Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Posts Tagged ‘Starcraft 2’

Updates: Everything’s Fine, Situation Normal

Posted by deckard47 on August 17, 2010

The Blacktooth Keep! SO SCARY.

The Blacktooth Keep! SO SCARY.

I’m fantastically busy, so I thought I’d touch on the various (exciting) things that I’ve been doing recently.

I’ve been playing a ton of fantasy-y, TBS games recently, like King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame – The Saxons (see, y’all this is why you don’t have a long silly name with a colon for your game), King’s Bounty: The Legend (again!), and Dawn of War 2. That last isn’t really a fantasy game, but A) it’s pretty damn close, and B) it’s a lot of fun. I’ve also been playing Risen (let’s pause as some of our regular readers make ugly faces and go somewhere else), and I just re-installed both Divinity 2: Ego Draconis (Aaaah!), and Stalker: Call of Pripyat.

So, really, there are just too many damn colons in videogame names. Returning to these games, I’m struck (sometimes for the first time, often for the somethingth time) by how all of them have interesting, different-feeling worlds and tones (aside from DoW 2, which couldn’t be more conventional if it had tried). Risen may be Fantasy, but it’s weirdly depressing, rainy jungle isle, pseudo Eropean Inquisition and horrible repression Fantasy, which appeals to me. It’s also as awful and difficult as it always was, which still appeals to me. Divinity 2 is not quite as bleak, but it’s Fantasy stuff is still pretty unique, if not (when examined alone) particularly memorable. The leveling system is a bunch of fun though, so I’ll wend my way back through it, if only to make annoying comments about it to Simon when I see him next.

Dawn of War 2 is only up on that list because I was driven to it by Starcraft 2 (more on that later). It’s less offensive narratively, and for all of the tricks up Blizzard’s sleeve gameplay-wise, Chaos Throne‘s loot and excellent squad play are the more exciting brand of RTS, for me. When’s the next one, Relic?!

Epic. But not an RTS.

Epic. But not an RTS.

King’s Bounty and King Arthur are both vibrant and, but Arthur really nails a kind of creepy, Old World-y approach to fantasy in the British Isles that games don’t give a shit about. I love deciding whether or not my king will spread Christianity or worship the old gods. In the Saxons it’s easier to go Christian, but in the original game paganism is by far the more amusing option. King’s Bounty is well known for its bright, exciting world (full of weird quests worded weirdly), but Arthur‘s England is about a million times more verdant and lush than the real thing (even it’s Winters and Autumns seem more full of life). Plus, you can recruit ogres!

I suspect I’m going to be writing a bunch about King Arthur and King’s Bounty. Both games I’ve played through, in another life, though I’m playing the Armored Princess expansion to KB, and The Saxons expansion to KA, so they’re new games, honest. I also suspect that this hypothetical article will be about games that mess up their play with story crap, and that it’ll be on Game Set Watch, so that’ll be exciting.

Speaking of which, I’ve a new column up at Game Set Watch, about Starcraft 2 and its wretched story (duh), and how it does more to mess with the surprisingly entertaining Single Player gameplay than you’d initially expect. An excerpt here, for consumption:

When I have to sit and watch my units talk, I accept that the single player portion of the game needs a reason, a purpose, for all of that toing and froing (more properly, gamers need these things). Likewise, there’s a certain pleasure to be had in watching quick mission briefings: I’m a commander, and commanders get briefed, or brief people, right? Starcraft 2 goes ahead and makes a significant portion of Wings of Liberty about upgrading a dude’s sweet ship, and about upgrading ingame assets using resources (rather incomprehensibly) earned from previous ingame missions.

Starcraft 2’s upgrade mechanics are mostly lifted from upgrades previously available ingame in Starcraft. If you want your marines to have stimpacks, or want to build medics without having to build a Barracks add-on, you must unlock those capabilities in the Armory. Percentage upgrades to damage and race-specific combat (damage to Zerg only, for instance) can be unlocked using research points collected in the field, and the lab lets players upgrade their forces using alien technology. It’s all here in the beautiful Hyperion, and it means that I’ve spent hours outside of the game proper fiddling with NPCs and upgrades.

