What I’ve been playing lately…

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… is StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm. That’s been the primary time-suck for me, games wise lately. I finished the Heart of the Swarm campaign a couple weeks ago, and honestly was only disappointed by how easy it seemed to be on Normal difficulty. While reviewers have complained about the typically weird and nonsensical Blizzard storyline, which is full of sci-fi tropes and sometimes cringe-worthy dialogue, it’s a fun romp and gives you a chance to take control of vast hordes of the Zerg swarm.

But since then, I’ve actually made the dreaded leap into the multiplayer ladders. Initially, as I suspected would happen, I got chewed up and spit out by just about every player I took on, but as time has passed, I’ve found myself getting better and winning games. In fact, while I was admittedly dropped into the bottom (Bronze) league, I’ve worked my way up to first place in my division since starting my foray into multiplayer.

StarCraft 2 has a huge learning curve, and I think its reputation for that puts many potential players off the idea of venturing outside the single-player campaign. There’s plenty of fun to be had there, and even when you’ve finished one or both campaigns on normal difficulty, there’s still achievement hunting to be done (some of the achievements, by the way, are rather clever and/or funny).

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Heart of the Swarm is out…

… and I am happy.

I’m only four missions into the campaign, so I couldn’t spoil very much if I wanted to. I’ll say this, though — Kerrigan is back, she’s angry, and she’s a (kinetic) blast. Here’s one reason why.

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Watching zerglings swarm around Kerrigan as she leads them on an assault on a Dominion base is… well. It’s something else.

There have been numerous enhancements to the base StarCraft II game that everyone, not just Heart of the Swarm players, will be able to enjoy now. A much-enhanced tutorial system will make taking the plunge into full-on ranked multiplayer a lot less daunting. Features like “take command” will let players jump into any replay (their own or others’) and assume control of any side, in order to try different tactics in a battle that went poorly.

But right now I’m excited about the campaign. Sure, Blizzard’s plots aren’t always particularly inspired, but over the course of the many years I’ve dabbled in StarCraft, I’ve grown to love some of these characters. And Kerrigan — betrayed, infested, full of vengeful rage and yet still human — is one of the best ever.

Warhammer 40K – Dawn of War II

I picked up the masterful 2009 THQ title Dawn of War II (along with expansions Chaos Rising and Retribution) on a Steam sale for about $15 USD last weekend, and have been having a wonderful time with its tactical real-time Ork-blasting goodness. You don’t need to take my word for it — the critics agreed that Dawn of War II was not just a worthy successor to the original game, but a brilliant RTS in its own right.

My Blood Ravens fire on an Ork squad in the Dawn of War II campaign.

What’s depressing about the whole experience is that it underlines how clearly Bliz- zard’s Starcraft is a complete design ripoff of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, which came to fame in Games Workshop’s still-popular (well, among grognards) tabletop miniatures-and-dice game. Each faction in Starcraft’s universe is virtually a cosmetic carbon-copy of a Warhammer 40,000 faction — Starcraft’s “Terrans” look suspiciously like the Space Marines, the Protoss are similar to the Eldar, and — perhaps most damningly — the Zerg are Tyrannids with new paint jobs.

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Time to suck at StarCraft II… again

It’s a new season of StarCraft II, which means I have a chance to…

Well, it means I will log in, find a multiplayer game, and get demolished over and over. And maintain my place at the bottom of the league. Which is what I did last season until I got dispirited and found something else to play. I’ll update this with a screenshot or two and maybe an update.

Also, it occurs to me that generally speaking, so far I’ve only used this blog to discuss games that I suck at.

Update: As predicted, things did not go particularly well. I played two games — although it counted three, the third one being a game in which my opponent immediately left the game, granting me a “win” that actually counted for league points. Here’s the GG on my final match, a Terran versus Terran match that found me ridiculously outgunned. It’s an indication that I need to do a better job of managing my economy.

Veritas’ gigantic red army of… basically everything mows down my pitiful Terran forces.