And crikey, taking the game for a spin online can be a bit of an uphill struggle. Multiplayer is a fast affair, epitomising the virtues of the rush and solid micromanagement. Playing the game can have a severe effect on your brain, and a couple of hours spent in multiplayer can be a genuinely exhausting process. There's a lot to do, and even more to observe, and you'll need to learn your hotkeys and invest a large amount of your time into practicing the basics to scrape even a single victory, but the satisfaction derived from winning is immense - an intense rush of accomplishment and satisfaction that puts almost all other online games to shame.
Blizzard try and extend the olive branch to beginners by way of an unranked practice league and an effective system of bucketing players into skill-based ladders, but the level of competition is high and these tools will only benefit players who've already decided to commit to learning the intricacies of the game. It's not an easy ride.
As expected, the new units have shaken up the dynamic of the three races from the original. Fans of quick rush tactics have taken an initial fancy to the Terran Reapers, for instance, who can jump up cliffs and cause endless problems by harassing the opponent's harvesting units, and a well-executed MMM (marines, marauders and medivac dropships) strategy can cause endless problems to the Protoss or a Zerg opponent focusing on a Roach rush. I’m primarily a Terran player, but new and established strategies are equally prevalent for the other two races.
It's here, in multiplayer, that you realise the sheer amount of strategic finery the game exhibits. Other RTS games have been able to have a jolly good crack at strong single-player campaigns - notably Relic's efforts with Homeworld, Company of Heroes and Dawn of War - but no other developer has been able to devote the time and resources to creating and balancing such a strong multiplayer experience. Even WarCraft III, Blizzard's last RTS, didn't come close.
The decision to region lock the servers might cause problems if any Europeans fancy playing with North Americans (in tournaments, for instance) or vice versa, requiring players to import copies of the game and setup multiple profiles to access inter-continental play. It's one of the controversial decisions Blizzard has taken with their revamped Battle.Net service, the most notable of which being how the game uses your real name to identify you online. While the system is certainly efficient and technically impressive, such demands can be a little off-putting. It shouldn't detract anybody from the quality of the game, however.
Both the single and multiplayer parts of StarCraft II have legs, and each stand strong on their own: combine them in one package and you're getting an awful lot of game for your money. StarCraft II can be daunting, distressing and demanding but it's one of the richest and most expertly produced video games of recent years. StarCraft II is a shot in the arm for the RTS genre, filling a void that's been left dormant for far too long - about 12 years, actually. StarCraft is dead. Long live StarCraft.
VideoGamer.com Score10 Score out of 10
- Compelling campaign and multiplayer
- Incredible depth
- The genre at its peak
- Region locking is a bit of an annoyance