Posted on July 28, 2010, Ron Whitaker Starcraft II Review
The internet pretty much became one big Starcraft site yesterday, as Blizzard released one of the most anticipated games in recent memory, Starcraft II. The original Starcraft was an enormous hit, and there has been a lot of anticipation as people try to discover whether the sequel lives up to their memories of the original.
Starcraft II returns us to the conflict between the Terran, Protoss, and Zerg. This installment, Wings of Liberty, focuses on the Terran forces. All three factions are available in multiplayer, but the single player campaign is all about the Terran.
Starcraft 2 (PC [Reviewed])
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: July 27, 2010
Yeah, I said single player. That’s the first thing that struck me when I started playing Starcraft II: the single player campaign is simply amazing. The original Starcraft followed the standard real-time strategy formula of story. Here’s a base for you, there’s a base for them, go wipe it out. Between missions, you got a bit of text explaining the story or a short cutscene.
All that is changed in Starcraft II. The cutscenes between missions are really more like scenes from a movie, with excellent voice acting and incredible presentation. Sometimes the acting gets a little cheesy, but it’s never annoying.
Instead of pushing you from mission to mission in a linear path like most RTS titles do, you’re able to wander around a bar on the seedy world you start on, or through your space ship talking to crew members. You’re also able to select your next mission from a few options. You’ll still end up doing all the missions, but the ability to choose the order in which you tackle them is a nice touch.
Another positive is the variety of missions the single player campaign offers. It’s not just wiping out a designated opponent. One of my favorite missions takes place on a volcanic world. You’re tasked to gather a set amount of minerals. The catch is that all the low lying areas are periodically flooded by lava, killing any units or buildings there. Of course, that’s where all the minerals are found as well. The different types of missions keep the single player fresh throughout the 26 mission campaign.
The story focuses on you as Jim Raynor, the leader of an insurgent movement rebelling against the Terran government. There are characters returning from the original game, such as Zeratul, Arcturus Mengsk, Artanis, Sarah Kerrigan, and Raynor himself, as well as plenty of new ones.
So, the single player was surprisingly good. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. After all, Blizzard has a long history of making some heart-stoppingly good games. Still, the fact of the matter is that Starcraft has always been about multiplayer.
There was a lot of uproar when Blizzard announced that they would not be supporting LAN play in Starcraft II, and that complaint is still being made. Blizzard’s heavy reliance on Battle.net with this title has turned some people off. However, it’s not as bad as needing an always-on connection to play. During my single player playthrough, I lost my net connection and it didn’t affect the game at all. I still wish I could play it on LAN, but that’s not a deal breaker for a title this good.
One of the great things about the multiplayer is how familiar it feels. Sure, there is new tech, new units, and all that good stuff, but the gameplay feels a lot like the original Starcraft, albeit with much better graphics. The Battle.net connection makes it easy to set up matches with friends, and finding a game is also fairly easy, especially with the number of folks playing right now.
Playing with friends against the AI is a blast as well, although the AI still has its weak spots. If you watch replays of games, you’ll see the AI’s resource gathering units sitting idle for long periods of time, and it still relies heavily on early rushes to wear down players. Of course, that tactic is often successful, but if you can survive the early rush you can usually triumph, even if it does take a while.
There are plenty of maps to choose from, with the retail version shipping with 60 maps total. Of these, the majority are 2 and 4 player maps, the most commonly used sizes.
The post-game options are pretty handy as well, with graphs that show each player’s resource gathering, unit production (and destruction!), and even the build order of all the players. The build order is a valuable tool to learn how your opponent got their defenses up that fast, or how you can change your tactics to improve your play.
It’s been a long time since I was blown away by a game, and based on my experience in the beta, it wasn’t going to happen with Starcraft II, either. That’s the first point I should make to anyone who isn’t considering buying the game based on the beta. This is NOT like the beta. This is a polished, world-class title that pretty much every fan of strategy games should own.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is easily my favorite game of the year so far. I’m sure it will be mentioned at length when Game of the Year awards are handed out in five or six months. Still, the only thing you need to know right now is this: if you don’t have it yet, now is the time to go and pick it up.
- Outstanding presentation
- Diverse single player missions
- Recaptures the excellence of the original Starcraft multiplayer
- Battle.net features make learning (and improving at) the game much easier
- Great sound effects (the Zerg sound disgusting!)
- Unbelievably good cutscenes
- Good story and characters
- No LAN play (working as intended, of course)
- Some of the voice acting can be a little cheesy
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