Its been 11 years since the sensation that swept the competitive gaming world by storm was released and finally after much hype and anticipation, our sequel is finally here, and believe me, it absolutely lives up to the speculation! Released just this past Tuesday for the PC and Mac for $60, Blizzard’s “Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty” stays true to its roots offering a great story, strong multiplayer, tons of new units and the exact same great game-play we’ve come to expect. Over the past week or so I’ve gotten a lot of negative comments on my “Starcraft 2” videos from gamers, or their parents, who saw the epic trailer, knew nothing of the original, and expected this to be some futuristic shooter and were seriously pissed off that they were let down or something. Well, let me just show you what all the hype is about. Here’s “Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty”.
First let me start off by saying that if you haven’t played the first “Starcraft”, you aren’t left in the dust. The game does a great job catching you up on everything that happens, hell, even the installer starts explaining the back-story as the game installs. The story takes place 4 years following “Brood War” with Jim Raynor wasting away in a bar on the planet Mar’Sara, mourning the loss of his ex would-be-biatch Sarah Kerrian, who as we know has been transformed into the Queen of Blades and is leading the Zerg. Tychus Finley, an ex-con from Raynor’s past shows up with an opportunity to make some money by collecting ancient Xel-Naga artifacts from the Protoss for Mobius, a Terran research corporation. On top of that, self-declared Dominion Emperor Acrturus Mengsk is causing all kinds of trouble as the power has clearly gone to his head. The Zerg have begun attacking colonies all over the universe, and Mengsk blames Raynor for some crazy reason.
Anyway, Raynor gets pissed and decides to start a rebellion against the Dominion, and works with Tychus to collect the artifacts for Mobius so that they can raise some money to form their own army to begin the revolution, and at the same time tries to figure out what’s going on with the Queen of Blades, what she is up to and why she is attacking colonies again. Later, Protoss Dark Templar badass Zeratul shows up offering Jim a vision into the past and future providing some insight as to what the hell is really going on and things start to get really interesting. I don’t want to get too spoilery so I’m going to leave it at that, but you’re in for some surprises as you play through this bad boy. To sum it up, Raynor needs to overthrow Mengsk and stop the Zerg.
Without a doubt you are going to get a lot of content for your money. I’m not even going to cover the multiplayer portion of the game. If you are looking for info on that, including tips, strategies and the best commentaries on the net, you’re gonna want to check out HD and HuskyStarcraft and click their links below because that’s their specialty and are gonna let you know everything you’d ever want to know. Beyond that, the single player campaign offers you 26 missions that should keep you occupied for at least 15 hours. In addition there is a series of Challenge Missions that really teach you how to get good at “Starcraft”, including multiplayer techniques like how to hold off a rush. The campaign missions are very well designed, offering a variety of different game-play mechanics beyond simply building a base and army to destroy your enemy’s forces. In fact, some missions even have various outcomes that you’ll have to decide upon that will actually affect how the remainder of the missions will play out for you.
There are several difficulty levels and an elegant tutorial system so that even the noobiest of noobs can play and there is an achievement system for each mission, some of which are actually pretty difficult to obtain; you’ll likely have to play through the campaign several times to unlock them all. On top of all of this, you can set up custom games with you and your friends against the AI, or you can play with the extensive “Starcraft Galaxy Editor” that allows you to create and share seriously awesome levels. I’m not going to cover this in my review, but believe me, those creative independent designers out there are going to create some wonderful content for the Starcraft community.
While the basic game-play mechanics from the original “Starcraft” have not changed a bit, there are some interesting additions that you should be concerned with. First of all, you don’t really have to worry about dealing with upgrades during the missions. Now, there is a hub between the levels that lets you speak with the game’s primary characters to get a lot more of the story and select which of a series of missions you’d like to tackle next, but more importantly, it allows you to upgrade and unlock new troops and research special upgrades via a tech tree. See, as you do missions for Mobius you’ll earn money, which can be spent directly on hiring mercenaries for the missions and upgrading units in the armory.
Once you pay for a particular type of mercenary, they are available to hire several times per mission and they are essentially elite units that deal extra damage and have extra health; plus they look way cooler than the standard units. The armory allows you to add uber-powerful upgrades to buildings and units. All of the units from the original “Starcraft” are in the single player campaign in addition to all of the new units the game provides. It’s too bad that the classic units and all of the uber-upgrades you get from the armory aren’t in the multiplayer, but I understand because it would simply be impossible to keep the game balanced otherwise. The hub also has a mini-game in the form of a shmup that was designed with the Starcraft Galaxy editor which really shows the power of the tool, allowing designers to create brand new games that aren’t of the RTS genre. Finally, as you play the missions you’ll collect Protoss and Zerg technology which can be spent in the hub laboratory to unlock powerful upgrades and new units, one in particular I found necessary to beat the final level of the game.
There is no doubt that the graphics of the game have seen a significant overhaul over the original, that is, assuming you have a beefy enough computer to run the game on it’s Ultra settings. On top of that, the game is chuck full of beautiful fully rendered cut-scenes that will just blow your mind, and every single one of them, especially those near the end, are freaking epic! I’ve heard lots of comments from people who state that the graphics look dated and unimpressive but they’re just haters; this is Blizzard’s iconic cartoony art-style and they look wonderful. In addition to the top-down game-play style of the original, you can now zoom in on your units giving you a completely new way to watch the battles as they unfold for you.
The soundtrack is top notch both in the cut-scenes as well as the missions and hub. There is even a jukebox in the Hub that plays some pretty hilarious futuristic redneck Terran music. The voice actors for every single role including the individual units in the game are all great as well. “Starcraft 2” was in development for such a long time and the game’s presentation absolutely displays the time and more importantly care that were put into the detail.
It’s pretty obvious I’m a big fan of Blizzard games so I hope my judgment hasn’t been biased, but really, I don’t care. My reviews are subjective anyway, so make up your mind for yourself based off of what I’ve shown you whether or not this would be a good title for you. “Starcraft 2” is actually going to be 3 full-length feature titles, one campaign per race. A lot of people complained that they would be paying $180 then for a single game, but really, that’s not the case. The single player campaign of “Wings of Liberty” alone is well worth the 60 bucks. It is a full-length game and a complete story all on its own, not to mention the extensive multiplayer system, challenge missions and the MASSIVE Galaxy Map Editor with all of the user-created content. It’s too bad that all of the awesome units and sweet upgrades of the single player game aren’t in the multiplayer because it would be really interesting had the tech trees been involved, that way you wouldn’t know what to expect from your opponents simply by knowing their race. Can you imagine having instant supply depots or a machine that slows down zerg units in multiplayer? Overpowered? Perhaps… But totally kickass! Nonetheless, what do you all think? Are you as excited about “Starcraft 2” as I am, or are you confused as to why the hell anyone would want to play this? Leave your questions and comments below!
Review Video: http://www.youtube.com/ZeitgeistReview
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**This title was provided to me free of charge from the publisher to review for you.