Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

StarCraft II Beta Impressions and Screens

By , Joseph Pishgar - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 50 comments

I'm old school RTSer.

I have fond memories of playing Warcraft II at LAN parties, struggling to get the network connection just right to allow the games to sync up with one another.I will forever remember the multiplayer setup screen theme music of Warcraft 2, with its crescendos and feverish tempo which only served to heighten the adrenaline rush of a successful connection and subsequent beat-down.

That was almost a decade ago, and Blizzard, you've come a long way, baby. I had an opportunity to sit down with the StarCraft II beta this week, and as jaded a veteran of the boom and rush as I may be, I find that it not only meets but also exceeds my expectations. Notably, StarCraft II is for the most part a graphics revamp of the original game. The tactics are still there - the tried and true zerg rush, turtling with Protoss, the pesky Terran penchant for bunkers in all the wrong places.

But Blizzard has gone further. The multiplayer interface is divine in its simplicity. Gone are the clunky machinations of uncertain matchmaking. You click, it finds you a game. The interface itself presents a seamless transition between the game and Battle.net. The prompts are informative and nearly everything takes place from one integrated, elegantly laid out screen.  Multiplayer matching is wholly painless, a welcome evolution from the days of router forwarding and IP exchanging.

My first few matches, I found myself gravitating towards my old faves-- Protoss boom, Zerg rush, staples of any old school StarCraft player. It surprised me how quickly I fell back into the old build order. After amassing what I thought was a sizable force on one map, I set out to blast my opposition's resource gathering outposts. Too late, I happened upon a plateau covered in photon cannons guarding a gold-colored outcropping of minerals.

I was obliterated in short order, and learned a stern lesson that while some things stayed the same, there were new elements to consider. Golden minerals are worth far more per chunk than regular blue ones, and so tend to provide the owner with a massive boost, although it paints them as a giant target.  Another feature worth looking out for are distractions and stealthy environmentals like smoke, which can hide enemy units. Xel'Naga towers, activated by proximity, can reveal large swaths of territory among other functions.

Auto-cast is a much welcome addition, and players who lose too many buildings find themselves revealed on the map to prevent the lonesome supply depot hidden in a corner from denying a victory. From what I've seen so far of the game, StarCraft II is set to be a quality sequel deserving of the title. Fans of the original StarCraft will find comfort in being able to jump right back in with a healthy smattering of new units and strategies to employ.

Click on thumbs to load even more pictures!

Display 50 Comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    trkorecky , February 26, 2010 11:36 PM
    What is it with RTS developers deciding that, even with the widespread use of 1680x1050 and higher resolution monitors, we should only have the ability to see a building and perhaps a handful of units on screen at the same time? Is it really that difficult to zoom the heck out or am I just spoiled by the use of my mouse wheel to zoom in Supreme Commander?

    Might as well keep playing at 640x480 or 800x600 at this rate...
  • 14 Hide
    ct1615 , February 27, 2010 12:20 AM
    imagine, a game developer focusing on game play rather then graphics, what is the world coming to?!
  • 12 Hide
    Kelavarus , February 27, 2010 1:45 AM
    Nothing you people have said is a legitimate point against zooming out farther. If EVERYONE can zoom, it doesn't make it any less competitive. In fact, it will make it more competitive by giving people a better way for larger troop movements thereby giving more strategy to the game.

    "Super Zoom" as you call it in Supreme Commander is not a gimmick. I highly doubt the kind of troop movements required by Supreme Commander could be pulled off with a camera like Starcraft's.

    So no, it's not pointless. Maybe other PEOPLE need to get their head around how it's useful.

    I will say this, Blizzard certainly has fed its loyal dogs by giving them the same formula with a few new cookies added in. Graphical Upgrade + Expansion Pack marketed as a new game ftw.
Other Comments
  • 21 Hide
    trkorecky , February 26, 2010 11:36 PM
    What is it with RTS developers deciding that, even with the widespread use of 1680x1050 and higher resolution monitors, we should only have the ability to see a building and perhaps a handful of units on screen at the same time? Is it really that difficult to zoom the heck out or am I just spoiled by the use of my mouse wheel to zoom in Supreme Commander?

