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A straightforward evolution of the Warcraft engine.  I liked Warcraft, so that's a good thing.

So far, I've only played the Terrans.  I have finished the entire 10-mission campaign.  So I'll limit my comments to the Terrans for now.

The Terran units are pretty straightforward.  Marines fire machine guns at medium range.  Firebats fire flame-throwers at short range.  Vulture, sort of a scout car kind of thing, lobs grenades medium distance.  The Goliath, a Mech-ish unit patterned after Robocop's ED-209, has machine guns and anti-air rockets.  And so on

The Goliath is an example of the many homage/inside joke/knockoffs that Blizzard used in this game.  Several of the Terran units come from science fiction movies.   The Goliath's voice sounds exactly like ED-209.  One of the unit's quips when you click on it repeatedly is something like, "E D two zero nine system software loaded."  Another example is the Terran Drop Ship, the transport unit.   It's ack messages when moving are from Aliens, "In the pike, five by five," and "Better hang on, we're in for some chop."  Again, using the same voice as in Aliens.  These aren't bad things, they just caught my attention.

One really neat innovation is that several of the Terran buildings can pick up and move to another location.  I used that in one mission to consolidate a base that was already in place at the start of the mission.

The first nine missions were really easy.  Just use the terrain to limit attack routes by the enemy.  Start out building lots of SCVs (grunts) and get a good cash flow going.  The enemy tends to attack you piecemeal, so it's pretty easy to keep your attack routes plugged.  Generally, infantry, armor and anti-air is all you need to get through all nine.  I didn't have to restart any of them.  The missions did have some variety.  Some involved meeting other units, at which time the goal of the mission might change.  There was one rescue mission.  And one where you wandered around the corridors of a space station looking for a prize.  They made a decent change of pace.

The tenth did kick my ass the first time.  That's the first mission where the computer starts using advanced weapons seriously.  Specifically, his Ghosts used Lockdown missiles to immobilize my front line of armor and his science vessels used the Irradiation weapon to take out a lot of infantry.  Plus lots of cloaking.   Really caught me by surprise.  I did prevail on the second try, though.

The terrain is a bit of a disappointment.  It's nice looking, but only pseudo-3D.   Basically just two levels that do affect LOS.  I'm not sure whether it affects range, though probably not.  Also, there are some serious verisimilitude problems due the terrain.  Several of the missions are on "space stations."   Basically, open-topped platforms.  Even though these things are man-made, you still have to mine minerals and Vespene gas.  This results in terrain that is simply eye candy that doesn't always make much sense.  But again, the end result is fun, so that's not too much of a problem.  Just another thing that caught my attention.

The unit AI is worse than Warcraft, methinks.  The confined terrain makes for lots of times when units block each other.  These Starcraft units are very prone to going for a walk.  There were many times when a unit would wander away and I'd lose track of him.  Sometimes it was a fairly powerful armor unit that might have tipped the scales on a couple of battles.  And a couple of times I was trying to limit the fight to nearby enemy units and my wanderers would meander close enough to a sleeping unit to wake it up and draw it into the fight.

Finally, I hit a 200-unit ceiling.  It's unclear whether this is a game-wide limit, or just that one mission.

High points:
The interface works and doesn't get in the way.
Missions have just enough variety to be interesting.
Good balance to unit abilities.  There doesn't appear to be a magic weapon (ex. Tanya's in Red Alert)
Low points:
12 unit limit to group size
Unit AI sends units for a walk
Didn't open up the AI (ex. Dark Reign, Total Annihilation)
Fake 3D terrain

Overall, I'd say Starcraft is a success.  I hope to get to the Zerg missions in the next few days.  And maybe some multiplayer in the next couple of weeks.   On Mighty's Brother's Game Total Value Scale I rate Starcraft as a Threat of Heavy Sleep Loss.

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Last modified: January 25, 2003
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