The extent of my experience with the RTS genre lies solely with the time I spent playing Age of Empires 2 and Halo Wars. The RTS genre has made its appearance on console platforms before, but always in simplified forms because of the limited buttons available on a controller. With the recent purchase of a new and powerful computer, my selection of games is no longer restricted to the console space. I bravely decided to begin my dive into PC exclusives with Blizzard’s decade long developed game, Starcraft 2.
Expecting to have an experience similar to learning a completely new and unfamiliar language, I was pleasantly surprised by how strategically designed each mission of the campaign was in respect to helping new players. I was intimidated at first – how could I not be when Starcraft 2 is so popular within the competitive gaming community. Going from a game like Halo Wars, which didn’t require much finesse or strategy (nonetheless I still enjoyed it), was a huge leap for me. Since the Halo Wars campaign was so painfully boring, I had to rely on brief tutorials and experience in matches to learn how to play.
What I admire about the campaign in Starcraft 2, is the effectiveness of introducing new concepts to the player, by then forcing them to apply those concepts directly. One mission introduced the Siege Tank – a powerful vehicle capable of both maneuvering on the field and deploying for long ranged artillery. The mission demanded the deploying of many Siege Tanks, a process in which requires two steps. Instead of waiting for the tank to get into position to then deploy it, the game prompts you to press and hold the Shift key to queue up actions. This saved me the time wasted waiting for the tank to reach its destination, allowing me to focus my attention elsewhere. I now take this acquired knowledge that I was encouraged to use within the mission, and now use it to queue up the construction of multiple buildings or when traveling to multiple destinations.
Each mission introduces an additional structure, unit or concept to the player, while at the same time providing a variety of new objectives with each unique scenario. I was confident that this pace of structured variety would eventually let up. I often think that it is impossible for Blizzard to continually provide me with something exciting even three quarters through the campaign, yet I am consistently proven wrong. It’s impressive, I expected the draw of Starcraft 2 to primarily be the competitive multiplayer modes, but I have no urgency to rush through it.
Each race is increasingly fascinating, so much so that I wonder how the Zerg and Protoss campaigns will measure up. Telling three stories from different perspectives will be interesting, as the dirty, cowboy science fiction of the Terran perspective, is covering a lot of the plot. Between missions, you are able to explore your ship, upgrade units and talk to crew members almost in this Point-and-Click adventure style. For a genre so focused on the strategy and balance of each unit, the story is always secondary. Since each mission requires so much concentration, the simple interaction of just clicking on certain obvious objects or people, provided me with a moment of calm before I launched another lengthy mission. I fear of running into spoilers by doing some research on “The Heart of the Swarm” expansion, though I am curious to see if the Zerg and Protoss stories will run sequentially, or in parallel with each other.
I was apprehensive at first and somewhat doubtful that I even get through Starcraft 2, but this was under the assumption that the game would ignore new players or wouldn’t offer an interesting single player component. So far, everything that I had thought Starcraft 2 embodied was really only representative of the niche, organized and very competitive aspect of the game. Starcraft 2, from what I have played thus far, offers just as much for players new to series as those who are familiar. I wish this messaging was so much clearer around the time of release, as I would have made a more significant attempt to play the game that I have been always intrigued by. Despite being two years old, I intend to write a review for Starcraft 2, which looking at what the game offers, won’t be for a while.