Now Playing: StarCraft II

I found a good enough sale to overcome the DRM risk, and I do not know that I have anything useful to add to what has been said before. The campaign really is that good. I have not tried the multi-player, and I am unlikely to spend much time in competitive play, but I look forward to some cooperative play in my future.

There are enough reviews, so I will go with idiosyncratic, non-comprehensive comments. And it turns out I have a lot of them, after the break.

The videos are well done, although the animation re-use becomes very noticeable in the cantina scenes. I particularly liked the re-done scene of Kerrigan’s abandonment on Tarsonis from her perspective.

The proportions on the marine armor really are that bad. If you are not seeing it, try to imagine how broad Tychus’s shoulders must be to fit in that suit. If you have broad shoulders, the far edge of your shoulder is about as far away as the top of your head, assuming you can touch your ear to your shoulder. The marine armpits start just past that, so you could maybe have your elbows where the armor’s shoulders are, except that we see Tychus being fitted (in pieces). There is a similar issue for where his knees must be relative to the suit’s waist and knees. The armor’s proportions would not be bad for someone who actually was 8 to 9 feet tall, except for needing a new helmet, but it does not fit someone in the 5-7′ range.

On that helmet note, I know why they have all the main characters with their face plates up, but that is a bad idea, guys. Getting shot in the face hurts.

The Odin is built for someone to pilot it in marine armor? I would have assumed otherwise. Why does Tychus care that it has bathroom facilities? That is just connecting a tube to his suit’s built-in facilities. On that note, I hope those machines in the opening video are gentle on the catheterization.

The hardest part of Normal difficulty is slowing down to get all the research points and optional objectives. Hard can be genuinely difficult, particularly if you are going for the achievements. Brutal seems to be a mix of “interesting challenge,” “seems to require a certain gimmick,” and “are you kidding?” The higher difficulties are much easier if you knock out the achievements/research objectives on a lower difficulty, so you can focus on winning.

Achievements: gamers love them. I feel the completist need to earn them, and they will drive me to play more competitive games than I would otherwise have been likely to. Most of them seem good, as benchmarks of goals along the way or for doing things well/completely. A few are more unusual. The truly odd ones they have reserved for Feats of Strength, which you would need to Google to find. Belay that; by number, I think most of them are for playing lots and lots of multiplayer games, with new decorations for playing/winning into the thousands.

I also like the armory and laboratory. They seem to be anti-training for multi-player, since you will need to buy upgrades every game, if they are available in multi-player, if those units are available in multi-player. I do like permanent upgrades rather than needing to re-learn something every round. The constant re-training is annoying and repetitive, and I frequently forget or do not bother. It adds continuity to the gameplay.

It is disappointing but a good design decision not to make upgrades available retroactively. I sometimes want to try a mission over again with upgraded units, and going back without the Tech Reactor is just suffering, but it works better for balance. If you could go back with upgrades, the difficulty (base or for achievements) would either assume full upgrades (complete the campaign first or don’t bother) or not (complete the campaign first to steamroll). The player-chosen mission order (and therefore units/upgrades available) makes it hard enough to set a reasonable difficulty level.

On that “order” question, I recommend pursuing the Tychus missions whenever possible. That is the required chain, so it has the key units. Granted, that has left me playing without air-to-air much of the time, which has its drawbacks. But getting to The Dig as early as possible is very helpful: you can get the research points from the Prophecy missions about one-third of the way through the campaign.

There is an unfortunate interaction between the limited upgrade funds, the achievements, and non-retroactive upgrades. Non-retroactivity means that there cannot be a reset button; the game remembers what upgrades you had for that mission. Achievements reward buying everything. You cannot buy everything, due to limited funds. Therefore, the game rewards completing many missions without upgrading, saving, then repeatedly spending and loading to get the achievements. This is, in fact, the only way to get those without completing the campaign many times. I realized this too late to do so (those ship upgrades are expensive), so I will need at least one more play-through to get the armory achievements. Then re-load and re-play so I can have the upgrades available for playing on Hard/Brutal. This is not so much “encouraging replayability” as “being annoying for no game value or profit.” I saw the achievements for upgrades and took those to mean that I would have enough money for most/all, expecting a “benchmark” approach to achievements. Oops.

