This post started off as a "lets discuss this game" thread but somehow I turned it into a mini review! So I decided to post it here.
My collectors edition arrived yesterday lunchtime - any ideas of work kind of just vanished as I opened it up hehe..very impressive package. The USB stick dog-tag is really cool (honest!), satisfyingly heavy and it glows when its plugged in, looks just like Jims from the game. I installed starcraft 1 from it just because I could..very quick to install from USB! There is about 700mb free when you get it - I don't intend to wipe it yet but if I do i'll be backing it up for sure. The art book is hardback and very nice to look through, so incredible artwork that the guys at Blizzard have come up with. I'm less interested in the comic but who knows, it may be worth something in the future hehe.. The soundtrack has moved to my car for the trip to/from work for now, and I'll end up watching the "how its made" DVD at some point in the next week I'm sure. Oh and I should mention the box..most impressive collector's edition box ever, just look at some of the youtube vids to see it - its awesome. You also get 2 Starcraft 2 trial passes and 2 WoW trial passes with the game - something I didn't expect. I should also mention the WoW "Thor" pet - he's very cool and again I suggest looking around YouTube to see what he's like.
Anyway enough about the box, onto the game! The installer gives you the background to the story (handy since its been 10 years since I played the SC1 campaign!) and it took about 15 min to install it all, not too bad. Once loaded and signed in with Battle.NET (something you have to do to save your progress properly/get achievements - not an issue for me but may be for some people) I jumped into the campaign. One thing to note is that because of the Battle.NET integration, if you log into your account you can continue your campaign from any installed copy of SC2 - you don't have to be at your PC. Your progress is saved to "the cloud", a very nice feature.
As usual with single player modes the campaign is a great way to get used to the game, and typically heavy on the story/lore ala most Blizzard games. It picks up where Brood War left off, and any Starcraft fan will really enjoy this..romping through blowing stuff up and building large bases within a few missions. The achievements add a new dimension to it, and the system works in a very similar way to WoW..you will certainly recognise aspects of it if you are a WoW gamer too. The missions are presented partly linear with some being forced on you and some being optional, giving at least the impression of some morality choices (do you save the colonists for less money or steal something for more money), which is a nice touch. In between missions you get the chance to upgrade your units, hire mercenaries, upgrade your weapons..adding RPG elements to the game. What you choose doesn't affect your path through it, but it does allow you to tailor aspects of the game to fit your strategy.
I jumped out after 4 missions though, having got enough of a feel about the SP game to get on with what Starcraft is really about - the multiplayer. This is an entirely different beast..almost a different game! When you login to multiplayer, you are first given the chance to play on "practice grounds", where the game play is slower, and there are "special" maps to allow you to get used to the game. I *strongly* recommend that you play this mode before going competitive, I skipped it (due to my big head and all) and I regret doing so, as you cannot go back to the practice mode after you have skipped it, and I was not at all prepared for what was to come...which for me, was a bloodbath.
Quick overview of the options first - There are ranked and unranked options, with the custom mode being what it says (letting you choose options, teams, number of players, maps etc), and are unranked. Great for playing with friends or specific people. Co-operative mode is you + humans against the API - I didn't play with this yet but I think it will be a good way to learn off other people and practice some strategies. Then there are the ranked matches, the meat of the game. There are 5 types - 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, FFA, and each of them has a separate league for you to compete in. Each one has a series of divisions and sub-leagues, with about 100 people per division. Before you can join any of the leagues you need to play 5 "placement" games, which will decide you initial league position.
I started in the 1v1 games playing as a Terran, and wow I felt like a bad player. My first game lasted 5 minutes, I had not quite got the multiplayer concepts yet and was casually building a barracks, some SCVs, factories etc when a huge army turned up at my doors and proceeded to flatten me. Nice. On to match 2, which was equally short, this time when my enemy crept up behind me with some of the rocket pack Terran units and proceeded to wipe out all my SCVs. Cue resource starvation and again my early demise. I lasted a full 10 minutes in match 3, as I finally realised the importance of building lots and lots of SCVs and getting some units up quickly, fending off his first assault. My success was short lived however as his tanks and thors rolled in 5 minutes later to flatten by base. I still didn't learn however and jumped straight in to match 4. I took a different tactic this time though and went on the offensive quickly, building lots of marines and sending them out to find him..I did pretty well for a while but still managed to lose..he was playing zerg and cleverly sent out a bunch of zerglings to take out my base while I attacked him. Damn him. At this point I decided I didn't want to lose all 5 matches so I quit the game for 5 minutes to read up on strategy. Back to the game and my final placement match, where things were looking up. I had learned the concept of "walling" (building supply depots across the front of your base as a wall) and of building multiple barracks to get an army up quickly, and this time I lasted a full 30 minutes! I teched up and geared up, only to be wiped out by a large number of Protoss ships..boo I had forgotten Anti Air.
Anyway I was finally placed in the bronze league, kind of embarrassing but at least there will be people around my skill level there, and I was right - 2 games later and I won my first match..a great sense of achievement! Later I moved to the 2v2 matches which are even more fun in my opinion, teaming with some good (and bad) players and different races. Here I won 2/5 placement matches, a clear improvement. Hopefully my experience there will show you a few things. 1) There are already some very, very good players online, and these people have almost exclusively been playing the beta. It's not a fair fight, but once you get through the placement you will be up against people of a similar skill level to your own, and that makes it much more fun. 2) It's a very fast paced game, full of strategy. There are so many ways to play it (do you wall in and turtle, all out assault, mixture) and different build orders, but you have to have some kind of strategy in mind or you will suffer for it.
I've not even mentioned the graphics/sound yet - but both are stunning. The audio scripting is impressive and fits the mood perfectly, and the music adds an extra level of immersion. The graphics are good but not amazing..I somehow expected more, but they are good with an impressive level of detail. I am playing this on max settings at max resolution. The UI is virtually identical to Starcraft 1, with some noticeable enhancements..things like being able to tie spawn locations to other objects. For example you can get SCVs to start mining automatically as they spawn, or soldiers to immediately head to the battle scene, following another unit. Its intuitive, clear and very accessible to new and old players alike.
I'm sure that there is much more that I have not mentioned - in fact there is..single player challenges, the wealth of achievements and its reward system, character customisation, the map editor, but I have not experienced these myself yet so its not fair for me to comment. Suffice to say that I love this game and it is every inch what I hoped from it. There is no question in my mind that it's worth the money, mainly for its multiplayer aspect and Battle.Net integration.
I should criticise some aspects I guess, and I know that some people will hate the fact that there is no built in LAN support, a requirement to be connected to Battle.Net for most features (though you *can* play offline), an online activation requirement, but tbh if you are bothered by this then don't buy it, it's your loss and in this case that requirement adds so much to the game that you could not otherwise get. The graphics could be a little better but that's just me being really picky..and and I would really love to be able to zoom out more, and to have multi monitor support ala SupComm, but I think that is just a dream for now.
I'd happily give SC2 10/10, best new game I have played for years.
Right time to get back to work..while dreaming up strategies for tonight's games..now If I build a supply depot there, and place my barracks here then.....