It's the music that accompanies the destruction that makes StarCraft II kick lumps of awesomeness out of every real-time strategy game ever created. Particularly, the Terran music. When you've got five Marauders, a few flamethrower-packing Hellions, and, of course, as many Siege Tanks as your minerals and gas resource will allow, all marching towards impending doom, and that hard rock riff kicks in as if the game somehow knows that, very soon, there will be blood and guts and the clash of metal and plasma, the hairs on the back of your neck don't just stand on end, they shoot out of you like deadly spikes. For this reason, you should play StarCraft II alone.
Actually, you shouldn't. You should most definitely play StarCraft II with other people. This, as I've discovered over the last fortnight, is happening right now, via the new and improved Battle.net, which is currently acting as a gateway to the StarCraft II closed beta. The experience has been a largely punishing one: I've had my virtual arse served to me on a virtual platter so many times now, that I fear I may not have much virtual arse left. Still, I can't help but keep trying. As Chumbawamba said, "I get knocked down, and I get up again".
The thing is, when it comes to StarCraft II, and indeed all RTS games, there is definitely someone better than you. Really, it was silly to think otherwise, as if the ten long years since the release of the first game have somehow resulted in a resetting of everyone's skills. Hah. If only. StarCraft II is of course a different game to its predecessor, but the fundamentals, the basics, the stuff that works, are the same. It's like riding a bike, isn't it?
So, when Battle.net sends the little matchmaking fairies out to find an appropriate opponent for your woeful skill level for the very first time, and the little countdown at the top of the screen begins its inexorable journey to zero, make sure you brace yourself for a flying kick to the balls.
This is my experience, anyway. I've always been more interested in the single-player components of RTS games, and have a keen eye on what the all-mighty Blizzard will do with StarCraft II in this respect. But the StarCraft II beta isn't about single-player. It's about multiplayer, and competitive multiplayer at that.
This is the thing: for loads and loads of RTS fans, multiplayer is a no-go, because it's just not that much fun. You will lose - no doubt at the hands of someone who has perfected their build order to within a millisecond of its life, and can input 70 commands in the blink of an eye. These people aren't so much people, but android spawn of DATA and D.A.R.Y.L., and the beginnings of Skynet and the nuclear destruction of the WORLD! Ahem…
So, I had some hope that somehow Blizzard had worked out a way to make competitive multiplayer a less intimidating place for the likes of me: genuine fans who understand how RTS games work and love how they play, but aren't good enough to get any enjoyment from going up against real life human beings as opposed to forgiving AI. This is a problem that has plagued the genre for years. Will StarCraft II bring with it an answer? Is there even one?