The frontend of the game is now a fully animated 3D representation of a medieval castle, complete with firing cannons, a lowering drawbridge, and knights psyched for battle. Menus swing down on wooden boards suspended by metal chains. It's a very pleasing effect to say the least, and sets up the right atmosphere before going into the gameplay. Battle.net screens are displayed in the same manner, with a dynamic sky filled with fire in the background.
The conversion to 3D is nice very nice. The scenery is beautiful, although It's much better when you have larger maps with which to work. You don't feel restricted. The character portraits are likewise 3D, animated, and cartoony in the traditional Warcraft style. If the detailed units and structures covered with brilliant textures don't impress you, then the wonderful animations will. Because the world of Warcraft now has height, spells are that much more ominous. Watching ice chunks fall from a Blizzard cast by an Archmage, or a spirit summoned by a Paladin reincarnate the skeletons of the dead, is simply awe-inspiring. Blizzard has proved that their talent in game design goes beyond two dimensions. You can't really justify the transition to 3D though, other than "It's what everyone's doing". One has to admit that when you look back at their last RTS, Starcraft, the 640x480 resolution and 256 colors look as if they originated in prehistoric times. However, the alteration doesn't seem to result in battle tactics changes. And so far as we can tell, the camera can't rotate; it only stays fixed at the south end of the map. You can change the downward angle and zoom using the mouse wheel, but you can't rotate it for a more convenient angle.
Performance tweaking has not yet taken place, and as a result high resolutions bring even powerful systems to their knees. On an Athlon 900 with 256 MB of RAM and a Radeon, 1024x768x32 was playable, but framerates got jerky when panning or zooming in and out with the camera. The same was true for a Pentium 4 2GHz with 512 MB of RAM and a Quadro2 MX board. However, an Athlon XP 1800+ with 256 MB of RAM and a GeForce3 could manage 1280x1024x32 most of the time, indicating that a beefy video card will benefit you a great deal in Warcraft III. But unlike within games such as Age of Empires, higher resolutions do not result in a wider field of view. They just let you see more detail and reduce aliasing. If this were not the case, a person running Warcraft III on a high-performance desktop at 1600x1200 would have a major advantage against someone running a more moderate system at 800x600. If you're willing to accept a minor decrease in image quality, 16-bit color is an option, and will give you many more frames per second on average.
Not letting us down, Blizzard has done equally well with the sound effects and music presented in Warcraft III. The score is dramatic and powerful for each of the four races, keeping your heartbeat rapid at all times and keeping the adrenaline pumping as you rush your forces into battle. Sound effects are wickedly appropriate. Who knew that they could hit the nail on the head for the noise made when a huge tree clobbers an Undead Ghoul. Thwack! Yep, that's about right. Aerial creatures screech and swoop in the air as they traverse mountains in search of their next kill.
We couldn't have asked for more than the unit acknowledgements that Blizzard has given us. One click on your Mountain King will give you "Wait till ya see me in action!", whereas many more clicks will give you "Where's the pub?" Of course, the character portraits also reflected what they're saying and their attitude.