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StarCraft II Multiplayer First Impressions

Updated Mon, Mar 08, 2010 by Xerin

StarCraft II is a game that StarCraft players have been waiting for over ten years to get their hands on, ever since the original launched back on March 31st, 1998. The operatic sci-fi RTS was known for its in-depth and exciting single player campaign and the multiplayer that still today, 12 years later, has a thriving community of players and tournaments around the world. StarCraft II has a lot to live up to in the modern era, however, where games are a dime a dozen and attention spans last only so long.

A Protoss base in high gear.

The beta gives us a great insight into how well the game is built for its number-one staying power: multiplayer mode. Multiplayer is currently the only available mode in the beta and I’ve given it a good playthrough since Blizzard sent me one of the coveted beta keys. As my readers know, I am a chronically cynical person. I always look for faults in a game, but with SC2 I’m unable to come up with any complaints I didn’t have with SC1 (which all involved the interface).

Even then, most of those complaints have been remedied.For instance, you can now group up with other players without issue. The netcode (how your computer responds to the servers) is zippy and I’ve yet to experience any kind of the lag like I did in SC1. Games are fast to join, downloads are done in a snap, and map selection allows you to veto out maps you don’t want to play (similar to Warcraft III). Even the way the game controls the units is remarkable, which is something I’ll go into more detail about later on.

The first thing I came to notice was the amazing interface. Gone are the days of spamming some obscure game name and having everyone pile into it as fast as possible. Now you can party up, talk over VOIP, coordinate in party chat, and then hit a custom game or ranked ladder match without much fuss. Warcraft III did introduce playing ranked matches with people in chat butSC2 drives it home with the ability to join any kind of custom game out there. This will be a huge plus when SC2 gains custom maps as popular as DotA  (Defense of the Ancients) is for WC3.

Let’s discuss ranked matches while we’re on the subject. The ladder system has been revamped and now you’re placed into different types of ladders based on your overall skill. This means that you no longer have to suffer painfully if you reach that level where everyone is better than you and you do nothing but lose forever until you de-level a bit. I do have concerns that players will tank their ratings to bully up on those in the tin ladder (much like in SC1 where people ran bots to get losses so they could appear “newbish”) but I’m sure Blizzard will make it as fair as technologically possible.

Terrans exterminate a Zerg infestation.

Of course, the interface is only part of a game. The actual gameplay is what’s important. and Blizzard’s polish shines so brightly that you can forget that your playing a game in beta.The gameplay is very fluid and serves as more of a revamp of SC1 than an entirely new game. The new maps are visually appealing, built for competitive gameplay, and are fair.  Novices get to play with rush protection built in for them while experts can hit up the new lost temple and play the game the way it should be played. Island maps are still unbalanced, but that’s just the nature of the game.

Many of your important tactics carry over, from tanks on cliffs to cloaking/sneaking and ruining the economy of your enemy. My favorite thing is the improvements made to chokepoints. For those that aren’t in the know, blocking a chokepoint is a force multiplier. Whatever force you have behind the blockade to the entrance of your base is strengthened by the fact that they cannot die while your enemy can.  There are many improvements to this tactic. The biggest is allowing supply depots to simply burrow into the ground allowing your troops to walk over them. This adds a layer of strategy and convenience to Terran players in particular.

Meet the races of Starcraft 2...

Terran Protoss Terran

What they are...

Think Starship Troopers meets Dukes of Hazard meets Seven of Nine.

What they are...

A mix of E.T. and the Predator, complete with energy weapons, shields, and a rough childhood.

What they are...

The skeezy house down the block that the cops are always visiting, under 500x magnification.

Trademark strengths...

  • Most balanced between ground and air; arguably the easiest to play.
  • Movable buildings, including some that burrow underground (supply depots)
  • Dropships that heal ground units.
  • Good recon (reapers, ravens) and ranged artillery (siege tanks, ghost nukes)

Trademark strengths...

  • Drones aren't consumed or occupied while structures "warp in"
  • Very strong air units
  • Good stealth and instant line-of-sight teleport (the "blink" ability of Stalkers)
  • Capable and durable (if expensive) ground units

Trademark strengths...

  • Quickly spawning droves of disposable units
  • Ability to build resource gathering expansions faster than any other race
  • Strong tier 2 air units
  • Best tier 1 ground unit (roaches)
  • Most straightforward of all races.

The races bear a strong resemblance to their original counterparts. Terrans are still the humanoid faction sporting marines, moveable buildings, and fusion power. They are now beefed up with additional air units, flying medics (who can also transport), and strong units known as “Thor” that deliver massive damage and can really take a beating.

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