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Starcraft is one of the greatest, most successful real time strategy games in a genre overrun by classics, played by millions to this day, it’s the only RTS, nay, the only game that can lay claim to being the unofficial national sport of an entire country (that would be South Korea for those of you who don’t read the gaming press). Its influence has spread far and wide into the gaming ether many games have adapted elements of it’s story (the plague-like Flood of the Halo series aren’t too far removed from the Zerg) and many have pilfered from the wonderfully balanced faction system. There is little room for innovation in the strategy genre, so Blizzard concentrated on getting the core elements right and building upon them with there own design quirks.
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Comedy Zerg and Starcraft football
Yet perhaps the most enjoyable element in Starcraft is the aforementioned humour. Blizzard are masters of making perfection seem easy and they do this by making story and character as enjoyable as the gameplay and Starcraft is perhaps the purest example of this rare skill. Whether it’s the army grunt confessing love for his Sarge or the confederate goons spitting ‘rebel scum’ insults at your squad, there is so much wry comedy spread throughout the game that no mission is never a chore.
The gameplay is of course equally as important and Starcraft's robust RTS model handles base building, resource gathering and squad deployment beautifully. Multiplayer is especially enjoyable, bringing the usual glut of game modes (CTF, king of the hill) as well as some variations bult upon in game content (RTS football anyone?). It's the solid execution of the multiplayer that has seen Starcraft rise to the status of a competition sport in Korea.
Starfcraft II promises a robust single player experience and a complete multiplayer suite, as well as cross communication with WoW players, all fully integrated with Battle.net. The blockbuster sequel certainly looks the part, but it will have to go a long way if it's going to revolutionize the genre like it's predecessor did.
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While Warcraft I and II gave birth to the wonderfully rich lore of Azeroth, as well as laying the foundations for Starcraft and the modern RTS as a whole, it was Warcraft III that really presented a complete experience of both solid strategy gaming and epic storytelling.
Before there was a World Of Warcraft, there was just Warcraft (insert roman numeral here), a series of RTS titles featuring an isometric version of the Alliance/Horde conflict. The first two games saw Alliance humans duking it out with Hourde Orcs from the dark portal and while this an enjoyable (if a little generic) experience, the true beginning of the franchise is Warcraft III.
Many of the creative seeds of WoW are sewn in Warcraft III and it’s brilliant expansions The Frozen Throne. The main game introduces Night Elves and Undead to the racial roster and Frozen Throne adds the magic addicted Blood Elves to the mix. All the races are perfectly balanced with there own skill sets and unique hero classes, as well as some wonderful canned dialogue and animations. The visual design is the games highlight, Blizzard squeezing everything they can from the 3D engine (a first for the series). There are none of the dull, barren landscapes that populate the RTS genre, Warcraft III presents the world of Azeroth as a battle worn utopia. Lush, verdant fields and eerily beautiful dungeons are rife in WIII, but what of the gameplay?
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A more varied RTS, with added Lich King!
As with many modern RTS games, base building can be a chore with Warcraft III, but that doesn't really matter for the most part as you generally take control of a small squad, headed up by a hero that can be leveled up and customized the more they are embroiled in combat. Now of course, the squad mechanic in WCIII seems like a dry run for the smaller instances of WoW.
Expansion Frozen Throne expands the story of the first game as well as increasing the breadth of Warcraft lore. Following a similar pattern to the WoW expansions, Frozen Throne sees the night elves continue their pursuit of Idrian, who recruits the blood elves in his struggle against Arthus, the Lich King. A deeper, richer narrative experience than Blizzard's previous games, Warcraft III and The Frozen Throne is ultimately a precursor to Wow, and we all know how that turned out...