Friday 16 April, 2010 22:15
I’ve been continuing to participate in the STARCRAFT II beta, generally getting in a few matches each day and playing with different strategies. After a lengthy stretch playing Protoss almost exclusively, I’ve found myself gravitating back towards Terran, who were my race of choice in the original STARCRAFT. The “human” races often have a reputation for being the least interesting in strategy games, and it’s certainly true that the Terrans lack the mystique of the Protoss or the sheer “ick” factor of the Zerg. However, the redneck space cowboys have considerably more in the way of a unique personality than, say, the Allies in RED ALERT, with their southern drawl, hybrid country/techno soundtrack and mobile base mechanic. The latter separates them from the two other races, both of which are unable to move their buildings and are restricted to placing them in relatively pre-determined locations (Protoss buildings must be powered by a Pylon or Warp Prism; Zerg buildings must be constructed on the goo-like Creep). Constructing a new Command Center in the comfort of your existing base and then flying it out to its intended location is infinitely safer than building it in unsecured territory.
The Terrans also have what is arguably the coolest of the new units - a low level ranged unit called the Reaper, which moves very fast and can leap up and down cliffs. Perfect for staging early game hit and run attacks, there’s nothing quite like running half a dozen Reapers into your enemy’s base via the back door and decimating their line of workers while their combat units are busy guarding the front ramp. Of course, like all units in STARCRAFT II, Reapers have their shortcomings: they die extremely quickly to enemy fire, and if you’re quick enough to pull off a surround on them, even worker units can dispatch them pretty quickly. In many respects, though, their volatility is what makes them so much fun to play.
Another really nice addition to the Terran army is the Medivac, which combines the roles of Medic and Dropship from the original game, both transporting units and automatically healing them. Again, this has major implications for back door attacks on enemy bases, and I just finished a very enjoyable game in which I loaded four Medivacs up with a combination of stim-packed Marines and Marauders (a heavy-hitting ground-only unit with an optional upgrade to slow enemy units with each hit) and flew around the map, performing hit and run tactics on my Zerg opponent’s various bases until he/she was forced to concede defeat. This so-called MMM combo is extremely popular with Terran players, and rightly so: it appears to be very difficult for an unprepared opponent to counter.
Another big factor is the change to how terrain works in STARCRAFT II, chiefly detection. In STARCRAFT, enemy units on higher ground were invisible to friendly units on lower ground until they actually attacked, at which point they became visible, allowing the player to retaliate, albeit with reduced damage. In STARCRAFT II, units on higher ground remain invisible and unassailable unless you can either bring in a flying unit or get one of your own units on to the higher ground. Once the enemy is visible, you can attack for full damage. Until then, though, you’re basically a sitting duck, as my opponent found out in this game on the ever-popular Lost Temple map (first introduced in the original STACRAFT and remade for both WARCRAFT III and its expansion, and now STARCRAFT II), when I flew some Marines, Marauders and a couple of Siege Tanks on to the raised ground above his natural expansion and proceeded to lay waste to his mining operation, all the while with his large army of ground units simply standing there unable to do anything to stop me. With no flying or detecting units whatsoever, my opponent was completely powerless and simply had to admit defeat.
In case you couldn’t tell, I like this game. A LOT. Is it the greatest strategy game ever created? I suppose only time will tell, but for the time being I have no interest in playing anything else.