Right. It’s pretty awful, and it makes the game bits worse, in a somewhat unavoidable way. The whole post, linked here.

Mafia 2… The music is all purty and old timey, the suits are so crisp, and the gunplay is a sight better than that which is provided us by Rockstar’s various megahits. The acting and writing (in the demo alone) are also better than GTA and RDR‘s affected junk.

That’s it. More on the Kings of fantasy strategy soon?

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Posted in Impressions, Random | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Impressions: Starcraft 2 is a Great Starcraft Game and a Crappy Relic Game

Posted by deckard47 on July 27, 2010

Look, an UNCLEAN Planet!

Look, an UNCLEAN Planet!

Hey, it’s Starcraft 2! My brother and I went to a midnight opening last night (the whole affair was incredibly creepy, as one would expect things to be when one mixes Best Buy and the eager, bedraggled young Starcraft devotees of Connecticut), figuring we’d get it out of our system overnight, and be able to get back to work the next day. Of course, it’s 4pm here, and we’ve only now stopped playing. It’s basically the same game, but fancier (in many ways). I’m still awful at it, and the late game especially is opaque to me, as the super units are so rarely used that when I do buy one, I’m paralyzed by indecision. What is a giant walking robot good for? Apparently, dying in a hail of gunfire.

It looks very pretty, even close up. The single player storyline is massively stupid, just as you’d expect. Jim Raynor spends most of his screen time trying to decide whether to ape Mal, Han, or (awfully) Marcus Fenix. He’s not interesting or convincing, no matter which hat he’s wearing. That’s entirely irrelevant. Starcraft 2 is the same game as Starcraft in many ways, but it’s designed with more than one kind of gamer in mind, and it’s designed (often) with me in mind: I’m completely useless at remembering build tress, stats, potential build orders, and the best responses to sudden assaults.

In Starcraft, whenever I ventured online to stick my neck out for a stranger’s ax, the reasons for my inevitable loss were mostly opaque to me. Starcraft 2 takes everything about every match and makes it transparent and accessible (after the fact, via graphs and replay). I can watch every click, every decision my enemy made, and hopefully learn from them. The game’s still mind-bogglingly hard, for a gamer like me. I’m not smart enough, adaptable enough, and creative enough to win all but the most simple of skirmishes (with the least capable of opponents).

I got nothing

I got nothing

I do enjoy playing it, mostly because it’s pretty, the campaign and achievements are distracting, and it feels “new” again, something Starcraft hasn’t felt like in ages. The heart of the game, the multiplayer is still fast and fun and often impossible to follow. The only other RTS’s I’ll allow myself to play are those made by Relic. They’re more measured, meticulous affairs, for me, at least. Those games allow me to turtle a bit more, they allow me to build up my strength as I might in an RPG. It’s nice to come back to a game that is more about mastering an intricate set of tools, even if I’m incapable of mastering said tools.

There is, oddly, a bolted-on bit of a progression/upgrade mechanic in Starcraft 2. Raynor can visit his lab, armory, and bar (on-board his ship) and buy upgrades for his troops. These are mostly small things (increased health, say), but they’re also upgrades that used to be purchasable in the first game. Your marines won’t have stimpacks until you buy those stimpacks in the armory, for instance. This means that as you progress through the campaign, your armies gain in strength and breadth of ability. It also encourages retroactive mastery of particularly hard single player missions. If you can’t get all of the achievements for one mission, you can always go back when your medics are stronger, more powerful healers. It adds a little something to the straight-up Starcraft gameplay, but it feels a bit off. It’s as if different abilities and items could have been ingame, once-a-match upgrades, but were slotted into the meta/upgrade mechanic because it gave the game a more “full” or RPG-like feel. It’s much less enticing, much less immediately effective and exciting, than the progression mechanics available in Warcraft 3, Blizzard’s last RTS.

