Well gamers, the cat is out of the bag. Rob Pardo, Blizzard's Vice President of Game Design, announced on Friday at BlizzCon 2008 that StarCraft 2 will be released as a Trilogy. This is sure to extend the domination of the game in the market, and could open the doors for StarCraft 2 to truly top its predecessor. While the news of the StarCraft 2 Trilogy has ensured a long chain of single player goodies like extended in-game cinematics and pre-rendered drool - err - cut scenes, we still don't know much about the actual single player gameplay. What we do have our eyes set on is the multiplayer portion which is continuing to develop.
Along with a few thousand other users, we got a chance to sit down and play with the latest public build and now it's time to give the critique. I think one sentence really sums up our opinion of the game: this is not the original StarCraft. The game is different in a number of ways, and every build has its own unique identity. Every build is different and has different problems, but it still helps to give perspective, so let's grade this particular build compared to the others. May 2007: B-, March 2008: B+, WWI June 2008: A-, BlizzCon October 2008: B-. Why such a low score for the BlizzCon build? Nope, it's not on a bell curve. It's because the Zerg have gone backward.
The Zerg felt very strong as far as development progress at WWI in Paris and at PAX 2008, but suddenly at BlizzCon we've seen a reverse in some of the unit progress. While still the blood-pumping, fast-action race, the Queen is no longer a unique unit, and the Infestor caster has lost much of its punch with the lack of the ability that lends its name: infest. The Queen's a lot of fun to play with now but somehow doesn't feel as special as when she was one-of-a-kind.
Meanwhile a measure of finesse has been introduced with the Zerg in contrast with their usual rough-and-tumble style. With the Overlord's Creep-generating ability combined with Creep's ability to due damage to enemy structures and increase the speed of Zerg units by 30%, Creep is now a very potent weapon for the Zerg as far as controlling the map and supporting their units. This is good news for players who love the purple gooey since now you can literally coat the landscape with it. Unconquered worlds are now literally a blank canvas. Perhaps the largest problem with the Zerg, though, is that they still lack a transport unit except for the Nydus Worm which offers only late-game transportation.
The Protoss are definitely the most finished and user-friendly race of the three. Their Colossus is still formidable although weaker than we've seen previously, and the Mothership is a powerful unit with its new Vortex ability that immobilizes units. And there's definitely an entertainment value in using the Time Bomb ability to stop bullets in their tracks. However, some of the abilities we have seen the past have been moved around a bit. For instance, can't hit a building with your air-only Phoenix? No problem. Lift it off the ground and pummel it with its anti-gravity ability borrowed from the Nullifier (an early game caster) which now has.
Lastly the Terran have shown leaps and bounds of improvement. If you're a fan of smash and bash, this is definitely the new race for you. The Terran Reapers are the new kids on the block and probably the most fun in SC2. Their D-8 charges are just a grand ole time. I can also tell you they're rather annoying from the enemy point of view. It's bad enough to have the little buggers jumping off cliffs to run away, but leaving behind bombs? Terrorists! The mighty Thor is still a powerful anti-air unit and, perhaps most importantly, the Battlecruiser and Nighthawk (the artist formerly known as Nomad) have gotten a makeover. Masses of the traditional Siege Tank still give satisfying thunder and definitely have bite.
Now that we've left the conference, put on a fresh pair of pants (Blizzard should have handed out Depends during the gameplay panel), and taken a fresh look, it still seems that StarCraft 2 will soon be on its way to a shelf near you, or perhaps three shelves. I'm not sure game retailers will have enough shelf space for the whole trilogy.
Jonathan Tietz is the admin for StarCraft2Forum.org and will be updating the latest news from Blizzcon with the Escapist and WarCry teams!