PAX 2008 and Starcraft II Impressions

4 Sep

When Brian Crecente walked by while I was waiting in line for registration at PAX, I really wanted to say something intelligent or witty, something professional even.  So I was a little confused, as was he, when the words that came out of my mouth were “Brian Crecente!”, to which he responded with a forced smile and a wave.  Oh well, I bet he gets that a lot.  Or he doesn’t, and I need to calm down — but how do you go about greeting internet superstars?  It’s beyond me.

So yes, I attended PAX this year and there was more to it than crazed fandom.  At one point on the show floor I had to make a choice: stand in line for hours to play Left 4 Dead, or stand in line for hours to play Starcraft II.  I hate standing in lines, so both these choices were horrible, but I figured by the time Starcraft II is released I would be an old man, so I jumped on it.  And I’d like to address the complaint I heard from many a passer by, “It looks nice but they didn’t change anything!”.  Well, that’s about half right.

While I was waiting to get my hands on it I had the chance to see countless others try out every race and build just about every unit, I suppose to see what the new ones were like.  So when I stepped up and selected the Terrans I decided I would play an actual game, to see how it feels.  

I usually bunker rush when playing the Terrans, so suffice to say I finished well before the twenty minute time limit, which made me kind of sad.  But off I went, sending one of my SCV’s to find the enemy base and start building a barracks and then a bunker.  It should be no surprise that I was able to jump in with a Starcraft I strategy and pull it off — they kept it close enough to the original that I didn’t have to relearn anything — but it did feel different.  

In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Starcraft II is a faster game because of how they’ve simplified the tech tree progression.  They’ve removed a lot of the clutter involved when teching up, for instance once I had my Zerg foe crippled I decided to build a nuke, and it turns out that the building required to build Ghosts now doubles as a nuke silo.  Also of note are the Mauraders; heavy infantry that fire what looked like canister rounds.  They’re no replacement for Firebats, but one or two really beefed up my attack group, which got wiped out at first because of an angry Queen and some Zerglings.  But it was nothing a bunker and some micromanagement couldn’t fix, and soon enough my marines were ventillating lots of squishy drones and buildings.  And before I forget, Zerg buildings now produce a bunch of tiny, gross beasties that will swarm attackers.  Something a few poor Marines would have liked to know about before volunteering to stand in the front.

So yeah, it’s quite different, but it has just enough of ‘the same’ that they haven’t tarnished the formula that makes the game great (I’m looking at you, Tribes: Vengeance).  It’s all minutiae that only fans will recognize as vital or revolutionary within the formula, but it’s all there.

And “pretty”?  Oh no, it looks just beautiful.  Zerg Creep looks absolutely disgusting and has a sickly sheen to it, while the new character portraits are nothing short of spectacular.  I could click on a Terran building all day and watch the avatar’s face whirl and flip open for hours.

P.S. Next year I’ll bring my camera so you’ll have some pretty pictures to glance at.  I wasn’t planning on blogging about this PAX at all, but here we are!


4 Responses to “PAX 2008 and Starcraft II Impressions”

  1. McElroy Flavelle September 4, 2008 at 7:58 pm #

    How was PAX overall? I heard lots of complaints about lineups etc. Was it worth attending?

  2. nickhalme September 4, 2008 at 8:10 pm #

    If you’re not there to get your hands on some game you would kill for, you’ll hate it. They weren’t ready for 50,000 people (from last year’s 20,000) so it may improve next year, but it was a glut. It’s a lot of unwarranted waiting, so unless you’re really fervent you’ll come away a bit disappointed.

  3. Osama September 11, 2008 at 2:44 am #

    Thanks for the heads-up Nick! I’ve been watching for Star Craft news like crazy and your post actually gave some insight I haven’t seen anywhere else!


  1. Inside Vancouver Film School - Dispatches from PAX - September 5, 2008

    […] is now posting his very detailed impressions on the games he scored hands-on time with. Including Starcraft II. So, yeah – worth reading. Posted in: Game Design « Previous post   Recent Posts […]

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