For Warcraft III, you'll find that the system of allies and enemies is fairly standard. You share vision with your allies, but also have the option to control each other's units if you wish. This can become especially useful if for some reason your ally is forced to leave, either due to connection problems or by choice. You can take over his/her units and use them to your advantage. Donating lumber and gold resources to your ally is also an easily accessible option.
Warcraft III began as a venture by Blizzard to bring role-playing elements into an RTS. As development went on, it has returned to its RTS roots, but some role-playing elements still remain, such as the heroes feature. Each race has three heroes. The first is created for free, save the cost of food, and you must pay gold for the other two if you want them. Heroes can carry items and gain experience in battle, resulting in level-ups. Unfortunately, the consumables to replace HP and mana just don't get used very often. We wish that, left to their own devices, the heroes would use some AI to determine when to use consumable items. Managing a large battle doesn't leave you time to watch your heroes' HP individually to toggle each one and make them drink a potion. It's almost as if it were an oversight. All the races now have units with "auto-use" skills that you can toggle on and off. For instance, the Troll Dark Priest has a healing ability that he can automatically use if a unit needs it. You can right-click on the button to turn it on or off. If this ability is available, why can't item auto-use skills be employed as well? Especially since it is so costly to bring a hero back to life after you lose him. A separate building must be erected plus an additional cost paid proportional to the level of the hero.
Heroes become the backbone of your force. Even at level one, they are a powerful unit, but become immensely powerful as they reach levels as high as ten. And because they are so vital, they emit a subtle glow to assist you in picking them out from your army. We've seen a high-level Orc Blademaster take on numerous Orc Grunts with ease.
Blizzard has also put in some gameplay changes to try to help stave off the "power overwhelming" strategy. Your gold income rate is based on your population. Basically, the game shaves off a certain amount of your gold income based on the logistics involved. If you have a town with less than 30 food units in use, you get 100% of the gold you process. From there on out, the more food required by your units, the less gold you get. Your mine still loses 10 gold, but not all of that gold makes it into your account. Some gets spent on what we'd refer to as "middleman expenses". The food cap is set at 90, so you can still amass great armies if you wish, but it'll cost you.
The second measure taken against rushing and to help in leveling-up heroes are neutral creatures called creeps, who attack without being provoked. By engaging these creeps, heroes can gain valuable experience and collect items that will help you later take on your enemies. Weaker creeps stand at all of the major crossroads on a map, while more powerful creeps guard vital locations, such as Fountains of Life and Goblin Merchants that we'll discuss later. This keeps you from sending weaker units across the map early in the game, as they will have to deal with many creeps along the way. In order to gain control of a Fountain of Life, be prepared to attack with a significant force, as monstrous beasts such as an Ogre Lord usually protect them. Fortunately, there is an interesting twist that Blizzard has thrown into the gameplay: a day and night system. The equivalent of a sundial depicts the time of day at the top of your screen. Come nightfall, all of the creeps sleep, as indicated by large yellow Zs rising from their figures. During this time, large armies can pass by. On the other hand, the vision of units is greatly decreased at night, making ranged units much less effective.
Unfortunately, all this still doesn't really do anything for a rush strategy. One of the best defenses against a rusher is to play on a large map with few players. In the time it takes someone to amass and move an army of twelve archers, hoping to catch an opponent with his/her pants down, the defending player should've gotten a chance to either get some defensive measures up, or worked his/her way up the skill tree to get some stronger units to defend with. Of course, there's no way to defend your town if you have no soldiers, so it's not as if you're gonna be silly enough to build a bustling outpost with absolutely no defenses in the hopes that you'll save all your money toward building an army of Steam Tanks.
Unit management is getting better. In order to accommodate item usage of heroes in parties, you can now select individual units within a selected party without simultaneously deselecting the party. Bear in mind, though, that this is only useful for item usage. If you're trying to have a certain hero pick up a certain item, you have to make sure he's the only one selected. Otherwise, the first hero to the item gets it.
We appreciate the spell cooldown process. It reminds you of what would frequently happen to you in the original Warcraft. You'd be raiding a town, and suddenly three or four Warlocks would cast a cloud spell on you. They'd just immediately dump all their MP into a wide swath of magic casts. Definitely not realistic or fun. Cooldown helps keep powerful spells in check and prevents overuse.
We discovered what really makes the heroes special, though. Not only do they get stronger when they level up, but they also gain skills and abilities which you can purchase through a skill tree not unlike what's in Diablo II. Most heroes have in their skills list an Aura, just like in Diablo II, that gives them, as well as any allied units in the area, a special attribute or stat boost.
The locations that we mentioned earlier can turn the tide of a game drastically. Except for the Fountain of Life, they can only be accessed via a hero, but are quite beneficial. A Goblin Merchant sells your hero more items to add to his stock that he has retrieved already from creeps. A Goblin Alchemist will sell you units that can be found nowhere else, such as demolition teams to aid in your destruction and zeppelins to transport units across the map and to areas accessible only by air. At a Mercenary Camp, you can hire creeps such as an Ogre Mauler or Orc Berserker to join your own force. At the beginning of the game, if you have the money, these will be the strongest units that you can obtain. Thus early attacks are greatly aided by hired creeps, and they still make a worthwhile addition later on up the tech ladder. If you control the Fountain of Life on any given map, the offensive advantage is yours. Send your armies against an opponent, then let the survivors retreat back to the Fountain of Life where they are recharged while you bring replacement units to join them. Your next attack will be much stronger than the defense prepared by the enemy. Likewise, if you're lucky enough to have a Fountain of Life near your home base, it can secure your defense, by healing the front line as they combat the attackers. Once a player is entrenched around a Fountain of Life, it is extremely difficult to displace them, simply because they have the Fountain on their side. But once you do, it's a major setback for them.