Going away from the art style of Warcraft 3, World of Warcraft (from vanilla to current), StarCraft 2, Diablo 3, and Heroes — which all have the in-game style/aesthetic they do because they are very *readable and fun* — to something closer to the style of the Warcraft movie — and other movies or even Blizzard's cinematics, which have the style they do because the semi-realistism feels more visceral, especially when those things are shown in cinematic/dramatic and up-close shots (not from far away) — feels like a mistake to me.
In "The Culling" demo, every scene feels very grey, I suspect that has something to do with the dull skybox and lack of vegetation as well as all of the very grey stone walls and the semi-realistic armor of most of the units. I don't know how many other people think it feels grey, but I very much dislike it. Playing it as a kid, it never once felt grey except in the missions where it felt grey and dreary and gloomy and ominous. It wasn't dull, it emphasized the tone of the story. In the demo it felt just grey. Rain, fog, storm clouds, reflections on the water, torchlight and fires breaking the horizon and the darkness like in the art of the end screen. Right now it feels like it's missing a lot.
The faces of the heroes look unfinished, I feel the same way about the faces of Arthas and Uther and Jaina that I did about a lot of faces in Street Fighter V: oof.
I also have a hard time seeing the new aesthetic be great for new hero or unit skins. Looking at the StarCraft 2 skins for multiplayer, with the style leaning very slightly more towards realism than War3 and Heroes, I find new skins don't read nearly as well as I feel that they should. With the current style of Reforged leaning very heavily towards the cinematic/realistic, especially with the armor of footmen and the heroes, I worry that any skins are going to be extremely difficult to make in a way that is both very cool and readable to players that also fit the existing style.
To put it another way, I get that not wanting to look the same way as other games (Blizzard or otherwise) might be a thing they want, but there are so many reasons that Dota 2 and Heroes and World of Warcraft look and feel the way they do, and they are all excellent examples of how that kind of aesthetic works for casual players, competitive players, and for skins and so on. There's also a huge point to be made that in a few years the semi-realistic style is going to look leagues worse than they do now, especially compared to how well the style of the original game and even vanilla WoW have held up.
Nobody asked, nobody ever will, but I were a leader on the Warcraft 3 Reforged team, I would have started with looking at art for Warcraft 3 and WoW and gone from there, and I would make a point to shy away from stills of the cinematics and Warcraft movie because I strongly feel their style is bad for RTS outside of those cinematics.
It feels janky that the art and feeling, that style doesn't match the in-game style. They clash a lot. The start/end screen art matches Heroes in the best way possible, but not the Reforged units and environments so far. If I could make a wish and change it with a snap of my fingers, I'd have the in-game style match the demo screens. The fire, the reflections on the bridge from rain, the river, the burned trees in the end screen, I love how it looks, I wish the game itself looked that great.
I haven't seen any menus aside from the demo screen, so I have no idea what it looks like. Regardless, I really like the presentation in the "The Culling" demo screen. It feels simple, modern, straightforward, with an emphasis on "here's cool art" and "PLAY" and I hope to see more of that in other menus.
For more specifics, I'd like to see a place where players can look at each race, all the units in that race, with an emphasis on "here's the stats and abilities and what you need to know" and "look at this awesome thing/unit/hero being cute/angry/whatever," plus "here's the gear you can outfit this unit with" — something that mixes a "unit viewer" screen and a "hero/unit outfitter" screen. Cool, straightforward, multi-functional area and a place that I do want to be more like some Mobas (see Dota 2). It just makes sense to me.
For the in-game UI, I would prefer that it reflect design choices made in other RTS and MOBAs and Blizzard titles. The UI shown at Blizzcon feels very lazy to me in that it feels like a chopped up, minimized, shrunk War3 UI without much thought put into it. I hope that over time they can find something that looks pleasing and is extremely functional for casual and extremely hardcore players, right it is so "meh" to me.
I'd love to know what kinds of things they're thinking about and what they are looking at learning from other games. Players need to know what their heroes' health and mana are at any given time, they need to know what items their heroes have, if they have talents to spend, which spells/abilities are on cooldown and which ones they can cast; War3 already does a decent job with showing those but the presentation is very dated — like, if you're Ford and you decide to remake a classic 60s/70s Mustang, why keep the same steering wheel and seats and windshields and radio and speedometer and pedals and carburetor, so on and so on, when you have so much new technology and fresh designs you can use that people would love (especially when so many classic Mustang/Stingray/etc. owners I know actually replace most of the interiors of their cars because it's sleeker, cooler, more striking, more ergonomic, or all of the above).
