by Patrick Steinmann
previewed on PC
A masterpiece, revisited
Starcraft: legendary amongst gamers, a milestone of the RTS genre and for good reason too. Ten years ago, when it was released, it set genre standards for its multiplayer client, its unique factions, and its well-balanced gameplay. In fact, the game still enjoys a cult following not only in Asia, where the game’s balance has made it a mainstay of pro gaming leagues, but also across the whole world.
And now, Blizzard is poised to release the sequel to this outstanding game. A daunting task, following up on (and improving) such a title. Let’s take a look at how Blizzard’s tackling this challenge.
Starcraft II, as the sequel’s called, is set about four years after the events of Brood War, the third expansion to the original game. True to the lineage, Starcraft II will feature the three factions we’ve come to know and love (or hate). The Terran have (again) split into many quarreling factions, with Arcturus Mengsk and his son Valerian leading the most powerful one, the Dominion. Jim Raynor’s status has been reduced to that of a rebel and mercenary, constantly chased and hunted by Dominion forces.
After having lost their homeworld, the Protoss have sought refuge on the Shakuras, home of the Dark Templars, a group of renegade Protoss. The two groups have struggled to overcome social tension and discord due to their different mindsets and traditions. United however, they strive to rebuild their armies in anticipation of a renewed Zerg onslaught.
Sarah Kerrigan, now called the Queen of Blades, has had her Zerg swarms keep a low profile since the events of Brood War, instead preferring to return to Char, the Zerg home planet. Her exact intentions are unknown, although many expect her to be boosting the Zerg ranks with new breeds, in preparation of a new offense against her enemies.
Go Go Go!!
One of the best features of the original was the overall balance of the three factions. Despite being radically different and requiring very different tactics, no faction could be considered as any better than the others, winning or losing really depended on the player’s skills, and choosing the faction best suiting his abilities.
Unit-wise, Blizzard is attempting to retain most of the iconic units of the original, while also making sure some new excitement comes into battle. Blizzard has stated that the number of units will stay roughly the same. Popular units of Starcraft will be back in the sequel, some staying the same, others getting new abilities and attributes. Other units will be cut from the game in order to make room for various new additions to the factions’ ranks. As before, there will be a strong focus on “counter-units”, which means that for every unit your enemy sends in your direction, you can (theoretically) build the perfect counter-unit.
Blizzard has also promised that there will be more interaction between units and terrain this time. Some walkers will be able to climb between different height levels, others will be able to blast away rock formations blocking crucial routes. Additionally, little tricks like teleportation and “beaming” should become more widespread.
Conquering the galaxy
Like the famed original, Starcraft II should feature the singleplayer campaign split into three different parts, one for each faction. Blizzard has been quick to point out however that the three parts will be substantially different, not only from each other, but also from the original’s campaign. As yet, there isn’t much information out, although we can say that the campaign(s) will, at least for the Terran, be non-linear to a certain extent (thanks to various side missions), even though the outcome will always be the same, so as to have a consistent storyline to work with.