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Starcraft II: Wings Of Liberty (PC) Review

Game Review: Starcraft II: Wings Of Liberty
Release: 27th July 2010
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Developer:
Blizzard
Available Platforms: PC
Players: 1 (Multiplayer is 12, with 8 observers)
MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating:
T (Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes)
Website: http://www.starcraft2.com

It’s one of the jewels in Blizzards PC gaming crown and despite being over 10 years old, StarCraft is among one of the most played PC games even today.  StarCraft 2 was confirmed to be in development in May 2007 much to the delight of Real Time Strategy (RTS) fan everywhere, but could Blizzard improve on the original or should they have left it alone?

First of all everyone needs to be aware of the title of the game.  It’s not simply Starcraft 2, it’s called Starcraft2: Wings of Liberty and the reason for this is that the game is actually being released in three parts.  Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void will follow some time in the near future. The storyline for Wings Of Liberty concentrates on the Terrans, exciled humans, while Heart of the Swarm will focus on the Zerg, leaving Legacy of the Void to complete the story with the Protoss taking centre stage.

As you can imagine, after 12 years, there are quite a few detailed websites dedicated to the background of the Starcraft universe so this review will not dwell too much on it. (For the remainder of the review Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty will be referred to as SC2). SC2 takes place 4 years after the Starcraft expansion pack Brood Wars, and fans of the original (and it’s expansion) will recognise returning characters right from the onset.  Gamers who have decided to jump straight into SC2 will not feel lost by the story as information on characters background is constantly being portrayed through the actual installation process as well as during cutscenes, news reports and noticeboard messages between missions.  The fine detail is there for fanboys, while most players will simply want to know which side is the enemy and how can i destroy them.

Gameplay follows your standard RTS blueprint.  For those who are unfamiliar with RTS games then think of it in this way.  Your main objective is often to establish a base, gather resources to build an army of man and machine while defending your base.  Then when you are confident that your army is strong enough you can launch an assault on the enemy base.  Repeat until your objective is complete for the level.  SC2 does a very good job of adding twists to the standard formula with refreshing attack patterns from the AI and obstacles like limited resources that requires planning on how you will allocate those resources into creating buildings, machinery or extra manpower.  Some levels present the welcome addition of ever changing landscapes with an example being the rising and falling level of lava.  If your men or buildings are on a low lying piece of land when the lava rising, you can kiss those parts of your army goodbye.

Graphics are very sharp and detailed on the highest settings and SC2 can boast some of the best looking units and landscapes for any RTS on the market.  A decade of polish and tweaking to the graphics engine is apparent right from the first mission. another one of the best features of SC2 is its scalability and the possibility to play it on average PC and laptops.  This means that there really is no excuse for the majority of PC gamers to at least try SC2 as it should run on their machine. Of course if you want every bell and whistle turned up and up to the max then you will need a powerhouse of a PC but in all honestly the core game play is not affected by turning off a bit of eye candy.

Units are very well balanced and the extended beta testing period for some lucky gamers has obviously paid of.  It is not always obvious in the single player campaign but as you venture into some co-op and multiplayer missons, it’s refreshing to find that not everyone will be rushing to build the same all conquering units due to the advantages and disadvantages of each vehicle or infantry.  Blizzard have historically been good with releasing patches to fix bugs and in the couple of months since release, SC2 has seen several patches released which also improve the balancing of units.

All of which leads nicely into some discussion about the multiplayer aspect of the game.  Starcraft stayed the test of time purely due to its multiplayer aspect so it pleases me to report that Blizzard have produced the goods when it comes to SC2 multiplayer.  The matchmaking service takes a leaf out of XBox Live and PlayStation Networks books and improves vastly on the dated matchmaking of Battle.net which is now showing its age.  Newcomers, especially console games will feel right at home when they try to set up a multiplayer match.  Gamers also have the option of 3 player co-op which dedicate fans have already started created custom campaigns for.

Finally I want to discuss the collectors edition.  Regular Platform Nation readers will know that opinion on the value of collectors editions is split among the P*N staff but with SC2, Blizzard have actually crammed a lot of extras into the box which goes someway to justifying the extra cost.  Compared to the usual rubbish that is shipped under the label of limited or collectors editions, I think Blizzard actually gives the fans, who buy this set, a good selection of extra items.

  • The Art of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, a 176-page book featuring artwork from the game
  • An exclusive 2GB USB flash drive replica of Jim Raynor’s dog tag, which comes preloaded with the original StarCraft and the StarCraft: Brood War® expansion set
  • A behind-the-scenes DVD containing over an hour of developer interviews, cinematics with director’s commentary, and more
  • The official StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty soundtrack CD, containing 14 epic tracks from the game along with exclusive bonus tracks
  • StarCraft comic book issue #0, a prequel to the comic series
  • A World of Warcraft® mini Thor in-game pet that can be applied to all World of Warcraft characters on a single Battle.net account
  • Exclusive Battle.net downloadable content, including special portraits for your Battle.net profile, decals to customize your units in-game, and a visually unique version of the terran Thor unit

Mark’s Final Say: Prior to release, many feared that Blizzard may drop the ball on this and taint the legacy known as StarCraft.  Instead they have delivered exactly what they set out to do.  This game deserves to be in contention for game of the year when the awards are given out at the end of 2010.  The single player campaign is a hefty 29 missions long, and you also have the option of 3 player co-op and of course standard multiplayer with the all new Battle.net features.  RTS fans will almost definitely have picked this up already but if you are on the fence or you are curious to dip your toe into PC gaming, then this would be an excellent place to start.

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