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The following is a collection of StarCraft II gameplay impressions from the StarCraft: Legacy staff members that attended BlizzCon 2008. Zero has had a hand at playing StarCraft II a few times by this point. Gradius and DiscipleofAdun played StarCraft II at BlizzCon 2008 for the first time. LordofAscension's comprehensive review can be found here.

Zero:

At last year's BlizzCon, the multiplayer demo of StarCraft II had been 2v2. However, this year, the multi-player was limited to 1v1 matches. Although this made things easier in regards to having a more friendly match to focus on the intricacies of each race and the individual units, it did limit the fun in more competitive matches if both players were not evenly-matched. With a 2v2, if you were hit with an early rush and weren't prepared, there was always the chance that your ally could provide assistance, but by being alone, if you did happen to survive an early attack unprepared, you were hindered for the remainder of the match, provided that you survive until the end of the time limit. Regardless, between several single-player and multi-player matches, I was able to get a good impression of how the game was working out so far. Having stuck with the Terran and early Zerg at the March 11 Zerg release at Blizzard HQ, I played my more serious matches as the Zerg and Protoss. The following describe my two more memorable matches, one as the Zerg, and the other as the Protoss.

Zerg:

For this match, I faced off against a rather quiet opponent. I was unaware of what to expect, so I chose to mass up Zerglings, Roaches and Hydralisks. Unfortunately, fate was against me in this battle. My base was on the main ground level, while opponent, a Protoss player, had been set on high ground. I scouted with a drone, and quickly found him, but my lack of common sense told me to mass up a lot of ground units rather than tech straight to air, because the cannons along the edge of his base, coupled with a small group of Zealots, annihilated my Zerglings and Roaches before they could even get to the ramp to his base. It was after this defeat that I decided to tech to air, although it was a bit late in the game. Most of my Hydralisks had survived, and I had spawned several Mutalisks only to find that my turtling opponent had warped in a Mothership. Fortunately, I was able to micro my Hydralisks and Mutalisks effectively to destroy his Mothership, but still at great cost. By the time I had spawned my next wave of troops, another Mothership appeared, this time with several Immortals and a few Void Rays, and finished the job. Had I been wiser, I would have saved my ground forces for a defense as soon as I knew my opponent was on higher ground and quickly teched to air, or have done a Zergling rush. Oh well, lessons learned, perhaps next time.

Protoss:

During BlizzCon, I had the opportunity to play PvT match with StarCraft Legacy's own DiscipleOfAdun. Going into the match, I had aimed to mass Stalkers and Void Rays, with the stalkers able to attack both ground and air effectively, holding off any early attacks, and then using the Void Rays as heavy hitters against the ground forces for my main assault on his base. Not expecting an early rush, I did a quick expansion to a resource node next to my base as I quickly built a Gateway and a Cybernetics Core to begin building my stalkers. I had put up two Photon Cannons and build one Stalker when DiscipleOfAdun sent in several Marines into my expansion. Using my single Stalker I was able to hit-and-run his Marines enough to lure them into my cannon's range. My first Stalker fell to the Marines, but not before my second Stalker appeared and finished the job. The expansion was saved, and I quickly set to build an additional gateway and more stalkers. I had chosen to limit my Stalker production in order to build a Stargate for my Void Rays, and DiscipleOfAdun took advantage of this by sending more Marines, but this time with a few Marauders. My Stalkers and cannons were able to hold off the second attack, but barely. (A noteworthy observation is the slowing attack of the Marauders. An attack on one of my Stalkers revealed that it had been slowed close to 50% of its normal movement speed.) Had DiscipleOfAdun sent a third attack party soon afterward, he would surely have won. However, he didn't, and I took advantage of this by building four Void Rays and eight Stalkers. With the Void Rays leading the attack into the front of Terran base, I was able to burn through his buildings with ease. As Marines were sent forth, my Stalkers were able to dispatch them quickly. When a few remaining Marauders appeared, I retreated the Stalkers long enough for my Void Rays to dispatch them. At the edge of my view I noticed some Vikings hovering in mid-air. I removed the Void Rays from production at one of my Stargates and set to build Phoenixes, not knowing if my Stalkers would be enough. I was able to get two Phoenixs quickly over and assisted my stalkers in eliminating the major threats to my void rays. I was able to raze DiscipleOfAdun's base in a matter of a few minutes. However, DiscipleOfAdun transformed two of his Starports into Starbases, and moved them away from his base. My two Phoenixs found the one and destroyed, but couldn't destroy the second before the time limit expired, so the game was technically a draw. It was an exciting match, and I look forward to our next one.

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Conclusion:

After playing through the StarCraft II demo several times throughout BlizzCon, I'm confident that the majority of StarCraft fans worldwide will accept StarCraft II. Although the game-play is similar, the visuals have improved greatly, and the game-play is more smooth than ever. Although there are quite a few changes that need to be made such as finalizing unit models and abilities, it is clear that Blizzard has put a lot of time and attention into StarCraft II, and if the game-play works so well, despite not being finished, there is no doubt that the end result will be incredible.

