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Starcraft 2 Beta Diary – Day 1

February 19th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I haven’t found the time to play terribly much today, but it will suffice for a short ‘First Impressions’-summary:

  • The game plays incredibly well. As expected, Starcraft II has already reached a level of sophistication that most titles never achieve in their entire life cycle.
  • The viewport zooms in at about the same level it did in Warcraft III, which feels a little close at first, but this feeling won’t last very long. Still, keeping a clear view in the heat of the battle is particularly challenging because of the limited screen-real-estate.
  • The soundtrack is downright gorgeous. I especially like the Terran music pieces which feature interweaved segments of Western-style guitars and violins. Seems someone at Blizzard has been watching a lot of  Firefly, which really can’t be a bad thing at all.
  • Graphics are fine, though not spectacular. The level of particle effects on screen never reaches the degree of a Command & Conquer, but the few effects present do their job very well. The polygon count is comparably low, but far from chunky. The true quality of Starcraft II‘s looks doesn’t come from its graphical gimmicks but from the matured design: Achieve the maximum impact using as few on-screen effects as possible. Prefer a single, distinctive effect over massive particle feasts. The result is admirably streamlined and by all means sexy, though it never gets in the way of the actual game.
  • Players are currently assigned to games exclusively through Battle.net’s match-making system. It’s hard to say how well it really works, since everyone just started playing. At the moment one can simply state that it does find games and does so quickly. Which is already more than you can say of most similar systems out there.
  • Gameplay mechanics are, as expected, complex as hell. Usually, one finds a decent combination of units through trial-and-error pretty quickly and will stick with it. That is until after a few games you get hopelessly bashed without knowing what’s happening to you. Starcraft II takes rock-paper-scissors to the extreme, which you will feel immediately, even after playing only a couple of matches. Hopefully, there will emerge a blooming theorycrafting-community soon, as there is definitely lots of stuff to figure out.

So much for first impressions, more detailed articles will follow as we go along. For now, let’s close with some screenshots:

The new Battle.Net main screen. The icons in the upper left corner replace your traditional menu bar. Not the most intuitive design, but at least its functional. The icons in the lower right are for voice-chat and community features, which are both new features in Battle.Net. Didn’t get a chance to play around with those yet.

A gang of Zerg Roaches circumvents Terran defenses. This was actually my first game. As you can imagine, I was quite surprised suddenly having to fight a full-scale Roach infection in the back of my base.

Of course my resource logistics department wasn’t too happy with the issue. Which lead to me loosing this game soon thereafter.

These Watchtowers were introduced in the Battle Reports. They require special attention, as they reveal a large part of the map from the Fog Of War. In this particular scene, Blue (me) has complete overview over Red’s expansion and due to his elevated position is also undetectable by Red’s ground units.

Rock-paper-scissors in action: A group of Void Rays will easily devastate any number of Carriers. Which is particularly frustrating to careless players, since Carriers are a lot more expensive than the little ray shooters.

This Protoss base is pretty much doomed. A nice new feature of SC2 is the replay-bar for replays, that can be seen on the right edge of the screen. By clicking on it, you can directly jump to a part of the replay, almost like with a video. Currently you can only jump backwards, i.e. to scenes you’ve already seen, but still a useful feature.

Another Protoss vs. Protoss battle. Pay attention to the sparingly used effects on the collapsing Gateway in the foreground. Needless to say, this looks a lot more impressive in motion. Maybe I’ll upload some videos over the next few days.

Three Protoss Zealots (mine) harassing a Terran Player. Zealots are still very powerful on the ground and will prove useful even in longer games. At the moment, the average match length in the games I played was a little under 15 minutes.

That’s it for Day 1, folks. I hope you’ll check back with us later, as our Pageant of the Bizarre Beta Diary for Starcraft II continues…

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