Players begin by creating an army general/hero, really a mercenary leader, who commands your forces throughout the game. You control your general during battle, and dictate his campaign path using the overhead world map. During the course of the game, your hero will level up and you will have to decide which stats and skills to invest in. After numerous battles, your hero can potentially become a physical or magical wrecking ball, much to the ire of your enemies.
WBC3's single player campaign is extensive. There is a main storyline and story driven quests, but the game does not shackle you to it. The player is free to roam around the map, making friends and enemies as you go. The 16 races of Etheria inhabit the world and each are represented on the overhead map. Battles usually feature the local inhabitants and locals can be friend, foe or neutral to the player. Stealing from a race usually turns them hostile and the player will no longer receive missions from that race. Allied races become playable races that you can select to command before a battle starts.
Battles consist of creating race specific buildings and units to overcome your enemy. Racial units and buildings have different strengths, weaknesses and upgrade trees. Overall, it is a standard RTS featuring rushing, turtling, resource management, hero killing, fog of war, etc. Knowing your racial strength and weaknesses is often the key to winning. Your strategy will probably be rush building to your race's most effective units and then overwhelming your enemy with superior forces. Your leader and hero units offer flexibility when starting, building structures, maintaining resources and fighting. The enemy AI is adequate, but nothing amazing.
WBC3 was released in 2004 and I still have fun playing it today. The replay value of this game is immense, to say the least. If you are a fan of RTS games, and you missed WBC3 in 2004, you should probably check it out. The warlords series is definitely original and fun, and WBC3 offers a lot of gameplay and subtle depth for people interested in fantasy RTS games.
WBC3 is available here.
-Did I mention WBC3 has 13 schools of magic?