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StarCraft II • Page 2

The new adventures of old faithful.

It's a testament to the powerful personalities of StarCraft II's unit designs that any discussion of the new game is endlessly, inexorably drawn to them, despite their simplicity. The Zerg Queen, one-off base defender with several abilities and the potential to grow to larger size, is the new star, alongside the giant (now slightly less giant) Protoss mothership that Blizzard revealed early last year. These have some of the long-term potency and complexity of Warcraft III's quasi-RPG Hero units, but fundamentally, says Browder, the game is too fast to support massive unit depth.

However, the sheer number and creative breadth of those units, and the cascading, cumulative decisions you make when building and upgrading your force on each map, still lends StarCraft II's three races a strong sense of individualism. The Terrans have undergone the most sweeping changes, he says. "The Terrans used to be very methodical in their approach; you build bunkers, you build siege tanks, you advance. You consume the map. Terrans now have Vikings, they have Banshees, they have Reapers, they have dropships that heal people, they're like Terran air cavalry now, you never know where they're going to be next. That's a very different strategic approach."

But we're here to see the Zerg, the race of kamikaze mutant bio-weapons that to a large extent defined the original StarCraft, with their involved expansion system, tunnelling ability and hell-bent charges with overwhelming numbers of cannon-fodder. Despite the addition of some striking new units - especially the Corruptors and Infestors that turn the enemy's air units and bases against it - it hasn't had such a major overhaul, for fear of losing that distinctive personality.

"Dustin says, which is totally true: on paper, in the original StarCraft, Zerg shouldn't even be in the game," says Sigaty. "They're too weird, they're too complex, you have to select the hatchery then select the larvae then morph units, and it doesn't work anything like the others. On paper it's really confusing and weird, but it worked."

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Here we see some Zerg going upside some Terran heads.

"I think it still stands out," agrees Browder. "People still call it 'zerging' in WOW when you rush a base in Alterac Valley. It's important that we get it right and that they still speak to some of the core mechanics. So we kept the larvae, and we kept the speed, they're still the fastest race out there just in a footrace. That's been very important to us." He reluctantly admits to the Zerg being his personal favourite, at least in the first game. "I guess in the original I probably favoured Zerg. Just because I like playing the monsters. You know, power to the Horde, and all that."

As much as the game's races dominate the attention, if StarCraft has an unsung hero, he says, it's the maps. "Map design absolutely controls how fun this game is. More so, in some ways, than the units and the structures. Even without the map mechanics we've added... you can make a game that's no fun for two out of the three races right away just by bad map design. I would say right now, out of the 15 or 16 maps we currently have in the game, there's about four or five, maybe six, that are actually kind of fun. The rest are not so great."

A perfect example of Blizzard's legendary perfectionism, there. Although the game is already extremely polished and playable - and has been since BlizzCon last year - there is clearly still a mountain to climb before it can meet the studio's endlessly high expectations of itself. Holding your breath for a release date announcement is only slightly less inadvisable than holding your breath for the release itself.

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