QuesterX reviews three StarCraft II mods

At Blizzcon 2010 one of Blizzard’s announcements related to four mods that they were bringing out for StarCraft II. Many, many months later, the beta test models for three of the four mods turned up in the Blizzard map listing. Recently the official, final cuts for three of the mods have been released, replete with achievements and portrait rewards.

The mods are Aiur Chef, StarJewelled and Left 2 Die.

Aiur Chef
Aiur Chef is an RPG-style map where players vie to be the first to gather ingredients for ‘recipes’ and return them to the middle. If you can imagine an Easter Egg hunt in StarCraft, you are pretty much 90% of the way there.

I have to say, of the three released, this is by far the weakest attempt at so-called ‘new content’. In fact, of any downloadable content I have ever seen, I believe that this is possibly the worst.

Basically you have an avatar. Your avatar starts out with one ability: to hit stuff. Sometimes you gain other abilities, such as being able to cast Graviton Beam (ala Phoenixes), but these abilities are worse than useless since they slow you down and don’t do anything to your opponents.

To be fair to Blizzard, they were probably trying to widen their market appeal. However, how much of a market there is in two-year-old PC gamers is something that really should be studied before spending time creating content directed wholly at that audience.

In short, this is horribly boring, horribly easy and so bad that even an achievement whore like myself won’t be playing it again anytime soon.

StarJewelled is an interesting idea for a mod. Based on the widely popular casual game ‘Bejewelled’, StarJewelled splits the screen down the middle with one half being the Bejewelled style puzzle and the other side being the Tug of War battle ground.

For each combination a player makes they are rewarded in two ways: with a marine and with ‘energy’, or points to spend on various units or abilities. Your units then automatically begin walking to the other side of the map and engage anything they come across. You cannot control your units directly, however, there is an element of strategy inherent in which units to choose or which abilities to use.

This is a fun mod with some replayability however I found that the strategies employed by the player were relatively useless in the face of the speed at which someone could make combinations in the puzzle. In the end I couldn’t even beat a medium computer (like, it wasn’t even close), regardless of what abilities I used or how careful I was at choosing my units.

Though it’s an interesting concept that I think could be better employed by others who have time to sit and think about how to use the mechanic, I applaud Blizzard for thinking outside the box on this one. Unfortunately, I believe that the execution leaves us with a mod that will not get that much play time after the novelty wears off.

Left 2 Die
Left 2 Die is very, very good. At least, it’s very, very good from the standpoint of someone who loves ‘survival’ RTS maps.

For those that have played the campaign, this level will be familiar. The map has been altered to allow for cooperative play, as well as introducing Zerg units which bear similarities to Left 4 Dead Zombies: The Hunter, Boomer, Smoker and Spitter.

Playing the game with a mate, through the easy to brutal difficulties is fun. This is where you have to survive by night with hordes of Zerg attacking the compound and do damage to Zerg buildings by day. This is a campaign level with the possibility of co-op; no other real deviation is present.

However, it is when the game is set to ‘Night 2 Die’ mode the mod really shines. This is where the day never comes, where there are only minor lulls and where the players really need to hammer out solid tactics to survive even a couple of minutes. My friend and I have logged about 10-15 hours on this and so far our best effort is 52 minutes. After a time the minerals run out and then you have to earn money by killing, while the game is ramping up the difficulty. Shit gets real.

This final mod gets Quester’s pick for ‘Best Effort’. Night 2 Die is seriously entertaining and addictive and I recommend that everyone gives it a try.

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