I think it's a little too much to ask for everything to be super new, super fresh, super modern since it should still feel like Warcraft 3, but I also think it's a huge missed opportunity not to give the menus, buttons, all the UI the same treatment that the models and textures and maps and game balance should be getting.
Onto more specifics, I dislike having the hero icon extremely far away tucked into the upper left-hand corner of the screen especially on widescreen. I'd rather see it incorporated into the console (such as its own "tab" chunk of the main, bottom console next to the portrait or the minimap).
The command card overall feels awkward to me. For players (new players) that might want to use a simplified command card and grid hotkeys, I'm not sure how it'll work for them. Having the commands be lined up and work with QWERT or 12345 is an interesting idea, but it looks odd, especially since it doesn't line up with the rest of the console (top and bottom are misaligned with both the top line and bottom line of the units section and inventory, if something is intentionally different in size or not aligned for some reason then it should be in the very center of the screen or on the far corners, not slightly or way off from the center, otherwise it tends to look bad). Having the items be horizontal feels weird too, that could definitely just be my familiarity with War3 and WoW's vertical inventory, idk.
I made a mockup UI + Show Spoiler +
for a theoretical War3:R/War4 that had the "console sections" in the following order, going left to right in the console: map (tall, far left corner), empty space/break, portrait, heroes tab, inventory, units, empty space, abilities (tall, far right corner). When a hero was selected, their third of the heroes tab and the inventory became visually linked by way of the divider between the inventory and the heroes breaking; or to put it another way, the hero button and the inventory became one blank space and shared their outline to reinforce the idea that you are looking at that hero's inventory, stats, so on (subtle, felt really nice).
Yeah I know, who am I to suggest my amateur junk over the devs' but it's all I got and I like it more than the Reforged version. I wish I still had the images on my drive to show instead of tell, I was honestly really happy with how they looked. But anyway.
Another version I mocked up as "full/unbroken" console, again left to right: map (tall), heroes tab, command groups, units, abilities (tall), inventory on top of the console as a bar that appeared when a hero was selected.
There's something about RTS that I just like having the command card and the map in opposite corners, and I like having a "full" console (unbroken, not split, not too minimal) for "full" RTS, not a "partial/broken" console; Halo Wars and I think Grey Goo got away with it but they're so different in all of their UI that it worked well, and for MOBAs it works because there isn't as much information needed all the time (only a hero and items or a few extra abilities, teammates on the left or top).
Also in my mockup, the resources and upkeep were in the upper right-hand corner in a "list" form, top to bottom: upkeep, food, gold, lumber. The menu and quest buttons and the map were worked into the minimap. However, having that top menu bar is really nice, it feels very War3-y, so maybe it should stay that way. Speaking of the clock, did I miss where the in-game timer is? I expected it to be above the sun/moon clock or on top of the minimap but I don't see it anywhere.
Lastly about the UI, the art of that top menu bar doesn't match the art of the console and map and it really should — I'm guessing/hoping they plan on making them match once they've finalized the rest of console look and layout and everything, but I had to point it out. Feels a little janky as is.
Finally, for big wants that will probably never make it into the game: I've always wanted new animations for things like Mal'Ganis turning the villagers into zombies. Instead of them just fading and reappearing as a new model, I have always wanted them to twist and writhe and transform from a villager into an undead horror. When a building is destroyed, I've always wanted to see it collapse over time as it becomes damaged then finally crumbled with the final hit (it looks alright right now, but I want more *oomph*). When a ghoul gets destroyed by holy fire, it dramatically disintegrates. If an abomination kills something, it carves through them with a "chunk" sound and cartoony-yet-visceral animation (not very PG, a thing created by stitching together body parts of other things with its guts hanging out isn't very PG though). These are massive wishes and more than I ever expect Reforged to have, the team can't do a lot of this kind of thing for obvious reasons, but hey, a kid can dream (even if that kid is in their mid-twenties now).