The long wait for the sequel to one of the greatest and most beloved real time strategy games ever made is almost over. Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is planned to release this year, with a multiplayer beta out this summer. The original Starcraft came out in 1998, and tens of thousands of people are still playing it online, eleven years later. That should give an idea to anyone who hasn’t played the original of just how insanely anticipated Starcraft II is.
Starcraft II is not a revolution from the foundation of Starcraft, but an evolution. The basic RTS mechanics return, with base building and unit management remaining the focus. However, the singleplayer campaigns are handled quite differently than they were in the original game. Most significantly, the singleplayer component of Starcraft II will come in three parts: one game, or expansion pack, for each of the three races. Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is the Terran campaign, which will be released first, sometime this year according to developer Blizzard. The Zerg and Protoss campaign expansion packs will follow. The multiplayer component of Starcraft II will be playable with any of of the three game parts.
While much is still unknown about Starcraft II’s singleplayer campaigns, Blizzard did reveal some aspects at a recent press event. The Terran campaign will include access to mercenaries and unit upgrades: certain units will become more potent and more effective in combat with successive upgrades that the player can purchase. These RPG-like mechanics are supplemented by more variety in the mission objectives: rather than simply being tasked with wiping out an opposing force in each mission, players will have to think creatively. Blizzard offered the examples of missions where the enemy, infested terrans, attacked the player only at night. This made the player focus on defending against the onslaught at night, but also forced them to quickly sortie out during the day.
Environmental changes in the setting will also play a role: one singleplayer mission involves a battlefield that is flooded by lava periodically, making players take care with how they move their forces. Overall, Starcraft II’s singleplayer campaign sounds much more varied and deep than its predecessor, with less repetition of objectives. Starcraft II’s campaigns will be greater in extent than those of the original Starcraft, with 30 missions for each of the three races rather than only 10. This will allow Blizzard to tell a much more in depth story with more complicated characters and events than the relatively short length of the original game’s campaigns allowed.
Visually, Starcraft II looks better and better as development progresses. When the game was first announced many months ago, the color palette and texture detail was much more limited and restrictive than that of the most recent version. Starcraft II is now dark and atmospheric, with varied and memorable environments, a worthy improvement on the original Starcraft’s unique art design. Details are everywhere: Terran marines are eviscerated by Protoss Zealots and fall in pieces rather than with the same death animation every time. Zerg units and buildings are destroyed with a graphic explosion of blood and particles, or fall to the ground writhing in flames when incinerated. Blizzard has always excelled at creating a consistent and believable game world, and Starcraft II upholds that legacy.
Starcraft II will not include LAN support, a classic feature that was popular before the widespread installation of high speed internet. All multiplayer games of Starcraft II will take place through the upgraded Battle.net system that remains in development. Blizzard explained that they are implementing social features into the new version of Battle.net, but that their main focus is allowing players to find opponents of a similar skill level. The developer also confirmed that Starcraft II will not be ported to consoles, something that should help to curb rampant rumors on the subject.
Blizzard also had much to say on the subject of the multiplayer map editor, which they state is the most powerful they have created yet. This is quite a feat, considering the hugely customizable Warcraft III and Starcraft map editors have collections of fan-made mods such as “Defense of the Ancients” that are more popular than many retail games. The map editor will be available with the multiplayer beta for players to test out.
Starcraft II will have a statistic tracking system that displays a wide range of variables of any multiplayer match. These stats will be most useful to the hardcore competitive players, who will want to see exactly when and where they went wrong, but should also be of use to more casual players. Blizzard is focusing on retaining both the diehard fans and the more casual audiences with Starcraft II, hoping to make it widely accessible and yet deep at the same time.
Ideally, Starcraft II will be easy to learn, but very difficult to master, something very rare among videogames and entertainment in general. However, this tricky balance is also something that the original Starcraft did very well, and so I’ll definitely give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt in achieving their ambitious goals and making yet another title that can appeal to the widest audience possible. Starcraft was, and is, played by both university students in North America and competitive professionals in South Korea, and every indication we have of Starcraft II leads us to believe that it will do the same.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com