August 7, 2010

Review: Starcraft II (Part 2: Multiplayer)

So last week I reviewed the single player portion of Starcraft II. I praised it for the storyline and gameplay. This week I'm going to focus on the multiplayer aspect of the game. Unfortunately, while Starcraft II's single player campaign stood out, its multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired.

Let's start with the first and most obvious missing feature: LAN play. Without LAN, the only way to play the game against others is through Battle.net. And while Battle.net has some great features, the intrinsic increase in latency (and the fact that you need internet access, meaning that play with friends in the same room is out based on most people's internet connections) leads to an inherently worse experience. In fact, it is likely to interfere with the ability of the Korean professional league to switch to Starcraft II. Blizzard thus should be developing LAN play. If they don't release it to the public, however, expect hell to pay.

More problematic, however, is the inability to do anything except through Battle.net's system. Though you can join custom games, it's impossible to meet new people to play against, or to play against people whose skills are not at your level. This is because of a lack of chat channels, something Blizzard promises to remedy in the future.

Custom games, those that were so popular in the original Starcraft, have also been crippled. A mandatory 30 second countdown is ridiculous. The arbitrary limit on the space you have for maps (why can't it just be like SC1's system where the maps are downloaded straight from your computer?) leads to less custom maps. In short, custom games are just not much fun in Starcraft II.

Overall, Starcraft II's multiplayer is disappointing. Blizzard could simply have copied Warcraft III's online multiplayer system and they would have been fine. In fact, such a move would be an improvement over what they've already done. If Blizzard doesn't make drastic changes to Battle.net, Starcraft II will not last as long as its predecessor. By itself, Starcraft II multiplayer is not worth it. If it was its own game, I would not recommend buying it.

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