Starcraft II Hands-On: StarJeweled
We find out what happens when you mix a real-time strategy game with a casual game in Blizzard's upcoming Starcraft II mod.
One of the Starcraft II mods that Blizzard is showing off at BlizzCon 2010 is StarJeweled, a mash-up of real-time strategy and a match-three puzzle game, along the lines of Bejeweled. While it may sound like an unholy combination that should never be, the mix works. We spent a surprising amount of time with the simple but addictive Starcraft II mod, which is so crazy it works.
Your focus in the game is to take out your opponent's base. Your path to victory is a change of pace from traditional Starcraft gameplay. The mod splits the screen into two main areas: a puzzle grid with jewels on the right and a rectangular playing field on the left. The puzzle grid is an eight-by-eight layout that features a variety of colored gems. Your goal is to wipe out gems by matching a minimum of three like-colored gems in a row to earn energy and spawn ground units that head for your opponent. You'll be able to use the energy you earn on a secondary screen, located under the puzzle grid, which lets you purchase special units and abilities to use in taking out your opponent's base and forces.
The units and abilities you can choose from are basically greatest hits from the arsenals of all three races. You'll be able to choose zealots, hydralisks, mutalisks, siege tanks, colossi, roaches, ghosts, banshees, immortals, and ultralisks. Each unit will be worth a certain amount of energy proportionate to its place on the tech tree. The abilities break down roughly the same way with the five abilities you have to choose from, covering each race and having a corresponding energy cost. However, of the abilities--reset board, warp cell, time bomb, healing wave, and psychic storm--reset is an original addition that's obviously specific to the mode. For the most part, you really just have to focus on clearing gems and spending energy to call in units. If your opponent starts to get the better of you, you'll need to spend some energy to use one of your abilities to deal with his or her units. It's a very simple, accessible system that's easy to pick up and very fun to play.
Based on what we played of StarJeweled, it will likely be seen as a brilliant mod for Starcraft II by hardcore players having trouble turning their significant others onto the game. It should be pretty easy to put a casual spin on the gem puzzle game that hooks in a non-game-playing partner and buys you some precious game time. It might even be something you could play together as a team, which just adds to the mod's appeal. As free game mods go, StarJeweled definitely stands as a no-brainer to pick up when it becomes available in the months to come.
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