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WoW Wednesday: Reforging the Past of Warcraft

Last weekend was Blizzcon, and while there’s a number of massive updates incumbent to the World of Warcraft, there was one major announcement I wanted to particularly talk about in this week’s WoW Wednesday. This game saw the world of Azeroth surge to popular new heights and set up some of the most popular and impactful characters the franchise could ever imagine, several of which would go on to define several major expansions and change the world (in more ways than one). From the humble roots of Orcs fighting Humans to a Scourge intent on scrubbing the world clean of the living, Warcraft 3: Reforged looks to bring that immortal conclusion to a wonderful RTS trilogy back into the modern age.

“Like fools, we fought for centuries… Until the day the sky rained fire…”

Now at first glance, remastering any game seems like a fairly simple task; touch up the visuals, update the voice-acting, throw in a few more cutscenes and BAM, you have a Ratchet and Clank for 2016. As we’ve seen with some of the later announcements this year, such as Medieval and Spyro the Dragon: Reignited, remastering a game that is older than most of its current player base is a difficult task. Older game engines simply cannot handle some of the modern advancements that players have come to expect; even World of Warcraft, a game built on the original engine for Warcraft 2 and its expansion Beyond the Dark Portal, has seen more than its fair share of updates and overhauls as recently as Battle for Azeroth’s launch. There it was updated to include higher graphics resolutions, improvements on its dynamic physics (introduced in Mists of Pandaria) and greater DirectX integration. With sudden advancements in World of Warcraft’s main storyline and the fallout of character development over the years, Blizzard is also intent on gently adjusting some of the story content in Reforged as well.

Of course, the art will receive a breath of fresh air; someone, after all, does need to fix Arthas’ incredibly strange looking face from the original. The team behind Reforged wants to update their storytelling to reflect the evolution of characters from World of Warcraft. For players familiar with Warcraft 3, most will remember Sylvanas as an incredibly minor character instead of the narrative powerhouse she has become in Battle for Azeroth. Those playing Warcraft 3 today wouldn’t even be able to reconcile Stratholme with how it has been depicted in its MMO counterpart. In an interview and demo with Kotaku, QA lead Nicholas Louie expressed the team’s interest in reconciling the two.

Arthas, The Prince of Lordaeron (And his Much More Normal Looking Face)

“Even down to Crusader’s Square,” said Louie, demoing Reforged’s iconic level which has since been reworked to reflect its Azerothian counterpart, The Culling, “There are other tidbits, too, that are WoW callbacks… Characters like Sylvanas [Windrunner] and Jaina [Proudmoore]. In the events of Warcraft 3, they’re not these huge, pivotal characters. It’s important to us that we bring them into parity with their presence in WoW in terms of importance.”

The changes don’t stop there, as there is a great focus on allowing players to connect with even the oldest versions of Warcraft 3, a touch that doesn’t go unnoticed by yours truly. In doing so they’ve recovered the original creation tools for the game’s custom matches and campaigns and are updating them to directly reference older materials, allowing art assets to interface with each other between games. This not only means that players playing the original Reign of Chaos will be able to square off against Reforged owners, but the potential for custom campaigns to be reusable in Reforged is gigantic!

An Orcish Encampment, besieged by the Human Alliance Forces

The campaigns, which could be created by anyone, directly used assets from across the Warcraft 3 release library and resulted in some of the most incredible content releases I got to play as a child. To this day, the Hive Workshop is still open at HiveWorkshop.com with fantastic custom campaigns for players to dive into. These campaigns also allowed players to create genres and stories never seen before, the most famous being the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena and the original DOTA: Defense of the Ancients.

With all of that being said, there are some significant concerns throughout the fanbase; how MUCH of the story is being changed? That, frankly, is hard to answer on any level. Christie Golden, one of the newest additions to the WoW writing team and the hit author behind several Warcraft novels including Heart of the Storm, Rise of the Horde (one of my personal favorites), and several of the biopic novels including critically acclaimed Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, is heading the team responsible for story rewrites. Together, they’ll be adjusting Reforged’s narrative to bring things more in-line with the current world of Azeroth, as well as redeveloping character interactions. However, with so many iconic moments peppered throughout Reign of Chaos, such as “Mannoroth’s Destruction,” and “This Entire City… Must Be Purged,” its hard not to swing a pen and hit another massively influential scene. With such amazing fan works out there such as JoseBV’s Reign of Chaos animation series on YouTube, it’s not hard to see why such scenes have been immortalized in the minds of fans.

 

So where does Reforged step off from here? I for one am incredibly excited. Over the next few holiday months, I’ll be revisiting Warcraft 3 to relive some of the greatest storytelling I’ve still experienced in my life. I am looking forward to Reforged in much the same manner, even if the story is different to what we have come to expect. The fact that a remaster of this level is finally being reconsidered after almost 16 years is a great connotation for the future. If Reforged is as successful as I hope, we could potentially see it herald the possible future of a Warcraft 4, though where it could sit is best left for those with a better imagination than my own.

To see Warcraft 3 return isn’t just a storyline revisited or an adventure renewed, it’s a celebration of what made the original so great and a potential revival of its wonderful community. Now new stories can be forged alongside old ones, and create a generation of new ideas and fans.

 

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About Phil DeMerchant

A proud member of the Horde trapped in a puny Alliance body, Phil's been playing World of Warcraft for longer than his on-again off-again romance with Dark Souls. When he's not fighting through the land of Azeroth, he's crafting his next investigative YouTube video on the Games Industry, putting his years of experience to use discussing ethics in media.