Thursday, August 5, 2010


When I first started playing Starcraft 2 (SC2) I began by playing through the campaign.  See previous post.  It comes in Easy, Normal, Hard and Brutal settings and I began by bashing through it on Normal.  I have several thousand Starcraft games under my belt, though many were years ago, so it was no surprise that I smashed the Normal campaign with ease.  I was able to adapt to the challenges that came up in each mission and eventually complete them all successfully with little problem.

Today I decided that I need to play through again on Brutal and see if they really mean it.  It turns out that they do!  The difference is substantial enough that the game changes from simply adapting to what the computer does and figuring out a reasonable response to playing the missions over and over to nail down the exact timing of events to perfect my actions.  In some cases I was able to beat the Brutal missions on the first try because I had the knowledge of the easy version but some have something like 16 specific events that I need to know ahead of time to be able to defeat.  In particular I am doing a train heist mission at the moment and it is kicking my sorry behind though it is clear that I will beat it once I memorize everything and perfect my technique.

For example, after I destroy the second train a group of enemies spawns right near my base and instantly attacks.  I have to know this will happen ahead of time so I can have my army standing right where they appear to wreck them before they run in and smash my base.  I have to know where all 3 of the hidden tanks are located so I can pick up 1 of them before the first train, one before the second train and the 3rd after the 3rd train.  I have to capture and build my second base between the second and third trains.  It takes a lot of losing to figure out all these (and many more) timing tricks to actually have a chance to win the scenario.  I find it interesting how different this is from playing SC2 against a player and I wonder if the skills transfer over well.

Players don't let you get away with perfecting a specific set of movements and simply repeating them.  The basic openings are fairly scripted but the game becomes really random and chaotic very quickly and you cannot hope to prevail if your strategy is simply to do the same thing every time.  I also cannot generally find a human player who will play a specific strategy over and over against me to allow me to perfect a series of unchanging moves; that is really quite boring!  I have found in the past that I am at my best when competing against people on a very tight clock where rapid decisions have to be made with limited information.  I have never been the perfect game analyst and fall short of many of my friends when it comes to picking apart a specific situation but I excel at making choices very rapidly with limited information and coming out on top.  This is all not to mention that I *enjoy* fast paced decisions made with limited knowledge - I love the feeling of being in a tight situation and getting out with experience, quick thinking and moxie instead of laborious calculation.

Perhaps I need to get out there and start playing against other players instead of against the machine.  My post seems to lead to that conclusion, though I did not start out thinking that way when I began writing.  These things seems to have a life of their own.


  1. I've only done a few missions on Brutal but I found this was how it worked when I did the missions on Hard trying to get the achievements. A lot of them weren't really that hard to accomplish, but several of them, specifically the time limited ones, just required me to have a good knowledge of what happened when, and to try certain steps over and over until I figured out exactly how to approach a particular element. In particular the Tosh mission in under 25 minutes took a lot of iteration to get right (though I won in 23 so I suppose I could have skipped a lot of that repetition).

    I have to agree that the skills you are discussing aren't really transferable to playing against real people. When you play against real people you are playing a Real Time Strategy, when you are playing against the computer it is more like a puzzle game made out of an RTS engine.

    But it's a damn fine puzzle game, and as someone who doesn't really like RTSs, I'm glad that puzzle game is there. Also, just for everyone out there, if you like video games you should get this game. It's incredible.

  2. One aspect of beating Brutal that does transfer over to multiplayer is that Starcraft is mostly about having a better economy than the other guy. Build lots of workers. Expand. Keep building workers. When you have enough money, good technique isn't necessary, most missions are beaten easily by either spamming the new unit for the mission or medic/marine.

    I'm also interested in improving my 1v1 execution so I'd be happy to play set openings against you for lots of games at a time.


  3. Update:

    I played the train heist mission 3 more times last night and beat it. The hilarious thing to me is that I talked about playing a unchanging set of moves and perfecting that technique and I ended up improving like crazy to beat the mission. I did use my perfect strategy throughout the mission but ended up in a crazy situation due to a misclick and pulled out a victory with a bunch of nutty maneuvers and improvisation. Onto the next!

  4. I've recently completed the campaign on brutal, and the best advice I can give is master your micro management skills. Even with strong strategy you can lose on some of these missions. Like Tom said above, a strong saturation of SCV's working the mineral fields is a must on almost all the missions. But some of the skills will transfer, such as learning strong combinations of units and counter strategies for dealing with certain types of forces (example: thors get slaughtered by brood lords), and of course strong micro skills will always carry over.

    Wait until you get to In Utter Darkness on Brutal :D

  5. I think this really goes to why I don't like playing RTS's that much. Starcraft is mostly about economy, but if you watch really high level games basically both players are so good at the economy part of the game that it becomes a very high level game of back and forth. In the few quick matches I've played basically either I steamrolled them because I was better at my opening or they steamrolled me because they were better. There was pretty much no room for micro or much of a strategy of any kind.

    Much like a 12-year-old who buys a guitar because he loves Yngwie Malmsteen, I am just not going to put in enough practice to be good enough to do the stuff I'm interested in.

    How many guys do you have to kill on Brutal In Utter Darkness anyway?

  6. 2500 kills on brutal difficulty.

    It's a lot of fun, but it's actually very simple once you figure out an effective strategy, assuming your micro is semi-decent.

  7. I concur. I didn't find Utter Darkness to be one of the harder missions, though I lost twice and was completely stumped until I realized the trick to winning. When I ironed that strategy out I got 3400 kills and only lost to the 'you die now' wave. That mission is fun and cool but it really is all about one trick, you either get it and win or you don't get it and you get wrecked.

  8. I was watching a day[9] cast and he mentioned having to reload some of the missions tons of times to get the right strategies to win, so don't feel so bad about my own need for reloading.

  9. Now that I'm back in the country I am also willing to be a repetitive 1v1 monkey.