If a game is still being played 12 years after its first release, that's a big deal. The original Starcraft, to many, is Real Time Strategy perfection. To say that the sequel is an eagerly anticipated release is a huge understatement.
I've been fortunate to be included in the multiplayer beta. I'll make it simple from the start. Starcraft 2 isn't revolutionary. It doesn't bring interesting or wacky new ideas to the genre nor does it try to reinvent the wheel. There are no gimmicks and don't expect a departure from the original. What Starcraft 2 does is take elements of the original and improve them.
The multiplayer element plays out as expected, with you trying to destroy your opponents base. This is where it is immediately obvious that SC2 is no different to others in the pack, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The developers have gone for tried and tested. At first I found the game a little too familiar but after a few plays I really started to get the 'point' of the game. It's all down to strategy. That might sound a touch obvious as the game is an RTS but many of the games released since the initial SC have relied on tactics instead. With SC2 you start with a strategy and see it through, the individual skirmishes aren't as important as the overall style. This is highlighted by the lack of individual tactical decisions that have been pioneered in games like Company of Heroes. I'm not saying that an individual fight between troops is easy or the result predetermined by the units that enter, a skilled player will always come out on top, what I am saying is that the developers haven't gone down the same route as other developers have by using significant terrain advantage such as a cover system. It wouldn't work with a WW2 game but it feels right for SC2 which is good news!
Another area that comes through from the original is the resource management and speed of play. The pace of the game, when played correctly, is astounding and at times overwhelming. A skilled player will beat you with almost inhuman skills and either crush you before you've got a handful of buildings in play or stomp over you with end game units just as you are buying your first upgrades. The different factions and strategies that come with them are a lot of fun. It is just as enjoyable to overrun the enemy very early on with a zerg rush as it is to go stomping in with the terran mech unit Thor. This is the real pull of SC2 and will no doubt make players of the original extremely happy.
Graphically the game is well thought out. Rather than require the most high end rig on the market, the developers have opted for 'inclusion'. This is a similar ethic to the other game by Blizzard that you may have heard of, World of Warcraft, where the game caters to the largest possible market. I'm not saying that the visuals are poor, in fact the game is very easy on the eye, the important point is that if you have a mid range machine you shouldn't need an upgrade. My machine is about 2 ½ years old and was built as a gaming machine (Athlon 64 Dual core 6000+, 8800GTS and 2 gig RAM) and the game runs pretty nicely.
So far the game is shaping up nicely and I'm sure that all that's left to do in terms of multiplayer is a bit of balancing here and there. This is certainly one to keep the fans happy and for the generation of gamers that missed the first game, SC2 will be the perfect place to start with the franchise.