StarCraft II in Review: Media Love, Player Plaudits

StarCraft 2

Blizzard held something important back when it loosed its real-time strategy PC game StarCraft II on the public this Tuesday:

Prerelease press review copies.

Wondering why only a handful in the press have reviewed the game days after launch? That's why. Blizzard decided it wanted everyone to have the game simultaneously. It decided this because StarCraft II's online component probably matters more than its single-player one, and it wanted the media to play in the "real world" with the general public. No "exclusive" handshakes with online press or cover story quid pro quos with print mags.

It's a pretty bold (and in my opinion, laudatory) move on the company's part. It lets us experience the game the way you're experiencing it and react representatively. It also quashes favoritism, allays concerns we're playing beta and not final code, and eliminates the appearance of impropriety when an "exclusive" early review reads like a honey-drizzled confectionary. Sure, it means you don't have guideline verdicts at launch, but the review delay amounts to a couple of days, and those whose buy decisions hinge on bloggy screeds or aggregator scores can probably stand to wait.

So the StarCraft II reviews are slowly rolling in, and the sentiments are pretty predictable: General prose plaudits about the single campaign and exhaustive multiplayer components, some griping over absent LAN-play, shrugs about the familiar game design, and the conventional wisdom that Blizzard innovates less than it reworks and polishes. Cut, save, and paste whenever Diablo 3 ships.

Your reviews, on the other hand, have been rolling in since you picked up the game on Tuesday, posted to boards and blogs and buy sites everywhere.

Heard about the Amazon user review split? It continues, now with about 250 reviewers praising the game, opposed by another 250 users slamming it. You'd think the game was a candidate in the upcoming mid-term elections.

On the Blizzard StarCraft II boards, you can find...well, nothing as of this posting. I can't get the StarCraft II boards to come up ("An error was encountered while processing your request") and Battle.net still lists them as in beta. Last I looked, people's opinions ran the gamut.

At NeoGAF, the largest dedicated gaming board online, guys who spend at least 25 hours a day calculating stuff like the precise distance a Protoss cannon fires in pixels seem to love the game, or particular aspects of it.

"Man, can't stress how amazing scouting is," writes one user. "For instance: Early scout notices ramp is too wide to block off and they went cyber instead of 2gate."

"I decide to make a reaper first unit and move to Helions. Reaper gets inside their base, notices a stargate already getting chrono boosted. So I pump marines while getting Helions. A void ray arrives at my front, and I'm able to hold it off easily. Helions get inside the main and notice that he's decided to ditch void and go mass stalkers against my rines. So I'm making marauders and medivacs. Able to stave off the attack without losing base, helions rush in to counter attack, gg."

If you understood less than half of that, don't feel bad. After all, you can enjoy a game like Madden NFL without knowing what alligator arms, slobber-knockers, and pooch punts are.

IGN's boards offer a few random comments about the game, the occasional complaint, and a clutch of technical inquiries, but my favorite has to be:

"Do you think someone will die playing StarCraft 2?"

Sure, and it'll happen on precisely December 21, 2012.

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