    Might as well keep playing at 640x480 or 800x600 at this rate...
  • 8 Hide
    dude88yl , February 26, 2010 11:40 PM
    can tom's do some benchmarking for this game? pretty please?
  • -9 Hide
    ultraultralisk , February 26, 2010 11:43 PM
    Of course it'll see the light of day, it's insane to say that it won't. It's come so far, just look at the Beta.

    For those who weren't lucky to get into the beta right away, I was in the same boat. I hunted giveaways all around the Internet, but it was just little kids trying to get followers on their Twitter so they could brag to their mommy.

    Fortunately I did find a legitimate site a day ago. I thought it was a scam because who would really be giving away such a coveted invite, right? But when I woke up the next day, I had been e-mailed with a beta key. I thought it was a fake, but I attached it to my battle.net account and it worked!

    I think they have a bunch of beta keys left, because two of my friends who posted on the blog got theirs too, so if you want to try your luck for the Starcraft 2 beta keys then the URL is here:

    http://starcraft2betainvites.blogspot.com

    Good luck guys, I want to see more people who got their keys for free, and less who paid $300 for them.
  • -8 Hide
    Anonymous , February 27, 2010 12:08 AM
    Hmm.
  • -6 Hide
    Anonymous , February 27, 2010 12:08 AM
    Graphics look pretty terrible. I guess that's why it's still beta.
  • 0 Hide
    victomofreality , February 27, 2010 12:19 AM
    This game is so close I can taste it! I was beginning to believe it was going the way of duke nukem.
  • 14 Hide
    ct1615 , February 27, 2010 12:20 AM
    imagine, a game developer focusing on game play rather then graphics, what is the world coming to?!
  • 5 Hide
    scook9 , February 27, 2010 12:33 AM
    I do not see what you are all complaining about with the graphics...it is an RTS not Crysis....this is leaps and bounds past blizzard's past RTS games and their engines

    And the effects from attacks and spells are awesome
  • -7 Hide
    IzzyCraft , February 27, 2010 12:35 AM
    trkoreckyWhat is it with RTS developers deciding that, even with the widespread use of 1680x1050 and higher resolution monitors, we should only have the ability to see a building and perhaps a handful of units on screen at the same time? Is it really that difficult to zoom the heck out or am I just spoiled by the use of my mouse wheel to zoom in Supreme Commander?Might as well keep playing at 640x480 or 800x600 at this rate...

    Camera height is important such as camera position it's why you cant rotate left and right and hold it there, blizz is making the game for competitive rts. =p

    Anyways 640x480 800x600 you'd get screwed the game shows the most at 16:9 resolutions the least at 5:4 resolutions and
    16:9>15:9>16:10>4:3>5:4 in terms of viewable area.

    In other words you're just spoiled, also there is a benefit to getting high resolution images and models look cleaner at higher resolutions because the game is in 3d =p
  • 3 Hide
    IzzyCraft , February 27, 2010 12:38 AM
    dude88ylcan tom's do some benchmarking for this game? pretty please?

    game plays on ultra pretty well at all resolutions around the power of a 4870/5770/260 and above.

    although i should point out that there has been graphics bugs with some of the 58xx series something about minerals disappearing for no reason at random times, it low numbers of this happening and mostly in CF set ups but it's an odd bug none the less.
  • 0 Hide
    Gin Fushicho , February 27, 2010 12:43 AM
    trkoreckyWhat is it with RTS developers deciding that, even with the widespread use of 1680x1050 and higher resolution monitors, we should only have the ability to see a building and perhaps a handful of units on screen at the same time? Is it really that difficult to zoom the heck out or am I just spoiled by the use of my mouse wheel to zoom in Supreme Commander?Might as well keep playing at 640x480 or 800x600 at this rate...


    I agree wholeheartedly.
  • 0 Hide
    Shadow703793 , February 27, 2010 12:46 AM
    trkoreckyWhat is it with RTS developers deciding that, even with the widespread use of 1680x1050 and higher resolution monitors, we should only have the ability to see a building and perhaps a handful of units on screen at the same time? Is it really that difficult to zoom the heck out or am I just spoiled by the use of my mouse wheel to zoom in Supreme Commander?Might as well keep playing at 640x480 or 800x600 at this rate...

