A game of Warcraft III takes place on a map of varying size, such as large plains and fields, with terrain features like rivers, mountains, seas, or cliffs. In Campaign mode, the map is initially covered with the Black Mask, a dark layer which obscures the landscape beneath until it is explored. The Black Mask, once gone, is permanently removed.Areas that have been explored but no longer are within sight range of an allied unit or building are covered with the fog of war. Though terrain remains visible, changes such as enemy troop movements and building construction are unseen.During a game, players must establish settlements to gain resources, defend against other players, and train units to explore the map and attack enemies (computer controlled foes). There are three main resources that are managed in Warcraft III: gold, lumber, and food. The first two are required to construct units and buildings, while food restricts the maximum number of units the player may control at one time.
The game also introduces creeps, computer controlled units that are hostile to all players.Creeps guard key areas such as gold mines or neutral buildings and, when killed, provide experience points, gold, and special items to a player's hero. Warcraft III also introduced a day/night cycle to the series.Besides having advantages or disadvantages for certain races, at night most creeps fall asleep, making nighttime scouting safer; however, the line of sight for most units is also reduced. Other minor changes to the gameplay were due to the 3D terrain. For instance, units on a cliff have an attack bonus when attacking units at lower elevations.
In previous Warcraft games, there were only two playable races, Orcs and Humans, which had more similarities than differences. Barring cosmetic changes, most Orc units were identical to their Human counterparts. In Warcraft III, the Night Elves and the Undead are added as playable races.Additionally, as in StarCraft, each race has a unique set of units, structures, technologies, and base-building methodology.
In addition, Warcraft III adds powerful new units called heroes. For each enemy unit killed, a hero will gain experience points, which allow the hero to level-up to a maximum level of 10. Progressing up a level increases the heroes attributes and also allows the hero to gain new spell options (bringing RPG elements to the series).Certain hero abilities can apply beneficial auras to allied units. All heroes can equip items to increase skills, defense, and other abilities. At level six, the hero can obtain an "ultimate" skill that is more powerful than the three other spells that the hero possesses. Heroes can also utilize the various natural resources found throughout the map, such as controllable non-player characters, and markets in which the hero can purchase usable items. Often, the playing style of ones hero units (it is bound up to three at one time) decides who wins or loses the match/battle.
Warcraft III's campaign mode is broken up into four campaigns, each featuring a different race which the player controls. Each campaign is itself divided into chapters, which are like missions. Unlike previous Blizzard titles, such as Warcraft II or StarCraft, players are not directed to mission briefings in which plot exposition occurs and objectives are announced; rather, Warcraft III uses a system of "seamless quests." Some plot development happens in an occasional cinematic, but most occurs in-game with cutscenes. Objectives, known as quests, are revealed to the player during the progress of the map. Main quests are those that the player must complete to proceed to the next chapter, but there are also optional quests which are not initially revealed, but can be discovered and completed alongside the main objectives.
Through each race's campaign, the player retains control of one or more heroes, which slowly grow in experience as the levels progress. This experience is carried over to subsequent missions, allowing the hero to grow throughout the course of the campaign.
While different in terms of storyline and precise gameplay, all of the different races' campaigns are structured similarly. Each begins with a level involving simple mechanics to introduce the player to the race and the basic elements of their hero and units. After one or two such levels the player's first "building mission" occurs, requiring them to build and maintain a base while competing with one or more enemy forces. The only campaign that breaks this pattern is the Night Elf campaign, whose first mission involves building a limited base. The last level of each race's campaign is an "epic battle" which means that the player has to strike down a large number of enemy foes and finally destroy their main base. For that, the player has to use the knowledge he acquired during the latest quests and also has to invent some war-strategies.
While campaign games can have many different objectives, the sole objective in melee games is to destroy all the opposition buildings. In default melee matches, players can pick their own heroes, and losing one will not end the game. To make the game proceed more quickly, by default the map is covered in fog of war instead of the Black Mask.Warcraft III, like Blizzard's previous title StarCraft, allows for single and multiplayer replays to be recorded and viewed, allowing a game to be played at slower and faster speeds and viewed from the perspective of all players.Like all previous Blizzard titles since Diablo, Warcraft III uses theBattle.net multiplayer network. Players can create free accounts in regional "gateways," which helps reduce lag; these are Azeroth (U.S. East), Lordaeron(U.S. West), Northrend (Europe), and Kalimdor (Asia). Unlike previous Battle.net-enabled games, Warcraft III introduced anonymous matchmaking, automatically pairing players for games based on their skill level and game type preferences, preventing players from cheating and inflating their records artificially. If players want to play with a friend in ranked matches, Warcraft III offers "Arranged Team Games", where a team joins a lobby and Battle.net will search for another team; as with anonymous matchmaking, the enemy team is not known beforehand.Players can also host custom games, using maps either created in the Warcraft III World Editor, or the default multiplayer scenarios. The game also offers Friends Lists and Channels for chatting, where players can create custom channels or join Blizzard-approved ones. Warcraft III also allows players to band together to form "clans", which can participate in tournaments or offer a recreational aspect to Warcraft III
Due to the latest patch, version 1.24, many third-party programs have been rendered unusable. Several third-party programs that reveal the entire map, commonly known as maphacks, have been released for the update. It also disabled collided maps, which would make modified custom maps appear to be the same as the original. Another effect of the patch, which is not included in the release notes, is that custom maps with large filenames will not appear in the game. The limit is believed to be 20 characters, but this has not yet been tested.
This patch also rendered many custom maps unplayable due to custom map scripts. Even some versions of the famous Defense of the Ancients were no longer functioning.
Warcraft III takes place in the fictional world of Azeroth. Several years before the events of the games, a demon army known as the Burning Legion intent on Azeroth's destruction corrupted a race called the Orcs, and sent them through a portal to attack Azeroth. After many years of fighting, the Orcs were defeated by a coalition of humans, dwarves and elves known as the Alliance; the surviving combatants were herded into internment camps, where they seemed to lose their lust for battle. With no common enemy, a period of peace followed, but the Alliance began to fracture. The events ofWarcraft III occur after a timeskip from Warcraft II. This period was originally intended to have been documented inWarcraft Adventures, but that game was canceled in mid-development.
The game's plot is told entirely through cinematics and cutscenes, with additional information found in the Warcraft IIImanual. The campaign itself is divided into five sections, with the first acting as a tutorial, and the others telling the story from the point of view of the humans of Lordaeron, the Undead Scourge, the Orcs, and the Night Elves.
The game opens with the Orc leader Thrall waking from a nightmare warning him of the return of the Burning Legion. After a brief encounter with a man called "the Prophet", and fearing that his dream was more of a vision than a nightmare, he leads his forces in an exodus from Lordaeron to the forgotten lands of Kalimdor.
Meanwhile, the Paladin, Arthas defends the village of Strahnbrad from demon-controlled Orcs.. He enchants his warhammer via slaying Searinox, the black drake and one of King Deathwing's finest warlords. He then joins Archmage Jaina Proudmoore, who aids him in investigating a rapidly-spreading plague which kills and turns human victims into the undead. Arthas kills the plague's originator, Kel'Thuzad, and then purges the infected city of Stratholme. Jaina parts ways with him, unwilling to commit genocide, or even watch him do so. The Proph, after previously trying to convince other human leaders to flee west, begs Jaina to go to Kalimdor as well. Arthas pursues the dreadlord Mal'Ganis, who was the leader behind Kel'Thuzad, to the icy continent of Northrend, where he helps his old friend Muradin Bronzebeard find a powerful sword called Frostmourne. Meanwhile, Arthas begins to lose his sanity, burning his ships to prevent retreat even when given an order to leave. Fortunately, Arthas and Muradin find Frostmourne and soon Muradin learns that the sword is cursed;Arthas disregards the warning and offers his soul to gain the sword. By doing so, Muradin was struck down by a shard of ice when Frostmourne is released, and is presumably killed. Arthas kills Mal'Ganis and abandons his men in the frozen north as his soul is stolen by the blade, which was later revealed to be forged by the Lich King. Some time later Arthas returns to Lordaeron and kills his father, King Terenas.
Now a Death Knight, Arthas meets with the leader of the dreadlords, Tichondrius, who assigns him a series of "tests". Arthas first exhumes the remains of Kel'Thuzad, contains it in a magic urn of the ashes of his father, which was protected by Uther. Arthas kills him too, then sets off to Quel'thalas, kingdom of the high elves. He then later attacks the gates and destroys their capital of Silvermoon. He kills Sylvanas Windrunner, the Ranger General of Silvermoon (only to resurrect her as a banshee), corrupts their sacred Sunwell and revives Kel'Thuzad as a Lich. The Lich informs him of the Burning Legion; a vast demonic army who are coming to consume the world. Kel'Thuzad's true master is the Lich King, who was created to aid the Legion with his Undead Scourge, but in truth he wishes for the Legion to be destroyed. Arthas and Kel'Thuzad open a dimensional portal and summon the demon Archimonde and the Burning Legion, who begins his purging of Lordaeron with the destruction of Dalaran. Arthas and Kel'Thuzad were cast aside by Archimonde, and Kel'Thuzad reveals to Arthas the Lich King has already foreseen it and is planning to overthrow the Burning Legion.
Thrall arrives on Kalimdor, meeting Cairne Bloodhoof and the tauren, and clashes with a human expedition on the way to find an Oracle. Meanwhile, the Warsong clan are left behind in Ashenvale to build a permanent settlement, but anger the Night Elves and their demigod Cenarius by cutting down the forests for resources. To defeat them, the Warsong leader Grom Hellscream drinks from a corrupted fountain of health contaminated with the blood of the Legion's pit lord commander Mannoroth, successfully killing Cenarius, but binding his clan to the Legion's control. Thrall manages to reach the Oracle, in fact the Prophet, who tells him of Grom's doings. Following the Prophet's directions, Thrall and Jaina join forces to purge both Grom and the world of demonic influence. They succeed in capturing Grom and healing him of Mannoroth's corruption. Thrall and Grom begin to hunt Mannoroth and Grom kills him, dying in the process, but in doing so freeing the orcs from the demonic control of Mannoroth at last.
Tyrande Whisperwind, leader of the Night Elves, is outraged to find the humans and orcs violating the forests, so she initially vows to destroy them. However, she soon finds out that the Burning Legion has arrived on Kalimdor. In order to oppose the Burning Legion, Tyrande reawakens the sleeping Elf Druids, starting with her lover, Malfurion Stormrage, and frees his brother Illidan Stormrage from prison. Illidan meets Arthas, who tells him about the powerful "Skull of Gul'dan". Consuming the Skull and becoming a demon-elf hybrid, Illidan uses its power to kill Tichondrius. he is however banished from the forest by his brother as he is now part demon. Meanwhile, the Prophet summons Thrall, Jaina, Tyrande and Malfurion, and reveals that he used to be Medivh, the Last Guardian and the betrayer from Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. The humans, Orcs, and Night Elves form a reluctant alliance to spring a trap on the Burning Legion, and delayed him long enough for many ancestral spirits to destroy Archimonde at Mount Hyjal. Peace once again comes to Kalimdor as the Burning Legion's forces wither away in defeat