I was excited to see the first commercial released for StarCraft 2 since I had the luck to be included in the Beta testing phase that ended at the beginning of June.
The Waiting Makes it Worse
With such a long waiting period for a new release, there are always huge expectations. Take the Star Wars prequels for example, where years and years of waiting ended up in bitter disappointment when George Lucas failed to produce a quality product.
However, the difference between Star Wars and StarCraft is that Blizzard actually cares about what its fan base says, and has proved as much by opening the StarCraft 2 Beta to thousands of users. Those familiar with the original version, a large portion of who still play it on a regular basis, understand that there is a vast difference between the cinematic elements that are such a focus of the commercials, and the actual game play. If you’re looking for the game basics and fundamentals to have changed from Starcraft to Starcraft 2, then prepare to be disappointed. Unlike Lucas, Blizzard has maintained the game’s core integrity and resisted the urge to sell out under pressure. Don’t get me wrong, there are huge improvements in the “tech tree”, completely new units, and improved graphics and 3D modeling, but the basic game is still intact and just as addictive as ever.
A Careful Balancing Act
One of the main focuses of the Beta was to ensure that each race was carefully balanced through build time, unit cost and abilities to ensure that there are no “Zergling Rushes” that spoil game play. Incrementally, updates were applied to the Beta, adding or removing abilities and tweaking in game elements to ensure that no one race could dominate the others with an unfair advantage.
Leveraging Leagues and Placement
Another issue that seasoned players are familiar with in the original StarCraft is fixed in the sequel. In the previous version, you never knew if you would be playing playing against someone who couldn’t operate a mouse or a seasoned veteran with the potential to obliterate you with an unreal amount of units in less time than it took for you to build a single barrack. The Beta showed an intense interest in the balancing of players into leagues so that you can play against people relatively around your skill level.
In the new version, after starting you off with 5 starter matches against complete novices, on specially designed maps that slow down game play, you’re placed and scored on each match you win or lose. After even just a few rounds of being completely annihilated, when you score that first victory you’ll be fully hooked and eager for the next match.
You can mix it up playing 1 on 1 upwards to 4 on 4 players, with each a completely different experience as tactics and strategies shift. The league placement makes it possible for you to continue to improve your skills while avoiding frustrating scenarios where you couldn’t possibly win time and time again.
Online RTS VS. MMORPG
The part of Starcraft 2 they opened to Beta was the online multiplayer, so I can’t speak to the concerns about storyline and cinematics not matching up to related gameplay, but I can say that I am already missing having access to the game since the Beta closed to prepare for the full release. The real benefit of the match based real-time strategy game is that you can easily play just a couple of short quick rounds without having to plan an entire day or weekend organizing a raid. If “husband duties” call my name, then I can wrap up that match and go back to the real world in a matter of minutes.
Watching the Calendar
While you wait for the release you can take an entrance Exam for the Terran Dominion, or even join in a Propaganda campaign for some prizes. I eagerly anticipate the full release of StarCraft 2, and hopefully Blizzard can learn from Lucas’s mistakes and hope that it doesn’t have a Jar Jar Binks included to mess up their long anticipated return.