by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Blizzard is in a well earned, very comfortable position these days. They are raking in millions of dollars on World of Warcraft subscriptions but also have a number of great games that are still being sold well years after their release, mostly due to the fact that they are still being played online.
One of these games is Starcraft which was originally released in 1998. I didn’t get my copy until 2002 but even then it was still full of people playing, especially since the game became a national sport in Korea. Even though the game was released over 10 years ago it is still up and running and selling well.
One has to wonder why such a popular game has been left undisturbed by its creators for such a long time. Almost any other franchise would have had at least three sequels by now. Undeterred by years of pressure from their fans, Blizzard patiently awaited the perfect time to continue the Starcraft story. The time draws nearer every day.
Starcraft II will be split up into three epic stories, forming a trilogy that will feature a brand new story line placed four years after the events of the last Starcraft: Brood War. The previous Starcraft titles allowed for you to play through three factions: The Protoss, an advanced alien civilization race known for slow and more expensive but ultimately stronger units, the somewhat conservative Terrans with their crude but effective weaponry and the Zerg who excelled at fast building and known for their vast numbers. Each of these factions will return, obviously with new and improved units and buildings and quite a few tricks up their sleeves.
Familiar characters such as Jim Raynor, Zeratul and Kerrigan will all make an appearance in the new Starcraft II, continuing the story where Brood War left off. Players will explore new worlds associated with the story, such as the new-fangled Protoss world of Bel’Shir, an abandoned religious retreat that has fallen into ruin after a Zerg invasion. We will also visit the deep-space Terran base of Braxis Alpha is a craggy world that is covered in spots by industrial sprawl. Other, more familiar worlds from the previous Starcraft will also make a return but of course in a shiny new graphical coat that will make it difficult to recognize them as such.
Speeding it up, or down
The previous Starcraft remains unsurpassed when it comes to gameplay balance. And from what we have seen so far, Starcraft II looks to be able to match this feat, if not improve upon it. The game plays very similar to the first Starcraft, the Zerg will swarm in numbers and harass you from left right and centre, while the Terran will take advantage of their long range siege tanks and the Protoss will use their aircraft carriers to destroy you from places that are hard to reach by your anti-air units.
The game will offer variable play speeds so that it is playable for both beginners but will also challenge Starcraft veterans. In addition, the unit cap has been raised considerably and this may well impact how we play the game more than anything else. In theory, players can throw as many as a hundred units at their enemies at the same time. It will be harder to dig into defensive positions and sit and wait for the enemy to come and uproot you with a larger force. Blizzard’s aim with this is to create more dynamic battles and perhaps also to give players a chance to create multiple strike forces that still pack a punch. Obviously this will put more pressure on managing your forces but most units have simple to handle special abilities, or even none at all.
Every unit that has been carried over to Starcraft II has received some form of tweaking, but few have been overhauled in a major way. Many units have been replaced by completely new units and because of this the tactics of old no longer apply. The Protoss have several grand looking units such as Immortals which are a remake to the old Dragoons, the Stalkers are similar to Immortals except that they have a more dark templar feel to them and they have the ability to teleport which is a great advantage attacking enemy bases. The Terran Reaper attacks with dual gauss pistols and can escape hairy situations using handy jetpacks that enable it to jump short distances in every available direction. The fluid filled Zerg Baneling is so bloated that it can barely walk and rolls to its destination instead. It is not destined to live a long life, as its mission ends in suicide, exploding near its victims with devastating results.
Starcraft II is a game I am sure every PC strategist is looking forward to getting their hands on. As always, Blizzard is taking its time to create the absolute perfect game and their excellent track record means I don’t mind the wait at all. Patience is a definite virtue.