A game of Warcraft III takes place on a map of varying size, such as large plains and fields, with terrain features like rivers, mountains, seas, or cliffs. In Campaign mode, the map is initially covered with the Black Mask, an impenetrable covering. The Mask is removed from areas that have been explored, but those that are no longer within sight range of an allied unit or building are instead covered with the Fog of War; though terrain remains visible, changes such as enemy troop movements and building construction are unseen. During a game, players must establish settlements to gain resources, defend against other players, and train units to explore the map and attack enemies (computer controlled foes). There are three main resources that are managed in Warcraft III: gold, lumber, and food. The first two are required to construct units and buildings, while food restricts the maximum number of units the player may control at one time.
The game also introduces creeps, computer controlled units that are hostile to all players. Creeps guard key areas such as gold mines or neutral buildings and, when killed, provide experience points, gold, and special items to a player's hero. Warcraft III also introduced a day/night cycle to the series. Besides having advantages or disadvantages for certain races, at night most creeps fall asleep, making nighttime scouting safer; however, the line of sight for most units is also reduced. Other minor changes to the gameplay were due to the 3D terrain. For instance, units on a cliff have an attack bonus when attacking units at lower elevations.
In previous Warcraft games, there were only two playable races, Orcs and Humans, which had more similarities than differences. Barring cosmetic changes, most Orc units were identical to their Human counterparts. In Warcraft III, the Night Elves and the Undead are added as playable races. Additionally, as in StarCraft, each race has a unique set of units, structures, technologies, and base-building methodology.
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