Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why You Should Be Excited for Starcraft 2

"What I’m presenting to you now are several reasons you should, in fact, be excited for Starcraft II."


If you look through the limited information that is on the game’s website, you begin to get a glimpse of what is behind the curtains. At this point they’ve revealed a very small amount of the Protoss’ new units each with great descriptions and backgrounds as to how they’ve been changed since the original game. Here’s where you find one of the first cool additions to the franchise, toward the end of the page for the returning basic units the Zealots:
Some Zealots have even developed the ability to turn their body into pure energy for a few microseconds. This allows them to move at lightning fast speeds and strike suddenly against an enemy that thinks they are out of range.

Zealots used to be a very tough and effective melee unit, and once mid/late game hit they could be upgraded to become an extremely fast tough/effective melee unit. Now, what we see is that they are focusing in on this idea and giving the unit a special ability which functions in a more direct and circumstancial way then simply an overall speed boost. Instead of being fast all the time, they are now fast when in a charging situation, which causes you to put much more consideration into how you use the unit in combination with others.

As you continue through the page, you come to the unit that is replacing Dragoons (I assume) as the protoss’ primary ranged unit, they are now aptly called Immortals. At the very beginning of the history for this unit I stumbled upon a very intriguing tid-bit:
The sacred shrine that was dedicated to the creation of the dragoons was infested by the zerg and lost along with the protoss homeworld itself.

There you have it, Blizzard is basically smacking you in the face with a not-so-subtle hint that the Zerg are changing in just as many ways as the Protoss. They’ll have some amount of access to infested Protoss units, possibly only as Dragoons but maybe more? This prospect in itself is very exciting, as the Zerg becomes more of a amalgam type race and begins to use their enemy’s units and strategies against them. Furthermore, the Immortal unit illustrates how Blizzard is changing the basic workings of the game. In the first Starcraft each unit had a certain type of armor and a certain type of attack, and some attacks did more/less damage to different units depending on what type of armor they had. This was amazing, and could be used quite effectively to turn the tide of an entire game, the biggest problem was one of the few places you ever really read about it was in the game’s manual or from a player who knew all of it and could explain it to you. The use of different types of attacks against different units was not intuitive within the game, it required something outside of the game to let the player know how effective it was. These new units, Immortals, have shields that activate and surround the unit preventing a large portion of damage ONLY when they are struck by very strong/heavy attacks. Light munitions and weapons go through this shield and do a lot more damage to the unit, and so there is very obvious and clear attention being paid to unit/weapon/armor choices as the player fields their army strategically across the battlefield.

There does not seem to be much beyond the obvious coolness of the Protoss having access to Dark Templar Dragoons, called Stalkers. They can blink, which is a clear development from Warcraft 3, and I have to admit I’m happy to see it here also. Next we come to a new Protoss ship, the Phase Prism, which has the ability to transform into a temporary/portable Pylon and spread power to distant parts of the map. This allows the Protoss to not only return power to disabled buildings, but also to expand quickly and easily. In combination with the new Gateway ability to transform into a Warp Gate, which allows the player to build (actually, teleport) new Protoss units to any part of the map that their power grid extends to, and you can see that they are focusing the Protoss race on being just as strong, elite, and high-quality for high-cost as they were in the first game but also combine it with unique methods of mobility and speed. They will be able to fast expand, and quickly reinforce these locations with various types of units.

The last big reason that you should be excited about this game can be seen in the Gameplay trailer, which if you have not seen is 20 minutes of excellent footage that reveals even more Protoss units than the website shows. One of these is called the Colossus, which is a very War of the Worlds-esque giant walker with fire beams. The most interesting aspect of this unit is the introduction of the ability to walk between low/high ground without being a flier. In the original game, ground units had to either find a ramp or air-transport to get from one-level to another and no units could travel between the levels freely. Now we see the introduction of an additional layer of complexity, as you get Air Units vs. Ground Units, and Small Ground Units vs. Large Ground Units. You spend a lot of time placing your siege tanks up on that cliff to take out that ‘Toss expansion, only to find he has a handful of Colossus’ waiting to stroll on up there and take them out at a close range? Nothing like this happened in the original game.

To me, this displays outsanding potential for greatness in this game. With the announcement of only 6 units for one of the three known armies, we have a healthy list of new features that change the ways the fundamental game works, while still retaining the feeling of large armies fighting one another on futuristics worlds. Think how much can change with all of the new units for all of the races and potentially a new race on top of that? Get that bitter taste out of your mouth and look at what’s new that’s being shown to you, and above all else ask yourself: How different do you want this game to really be? Do you want it to be as different as Dawn of War was to Starcraft? Or do you want it to look, play, sound, and FEEL the same as Starcraft, but be something new at the same time?

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