Multiple air bogies detected! ETA: Right the hell now —Tychus

I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past few days playing the StarCraft II campaign (not quite finished yet but done a great deal), and I’ve been really enjoying it, especially now that Plot has happened. I’ve managed to break through the corniness barrier and am really feeling the very Blizzard plot and characters, especially in the Protoss missions: it reminds me of Warcraft III all the time. Not having the StarCraft universe embedded in me is a loss, though, and I now wish that StarCraft had been my RTS when I was younger, rather than the C&C series which crashed and burned thanks to EA buying Westwood. What seemed to me like an uninteresting world before is now one I want to know a lot more about, thanks to the campaign.

It has taken until this latter half of the campaign for the story and atmosphere to drag me in, though, and I think that’s in large part due to the Protoss missions. I enjoy building up a Protoss army a lot more than building up a Terran one, and the final Protoss mission where you’re fighting a last stand against a universe of zerg (I don’t consider that to be a massive spoiler…) is brilliant: for once as the player you’re locking down the archives to be discovered by dungeon-crawling RPG heroes in centuries to come, as you fend off wave after wave.

The gameplay of the campaign missions is a lot better than other RTS campaigns I have played, as there is a lot of variety to the mission objectives. In one mission you’re mining a rare crystal, but the areas with the deposits get flooded with lava so you have to evacuate both units and structures—most Terran structures can fly—and then fly them back in. And of course you’re fending off attacks and accomplishing side goals while this is going on, which combined is much more interesting than “destroy all Nod forces in the area”.

I’ve been playing on normal difficulty as that is what was suggested for players with some RTS experience, and I’ve been finding it a bit easy thus far, but there are various achievements to get that can only be gained on various difficulty levels, and as you can freely replay missions I can see myself going back to get these. So the campaign has replayability.

One problem I’ve had with the Terran missions is that you tend to get a unit designed to solve all your problems that mission (often not available in multiplayer) so you just deploy a load of those and they do indeed solve all your problems. As I say, I found the Protoss missions a lot more interesting. First of all several involve a small squad of units with no base, facing many well-entrenched enemies, and this reminds me of brilliant campaign missions in Tiberian Sun. Except in SC2 you have spells and powers and the like rather than many, many conveniently placed “ammo piles” so it requires some thought.

The game’s presentation is very slick. First of all, in my typical style, the music: I haven’t heard any Zerg music yet, the Protoss music is non-descript but the Terran music is really good. In-game it’s basically Firefly, and it plays at all the right moments. Far more impressive than this is the main theme which plays in the main menu. I am reminded of John Williams’ score for Star Wars—and on a comparable level of quality. Graphics are as you would expect for a modern RTS. I’ve not really been paying any attention, but some of the death animations are particularly pretty. The Zerg look perhaps a touch too cartoony, but the Protoss and Terran are about right.

As an international phenomenon, StarCraft I and its expansion Brood War created a massive range of vocabulary and techniques and concepts, and similar to DotA this can make things rather inaccessible. With StarCraft II Blizzard had a chance to integrate all this unofficial stuff into their interface, and try to let newbies in, and I think they’ve done a good job of it. You’ve got things like Build Orders for review after a game, and a good progression from campaign to challenges to vs. AI to multiplayer. It’s clearly working as so many people who would never normally play games are picking this up.

It’s really, really sad that this comes at the price of user control over their software. Why the heck can’t you play the campaign without a account? Armed with a DVD with the game on it and a serial number, I should be able to sit down and play through the campaign, and the longevity of the game as a work of art[1] is damaged: when humans create a piece of culture that is good, it shouldn’t be something with the potential to disappear just for the sake of making money. It’s not like there are many SC2 players who would pirate it anyway, since they’d want the multiplayer, and LAN play just isn’t going to be able to compete with’s integrated service even with something like garena.

So now I come to the decision as to which race to play in multiplayer. I am told to select one and stick to it, and not to pick for reasons such as “Terrans are humans and I like humans”, “Protoss are shiny shiny aliens with lasers” and “Zerg russsssssssssshh”. I don’t need to decide until after I’ve finished the campaign and played the challenge missions, but I’ve been reading around and I think that Protoss might be the best choice. Considering the “cool” things both Protoss and Terran can do, I am more interesting in developing strategies around blinking and placing forcefields than moving my base around or setting up massive defensive lines[2] and I like how Protoss build structures; it reminds me of my C&C days.

I need to play some Zerg against the AI because I have no experience of that right now, and only have what I’ve read on “choose your race” pages to go on. Reading up on the mechanics, I am told that Protoss are micro-focussed, because you have a smaller army of powerful units with powers and at the other extreme are the Zerg who are focussed on macro and production and then what is produced just gets hurled at you. Terran, I am told, are a balance of the two. I think micro is a skill I’m more interested in developing. I already have some from DotA, and I think that the “let’s see who can manage their base best” race is important and interesting but not what I want to win based on: I want to outmaneuver and outflank opponents on the battlefield.

These thoughts taken together lead me to the Protoss but really I don’t know what I am talking about. I am capable of little more than producing a bunch of units and then focus-firing them, smashing through the map (or not), but I’m looking forward to learning more.

[1] I do not mean to glorify by using this phrase, only remind you that games are works of art just as much as books and paintings are.

[2] The only game with true turtling is Supreme Commander; shame it doesn’t actually work very well in that game.


’Armed with a DVD with the game on it and a serial number, I should be able to sit down and play through the campaign’ - you can absolutely do this if you click the ‘play offline’ button on the log in screen.

Comment by ben Tue 30 Aug 2011 19:23:01 UTC