Summary: How have the latest patch changes affected game balance? Check out our opinions in our latest War III article. And hurry, before Blizzard patches again!
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
WarCraft III official page: http://www.blizzard.com/war3
As we reported earlier, the latest patches to WarCraft III have brought sweeping changes to the game, adding missing units and spells, and changing game balance from top to bottom in order to fix several exploits discovered by the beta testers thus far.
The most noticeable change is that unit attack speeds have been reduced compared to pre 1.10. The effect of this is that battles last much longer than they used to, which allows players more time to micromanage their troops, positioning them, and casting spells. As was Blizzard’s goal from the beginning, the changes have given players more of a chance to manage their battles as opposed to their economy, making the game more fun.
Heroes live to fight another day
Many of the changes have also increased the survivability of heroes in battle. Ranged units now do a lot less damage on heroes than before, because one of the exploits was to mass as many ranged units as possible and concentrate fire on heroes right at the beginning of a fight, killing him in just a few seconds. You can see on Blizzard’s page the various different attack types and their effect on different targets. “Piercing” damage units now only hit for 75% against heroes, and a lousy 25% against buildings. Now, most players build a lot more melee units than before.
Pre 1.10, many of the spells used were a little too good for hero assassination. Entangle from the Keeper of the Grove was one notorious such spell, holding enemy heroes in place for 10-30 seconds while units could attack it. The Orc Raider’s Ensnare ability has a similar effect. Now, most of these immobilizing spells can no longer affect heroes, so players have to work harder or be more clever at taking out enemy heroes. Other assassination type spells that used to do a lot of direct damage to one target, such as Chain Lightning and Frost Nova, have also been toned down, instead doing less damage to the primary target and more to surrounding units with less of a mana cost and cooldown time.
There are still methods you can use to take out heroes. One trick that I’m fond of is using the Undead Dread Lord’s Sleep spell for this. I cast Sleep on the enemy hero, and use my army to kill all or most of my opponent’s army while his hero is snoozing away. Then when he wakes up again, I cast Sleep one more time, surround his hero with melee units so he can’t run (most heroes are rather fast movers, making them tough to run down), and then finish him off. Slow from Human Sorceresses can be used for the same purpose.
SIDEBAR: I’m usually online as SES-Sea – say hi if you see me.
Changes to town defense
Blizzard has buffed up the stationary defenses of nearly all the races. All towers now hit a little bit harder, except for the Undead Spirit Towers (which are based off of their Ziggurat farm units anyway, so they have plenty of base buildings to make towers). Buildings also no longer have a buffer zone around them, meaning that it is possible to build structures in such a way to block movement entirely. If you choose, you can now wall-in your town using your buildings. I find this to not be an effective tactic, as I prefer to have mobility around my town with my army. Bunching up your buildings is begging for an area effect damage spell (Blizzard, Earthquake, Death and Decay, etc.), and if you cast a town portal spell to bring your army into a crowded town you could find your troops trapped and ineffective.
Humans, as before get two types of towers – Guard Towers and Cannon Towers. Guard towers shoot arrows at air and ground attackers while the Cannon Towers shoot a more powerful cannon ball (with splash damage) at ground targets only. Blizzard has also given the human Town Halls a “Call to Arms” button. This rallies all nearby Peasants to run to the Hall, and change into armor, which turns them into Militia. The Militia units run faster, have some armor, and hit a lot harder and faster than a regular Peasant. Though they certainly couldn’t hold off an attack by themselves, they can prove to be the difference maker if your army and the attacking army are evenly matched. The Militia won’t last forever though…after a short timer runs out (you can see the bar by clicking on any Militia), they automatically switch back to becoming Peasants – this prevents anyone from trying a “Militia rush” on small maps. You can also force Militia back to work by pressing the “Return to Work” button on the Hall. The Peasants will remember the tasks they were doing and go right back to them automatically.
No more pig farms
The most interesting change in this area has to do with the Orcs. They no longer build Pig Farms to support a larger army. Instead their food/farm points come from building Burrows, which double as a defensive structure. Similar to Bunkers in StarCraft, a Burrow can be filled with up to four Peons (but only Peons) who then shoot powerful arrows out of the Burrow at any attacking troops. The rate of fire of the Burrow increases depending on how many Peons are occupying it. At four peons, the rate of fire is considerable. I’ve held off two-team attacks by myself in team games using my own army and two Burrows firing as backup, with other Peons repairing the Burrows as they take damage. If you want to attack a smart Orc player you have to come with siege units (Catapults, Ballistas, Meat Wagons, etc), if not an utterly overpowering army. Additionally, Orcs get a new Watch Tower building that functions similarly to the Human Guard Tower, attacking air and ground with arrows. Not many people bother with the Watch Tower though. Finally, the spiked barricades upgrade to Orc Buildings (damaging any melee units that attack them) have been increased in effectiveness.
Undead and Night Elf
Not a whole lot of changes were made to the Undead static defense, except that their Necropolis (town hall) acts as a Spirit Tower does, firing at attacking enemy troops. The Night Elf “tower” unit, the Ancient Protector, now attacks air as well as ground attackers, which is a welcome change. Blizzard has also removed the default attack of the uprooted Tree of Life (town hall). The reason for that is because many of the top players would simply build a second Tree of Life near a gold mine right in the beginning of a game, and use it to kill the creeps guarding the mine. Using this trick, Night Elves could expand much faster than any other race, making them nearly unbeatable in one on one matches. That exploit has been fixed, and Blizzard promises in a later patch to allow uprooted NE buildings to attack after an upgrade is researched.
