Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne is the expansion to Blizzard's Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.
Following the release of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos in 2002, its expansion The Frozen Throne came two years later in 2004. This real time strategy game followed the critically acclaimed Warcraft I and Warcraft II. Many parallels are drawn between Blizzard's other RTS franchise, StarCraft.
The game's campaign follows the Night Elf Maiev Shadowsong on her hunt of Illidan Stormrage, as well as the plight of the Blood Elves, who are commanded by Kael'thas, and finally the Undead, split into three groups, one being led by Arthas, the other by Sylvanas Windrunner and the third by dreadlords loyal to the Burning Legion.
While the game’s Campaign provided the lore, the main action, and the reason for the franchise's longevity, was its multiplayer, particularly online. With a ranking system and international tournaments with big prize money, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne became a major player in Esports. The game was extremely popular in South Korea, alongside StarCraft. South Korean players, such as Jang Jae-ho, playing under the name of ‘Moon’, are considered celebrities at home and during the game’s heyday were able to earn six-figure salaries through prize money and endorsements.
In said multiplayer, players have to choose between four races: Humans, Night Elves, Orcs or Undead. Each race was already existent in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, but received additional units in The Frozen Throne. The objective of the game was to quickly build a base, increase gold output and build and army to ultimately defeat opposing players by destroying their base. The minimum number of players for a multiplayer game is two (1v1), with the maximum ten (5v5). Players get a free hero to start off the game with and the decision of which one to take could influence the outcome of the match. Some favourite strategies included Undead players quickly gathering ghouls (which are also used to chop wood and are considered a low-level, expendable unit) to then rush the enemy and take them by surprise. The hero chosen for this tactic was usually the Dread Lord, which could choose an aura which let all friendly units in the proximity heal themselves upon hitting enemies. Other players preferred not to take such risks and would choose a more long-term strategy, such as first focusing on their economy to then increase the rank of their main building and unlock further buildings and units. In team games, players of the same team would usually take different races to one another so as to have a wide variety of units and their respective buffs – the Orc unit shamans have the Bloodlust buff, while Human priests have Inner Fire, and combining these in a large-scale battle could be the balance between winning or losing.
Like with the original StarCraft, Warcraft III had a great community of custom map makers. Players are able to download custom maps on third-party websites and play them with or against other players online. Favourite game modes included the new genre of tower defense games, as well as Defense of the Ancients, commonly known as Dota. The objective of Dota was for the chosen players’ heroes to pass through the map along three pathways, encountering the enemy players’ computer-controlled minions as well as neutral enemies, and then destroy the ‘Ancient’ in their opponents’ base. The success of this custom map led to Valve Corporation purchasing the intellectual rights and consequently developing Dota 2, one of the most successful Esports games ever. Spin-off Mobas (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games include the also extremely popular League of Legends, as well as Blizzard’s own Heroes of the Storm. Other fun and well-known custom maps include Battleships (inspiration for the recent game Windward) and Footmen Frenzy.
Overall, the game requires quick thinking, fast physical reactions and a solid sense of strategy and tactics in order to rise up the ranks of players. The game was very well received by the global community, evident by its success in establishing itself as an Esports game, alongside Counterstrike 1.6 and Quake 3 at the time. It was eventually replaced by StarCraft II as the main RTS game in Esports, but many hope for a fourth instalment of the franchise. Blizzard's focus is, however, on World of Warcraft, which was based on the lore of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, as well as Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and the yet unreleased Overwatch, the developer's first attempt at a first person shooter.
Despite being more than a decade old, the game is still going strong and can be recommended to any new gamers wanting to enjoy a challenge and experience a part of gaming history. Very few games have been able to have such an impact on the global community, not only due to its own innovation and detail, but also due to the embrace of fans wanting to take gaming to the next level.