At last, StarCraft II (SC2) is almost here! With the closed beta in full swing, the multiplayer gameplay has entered final balancing. Soon, the Mac beta will open. In just a few months, the game will finally be released. The question on everyone's minds is, will it be as good or better than the original?
The multiplayer experience certainly is. The new strategic focus is on macromanagement instead of micromanagement, which has changed how the game handles things like mineral mining and commanding armies. In the original StarCraft, for example, you could only command twelve units at a time. In StarCraft II, the upper limit for unit control is in the hundreds. As a result, controlling a large army is much less about the minute commands given to small groups. In addition, all abilities are now activated one at a time when a group is selected. This allows you to target your abilities much more effectively without having to select each unit in turn.
Multiplayer matchmaking has also been improved significantly from the list of games approach used in StarCraft. All you have to do now is to select your game type and let Battle.Net find a game for you. These games are automatically weighted for you to find a game roughly around your skill level, which appears to have decreased the newbie stomping seen in the ladder matches of old. All players also have to go through a process for determining their league that consists of a few games where you're put up against fellow newbies. You generally get dozens of extremely exciting games, as they aren't over in the first few minutes.
One thing about the current state that's hard to talk about right now are the units, though. There are regular balance patches, which means that some units that are dominant can easily fall off their pedestal and others can be raised to their place. As such, it's hard to figure out just how balanced SC2 currently is. The general consensus seems to be that it isn't balanced perfectly, but there's lots of discussion to determine just which race is the "best" race to play with. This started out as the Zerg, but it could very well end up being Protoss or Terran by the end of the beta.
Still, the graphics and sound for the game are as stellar as any Blizzard Entertainment release, barring the voice for the Zerg announcer. Everything is rendered in full 3D, and you can zoom in or zoom out like in Warcraft III. You can't zoom out very far, but still. The units and buildings for the game look just as good up close as far away. The menus are also just as sleek as the original, with plenty of animations and transitions between each stage. Almost everything is signaled by a sound of some sort too, so it seems like SC2's interface is just about finalized at this point.