Whole lotta castin’ going on
Pre 1.10, few players bothered making non-hero spell casters. One of the primary reasons for this is that there were too many buildings to make in order to gain the tech necessary to make them effective. Using the same money, it was just more cost effective to make more regular fighting troops. In response, Blizzard has removed a lot of extraneous structures to streamline the building tech-tree. The Night Elf Bear Den has been removed – Druid of the Claw is now made in the Ancient of Lore with the Dryad, and the Druid of the Talon (newly inserted in the game) is made in the Ancient of Wind with the Hippogryph. Their respective upgrades are in those structures as well. On the Human side, the Mage Tower is out, with both Priests/Sorceresses and their upgrades all made from the Arcane Sanctum now. Other non-spell caster buildings, like the Gargoyle Spire and Orc Forge have also been removed to streamline town building.
At first, the changes to encourage the making of spell casters may have been a little too good, as several races developed all-spell caster rushes. With many of their attacks also buffed up, they were serviceable as standalone troops when buffed by their own spells. The all-Sorceress rush of the Humans was fairly devastating. Slow is auto cast and very cheap in terms of mana. No amount of dispelling could keep up with a band of auto-casting Sorcs. Combine that with their Polymorph spell and the Sorcs were force all their own. Blizzard responded in 1.11 by nerfing Sorc attack damage, increasing their build time and cost, and having Slow affect attack speed in a slightly less dramatic fashion. Another popular rush was the Orc Shaman rush – with Lightning Shield and Bloodlust, several Shamans could tear up a lot of armies by themselves. Again, 1.11 increased cost and build time, so now Shamans are back to being a support unit, not a be-all, end-all.
Perhaps the most popular all-spellcaster cheese was the Necromancer swarm. With their autocast Raise Skeleton, combined with building several Graveyards (Graveyards pump out corpses regularly), a band of Necromancers could raise an army of dozens of skeletons, and constantly refresh them. While one player in a team game doing this can be overcome, a triple Undead team doing this in a 3on3 gets to be quite annoying. With hundreds skeletons in front of them, it’s difficult to use your troops to get at the Necros. By the time you could get a decent force of air units going, the Undead guy would have Banshees to simply possess them, so there was really no counter to this strategy. In response, Blizzard has reduced the skeleton duration time to 20 seconds, unless an upgrade is researched which makes their duration 40 seconds. Banshees can no longer possess air units now either.
The case of the missing spells and units
Pre-1.10, the Night Elves had a few missing spells (on the Druid of the Claw) and a missing unit (the Druid of the Talon). These have now been added. The Druid of the Claw’s spells are quite effective – Roar, and Rejuvenation. Roar gives all units around the Druid of the Claw a 25% bonus to their attack – as you can imagine it’s extremely effective. Rejuvenation heals a targeted unit over a short period of time. The catch is that these spells can only be cast when the druid is in Man form. They pop out of the building in Bear form, with no mana, so you need to turn him into a man and then up his mana from the Moon Wells in your town to make him an effective spell caster right away.
A free point, but…
The dynamics of leveling a hero has changed a lot. Now, right off the bat, a hero gains a free skill point, as soon as he is built. This encourages players even more to get that second hero out after upgrading the town hall (you can only build one hero at the beginning, a second after the first Hall upgrade, and a third after the final upgrade), because he’s effective right off the bat.
There are no more creeps guarding the entrances and exits to bases. While at first this might encourage a quick hero rush, Blizzard has responded by not allowing any hero to be built until the first Barracks is up. This also prevents unfair early scouting by those heroes with map revealing spells, due to the free skill point upon building (Orc Far Seer’s FarSight, and NE Priestess’s Scout).
Another important change is that you can’t stack all your hero’s early points into a single ability. In order to get one hero spell up to level two, you have to get your hero to level 3 first. This means your second skill point has to go into something else other than what you upgraded originally. To get a hero spell to the maximum level 3, you have to have a hero at level 5. Forcing players to spread around the points makes balancing in terms of early game/late game easier and makes players use their heroes to fight in order to get the real goodies of level 3 spells. Heroes level up a good deal slower now. It takes a significant amount of fighting now to get a hero up to level five and get that ultimate spell or level 3 ability.
Odds and Ends
Night Elves now require wisps to mine gold, which also prevents them from their super quick expansions. In exchange, their wisps are not consumed by creating buildings. It’s also possible to attack a NE gold mine’s entangle in order to disrupt gold flow to an NE player. This is faster than trying to take out the Tree of Life. Although it’s easy enough for that NE player to re-entangle the gold mine, it forces him to be more aware of guarding his expansions.
Huntress Sentinel – this upgrade gives each Huntress one owl. The Huntress can send this owl to sit on any tree in her sight radius. The owl gives the NE player a wide radius of vision in that area, which is permanent, even if the Huntress who sent the owl dies. Since NE players make a ton of Huntresses anyway, it’s an incredibly powerful ability. I spread them around to every open expansion I visit and to line heavily traveled paths. I even throw them inside of enemy towns on hit and run attacks so I can watch what he’s doing afterward. The owl can be gotten rid of by dispelling it or chopping/attacking the tree it’s sitting on, but most people don’t see the owl or think to try and get rid of it.
New 12 player map – Divide and Conquer. I call this one the lag maker b/c any time I try to play on the map, my computer bogs down to hellishly low framerates. It’s still very difficult to play anything more than a 4on4 game in WarCraft III. 5on5 and 6on6 games as it currently stands, are way too laggy to play over the net.
Overall, I feel WarCraft III just keeps getting more fun. There are several viable strategies for each race, and these can change depending on which heroes you rely on and how you upgrade them. There’s yet another patch due out any day now, so we’ll be keeping an eye on further changes.
SIDEBAR: Playing WarCraft III? On Bnet or Bnetd? ;) Sound off on what you think of the game!
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|