Starcraft offers a lengthy single-player campaign featuring ten missions
for its three diverse races, totaling 30 single-player missions in all
(there's also an unsupported veteran campaign included as part of the campaign editor).
The story is compelling enough to make playing through all three worthwhile,
and the campaign difficulty is tiered so that each is more challenging than the last.
While this may seem like an uninteresting point, it helps Starcraft to avoid the problem
that has plagued every other game in the genre: Each side is not the same. You don't have to go
through a set of training missions once you've already mastered one side.
The missions themselves mainly stick to the "gather, build, and conquer" philosophy,
but there are a few innovative missions thrown in, and Blizzard has added
some narrative elements to the missions themselves that help to keep things interesting.
With the exception of the installation missions (in which you are given a handful of
units to raid an enemy base, an attempt to break from the mold that is only
occasionally successful), the missions are well designed. The solo player also has
the option of skirmish missions, though the computer opponents have the annoying ability
to see everything you are doing and defend accordingly, making the dreaded "rush"
tactic one of the only viable means of emerging victorious. Starcraft offers an equally nice suite of options on the multiplayer side:
There's head-to-head and up to eight-player battles over LAN or Internet
(though Internet play is only available over Blizzard's Battle.net server,
which includes a ranking list and seems to be as lag-free as it gets nowadays).
There is a good variety of multiplayer game types, and you can easily download new maps.
Multiplayer has its own set of negatives, the major one being the predominance of rushing.
Like it or not, creating a horde of the most basic units and attacking the enemy
immediately is an effective tactic. Only a heavily defended base will survive an
early rush of Terran Marines or Protoss Zealots. Starcraft has a built-in safeguard
to discourage rushing, but it's one of the game's most problematic areas.
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