StarCraft 2 Review
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment / Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment / ESRB: Teen (Blood and Gore, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence) / Played on: PC / Price: $59.99
Welcome to another video game review here on machinima.com I’m Rob Talbert and today we are checking out the long anticipated sequel, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. It’s been over a decade since the original StarCraft was released, question is, does the sequel have enough new bells and whistles to satiate long time fans of the series, or is this game stuck in the past and are there enough new players that have never played an RTS to be interested in it? Time to find out.
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Right off the bat I have to say that the story was my biggest concern going into StarCraft 2. It has been over a decade since this universe has been explored or updated with a new game and the guys at Blizzard have a lot of rabid fans waiting to find out what happens next in the series. Luckily for all of us, Blizzard totally knocked it out of the park. StarCraft II’s story is absolutely brilliant. It brings back many of the characters we loved from the first game like Jim Raynor, pseudo leader of the Terran, and Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, the new leader of the Zerg, and thrusts them headfirst into a continuation of the narrative. Without giving away too much, in Wings of Liberty you are in command of Jim Raynor and the Terrans (for most of the game) and are tasked with hunting down Xal Naga artifacts that may be able to bring down the Queen of Blades who has recently reemerged and is wrecking havoc on some of the outlying Terran planets. The Protoss are peppered throughout the story, but remember that Wings of Liberty is focused on the Terrans specifically so you aren’t getting much in the way of story progression for the Protoss or Zerg. Overall though, the story is one of the main reasons this game is so great. It’s engaging, exciting, and will definitely leave you wanting more once you finally barrel through the 16-plus hours of gameplay in the single-player mode. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a great setup for what will surely be an epic tale when the next two games of the announced trilogy are released.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty for those of you that don’t know, is Real-Time Strategy game. This is a genre that has become a little stale in recent years, with no real advances in the gameplay style despite efforts to bring classic series like Command & Conquer to consoles. While Starcraft II doesn’t make any real advances itself it does have a way of making you feel at times that you aren’t playing an RTS. The normal base construction, unit micromanagement, and mineral harvesting are all still there, but Blizzard has created a very unique mission structure in the single-player that makes the game play like something different than a traditional RTS. The way that Blizzard has crafted the mission design in Wings of Liberty is an achievement in itself. Sometimes you will be racing to collect minerals faster than an opponent in order to hire a mercenary squad, or you will be on a lava filled planet that erupts with lava every so often causing you to constantly move your bases, or you will be in command of a small force of units on a stealthy mission to infiltrate a prison and release inmates. All of these missions and many more are a great way to advance the story in single-player that keep the standard RTS formula fresh. On that note, the RTS in Wings of Liberty is pitch perfect. The game has taken a genre that is stalling and injected new angles to play the game that make it very refreshing. Each of the races–Protoss, Terran, and Zerg–are extremely well balanced, all of the new unit additions in the game are excellent, and, while some of units from the first game have been removed, these core reasons make picking up and playing this game a new and fresh experience to veterans and newcomers alike. In addition to the normal RTS gameplay mechanic StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty has to offer, the game also adds in a semi-RPG element that takes place in between missions. Raynor can wander around the ship and talk with other crew members and even upgrade and research new abilities to units and buildings using credits earned by completing missions. It’s a welcome addition that helps make the world feel more fleshed out than in a typical RTS experience. One of the greatest aspects of SCII: Wings of Liberty is the inclusion of the map editor; it allows you to create your own maps and gametypes. A slew of maps are already uploaded and available to play on Battle.net and there is no end in sight. This alone should keep the game fresh and engaging for years to come.
One of the biggest selling points for Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is the multiplayer. This is the sequel one of the most successful and long-lasting multiplayer experiences in history. You can rest assured that the multiplayer component in SCII is brilliant, thanks largely in part to a revamped Battle.net. The new Battle.net has a streamlined feel to it, it’s extremely easy to add and manage friends online now. Chatting is a breeze and setting up parties and games has never been easier in an RTS game. There are even online ranks and achievements that you can unlock as you play the game more and all of these are shown and manageable in your Battle.net profile, which keeps your activities extremely competitive online. You can play good old competitive multiplayer with a maximum of eight players total in a game, or take on the computer with friends online in cooperative modes.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty looks phenomenal. The in-game graphics are polished to perfection. All of the units have their own unique animations and look phenomenal when you zoom in close to them. The environments in the game are all beautiful as well; there was never a time when I felt like I was playing over the same map again. Blizzard has managed to craft a vast amount of very unique looking locations that will really help to extend the game’s shelf life for years to come. The cutscenes are absolutely jaw-dropping. It’s amazing to see characters a decade old get the full HD polish they deserve. While this is all great, you are going to need a pretty beefy machine if you want to run Starcraft II fully optimized and looking its absolute best.
We have been waiting 12 years for a new entry in the series. While that’s a long time, I’m really glad that Blizzard took their time to really examine what made the first game so great and incorporate that and new elements into its sequel. The wait is over, the time it took to create this game paid off, and now we are all able to enjoy the single greatest real-time strategy game ever crafted. Now we just hope its not another 12 year wait before the next game in the series, Heart of the Swarm…