Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne expands onto Warcraft 3 like Blizzard only knows how: by making it a whole new game. You've got your nine new heroes, at least two new units per race, new buildings, new maps, new campaigns, new tilesets, new strategies, new upgrades, and a bunch of other stuff that I will tell you right now starts with the word "new." What isn't new is the fact that Blizzard has made another quality expansion. Come on, you knew this was coming. Blizzard hasn't made a game yet that they didn't want to cram more stuff into, and Warcraft 3 wasn't safe from their game expanding desires.
The single-player campaign continues to follow Arthas and all of the mayhem that follows him, so anyone who loved the original story will instantly be drawn into the crazy goings-on. The 21 new missions all follow the same mix of dungeon crawling and base razing you're used to, but the magic is in the experimental Orc sidestory. Blizzard's created a full-blown RPG scenario using the Warcraft 3 engine where you use only Heroes to fight, do quests for people, and level up, complete with genre-staple random encounters and item/money drops. It reminds me of Bioware's Infinity Engine games without the D&D diarrhea to make it messy. Blizzard promises that more RPG campaigns will be available for download from their website in the future.
The new Heroes are an absolute delight. No one can resist the charms of the Pandaren Brewmaster, a drunken Chinese panda whose battlecries are all puns like "It's time for panda-monium!" and "Ale is my bear necessity." Admit it, you're smiling. The eight other heroes are equally intriguing, including the Undead Crypt Lord who raises carrion beetles from the ground, the Human Blood Mage who never got over his childhood curiousity with setting things on fire, and a Pit Lord who goes onto a trashy daytime talk show to reveal to his girlfriend that he's a demon (yes, I'm serious).
All four races have new units to play with, though some of them seem contrary to their racial identity. The Night Elf Mountain Giant, for example, is a 1600 hitpoint monster made of rocks whose purpose is to taunt enemies to attack him so the more fragile Night Elf units can attack from behind without getting trampled. While this is a nice addition, it can also be at times overpowering: Night Elves can now do their trademark "hit and runs" without having to run at all by just letting the Mountain Giant eat up damage. Similar "what were they thinking?" additions have been introduced for other races, like the Undead Obsidian Statues who now provide the Undead with a mobile healing unit so that it's no longer necessary to run home to heal on their base's blight.
Luckily, other units add to their race's strengths rather than being a crutch for their weaknesses. The Human Dragonhawks have the "Cloud" ability that covers enemy bases in a fog so that defensive towers can't see. Undead ranged Skeletal Mages can be summoned by Necromancers instead of Skeletal Warriors, helping to make the front battlelines less congested.
Rounding out the package are some handy interface optimizations and balance fixes (and a nice Blizzard notepad in the retail box). Since Brood War, Blizzard hasn't disappointed with their expansions, and it's nice to be able to say that they've still "got it." The eyebrow-raising suggested 35 dollar price tag is easily justified by the loads of value you'll find inside The Frozen Throne.
· · · OMGninjas