Zechs Files - WC3 Changes are Good, but More are Needed
*Note: The article was written by Michael "Zechs_" Radford on location
My previous article on the topic got more page views than anything I’ve written since returning to GosuGamers. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Back2Warcraft and the game’s continued success in China, Blizzard has even taken notice and recently started making balance changes. For the first time in years, WC3 has an active PTR and real changes to test.
The changes are numerous, but for the most part, they are small in scope. Apart from a potential increase in Farseer use by Orc players, nothing particularly ground-breaking has been changed yet. The Blademaster is worse than he was, but still probably the best staring hero for Orc most of the time. Several other heroes received movement speed buffs, but those are unlikely to make huge waves in the metagame.
Some heroes have had significant improvements in their numbers, but Keeper first, for example, still seems unlikely when the Demon Hunter is as strong as he ever was (more on that later). Perhaps the biggest change is that the Dreadlord is now a coil-able alternative to the Panda against Flying Machines and Tanks. I don’t see his buffs changing other matchups, but they could be a big deal against Human.
You can understand Blizzard’s thinking in keeping the changes so minor. WC3 has been left untouched for so long that bold changes might upset the tried and tested balance of a game which has mostly been figured out. Balancing an established game is like spinning plates: concentrate too much on one thing and another is likely to break.
On the other hand, that fragile balance was far from perfect in the intervening years. At the top level of the game, Humans dominate. TH00 and Infi are kings, occasionally allowing princes 120 and Foggy to win a lesser tournament. Orc struggles, with only Focus and occasionally Lyn really having any impact on the pro scene nowadays. Even Undead, formerly a matchup that was extremely lopsided in Orc’s favor is usually won by smart scouting scourgelords such as WFZ and the aforementioned 120.
As a long-time former lurker in #orcbrothers on Quakenet, I would like to see Blizzard be a little more daring with their changes. Not just for my fellow greenskins, but for the entertainment value of the game. When I head to Back2Warcraft’s Youtube page and see that a Lyn vs Infi best-of-three is only 20 minutes long, I know exactly what happened before I watch: Infi successfully tower rushed two games in a row.
Many of Warcraft III’s match-ups are too well-known by now, and it detracts from the fun factor by a large degree. Orc simply doesn’t have enough viable unit compositions to avoid Raider-Walker in most of its games. How do you compete with Talons? Raider-Walker. How do you fight mass casters (if you haven’t been tower rushed)? Raider-Walker. How do you beat Frost Armoured Fiends and Banshees? Well, you usually don’t, but sometimes you can do it with Raider-Walker.
The same is true of other races’ matchups as well. Human has to fast expand against Undead and try to fend off a Destroyer or Meat Wagon push; Nightelf has to pressure a Human expansion while securing its own or going all-in. Not every single game is like this, but at the pro level, the vast majority of them are.
A big part of the problem is early-to-mid game Humans, in my opinion. Human towers are too good and too cheap, but they’re also a somewhat necessary crutch because footmen are so bad. Except that footmen with Defend are ridiculously strong against Fiends, Archers and Orc Burrows. Water Elementals are also absurdly powerful for a unit which is basically free. I wonder if the situation might be helped by reducing the power of defend, but making it either a cheaper, quicker upgrade or else just making it a baseline ability on footmen.
Something definitely needs to be done about Human towers, but it’s not as simple as just nerfing the DPS or HP. Currently, they are far too strong for rushing Orcs, but nerf them too much and Undeads will crush Humans with laughable ease in the mid-game. Personally, I like the idea of restricting their location, similar to Undead having to build theirs on blight. Perhaps Human towers could only be built a certain distance from neighboring human structures, like Protoss Pylons in Starcraft.
I would also like to see the hero changes go a little deeper. Hell, is a new hero too much to ask after so long? Maybe they’re saving that for Remastered. But current heroes could certainly benefit from changes. The Demon Hunter, for example, definitely needs a nerf. Mana Burn has never been fun to play against and while it does feel like an integral part of the hero’s identity, there is plenty of wiggle room to reduce its power without making the hero unplayable. Even just reducing it to 50/75/100 would still leave it in an obnoxiously strong position.
I’m happy to see Blizzard making needed changes to a game that has been left unchanged for so long. Even if it just a way of drumming up interest in a rumored remastered version of the game, I’ll take it. As your favorite exploding troll might say: “the ends justify the means.” As mentioned above, I would like to see further-reaching changes, but interest in WC3 hasn’t been this high for almost ten years. Blizzard deserves credit for that. The baby steps are clearly working, now it’s time for Blizzard to let WC3 run.