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BlizzCon 2008: Hands on with StarCraft II

While the major announcement this weekend from BlizzCon was the episodic release of StarCraft II, there was plenty more to see in the game itself. There were centers around the convention floor that let fans from around the world get a few minutes with the game. We got a chance to sit down and play a little StarCraft II for ourselves.

The name of the game was multiplayer for us. In one particular game I got to go against a reporter from Hungry for a bit. He was a nice guy, and he knew how to play the game. I was hanging out with my Terran brethren building a massive defensive force, and he was warping around with his fellow Protoss (often getting clobbered by my bunkers).

Read on after the break for a hands on review of StarCraft II.

The feel for StarCraft II is what you'd expect in the evolution of a video game franchise. StarCraft I gave us the framework and basic game play – StarCraft II takes that one step further. The units move more smoothly across the screen via graphic updates and better path finding techniques. Commands and motions flow into each other – there are no awkward pauses as units readjust to new orders. Generally everything feels very smooth, even for an early preview version of the game.

Players of StarCraft I will welcome the familiar interface, and new users will find that it's intuitive enough to pickup right off the get-go. Left click to select a unit, right click to move it, click a building and then click a unit or feature to create it. Familiar, easy, and everything works fine.

While playing the different races I did notice that some balancing needs to take place – the Protoss felt just a little over powered to me. They were able to warp in, surgically strike any force, and then warp out and start moving away immediately; thus making it virtually impossible for any ground troops to catch up. Air units can catch up given impediments in the terrain that are blocking the Protoss army's retreat, but a smart player will work around this and position units and bases so that the terrain is optimized effectively.

My style of game play tends to rest on the idea of building a strong defensive force, coupled by a reserve offensive force. I let my opponent come and attack me, during which time I'm taking out (hopefully) most of his units. Once my opponent's offensive attack has ended, I send in my whole reserve force along with about half of my defensive force to obliterate their base. Pro winning strategy.

The only downside to this is what I will call the completely over powered nature of bunkers and other stationary defensive structures. I made the mistake of not making any initially, using only my units to defend my base. After my defensive turtle worked, I moved in to finish off my rival... only to be blown to bits by his six stationary defensive towers. Perhaps if I would have made a few bunkers to begin with I would have realized the error of my ways before I lost most of my army, but oh well. Live and learn.

However with all that said, one of the things we found out earlier in the day was that StarCraft II would not let all units from the single player game be involved in the multiplayer game. I had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Sigaty for our sister site Joystiq, and he mentioned that Terran bunkers would not be allowed in the multiplayer game (at least that's their plan right now). Obviously this wasn't implemented yet, and I can see why they're making this choice for the future.

The other part of the game, which we were not able to get our hands on, was the single player mission mode. StarCraft II will allow a much more non-linear version of completing missions and advancing the story line then before. It won't be as non-linear of a game such as Spore, but it'll certainly be more open-ended then most real time strategy games.

Next up - StarCraft II Units


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