StarCraft II, or SC2 for short, is an immensely popular game. Blizzard took the standard for the real-time strategy genre, and made it better. With a solid single player campaign and a hefty multiplayer component, there is a lot to learn, discover and enjoy here. Thankfully, BradyGames had put together a guide that will direct new players through the nuances of the hefty campaign, while giving sound strategies for the online battles.
The guide is broken into three sections: single player, multiplayer, and extra goodies. Starting with the single-player portion, gamers will be greeted with the basics of resource gathering, combat tips, base management, and other fundamentals necessary to take on this game. It is a good refresher for seasoned RTS fans, and a must read for novices dipping their toes in the strategy waters for the first time. From there, the bulk of the campaign is broken down by mission with objectives, any prerequisites, achievements, detailed maps, and tips on how to tackle the objectives start each overview. This is then complemented by a couple pages of instruction on how to best handle each situation, including how to obtain special bonuses or secondary objectives.
I found the campaign portion to be a good basic start and easy to follow. Veterans will find this to be lacking in depth, but novices will have a good beginning point on which to get through the game. The guide provides enough detail to help conquer the easier difficulties, but skill and deep understanding of the game mechanics will become vital for besting the harder settings. The guide can only do so much, before it becomes about skill and quick reflexes.
Once the campaign is completed, it is time to move into the online aspect of the game, and this is where most players will spend a bulk of their time. This section is a lot more about reading battle tactics and becoming familiar with all the units than it is about giving details on how to slaughter the opponent. Yes, there will be plenty of tables, combat mechanics, movement speeds, and base management directions to study while sipping on morning coffee. I found the most useful portion here to be the Pro Tips that were scattered about the pages. Widely known StarCraft masters give advice on various aspects of the game, and even offer up some of their own thought processes when they play online. This was a nice touch that adds some personality to the guide.
The last portion of the multiplayer section is detailed information on all the units, tech trees, and maps. This part should be taken with a bit of caution when developing your own plans, as the costs/health/damage output may differ thanks to game balances and tweaks from Blizzard. I did find the basic information to be well worth the read, but I would also compare numbers in the book with what I could find online. It may seem like a small change to drop the cost of a unit or modify damage output slightly, but some games are won and lost by minute details. Just be warned that this is best used with complementing online resources.
The last few pages are filled with some Q&A as well as achievement listings. The Q&A section gives a solid understanding of aspects of the guide some people may find lacking, like not having highly detailed build orders or not covering every last map available for play. It is a fun look behind the scenes and decisions that went into making the guide, as well as answering why this or that is missing.
Seeing how I got the Limited Edition, I was also privy to the multiplayer tactical recon stand, which has all 50 of the original multiplayer maps. This shows the entire map, where resources are located, and any special features to be aware of. It is a nice addition and has aided me in a few online matches. The limited edition also comes in a hardcover book with Jim Raynor on the cover. The artwork inside simulates that of the SC2 command panel at the bottom of the game screen. Pictures are pulled straight from the in-game cutscenes, and thus everything works well in keeping the sci-fi feeling of the game going. In fact, while writing this review and looking through the guide, I want to go back and play again.
All-in-all, BradyGames has produced another quality guide. The information provided is enough to get novices through the campaign and started on the multiplayer, but open enough for players to develop their own play style. I found it to be adequate for the single-player section, but it also benefited from online forums for the multiplayer component. RTS games are a colossal beast to tackle, and BradyGames have made a guide that has not left my desk since the day it arrived on my door step.