"It’s simple to recommend The Frozen Throne. It lengthens the experience of an already great game, while providing a new style of gameplay and balancing to top it all off. If you enjoyed Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, then there’s no question that you will also enjoy The Frozen Throne."
Expansion packs present an interesting challenge to the individual reviewer. Should such an expansion be graded based on its quality as a standalone unit or linked to the game it improves? An expansion pack which provides fifty new levels to a crappy game would be outstanding by the first standard but not the second. The inverse would be a pack which fixes serious flaws and gameplay issues but provides little in the way of new content. The best expansions would provide both qualities.
The Frozen Throne is a Blizzard production, so it should come as no surprise that it provides both of these qualities in spades. It is a near perfect addition to Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos that provides gameplay tweaks, an entirely new gameplay experience, and four new campaigns. It is a vital enhancement, much like Brood War was to the original Starcraft.
The Frozen Throne picks up shortly after the events of the previous saga, so skip to the next paragraph if you have yet to finish. The warden Maiev, of the Night Elves, is engaged in an obsessive quest to hunt down the renegade Illidan. Prince Arthas has also resurfaced, proclaiming himself king now and taking the title for his own. However, he is soon beckoned back to the frozen wastelands of the North by the Lich King. It seems that Illidan has made a deal with the Burning Legion: destroy the Lich King in return for a new homeland for his followers, the blood elves and naga.
The story’s theme is much darker and malignant than that of its predecessor. Excluding the first few levels, where you control past heroes Tyrande and Malfurion, bloodthirsty characters seeking revenge and power dominate. There is no sympathy to be found in The Frozen Throne, and no clear cut “good” protagonist. Also, emphasis has been shifted from the humans and orcs in the three main campaigns, as they only play minor and cameo roles. The Frozen Throne focuses upon the undead, the night elves, and the two new races, the naga and the blood elves.
Gameplay has been tweaked but not change for the three main campaigns of The Frozen Throne. New units have been added to balance weaknesses from the original. The undead now have a healing unit, and the night elves now have a bonafide frontline melee attacker. New heroes have been added for all races, also helping to address some balancing issues. The unit limit has been raised from ninety to one hundred, and the unit cost has been lowered for many, which allows for larger armies. Finally, the new enhancements are topped off by more “ease of use” functions, like tech queuing and increased auto casting.
However, the gameplay does change in the bonus campaign, the Rise of Durotar. You control Rexxar, as you complete various tasks for Thrall, the orc chieftain. This campaign focuses upon the RPG elements of The Frozen Throne: there is no army building or resource harvesting, just quest-based gameplay and level building. It furthers the reliance upon heroes, making them the sole focus of the scenario. It is an interesting change of pace, and one has to wonder if Blizzard is heading in this direction for the series. If so, I can imagine a RTS Shining Force type game; lots of individual heroes and a few mercenary units combining to form one fighting force.
The Frozen Throne is not quite up to par with Reign of Chaos due to its expansion pack status. There is only one full motion video in the entire game, and only one extensive duel. There are new character models and backgrounds used though, and the same function camera system is in place. Excluding the lack of full motion video, the presentation values of The Frozen Throne are on par with the previous game, and will not make or break your gameplay experience.
It’s simple to recommend The Frozen Throne. It lengthens the experience of an already great game, while providing a new style of gameplay and balancing to top it all off. If you enjoyed Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, then there’s no question that you will also enjoy The Frozen Throne.
Staff review by Stephen Greenwell (August 30, 2003)
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