StarCraft II continues the epic saga of the Protoss, Terran, and Zerg. These three distinct and powerful races clash once again in the fast-paced real-time strategy sequel to the legendary original, StarCraft. Legions of veteran, upgraded, and brand-new unit types do battle across the galaxy, as each faction struggles for survival. Featuring a unique single-player campaign that picks up where StarCraft: Brood War left off, StarCraft II presents a cast of new heroes and familiar faces in an edgy sci-fi story filled with adventure and intrigue. In addition, Blizzard again offers unparalleled online play through Battle.net, the company’s world-renowned gaming service, with several enhancements and new features to make StarCraft II the ultimate competitive real-time strategy game. Features fast-paced, hard-hitting, tightly balanced competitive real-time strategy gameplay that recaptures and improves on the magic of the original game. New units and gameplay mechanics further distinguish each race. Vibrant new 3D-graphics engine with support for dazzling visual effects and massive unit and army sizes. Full map-making and scripting tools to give players incredible freedom in customizing and personalizing their gameplay experience.
I’m gonna go ahead and say this straight away. Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty is my favorite game I’ve played in 2010. Looking back at the plethora of games I’ve played in 2010, that’s a pretty big accomplishment in my eyes. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the multiplayer that sank it’s teeth into me in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. It was the story of Jim Reynor, and the branching storyline of his battle with Emperor Mengsk that had me coming back for more, teaching me the intracacies of this real time strategy title, and ultimately transitioning me into multiplayer with a good grasp of the StarCraft II universe. RTS campaigns that I have played in the past didn’t quite have the meat that Starcraft 2 has. Sure, they do a good job at explaining the basics to you, but not with the level of detail and polish that Blizzard offers in Wings of Liberty. The story is spun through beautifully crafted cinematics, which are probably the best I have ever seen on any platform bar none. Though it’s not just cinematics that move the story along however, Starcraft 2 has an RPG element to it as well. Taking place aboard your ship, The Hyperion, Wings of Liberty gives you a bunch of things to do in between your missions. Talking to shipmates, researching and upgrading your weapons, The Hyperion is a living and breathing trophy room of your accomplishments throughout the campaign that moves the story along at a nice pace.
Blizzard includes a bunch of stuff that is important to the Starcraft 2 newcomer. Most importantly, is the campaign that teaches you the intricacies of the game. It walks that fine line between catering to the old veterans who likely know all about the Zerg, Protoss, and Terran races, and the newcomers who haven’t a clue. Since Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty is for all intents and purposes a RTS multiplayer fan’s wet dream, it’s important to learn the basics when chugging through the campaign. But if you don’t, Blizzard has also incorporated a set of challenges that will have you fending off Zerg rushes in no time. These challenge maps will task you with defending your forces with a limited army, you’ll learn which units perform best against others and its another nice transition into the unforgiving online world of Battle.net, ladders, and StarCraft II competition.
As far as Battle.net is concerned, everything is streamlined, easy to navigate, while being easy on the eyes as well. Keeping up with your REAL ID friends is a breeze, and forming parties to play in 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or 4v4 FFA matches is a simple thoughtless process. Newcomers get 50 matches to hone their skills in the game of their choice before playing qualifier games which will determine league placement. Once you are put in a league, matchmaking will match you with players of differing skill levels favoring you in some games and your opponent in others. You receive points for victories, and over time, should advance to Diamond League. That is, if you can manage to improve upon your StarCraft skill set while fending off millions of blood thirsty competitors.
Coming from someone that is not used to playing RTS games on the computer, I must say that the learning curve if better than I expected it to be. The hotkeys are logical but many. If you are a casual player most commands can be issued by simply pointing and clicking on the screen. The real challenge comes from the many different strategies in Starcraft 2. Like many RTS games you have your early, mid , and late game strategies, and keeping an eye on your opponent is of the utmost importance. The three different race classes available for play are all distinctly different and will require a little bit of researching to figure out which tech builds lead to bigger and better weapons. Balance in Starcraft 2 is already good, surprising for a game that has released only a few days ago. This means that everything has a counter and battles boil down to efficient building strategies and scouting your opponents, as a good RTS should.
While the matchmaking in Starcraft 2 is decent to bluntly understate it, I do still have some questions about the ladder system for competitive multiplayer, after putting tens of hours into this portion of the game. In a game that is as detail oriented as Starcraft 2 it surprises me that there are no real explanations out there that can help players find these answers as to how ranking is calculated. The ladder system is the vaguest thing in the game at this point, but also the most intriguing. The Leagues and Ladders section of StarCraft II multiplayer is where the highest level of competition can be found, and hopefully there is more transparency in future updates for this portion of the game.
A couple of other things do truly bother me about Starcraft 2. While a lot of the game is explicitly intuiative, if you aren’t a world class player with a firm grasp on the controls and units, you’re in for a world of hurt. Considering that so many players are relentless and unforgiving when mistakes are made, you’ll find a lot of lopsided matchups in your early time with StarCraft II online. I personally found myself losing a lot of battles for the sheer fact that my grasp on the controls of the game are not quite up to par with players who have been playing the series for years. That’s expected, but it also means that there is some barrier to entry if this is your first time into the world of Starcraft. It doesn’t quite spoil the experience if you are up for a challenge, but be prepared for an unforgiving couple of weeks while you get your feet wet. Luckily, the community for the most part is very helpful, and are an excellent resource for information. Plus, there is a ton of after match stat tracking at your disposal. Graphs, Breakdowns, Build Orders, Replays where you can watch exactly what the other guy did, there are a lot of resources at your disposal to make you a better Starcraft 2 player in Wings of Liberty.
The Verdict: Since I already pretty much spoiled this summary and score in the the early goings of this brief review of Starcraft 2, I’ll go ahead and reiterate. Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty is a great game. It’s one of the deepest and most balanced RTS games I’ve ever played. Whether you are a StarCraft veteran, or just looking for a new challenge, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. No matter if looking at the spectacular cutscenes and story that offer up a compelling single player experience, or the challenging multiplayer component that will undoubtedly add hours upon hours of enjoyment to the title, StarCraft II is a game that actually gets better and more valuable with the more time spent learning it.
- Available On: PC
- Published By: Blizzard Entertainment
- Developed By: Blizzard Entertainment
- Genre: RTS
- US Release Date: 7/27/10
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty is a great game. It's one of the deepest and most balanced RTS games I've ever played."