Posted Mon 18th Oct 2010 3:54pm by edward zhao
Starcraft II Review
In 10 Seconds
Starcraft II is an expertly polished and amazingly addictive game, but its core tenets were established over a decade ago. It should be lauded for a lovingly crafted campaign and fairly extensive multiplayer options, but it feels like deja vu.
Starcraft II tells a sci-fi saga of three races: the human Terrans, the swarming Zerg, and the technologically advanced Protoss. The campaign of Wings of Liberty, the first of Starcraft II’s planned trilogy, follows the Terran outlaw Jim Raynor as he struggles against his past while fighting against an oppressive government. This is strongly complemented by Starcraft II’s multiplayer component, where a litany of challenging and often overwhelming online opponents can be found.
The basic mechanics of Starcraft II are classic real time strategy fare as in the first game. You have workers to harvest minerals which are then put into the production of a variety of units. Skirmishes occur with your computer or human opponent until only one player remains. Unlike the first Starcraft, however, Wings of Liberty takes an open approach to its campaign. Players can pick and choose which missions to undertake in Raynor's campaign against the Dominion, with the next story mission unlocked through requisite actions. The hub world is Raynor’s flagship, the Hyperion, which also allows the recruitment of mercenaries and various upgrades for your troops. This lends a quasi-RPG feel to the RTS aspects, a popular mechanic that’s lately become increasingly entrenched from FIFA to Bioshock.
One consistent complaint prior to Starcraft II’s release involves the absence of Zerg or Protoss campaigns within Wings of Liberty. This is a complete non-issue with the retail version, as the focused Terran campaign allows Blizzard to flesh out individual units. The majority of the 29 missions will each unlock a unit for future use, and these missions tend to showcase that specific unit’s strengths. Thus the siege tank, which gains a powerful long range cannon by becoming immobile, is first showcased in a mission that requires the defending of a mining laser while the Diamondback, an anti-armor vehicle that can fire on the move, is introduced during an an armored train heist.
Thus, the missions themselves are as varied as the myriad Terran units. Wings of Liberty has some intensely unique and clever missions due to its variety of settings, and these mission are never tiring to play. The only major complaint is that the single player experience inadequately prepares the player for the harsh reality of the online scene. Stripped of the campaign’s RPG perks and instead faced with the malicious minds of various Internet denizens, the unprepared will undoubtedly find themselves continually rushed, outmacroed, and “cheesed” with cheap but highly effective tactics in their first multiplayer games.
The multiplayer options have a number of wonderful features, though overall the system is a tad clunky and lacks the chatroom support from the original. Players are divided into leagues depending on performance during their initial matches, but lateral movement between leagues is possible and determined by win/loss records. In an attempt to create competitive matches, Blizzard also measures your skill level through an undisclosed formula. The intent is for the player to have a 50% chance of winning every encounter, which means that easy victories or completely crushing defeats are rare. The system works fairly well and after a dozen or so games, every forthcoming match is generally competitive. A strong party system is also included, where parties can form and then jointly create or join other games. League tracking is also present for your teams, though it's a bit tedious to continually play placement matches.
The key to the first Starcraft’s amazing longevity is strongly tied to immaculately balanced races and strong fanbase support through user created maps. Wings of Liberty returns with a more expansive map editor, allowing for concepts from Warcraft III, like heroes and items, to be incorporated into the Starcraft universe. Furthermore, some highly imaginative minds have begun work on FPS mods, side scrolling beat-em ups, and even a Contra clone. The range and possibility of custom made maps is nearly endless and hardcore map sites, like sc2mapster, prove that a dedicated community could keep Starcraft II popular for another decade.
Another area that's drastically improved from Starcraft are the replays. Your latest games are saved in watchable format and a bevy of features, including the all important APM feature, are available. It's key that you can spot your mistakes or learn from your enemies, especially in such a highly competitive community. Yet there's the glaring absence of being able to watch replays with your friends, especially prominent due to its inclusion in the original and to the prominence of team based play.
Blizzard opted for an astounding amount of graphical detail with Wings of Liberty. This imparts personality in spades, as the Battlecruiser Admiral's eyepatch or the bandana wearing Siege Tanks attest. Vibrant animations make units come alive while their amusing death scenes, from electrocution to fire or being cut into various horizontal pieces, would be pitiful if they weren’t so sadistically hilarious.
Throughout the campaign, there are also a number of stunning CG sequences. Like past entries in the Warcraft or Starcraft saga, these gorgeous visuals are extravagant while highlighting some of the key moments of the storyline.
The Starcraft II tunes are catchy and pleasing, with a few, especially the main theme, veering towards the astoundingly epic. Perhaps the most delectable is a twanging Terran theme that easily brings to mind the lawless West, complete with lonely campfire and guitar. But again, Blizzard’s penchant for polish is amazing. Each unit has a wide variety of phrases and continually clicking on them will reveal various humorous comments. The Terran units in particular find a stronger persona due to their audio delivery, from the Thor pilot's Schwarzenegger swaggor to the Battlecruiser Admiral's somewhat snooty demeanor.
The protagonists of the campaign do a solid job of delivering their lines, with Tychus Findley strongly impersonating a 19th century Southern drawl. Sometimes it all gets a bit sappy and cliché, but the overall quality is nonetheless admirable.
Starcraft II is no revolution, but it's a finely tuned, competitive, multiplayer RTS that's even now receiving patches to satiate its passionate fan base. The online functionality is expanded for melee games while the robust map editor hints at infinite creative possibilities. In a nutshell, this is Starcraft with the advantages of today's technology. It offers a return to RTS roots in terms of gameplay, but the action is still as fun and addictive as in 1998.
Game Kudos is giving away a digital download of Starcraft II! Check out our Starcraft II Giveaway article for all the details!
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