Right from the beginning, I was all up in Warcraft III‘s singleplayer RPG scene; a combination of being competitive but terrible and limited internet access made it the natural choice. We might have exhausted the supply of maps that defined my own works, but there is still plenty of interesting stuff out there to have a go at…
Today: the curious The Troll War by Makuza
The Troll War
No, not the ill-fated Warcraft-lore-based Great Troll War mod that we all love to hate, but a much more understated stand-alone campaign called simply The Troll War.
Storywise, there’s a lot going on in this campaign. Between the intro cinematic’s liberal hints about every character’s backstory to the breathless exposition throughout, the twists come thick and fast. While one or two appear a bit out of nowhere, the rest do work quite well — they’re just presented in a quite a rush.
The campaign only has five missions, none of which is particularly long or detailed, so it’s not surprising that the plot needs to be offloaded so quickly. The interlude cinematics that come between each mission present the actions of the characters at a slightly more measured pace, but it’s not enough to halt the breakneck speed at which the in-mission cinematics fire things at you.
In stark contrast, the game itself starts off pretty slow. The first actions you take in the campaign, controlling Rithen the apprentice, consist of “go to the barracks” and “defend the bridge for ten minutes”. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this, but the skill system means that you’ve only got one spell and no money to upgrade it or buy more (well, without kill-stealing ogres from the allied guards). The second to fourth skill slots are entirely absent at this point, so there is only one possibility for action.
This defence also occurs in a fairly lavish town setting. Or rather, it occurs in one corner of it at a convenient bridge bottleneck. Side quests across the campaign are few and far between, and it’s a recurring theme that there isn’t much tangential content to add flesh to its bones — not much in the way of enemy or item variety either. A few bonuses that gave an incentive to abandon the bridge and wander about might have been nice to fire it up a bit.
The heroes are based on a skill choice system — you buy skills from trainers as mentioned above. There are four categories of skill, one for each icon location; buying the same skill again increases its level up to a maximum of 3 (the game doesn’t seem to enforce this, so don’t buy above 3 or you may well break the ability entirely), while buying a different skill of the same category replaces it. It’s a fairly nice way of letting you choose your abilities, without the permanence of the Engineering Upgrade hack.
Unfortunately, skills don’t transfer between chapters (even though the heroes do). If they had longer ladders, there might have been more of a penalty for respeccing but it wouldn’t be impossible either if you got into a bind (especially as you absolutely rake in the cash after the first mission, so the only barrier is the cooldown on each skill purchase).
The weird thing is that this system is basically abandoned by the fourth chapter, in favour of the game just giving you a suite of level 3 abilities and letting you steamroll hordes of the opposition from the get-go.
All right, so maybe it was made in two weeks (of course, he waits until the end credits to reveal this nugget). All things considered, for two weeks of work this little campaign is actually pretty good. There are broken bits and it the story doesn’t get a lot of time to breathe, but I’d well recommend having a gander at it if you’ve got a spare hour or two you feel like killing.