I overuse units from StarCraft I and forget about new ones. No medics in multi-player?

I like my Hercules transport. I love Banshees; they bring back the pre-Brood Wars days of sending deconstructor fleets of Guardians, only using invisibility instead of absurd range.

A few tips for The Lost Viking:

  • Having two drones is the most important thing.
  • If you wait a while before collecting the upgrades, they will cycle through the options. Get two drones, get double shots (I like the side shots over the plasma), then collect bombs.
  • There are plenty of bombs, so do not be afraid to use them.
  • Spamming the spacebar fires faster than holding it down. Get or make something to quickly and constantly fire, rather than wearing out your hand. A controller with a turbo button would be even better.

Is the survival mission a “classic” or a “retread”? I like seeing some of the StarCraft I elements repeat.

Looking back at the story of the campaign, there is not a lot of core story there. It is mostly side-stories; you could summarize the required line as “you collect artifact pieces.” They are not bad side-stories, but they are not integrated into the core because the cut scenes cannot assume that you played all the story arcs, completed them, played the Prophecy missions, played the secret mission… So some parts make less sense when you know more, because the characters do not act as though they know more. I imagine that it would have been much more work to make the later scenes take into account all the permutations.

On the choice missions, it seems that you cannot make a wrong decision. Is it a good plan to hope she can cure Zerg infestation? Sure, it is theoretically impossible, and no one has made headway in the past several years, but she’s a nice person. This will work out well.

On a related note, how did someone determine what the artifact would do? Did the Xel’Naga leave a note somewhere? Maybe Moebius already had most of the pieces and these are the last few. Still, lucky us that the Xel’naga designed something for this exact purpose!

I apparently accept instantaneous travel better than instantaneous communication. Warp drive, fine. But they have transmitters that fit in armor and work between solar systems? You would think someone would have noticed [spoiler] turned on before that brief conversation.

And about [spoiler]: is it really a spoiler when the game itself spoils it in the opening scene? You know the relevant Firefly quote here. Warning: the comments are not a spoiler-free zone.

I like the lack of hero units. StarCraft I’s anti-training for multiplayer was giving you very powerful units that looked just like the others, so you got used to having the one big Battlecruiser clear waves of enemies. StarCraft II has few heroes outside the Prophecy missions, and heroes appear as stars (with cannon fodder). Tosh’s mission is completely DotA-style.

I am told that Valerian Mengsk has a bigger part in the tie-in novels and such. (Can we call it “StarCraft Expanded Universe” yet?) This is good, because if you are just playing the game, the fully grown crown prince of a very young Dominion comes out of WTF nowhere.

The newscasts are good.

Dancing night elf. Heh.

I think I have more, but this is enough randomness. Maybe I should have used bullet points.

: Zubon

5 thoughts on “Now Playing: StarCraft II”

  1. Haven’t played it, but one of the sticking points from many comments I’ve seen is how hackneyed the dialogues and plot are.

    Can you confirm?

    1. I would not go with “hackneyed.” “Predictable” or “telegraphed” is fair. The dialogue tends to be kind of fun.

  2. I’d agree with “Predictable”, but it kind of works, in a Starcrafty way.

    I was way disappointed when I found out that my decisions meant almost nothing. Especially since I could immediately go back and play the alternative mission (in fact, I had to in order to get some extra research points).

    I actually totally saw a third “choice” coming up at the end, and I was all in favor of choosing the opposite of what Raynor chose. (trying to be vague and non-spoiler). Such was not the case and it no choice was involved.

    1. You got bonus research/cash for that? I have not tried the other Haven mission, but I did not get cash for the other side of Breakout/Ghost.

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