StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
Forget simple pylons, the reality of StarCraft II is that you must construct additional everything. My gaggle of Mauraders was my pride and joy until I looked up and saw the sun blotted out by a Mutalisk swarm. GG, f10, surrender. I even thought I was doing a pretty good job, up until the game told me I was performing a terrible 83 actions a minute in the post-match report.
I'm ashamed of myself and you, the reader, probably pity me. StarCraft fans still without access to the beta are probably fuming: "how did he, someone who is rubbish and a bit fat, get to play this game early when I was left out in the cold?" The answer is luck, mostly, alongside the fact StarCraft II is so daunting every other member of our staff was too afraid to have a go. That's the kind of game it is.
Blizzard's taut dedication to difficulty is impressive, and whilst other developers seem to be going out of their way to simplify every conceivable facet of the RTS genre it's refreshing, admirable but still somewhat fear-inducing to see Blizzard proudly declare their game has been built from the ground up for the competitive eSports crowd. It's serious business, for serious gamers, and it elicits such dedication that peripheral designers will release keyboards and mice specifically tailored to StarCraft II. People who just nip into their games for six hours and then move on need not apply.
It means, for better or worse, thirty minutes of StarCraft II will do to your mind what an hour of boxing does to your body, and most of us would probably rather try our chances at the boxing. The original has become the stuff of legend, discussed with hushed tones and a hint of nostalgia in dusty corridors, and its famed multiplayer has transgressed into internet meme legend: a friend of my 16-year-old brother said "omg Zerg rush" the other day, in complete earnest, without actually knowing what the Zerg are. Its twelve-year success is almost baffling.
Almost, that is, until you sit and actually play the thing. StarCraft II does not make its devastating click-click-click formula easy for newcomers, so it's the kind of game you definitely won't be very good with at first - or even after thirty hours, if we're being honest. Still, it's that unrelenting passion for challenge that gives it the power to incite a crowd of Korean spectators into thunderous cheering as one man uses a mouse to drag a green rectangle around a group of little space army men.
Blizzard understand that most StarCraft II players won't be at the level where they can disassemble an opponent's entire tech tree and game plan by simply looking at a handful of enemy units trundling out of a base, and they have absolutely no intention of holding your hand as you slowly become proficient. But what StarCraft II will do, if you let it, is make some room for you to breathe, learn and get to that point where you too can appreciate when a man drags that shiny green rectangle.
We've seen that in the multiplayer beta, as the game gives everyone five practice matches and then buckets its players into leagues based on player rank - including beginner leagues which run at a slower speed. What most people probably won't have seen is how Blizzard intends to ensnare players with a single-player mode that loosens its belt a bit, gives the player a bit of time to breathe and throws in a bag of toys that could never possibly be included in multiplayer because they're totally unfair.
Still, it's very much StarCraft, and anyone who assumes those creative freedoms will make the game easy shall take a prompt one-way trip to the game over screen. The single-player shifts are not designed to simplify, but to give Blizzard a chance to widen their scope, expand the game's potential and give the player some things to do outside of straight attack and defence.
Take "The Dig", a mission which starts out as a gentle foray through ancient canyons with a small pack of your space marines, who blast at packs of Protoss designed to fall victim to gunfire. Eventually you grind to a halt against a wall of cannons, only to blast them away with some newly-deployed Siege Tanks.