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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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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