Gradius:

The biggest change going from StarCraft to StarCraft II is the 3d graphics. The vibrant and rich colors is one of the first things you notice when you start up your first game. Another thought that might pop into your head is the how much better the game looks than those grainy YouTube videos and even HD gameplay videos on StarCraft2.com. Navigating in a 3d space is easy, especially if you keep your camera angle in the standard position. The three dimensions only take some getting used to however when it comes to building placement and micromanagement. The majority of my time at BlizzCon was spent checking out the units and getting used to the feel of the game.

One game that I played was against another Terran. My opponent’s strategy was to build up a mixed force of Marines, Marauders and Hellions and send them at me in the last few minutes of the game. As far as the gas mechanic is concerned, I simply built two geysers, stacked them with peons and left them alone the rest of the game - this satisfied my economy needs for most games. Granted, I would have accumulated resources faster by managing my workers better, but that's something I planned to tackle after getting more used to this game. I began mass-producing Marines with the occasional Marauder and Hellion. I quickly gained an expansion while my opponent turtled in his base. For my first attack I took two Medivacs and loaded them with Marines and Hellions. I flew to the back of my opponents base and unloaded the units, killing some SCVs and doing some damage while my Medivacs were healing the Marines. However, my attack was quickly quelled by the huge army my opponent was keeping in his base.

First, my opponent tried to nuke my choke – but I revealed his Ghost with a Scanner Sweep and nailed it with a Siege Tank. My expansion was relatively well defended, with a Bunker, Tanks and infantry guarding the choke. In the last five minutes of the game, my opponent swarmed my expansion with his army. I was fully aware of the size of my opponent’s army, as I kept up constant Scanner Sweeps on his location. However, that availed me little, as I underestimated the power of his combined units. Ordinarily, in a StarCraft game, it felt like my opponent would have broken his teeth on my defenses, but in this case he rolled right over me. However, that could be my inexperience coming into play here. Fortunately for me, the timer ended before my opponent could reach my main.

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My main concern with StarCraft II is the lack of core units - many units are essentially support units, which is why mixed armies are now the name of the game. This causes me to wonder whether Blizzard is having more difficulty balancing StarCraft II than I originally thought. For example, some of the units I felt underwhelmed with were the Colossus, Hydralisk and Thor. With that being said, I'm generally happy with StarCraft II's development. I believe that if Blizzard gives StarCraft II a solid and thorough beta that these issues will be balanced out and StarCraft II will be a success.

DiscipleOfAdun:

Having been the first time attending a Blizzard event where StarCraft II was playable, this was more a learning experience about basic gameplay than anything else for me. Knowing that both Terran and Protoss were more completed, I took a stab at playing as Zerg my first couple of times. Even knowing they needed a lot of work, the current Zerg race feels very much like it belongs in the StarCraft universe. One of the most noticable changes was that of the Queen. No longer restricted to having just one, it was much more fitting of a Zerg unit. At the build shown, the Queen had the Creep Tumor and Mutant Larva abilities already shown. Instead of the Deep Tunnel ability from older builds, which would have been far too powerful for no longer being unique, there was a new ability called Razor Plague. This spell did damage to all units caught in it, but the interesting part of it was that the player who cast it could move it around. While I did not get much time to mess with it, the few times I did showed a lot of promise in being able to reposition the spell. While it may seem supportive of just getting the spell down and then moving it to where you need it, the limited amount of time it lasts means that the full effectiveness of the spell will be lost. More powerful is being able to keep it over a retreating force. Unlike Psi Storm, which is static and can be partially avoided, good micro will maximize the damage done by Razor Plague.

In several of my first games, I opted for an AI match to get my bearings. In particular, the ZvZ I set up early on led to some interesting views on how the mirror match may play out. Roaches were very much the backbone of both armies, and battles pitched on the edge of the creep really showed how much an influence the speed increase really is. Combined with speed upgrades for the units that have them, the Zerg really felt like a swarm moving across my screen.

However, the Zerg are far from completed. I was disappointed by how high in the tech tree the Lurker was, along with the difficulty in distinguishing it on screen. I honestly felt that more Roaches would be a better use of my money and time. In addition, the current state of the creep is not good at all. While it does support a slight animation as a subtle reminder that it is alive, the contrast with the environments is horrible to look at and can be very confusing. On several of the tile-sets, it is much too shiny and appears plastic-like. Every time I ended up on a map like that or saw someone on it, I felt as though it was too much of a distraction and hindered game-play instead of promoting it.

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My matches the second day took on a more serious approach. My opportunity playing against Zero was the first time I had ever touched the Terran race. I began rather conservatively, not knowing if I was going to be subjected to an early rush or not. However, after I began to realize that he was not going to be quickly rushing me, I spread out and sent part of my force after him. My initial attack was at his first expansion, almost exactly as he had gotten his first cannon up. With that and the ground forces I saw, I knew my force would not survive. However, I felt that a mix of marines and Maruaders, which I had been building up, would be enough to break through his defense. While possible for my units to break through, I poorly managed them and lost my force. Having not scouted far into his main, I did not know how much I had lost, and opted to hold off while I worked more on increasing my force. In retrospect, this was the turning point of the game, as I probably could have kept the attack up enough to break into his base and wipe out his economy.

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This is a StarCraft: Legacy (http://sclegacy.com/) BlizzCon 2008 feature article.

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