In Warcraft 3, items and skills leveled up over the course of each mission: items and skills were all optional; I upgraded what I could, what I wanted, but it felt like I was making interesting decisions for my character, making him or her change in exciting, powerful ways. Starcraft 2‘s upgrade mechanics just feels as if they were carted over from the single player campaign proper, refashioned to look like some kind of persistent mechanic, when they’re nothing of the sort. None of these abilities are game-changers: as I mentioned before, they’re the same powers you used to be able to upgrade at the machine shop. There aren’t any trees, paths, or upgrade decisions (you’ll never cut off one avenue of progression because you followed another, as far as I can tell). There’s no choice, no loss or equivalent gain, not yet. It’s almost entirely meaningless. It’s an excuse for Raynor to wander around talking to people (which might have been neat if they weren’t all boring and silly), and sway back and forth, idling in bars, on bridges, and in cargo bays.

Only space-pimps dress like this, have muscles like this, and sport ROCKING hair like this.

Only space-pimps dress like this, have muscles like this, and sport ROCKING hair like this.

Obviously Blizzard didn’t want to turn Starcraft 2 into an RPG. They’re taking Warcraft in that direction, and it’s an interesting direction, to be sure. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t continue to make Starcraft the deep building/combat strategy game that it is. It’s just strange that they excised these bits and pieces of the game (for the single player campaign, that is) and tacked them back on in such an obviously, unfortunately ineffectual fashion. I still like leveling things up, but I can tell when I’m making choices and when I’m unlocking the next node on my “upgrade” tree, following the path laid out for me. This isn’t an RPG, it isn’t even whatever Company of Heroes and Dawn of War have become. It’s Starcraft mark 2. Were they worried that might not be enough? At least the menu, web/game interface, and learning tools attached to Starcraft 2 feel like organic extensions of the original game’s powerful Battle.net interface and mod tools. They work, and they make the game immensely fun (much more fun than it would be if it were delivered by the bare-bones Starcraft menu and UI). I’m looking forward to the next two portions of Starcraft 2 (although I’m not happy about what a huge, obvious scam this all is… I just paid 60$ for 1/3 of a game), but sure as hell hope I’m not upgrading my Zerglings in the Spwaning Pool research bay, or buying new armor for my Zealots at the Sexy Protoss Night Club. That would be even sillier than Jim Raynor’s bulging muscles and Sexy, Sexy facial hair.

[PS: In Starcraft 2, the media is controlling things. It doesn’t want the public to know things! The douchey newscaster totally cuts off the reporter in the field who’s a real human being! I half expected The Voice of the Agency to appear and tell me that Bangers were headed my way. It’s incredibly juvenile. There aren’t any hawt chicks yet, but there have to be, right? Otherwise the game would implode.]

[PPS: Also, SWEET Soft Outer Space Rock is still the name of the game in the Starcraft 2 universe. That, along with the game’s constant cribbing from 80’s Sci Fi and action movies (along with the painfully uncreative theft of almost all of Firefly’s tone and setting) makes for a depressing, 80’s vibe that never lets. Really, they just needed Tom Cruise to star as Jim Raynor, and the effect would be complete.]

Posted in Impressions | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

I Wish I Enjoyed This

Posted by deckard47 on March 10, 2008

Way too much work right now, which is why I’ve been gone for however long it is. Here is a new Starcraft 2 video, showing us the Zerg. Cool. I wish I could get worked up, but right now I just want to write more about Sectarianism. And Lebanon. On a lighter note, Darkstar One is all kinds of fun. I’m still upgrading my ship, and I get the feeling that I’m not at all far into the game. More later.

Posted in Darkstar One, Starcraft 2, Videos | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Grizzly Guys

Posted by deckard47 on January 31, 2008

I didn’t get really excited by the original Starcraft (to be honest, I could never beat the Protoss/Zerg campaigns, which pissed me off), except when I need an easily acquired, low-requirement PC RTS to throw around. Anyway, the new game looks very nice (although I won’t be able to run it), as do these screens. Jimmy is back? Will he be rude and sexually suggestive? If so, he’ll be 100 times better than most of you internet criminals. (thanks to Kotaku for the pictures)

Posted in Screens, Starcraft 2 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »