Is it just me, or is there a whiff of the Wing Commander 3 around StarCraft 2’s single player campaign mode? I mean, Mission -> Cutscene -> Awkwardly composed interactive GUI with actors uncomfortably standing in front of a low-resolution static CG backdrop, where you click on the actors to talk to them until you get bored, then click on a computer to get your next mission -> Cutscene -> Mission, repeat. (Side note: it must take an awful lot of effort from the artists to make realtime CG look so much like poorly composited green-screen FMV from sixteen years ago.)
Anyhow. Folks who know me will not be surprised to hear that I’ve purchased StarCraft II. I’ve only spent about an hour with it thus far, which basically equates to running a couple of tutorials (before deciding that I didn’t really need to run those tutorials), and then doing the first three single-player missions. This means that I’m not yet ready to pass judgement.
I have a thing about RTS games. They are games that I really, desperately want to like and be good at. They have that “strategy” word in the genre name, which in my head translates into “games for people who are good at thinking”. Yes, I know in my head that the RTS genre really has far more in common with Diner Dash than with any true “thinking man’s game” (apologies to anybody who hadn’t already noticed that, and for whom I’ve now ruined RTS games forever). But that knowledge doesn’t sway my heart. In my heart of hearts, I yearn to be awesome at RTS games, to prove that I’m a smart person (despite all evidence to the contrary).
So I always fall into this insidious little trap when a new RTS game comes out. I hear about the game and think “gosh, that RTS game sounds really interesting, I should play that. I bet it’ll be really interesting and lots of fun, and I’d be good at it! I could impress my friends/workmates/random strangers on the Internet!” I purchase the game, play the first five or six single-player levels, and then remember that I don’t enjoy playing RTS games, and immediately uninstall it. You don’t want to know how many RTS games I own for which I’ve played through the first five missions and then no further. But if you were to count up every single RTS game which has come out since the original StarCraft, you’d probably be pretty close.
As I mentioned before, I’ve only played the first three missions of StarCraft 2, so I haven’t yet hit that magical fifth or sixth mission yet, where the increasing micromanagement and complexity might cause me to suddenly remember that I don’t like this type of game and ragequit. But to be fair, the original StarCraft is the only RTS which I’ve ever played right through to the end — I even played through to the end of its Brood War expansion, although that one felt like a slog (I just wanted to know how the plot ended). So I’m interested to see whether I stick with this sequel, which is very much the same game, only prettier.
I do keep expecting to see Mark Hamill wander into those interactive screens between missions, though. Or maybe somebody in a silly lion suit.