Starcraft II Blizzard Custom Maps Review
Blizzard is a major supporter of custom mods for their games, proving to be successful in prolonging the replayability and addictiveness of games way past their release date. The Starcraft II editor allows for some great creativity for players and developers alike, with the toolkit leading to creations outside of the RTS genre including mini-RPGs, third-person shooters, and even DoTA style games. Blizzard shows off how it’s done with four new custom maps set to be released including Starjeweled, Left 2 Die, Aiur Chef and Blizzard Dota. The first three are now available on battle.net for beta testing, and they definitely must be experienced for anyone who has the game.
As parodies of popular games such as Bejeweled, Left 4 Dead, and even the Japanese cooking show the Iron Chef, these mods mix up the RTS gameplay dramatically – and the best thing is that they can all be played in multiplayer.
First up is a hybrid of Starcraft II and Popcap’s addictively ‘casual’ game Bejeweled. On the right you have the Bejeweled screen, where you need to match three tiles or more to earn energy points. Combos and chains will earn you energy quicker. These energy points will give you credits to spawn units ranging from cheap Zealots and Roaches, to mid-range Mutalisks and Seige Tanks, up to the more expensive Colossi and Ultralisks. You can also use abilities to temporarily suspend enemy units, heal your own, or send out a Psionic Storm for a satisfying blast of destruction.
In two teams of two, you’ll send your units out onto the battlefield to attack and ultimately defeat the enemy’s base. As your opponent will be doing the same, simply sending out random units will not help you win the match. You’ll need to collaborate with your ally to combat and counter their unit mix. This is important as you need to win the best of five matches, and you might be playing for hours if you don’t have a strategy.
If you love puzzle games, Starjeweled is definitely a fun mod to play. With different strategies, unit mixes, and timing, this mod has a lot of depth to it, and would be perfect to turn to after a frustrating ladder match.
Blizzard really shows off their sense of humour with this mod, inspired by the Japanese Iron Chef cooking show. The hilarity ensues at the start as a Protoss Archon addresses a group of aspiring Protoss chefs and then proceeds to shout out the key ingredient with a Japanese accent. After “En Taro Cuisine!” pops up, the match starts and you’ll soon discover that you’ll need to adjust your playing style to win the title of the Aiur Chef.
You take control of a Protoss Zealot chef adorned with a Chef’s hat and cooking knives. Your objective is to gather ingredients for three different recipes which each carry a different points weighting. The higher valued meals are more difficult to make as they contain rarer ingredients. Instead of being available on the floor, you’ll need to kill wildlife to extract their ingredient. Some recipes will also grant you with abilities, such as making other chefs dance for no reason or letting you dash to move faster. At the end of three matches, the chef with the most points will win the title of the Executor Chef.
While Aiur Chef is great for the entertainment value, it also involves quite a bit of depth. You’ll need to combine opponent sabotage, with a clear strategy, and pure skill to come out on top. The gameplay is completely different to the usual that you would expect in Starcraft 2, with the inventory system and hero character serving as a preview to the upcoming and highly anticipated Blizzard Dota. It’s refreshing to see as one of the most innovative and unexpected mods out there, for any RTS game.
Left 2 Die
A spoof of the popular zombie shooter Left 4 Dead, this map features ‘zombies’ which are Zerg infected with a zvirus. They attack you at night, but stay dormant during the day. It’s essentially a variation of the “Outbreak” campaign, where you defend your base from incoming attackers at night, and attack infected buildings during the day.
Special zombies will occasionally appear, paying tribute to the Infected characters from Left 4 Dead. A fat Kaboomer temporarily subdues your units by spewing bile on them. A Choker will attack by pulling some of your units in with its extended tongue. A Hunterling will pounce on your units, while a Spotter spits lethal acid onto your units. Even the Stank will appear which deals massive damage to your troops. Fans of Left 4 Dead will immediately recognise which zombies these refer to, and it’s definitely interesting to see them placed in a different context.
Compared to the other custom maps, this one sticks to the more traditional RTS playing style where you need to collect resources, build units, and expand your base. It also adds an additional element where you gain biomass after destroying infected buildings, which leads to upgraded units. On top of this, you’ll need to switch between offensive and defensive often, in order to withstand and defeat the waves of zombies. Left 2 Die is a challenging map, and you’ll need to hone all of your RTS skills to master it.
Night to Die
For those who prefer to focus on defense, Night to Die is the survival version of the map where zombies will constantly attack. Each enemy wave is more powerful than the last, and infected buildings are invulnerable. You need to hold out for the longest time possible, before succumbing to the waves of zombies.