Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty
Release Date: July 27, 2010
Pros: An RTS game that any fan could appreciate, stunning cinematic scenes, enjoyable campaign, highly competitive multiplayer and co-op, slew of achievements to flaunt successes
Cons: Online community is unrelenting, LAN support is absent, Expectancy of expansions leave Campaign limited to Terran
Starcraft is one of those franchises that PC fans have been dedicated to since its inception. Sort of like Counter-Strike, the die-hard of the bunch have played the game continuously since its release. Well fans playing for the past 10 years finally have the sequel they have been waiting for, with Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty. The game was well worth the wait.
Right off the bat you notice this game is gorgeous for an RTS. So gorgeous it makes my computer cry out in pleasurable pain every time a building explodes. The satisfying explosion as a base crumbles, the scenic landscape of the terrain as you cross into enemy territory, even the wave of enemy fire painting your bunkers looks insanely good. Couple this with the stunning FMV scenes we've come to know from Blizzard and you have one beautiful looking war. Not to mention every blaster shot, Yomato cannon fired, and explosion sounds like an orchestra of destruction. Each explosion is not only satisfying to look at, but a joy to the ears.
As far as story is concerned, the Campaign holds your interest from start to finish. You take the role of Jim Raynor, a renegade leading an uprising against the Dominion. He's basically like Obi-Wan taking on the empire by himself. Along comes Tychus Findlay, an old friend that promises a business venture of collecting artifacts which turn out to be much more than simple old technology. The path leads them to Special Forces experts, run-ins with the Protoss race, and a battle against the Zerg, lead by the Queen of Blades. The story and characters prove incredibly interesting, though Tychus lays the accent on pretty heavy...continually reminding me of...well...
The great thing Blizzard did with Starcraft 2, was have it appeal to the hardcore RTS crowd it held so closely, while also opening the experience to new players. I personally, rarely touch RTS games and never even experienced the first game. The slew of options at hand was enough to hold my attention and keep me coming back.
The prime area that kept pulling me back was the Campaign mode. I rarely care about an RTS campaign story or characters, but Blizzard does an incredible job of blending the story telling with gameplay. For once in my life on an RTS, I knew why I was on "X" planet doing "X" thing and what it would lead to. The mode seconds as a training, introducing you to all the various units and abilities that you can use in playing multiplayer. As I went through each mission, I found myself becoming more familiar with strategies and techniques that I could transfer to multiplayer.
For those new to the whole SC scene, here is how it goes. You typically start with a command center (not always in campaign) and dole out units from it. These units gather 2 types of materials, Minerals and Gas. Both are required to build more complexes and more units. Once you start running low you expand to a new set of crystals and gas openings. Pretty soon you are massing a huge army, with Factories and Starports doling out new units every second. Some facilities upgrade these units or open up abilities for them to use, like cloaking. This is where the user comes into play, choosing what units will work best for you or where to expand to without being overrun. It is a continual guessing game, where you have to out think and out build your opponent.
While the campaign does have you go mission to mission, the off-time will be spent on board the ship. Here you can engage in conversation with your crew, upgrade particular units, replay old missions, and even play a "Galaga"-esque arcade shooter. This adds somewhat of an RPG element in customizing which units you prefer or hiring mercenaries you feel would be most beneficial. It adds a welcome break from the action to get caught up on events and plan out how you will approach the next mission. There are even the occasional choices to be made as to who to side with, which base to attack, or who to trust; Offering multiple playthroughs.
If playing alone is not your style, the multiplayer is the most competitive among the PC bunch. Here is some sound knowledge...you will lose. A lot. Like I stated before, you are entering an online environment that people have been glued to for about a good 10 years. They know what they are doing...and you do not. Luckily, you get 5 "placement" matches before hand and 50 free matches that don't hurt your standing. This matchmaking system will keep you within your league and try to keep you away from the incredibly skilled.
Though it can be intimidating, the matchmaking works pretty well. You will have the occasional match with what you are sure is a guy with fifteen fingers and two keyboards, but you will also run into the interesting and enjoyable matches. 2v2 and 3v3 matches prove to be the most insane, as you rush from base to base to help your friends. There are also plenty of "challenge modes" to help you out in preparing for multiplayer, with missions structured to limit you to only using the keyboard or fend off a zerg rush with limited units. You can also view replays of past matches to see how that dude was able to get 200 marines in such a short time.
Though I enjoyed the game overall, some things bothered me. As the pattern of Blizzard typically acts, it isn't over until it's over. Two expansion packs, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void are already planned for release. This of course meant leaving out any sort of Campaign for the Protoss or the Zerg. You get a few missions, but nothing as in-depth. Being a first time SC player, I was really intrigued by these races and wanted to experience their background or point of view. Alas, Campaign is stuck with one race for most of the missions.
Surprisingly, the mode that sparked this game into a sensation is absent. No LAN support. Let's face it, it isn't the age where we all lug our computers over to each others houses anymore for a few good games. Still, it seems odd that this mode is available. This rules out any of those heated matches in a computer lab or school, making faces at each other from across the room. International play is not even an option. Though I am grateful to stay away from the Korean force of pain, if I wish to play with anyone in another country I can only hope to move there.
Starcraft 2 is a game that was able to pull me, a non-avid RTS fan, back into the game again and again. It is easy to pick up, and damn hard to master. No one strategy proves to be the key to success, and no two games ever play the same. In an age where consoles seem to be the place to go, SC2 reminds you that the PC is still one of the kings of gaming hardware. Not only could this title be PC title of the year, but a high contender for Game of the Year.