Three Years Later, Warcraft 3: Reforged Is Still A Mess

Warcraft 3: Reforged got a major update last week. Version 1.35.0 introduces custom campaigns, finally allowing players to download and create their own using both Reforged and Classic art. Last month, on December 1, the game received another patch. Version 1.34 added a clan system with ranks, tags, and their own special chat channel. These were two of the most commonly requested features when the Warcraft 3 remake was announced, and many expected them to be part of the game at launch. It took three years to get these features added.

I want to celebrate how far Warcraft 3: Reforged has come, but I can’t help feeling disappointed at how far it still has to go. Features like ranked play, leaderboards, and profiles have all been added in the years since it launched, but there are still features from the original game, like Tournament Mode, that are still missing. Reforged isn’t what a remake of a game as monumental as Warcraft 3 ought to be, and worse than that, it isn’t even the game Blizzard promised it would be. There’s no major campaign overhaul to update and modernize the gameplay, there have been no improvements to cutscenes with dynamic camera angles and new voice acting, and there are no new campaigns. Even if Reforged is now (mostly) feature complete in terms of what the original game offered, the end product is little more than a lazy cash-in on one of the most important games of all time.

Reforged should have been so much more, and it was supposed to be. Bloomberg reported on the factors that led the remake’s botched launch back in 2021, and more recently, game designer David K. Fried, who is quoted in the Bloomberg report, has spoken candidly about what went wrong with the remake on his YouTube channel. The developer was a level designer on the original Warcraft 3 and was hired to work on the remake’s new campaign, but was cut out once Blizzard shifted gears.

The Bloomberg report cites poor leadership within the Classic Games team, and unworkable strategy, and budget constraints, while Fried lays the blame on Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, who he claims slashed the budgets for Reforged as it was not expected to be a big money maker. Fried also believes Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime, who resigned weeks before Reforged was revealed at Blizzcon 2018, left the company, at least in part, as a consequence of this decision.

It’s easy to see the release of Warcraft 3: Reforged as the beginning of Blizzard's downfall, though we know now that internal problems the company suffers from have been festering for decades. To its players, Reforged serves as a symbol for what Blizzard has become: a greedy megacorp that doesn’t respect its customers or its own IP, that releases low-quality games and cynical cash-grabs like Diablo Immortal, that’s willing to pervert beloved titles like Overwatch with costly microtransactions, and a company that longer leads the industry, but one that impulsively follows its worst trends.

Warcraft 3: Reforged was never going to be a big moneymaker, but Blizzard has spent decades fostering a community that believes a studio should be led by something more important than profitability. Blizzard lost all of its integrity with Reforged, and it’s unlikely it will ever get it back until it delivers on the promises it made.

A recent survey from Blizzard suggests that a re-launch of Reforged might be in the cards, and the timing might be just right. Fixing Reforged should be Blizzard’s first step towards fixing its reputation, and with the Microsoft acquisition underway, it could also be an opportunity to communicate to players that the buyout was indeed in Blizzard’s – and its customers – best interest. Excising Kotick will mark the end of a dark era for the company, but its next era won’t begin until it can start righting its wrongs in a way that will be meaningful to the community. Modders have already proved that Warcraft 3: Reforged can be saved, now Blizzard needs to step up and finally do what’s right.

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