Yes, I was invited to Starcraft II closed beta.
I won’t bore you with stuff you can read on other websites but here are some observations of mine.
The battle.net system of screens/windows is a mess. Navigating them is awkward and sometimes you don’t know the difference between buttons and some design elements. You can only find out if something is a button (or what the button does) if you hover over it. Next, the colors are very shallow so you can see gradient bands all over the place which looks very ugly. Then the layout (with regards to resolution) just doesn’t feel right at all. Elements are just thrown all over the place. The only good thing I saw was integrated chat and an easy way to add players/AI when creating a game.
It has a real Starcraft 1 feel. It is fast and mostly responsive. Everything is very similar but this time you can select as many units as you wish;)
But there are some serious downsides too. There is just too much of micromanagement. There are a lot of units which have use/spell mechanic and none of those can be selected for autocasting. Just terran’s medivac can heal other units automatically. Then some relatively simple actions require too much clicking and/or targeting. It is just clicking hell. Build trees are a mess too.
There are a lot of units. It is a rock-scissors-paper2-rock2-scissors2-paper2-… game. So you have unit x which is better than enemies unit y etc. In other words you have to spy all the time what the enemy is doing and building counter units. This was always the way with starcraft 1 but now it is even more slanted in that direction. My general complaint is that there are too many of those units like “can only attack other ground units” or “can only attack air units” etc.
Graphics and sound
Graphics are quite good and unit animations are excellent. Explosions are excellent and everything has superbly fluid feel. Of course that there are some bugs here and there, but I’m confident they will be solved later. One substantial criticism is that the game has about the same scale as the original game. That means you have about the same view of the playing field, the UI is about the same size etc. Just the resolution is much better. I would have hoped for smaller UI and larger playing field though.
If something really disappointed me, that must be music and voice acting. Music is a rehash of original starcraft music, but that wouldn’t be bad in itself (as sc1 music was absolutely fantastic and memorable), but this version was done badly. I’m no music expert but I can recognize good music from bad one. The title music is bad, the terran music is some country music without vocals (original music was just fantastic), and I just forgot what protoss and zerg have. Yes, it was that memorable. Voice acting is, well, bad. A lot of voices just sound awkward and are rotated around the units when comparing them to sc1 so at least now they sound a little out of place. Sound effects are good as you might expect.
The thing that is bothering me is that you can’t play offline (aside from missing LAN mode). I mean, even if you play against AI players, if you get disconnected from the internet, you will be kicked from your game too. That is DRM at its worst. Of course, if you get disconnected in the middle of any other type of game you will get kicked too.
I’m confident that the game will sell in droves but when looking into the future I’m not quite certain what will expansions bring. Of course they will bring more units and more single player content, but even with this count of units and absolute horror that is micromanagement now the gap between a causal and a pro player is absolutely huge. I just hope that the matchmaking system will be better than SC or W3 had (they were completely broken). I’ll post some screenshots and videos as soon as I get some good ones.