- Back in March of 1998, Blizzard Entertainment released a little game called Starcraft. At the time, I remember thinking “Starcraft? Come on Blizzard, try a little harder, you just took Warcraft and put in space!” Eleventy billion Koreans disagreed. Incidentally, I now disagree with myself. So, when I acquired a beta key for the incoming Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, I was excited. I ended up loving the first games story and epic multiplayer matches, even though I sucked at them. The beta is multiplayer only, so this preview won’t be dealing with things like unit balance or hardcore strategies because I’m not good enough to experience either of those. Some quick race breakdowns and overall feel of the game shall suffice!
Ah, humanity. You’re always the least interesting faction of any RTS, namely because I’m a human everyday and honestly, it’s not that great. Terrans make a good case against that sentiment though. In SC1, Terrans always had the most mobility of any of the races, because a good chunk of their buildings could take off and fly around. This holds true in SC2 as well, but Blizzard took that concept and put some interesting new wrinkles into it. Much like the first game, Terran structures can build small add-ons to their buildings to give them new units or abilities to train. This time around, there’s more than one choice of which to build. The mobility comes in because a building will automatically connect to an add-on it lands next too. So instead of just becoming a defensive move to save some of your base if it becomes overrun, you’ll actually want to consider moving your buildings around to different sub structures.
The best part of the mobility theme for me is a new trick that your “farms” have. Supply depots have the ability to basically burrow themselves into the ground and allow units to travel over top of them. After your army passes over them, pop them right back up and you have an instant barrier that opponents have to circumvent (or in my case, knife through like butter).
Technology is awesome. While the Terran units have futuristic but recognizable units comparable to actual armies of today, Blizzard has done extremely well in thinking about how a totally alien civilization might deal with combat. Zealots now have short burst sprinting to let them get close to their targets. A new unit called the Sentry can create hallucinations of your own units to confuse enemies, lay down a movement impairing field to slow down foes, or create a friendly shield that reduces ranged damage taken by any of your units within it. Having the high ground appears to be very important in SC2. Instead of humany stuff like jet-packs (looking at you Terran Reapers!) the Protoss design stuff like the Colossus, which has four long insect style legs that let it literally walk up and down cliffs. Clever girl.
I can’t move on from the Protoss without discussing the Mothership. You can only have one at a time and they can only be trained at your nexus. They’re huge, the passive ability cloaks all friendly units around it to be invisible and they can instantly teleport entire armies to themselves. Also THEY CAN DISRUPT TIME AND SPACE. Seriously. Using the vortex ability will render anything caught within unable to act. Now, granted, things in the vortex cannot take damage, but they aren’t dealing damage either. So the old “you guys get sucked into this vortex for a little while and I’ll destroy all your workers and some buildings” trick appears to be a viable strategy.
I’m going to be very honest with you. I have no idea whats going on with the Zerg. All I know is, they are the most disgusting beings in the known universe. The original Starcraft tried to make this point as well, but given the graphical limitations of the times, the Zerg weren’t standing out. Now, with fancy HD graphics and much better sound, we can truly see and hear how utterly yucky all of this is. Building a vespine gas extractor? Watch as the drone kind of melts into giant slimy tentacles that wrap around the gas geyser. Banelings, an upgraded form of zerglings, are basically suicide bombers. They move fast because instead of walking around on legs, they fold themselves and ROLL. They need to do this because walking is difficult with all the FLUID FILLED SACS OF ACID that are all over them. I’m moving on from this.
I have high hopes for Starcraft 2. Even in the limited time and available modes in the beta, the game has managed to capture the feel of the original that makes it played heavily to this day, while adding enough new things to make it not feel stale. The visuals are stellar. All the unit animations flow incredibly well with one another, making your army just traversing the map an awesome sight. Once combat starts, the sheer amount of missiles, lasers, bullets, and whatever the hell the zerg are doing is chaotic beauty. Assuming the single player doesn’t fall apart, this game should be great. Its Blizzard, so odds are come July 27th, we’ll all be losing to Koreans on battle.net soon.