Starcraft II can be really intimidating. I mean, not everyone is capable of the intense micro-management and razor-sharp reflexes required for success in competitive games. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't exempt yourself from the fun. Even if traditional multiplayer might not be your speed, there's always the Arcade. Thanks to recent events, anyone with a computer modern enough to run the Starcraft II Starter Edition will be able to mill through the Arcade in search of weird, wacky custom games. And while part of the fun does indeed lie in the discovery, those who are short on time may want to use this list as a springboard for their own investigations.
Left 2 Die
I hope you enjoyed Valve's Left 4 Dead because if you did not, chances are you might not like this one. Which would be a shame because this re-imagining of everyone's favorite co-operative zombie FPS is kind of rad. In Left 2 Die, which was incidentally built out of Starcraft II's Outbreak mission, players are required to protect a terran base from the slow, inexorable onslaught of what passes for zombies in this environment. Naturally, given that this is indeed a nod in a certain game's direction, "special" infected abound. Kaboombers, hunterlings, chokers, spotters and stanks are all hazards players will need to contend with. Along the way, they're also going to need to manage the ebb and flow of the day/night cycle, bring down infested architecture and collect biomass from the bones of their enemies in order to finance handy-dandy, upgrade-y things.
There are things that I'll probably go to my deathbed wondering about. Things like, "How the heck did those good folk at Blizzard come up with Aiur Chef?!" Of all the games available in Starcraft II's readily accessible repository of custom maps, Aiur Chef is contestably the weirdest. It's Starcraft II meets Iron Chef. It has Protoss Zealot. In chef's hats. More of a novelty item than an extra heaping of Starcraft II's usual bread & butter, Aiur Chef can support up to 8 players and will require all participants to madly charge across the map in an attempt to snag necessary cooking ingredients. As you might have guessed already, murder is one avenue to culinary stardom. But it's not the only one. Madcap power-ups and zany items can be used to hinder and distract your opponents from their objective, leaving you free to cook up your own perfect storm.
Slenderman is everywhere. In your GIFs, in your Reddit threads, in your video games -- he's the gangly apparition from which there is no escape. Not even the hallowed webwork of Battle.Net can save you from his tentacular grasp because, you see, Slenderman is waiting there too. Haunted Forest, which allows up to 6 concurrent players, is a Starcraft II custom game inspired by Slender. Much like the iconic game, players are required to gather items while dodging eye contact with a relentless predator. Unlike most Starcraft II-related content, the monochromatic Haunted Forest utilizes first-person perspective instead of the usual isometric view -- an excellent decision on the developers' parts, really, as it is completely adds to the tension inherent in navigating a labyrinthian maze while being pursued by something very, very unfriendly. Meep.
John Carpenter's The Thing haunted my nightmares for years; the memory of a gaping, tooth-riddled maw opening in a man's torso will likely stalk me to my final hour. Which is probably why I'm so giddily in love with it. While it doesn't look as though Xeno Crisis might be directly by the movie, it certainly shares some definite similarities. The idea here is simple: kill or be killed. Each round, a single player is chosen to be a shapeshifting Alien. The Alien, as you might have guessed, must quietly infect and enslave the human players before it can be identified. Enjoy the rampant paranoia, folks.
I'm not even sure where to start with this. What happens when you smush Civilization together with Starcraft II? Based on a Starcraft map of the same name, Civilization Sapphire pits players against both villages filled with barbaric A.I and each other. Of course, as is the case with such games, technological advancement and resource management are both vital to an individual's success in the game. Much of your initial playthrough, it seems, will be spent forcing NPC forces away from their homes, expanding and simply transitioning from one "age" to another. A word of advice: don't be holding a stone axe when everyone else is wielding plasma guns.
Warcraft RTS: Alliance and Horde
Warcraft RTS: Alliance and Horde, or "WAH" as the developer prefers to call it, is a cumbersome title but it's something I'm willing to forgive. After all, what WAH is trying to accomplish is a dream come true -- a fan's dream of Warcraft IV brought to life in the Starcraft II engine. What's really interesting about WAH is the fact it's not just another map. According to the developer, WAH's "completely implemented as a RTS game", one already populated with both iconic factions, 14 buildings, 16 units, 3 melee maps, 18 heroes and over 50 creeps. And there's still more to come. The developer purportedly has plans to bring The Burning Legion into this gorgeous Frankenstein of a custom game.
When I first started writing this list, I was under the impression that Starcraft Universe was not yet A Thing. But that didn't stop me from making an honorable mention out of it. Why? Because of how bloody impressive the project is, really. If you're a fan of World of Warcraft, Starcraft II, high-level raiding and free-to-play MMOs that do not suck, Starcraft Universe is a bit of a dream come true. Mind you, this isn't a theme park bristling with quest-givers and rats. While it draws inspiration from MMOs, Starcraft Universe is laser-focused on PvP dueling and raids of every size .There will be eight unique classes to begin with, vehicular combat, 10 boss encounters and - here, check out the forum post. (Have I mentioned this is completely free by virtue of Blizzard's recent actions? Because it so totally is is.)