The crack dealers of gaming, Blizzard, changed their marketing tactics with its two games, World of Warcraft and Stracraft II. Instead of the 15-day trial, the WOW Starter Edition allows players to freely play with some limits to level 20. The 3 level demo without multiplayer for Starcraft II is likewise expanded into 4 level Starter Edition with multiplayer.

The first hit is always free. I had previously played th 15-day trial of WOW but that was before the fancy, so I had no idea what my account details were for World of Warcraft. I gave the Starter Edition a try, and I was surprised that in a week I actually played the game until I hit the level cap.

In Lord of the Ring: Online, which went free to play last November, I grew tired of killing spiders very quickly. I was pretty close to the same thing in WOW, until I realized that I was supposed to fly to north to Ironforge. The change of scenery was interesting. I did not really get into the story or lore of WOW though, because I have a hard time taking any of that stuff seriously. I think by around level 18 or so, I was finally getting a grasp about the world, though.

Yet, I didn’t kill a single orc. Some dark gnomes, yes, and a bunch of wildlife and a genocidical amount of murlocs, but no orcs. Maybe a couple that kinda resembled them, just maybe. True, like in LOTRO, by level 20 nothing is really revealed about orcs so you can just help out each NPC with their silly problems and not worry about the great war going somewhere else, but there are orcs in the cover art so one would expect to see them at some point.

Screenshot of World of Warcraft
Seems to borrow heavily from LOTR, but I didn't see anything like this in LOTRO.

At least my character got some equipment that looked like proper stuff, in LOTRO I think my charcater was still using a garden hose and waring bunny slippers. Also, while playing the Starter Edition of WoW, I did not feel like the game was trying to nudge me to upgrade or show big huge signs that this part of the game is not for the likes of you.

But after reaching the level cap, did I feel the urge to continue my adventures of killing X things and collecting Y other things in the wonderful world of Azeroth? No, not really. Maybe I didn’t follow the story, but I didn’t really know why I was doing all the quests. I did not feel any greater story unfolding, and it was more like The Sims. However, I did enjoy the scale and prettiness of the scenery.

So, on to the Starter Edition of Starcraft II. I probably spent more time installing the game than actually playing it. The friendly site gave me a download link and I happily downloaded and installed it and let it download gigs after gigs of stuff until when finally launching the installer I realized that Blizzard apparently thinks that everyone in Europe speaks German. So, when downloading the installer, make sure your language is set correctly.

Anyway, the link between Blizzard’s Warcraft / Starcraft and Game Workshop’s Warhammer / Warhammer 40k is pretty clear and Starcraft II gave me pretty heavy déjà vu. The world of Starcraft II felt way too close to the one in Relic’s Dawn of War II. Then agian, I don’t think there are that many ways to do the whole space marines in heavy armor thing. But the emperor? The wise elder aliens? The bug-like alien horde?

Have you Finished? by NachoMon
Have you Finished? by NachoMon

Have you Finished? by NachoMon.

Anyway, getting past that, the cinematics of the Starcraft II are pretty great. The menu system between missions was a nice throw-back as well to the glorious Wing Commander series. All nice and well, but the learning curve of those 4 levels included in the SE was very, very flat. Like the first 10 or so levels of WOW, they were mostly tutorialesque introduction to the games mechanics.

Screenshot from Starcraft II
Where's Mark Hamill?

The sillest part were the “tutorials” of SC2. “In this part of the tutorial, we’ll learn the camera basics.” “You control the camera by the arrow keys.” “This ends this tutorial.” Seriously, loading the tutorial maps took longer than the actual tutorials. And there were about 8 of them. Unit building? “In this tutorial, we’ll learn about building units. ““See that box in that building. Click that icon to build a space marine.” “Congratulations, commander. This ends this part of the tutorial.” All this stuff was covered in the first missions of Dawn of War II and in the first level of SC2, yet someone at Blizzard felt necessary to make a separate Tutorial for the really slow ones amidst us.

Anyway, the four missions in the game did showcase the game pretty well but I guess I could get a better feeling for the actual gameplay by playing against AI or other people. There was very minimal base building1 or even strategy in the levels of the Starter Edition. Unlike the WOW’s Starter Edition, the SC2’s felt more like a demo. Sure, I guess most people play SC2 for the multiplayer so it’s not so much of an issue.

I also understand that for the multiplayer the graphics are not really that important, but I felt that the graphics of SC2 weren’t as good as in DOW2. It’s a bit wrong to compare SC2 to DOW2, because they are entirely different beasts in single-player, which is the only part I have experience in either.

In summary, for me the SC2 Starter Edition was a bit underwhelming experience. I did like trying out WOW, though. I do recommend to try both if you haven’t yet introduced yourself to either. They are both really good games and by trying them out you’ll see why they have such cult-followings. Both SEs did reinforce my views that they are not really for me, though.