra mile with some of the heroes and added brand new variations. For example, the Demon Hunter and Death Knight heroes now have female versions you can select, and both of them fit in perfectly. You can easily tell which hero you're looking at, even at a glance in the middle of a battle, yet their model is still different enough to offer a nice little bit of variety to the two factions.

This was a completely unnecessary addition as it doesn't affect the gameplay in any way, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad about there not being even more such customization options to play around with. Even simple stuff like being able to change your armor color or patterns would've been a neat way to add more personality to your units, though I can understand why Blizzard is a bit hesitant with giving players the option to turn their armies into a carnival parade.

Warcraft 3: Reforged screenshot of the female Demon Hunter

A small but highly welcome addition

That said, before Blizzard even starts considering adding new models and customization options, they should first try to sort out the bizarre performance problems that have plagued Warcraft 3: Reforged from the very beginning. One would expect a simple RTS with relatively low amounts of units to run flawlessly on modern machines, especially given that it has been patched numerous time since launch, yet sadly this is not the case. Even when looking at a couple of ghouls chopping lumber, Warcraft 3: Reforged can suddenly stutter and stop being responsive for nearly a full second.

Early on in a match this is merely annoying, but when it happens in the middle of a battle it can be absolutely soul-crushing. Losing an entire match because your hero gets focused down during a performance hitch is something I hoped I left back in 2002 where my mom picking up the phone meant the Internet would go out! As such, I can only hope this is a problem that's somehow exclusive to me and me alone, because it's singlehandedly destroying any sort of enjoyment I might get out of Warcraft 3: Reforged's otherwise highly entertaining gameplay.

Warcraft 3: Reforged screenshot of an Orc base

Oddly enough, the size of your base doesn't change how frequently this bug happens

Unfortunately, I do still have some more things to complain about, as much as I wish it was otherwise. First of all, Warcraft 3: Reforged is still missing core features from the original, even half a year after launch! There are currently no clans, no in-game leaderboards to give all your ranked grinding some sort of purpose, no in-game tournaments to test your skills, no custom campaigns, and perhaps most puzzlingly of all, not even a personal profile where you can check out your statistics!

The fact that all of this is missing is bad enough on its own, but what truly makes it infuriating is that these features were also ripped out of the classic Warcraft 3 as well. So even if you intentionally avoid Warcraft 3: Reforged, the game you bought so many years ago is now poorer in features because of it. A truly bizarre choice by Blizzard, but I suppose you can say that about most of the non-visual changes.

Warcraft 3: Reforged screenshot of the custom map screen

The way you select custom games is also in dire need of a better filtering system

When it comes to the campaign, things are once again disappointing. Instead of the beautiful cutscenes we saw during that first preview at Blizzcon, the Warcraft 3: Reforged cutscenes are essentially just slightly reshuffled variants of the original ones. There's a little bit more detail here and there, but for the most part, it's just a bunch of zoomed-in shots of models that were never meant to be stared at from that close of a distance.

The one cutscene that has been reworked from the ground up as originally teased is the final battle between Illidan and Arthas, and sadly, it just looks bad. The quality of the models themselves is excellent, as should be expected from Blizzard's phenomenal artists, but the actual animation is incredibly stiff and unsatisfying. The whole thing feels half-finished and thoroughly unpolished, which while not the biggest problem in the world, is the exact same issue that permeates through all of Warcraft 3: Reforged and thus makes each example all the more glaring.

Warcraft 3: Reforged screenshot of the Stratholme cutscene

The cutscenes aren't terrible by any stretch, but they sure do lack a bit of oomph

While I understand I'm being constantly negative here, rest assured that this is not my intention. Warcraft 3 is a game that I absolutely adore, and I would love nothing more than to stand here and sing its praises to the high heavens. Alas, the whole experience is such a mixed bag that I have to keep coming back to the bad stuff over and over again, until it eventually starts to overwhelm any of the positives.

However, there is one thing Warcraft 3: Reforged has going for it that trumps the vast majority of RTS games, even the ones released these days - truly amazing gameplay. Not only does Warcraft 3: Reforged sport the excellent strategy-focused gameplay of the original, but it has also brought in a ton of new balance tweaks to shake up the meta and make some of the previously terrible units actually useful.

As such, when Warcraft 3: Reforged works as it should, it manages to shine brighter than even the classic Warcraft 3! And I don't just mean that in the ranked matches either, as the newly updated custom games are far more pleasant to play than ever-before.

It's just a shame that the negatives have completely taken over the entire conversation, because if everything was fully polished from the get-go, I have a feeling Warcraft 3: Reforged would be celebrated as an instant classic!

Closing Thoughts

Warcraft 3: Reforged Chain Lightning screenshot

There's no two ways about it - Warcraft 3: Reforged is unfinished. I have no idea what made Blizzard rush it out of the door when they invested so much love and care into StarCraft: Remastered, but the end result is a remake that feels like a poor imitation of the glorious Warcraft 3 that many of us fell in love with eons ago.

So as much as this pains me to say, I would not recommend grabbing Warcraft 3: Reforged in its current state. Unless you're willing to jump through a bunch of hoops and basically bypass all of Blizzard's systems in order to play on community-run platforms, Warcraft 3: Reforged is just going to be a needlessly frustrating experience.

So keep an eye on it moving forward, but for the time being, just stay a nice and respectful distance away while Blizzard hopefully sorts all of this nonsense out.