    Agreed, and here I was hoping to give an RTS (haven't played an RTS for like...ever. It's been mostly Cod4, Halo CE and Crysis for me) for a try with an Eyefinity set up....
  • 1 Hide
    jlefebre6001 , February 27, 2010 12:46 AM
    got a beta key last week, have been playing the hell out of it. if anyone else is on and wants to add me, my names analbumcover.noobcannon. also got some gameplay on youtube. the game is amazing by the way.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEW-fy9m9IM
  • 1 Hide
    trinix , February 27, 2010 1:30 AM
    Sure gameplay is important, but don't forget graphics. Oldschool gameplay like warcraft, warcraft2, dune2, C&C are all fine, but do you really want to play them now? With their graphics. Maybe for a trip down memory lane, but really.

    And why does giving more information make the game cheap or easy? The ability to zoom adds strategy and tactics. You have more info, but your opponent too. The ability to deal with and come up with new ways to get around more info is the work of a dev. Not just dump it down and say, this is what you get because we don't know how to make the game more fun if you can see more.

    There are plenty of tricks that are known and unknown to them to make the game more interesting with showing more.

    The graphics aren't too great and it really hurts. But don't worry, the computers China is throwing away can play them. And the person who asked for a benchmark, it runs perfect on any system bought after 2005.
  • -3 Hide
    phexac , February 27, 2010 1:30 AM
    trkoreckyWhat is it with RTS developers deciding that, even with the widespread use of 1680x1050 and higher resolution monitors, we should only have the ability to see a building and perhaps a handful of units on screen at the same time? Is it really that difficult to zoom the heck out or am I just spoiled by the use of my mouse wheel to zoom in Supreme Commander?Might as well keep playing at 640x480 or 800x600 at this rate...


    They keep the game locked to a certain maximum zoom to preserve the sort of gameplay that made SC:BW the best RTS out there by far, the only real e-sports RTS, and the game still played by tens of thousands of people every day. In the meantime, Supreme Commanander with its super zoom is just a gimmick with horrid gameplay that is barely played by anyone. Zooming out for its own sake is pointless. Everything that goes into the game needs to improve gameplay. Unfortunately this is something most companies other than Blizzard can't get their heads around.
  • 12 Hide
    Kelavarus , February 27, 2010 1:45 AM
    Nothing you people have said is a legitimate point against zooming out farther. If EVERYONE can zoom, it doesn't make it any less competitive. In fact, it will make it more competitive by giving people a better way for larger troop movements thereby giving more strategy to the game.

    "Super Zoom" as you call it in Supreme Commander is not a gimmick. I highly doubt the kind of troop movements required by Supreme Commander could be pulled off with a camera like Starcraft's.

    So no, it's not pointless. Maybe other PEOPLE need to get their head around how it's useful.

    I will say this, Blizzard certainly has fed its loyal dogs by giving them the same formula with a few new cookies added in. Graphical Upgrade + Expansion Pack marketed as a new game ftw.
  • 2 Hide
    kevinqx , February 27, 2010 2:14 AM
    I don't like being locked into a close up zoom level. It's denying me functionality that I enjoy having. If there are people who don't like the ability to zoom in and out, don't use it.

    Just let the rest of us play the game how we want.
  • -1 Hide
    thegreathuntingdolphin , February 27, 2010 2:32 AM
    Wow, after 10 years I thought the graphics would look, well, good.
  • 1 Hide
    requiemsallure , February 27, 2010 2:38 AM
    I'm a huge fan of blizzard... starcraft is my #1 game of all time... at the same time though that means im going to be that much harder on SC2. Its looking great so far blizzard! please please easily exceed my expectations. these are my hopes anyway.

    what are you people talking about the graphics are perfect for the game. first of all blizzard isnt trying to make the game unplayable to certain audiances, blizzard makes games that anyone can play, that will run on anyones computer.
Display more comments