Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty was released with all this hype and so much to live up to. I bought it the morning it came out and took the day off of work to play it with my six year old son and have to say that the game was very well done but doesn’t revolutionize the real time strategy genre, nor does it take advantage of as much as it could have.
One of the biggest strengths about Starcraft II is that it looks and feels just like the original Starcraft, but this is also one of its biggest drawbacks for someone who may have been looking for something totally new and original.
I really like the Addon of the Terran Barracks which allows you to build and release multiple soldiers at the same time, this allows you to create an army of soldiers with a few barracks very quickly. The Zerg in Starcraft 2 are even more bountiful and numerous than the first game. Toe for Toe unless you leverage bunkers and massive amounts of soldiers and healers (which are awesome and kept from Broodwars) you won’t stand a chance repelling the Zerg armies in Hard mode. I also really enjoyed the interactive backgrounds such as on the Lava planet where every five minutes lava would rise up from the ground and incinerate any units that weren’t moved to safer high ground. There is also missions based on time of day where you have to wipe out enemy during the day and defend your base from onslaught at night.
Installing the game takes a very long time, the game takes 12 Gigabytes of disk space but you get to watch an overview of the original Starcraft games and listen to some audio narration during the install.
The game itself is a mammoth graphics hog and my older GeForce 7800 GT with 512mb Video Ram was barely able to play the game at 1920×1200 resolution without lagging and staggering. I could only muster medium graphics settings and detail but the artwork was simply wonderful to look at. The way buildings explode with a shockwave, the artistic style of the units are all very nice.
If you have ever played Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War you will know that this game did the individual unit thing a little bit better. There were variations in units (they weren’t all exact clone look alike of each other), they also showed more authentic damage when injured. DoW:40K also let you zoom in much closer to each unit and allowed rotation of the map, not just scroll in and out which Starcraft 2 limits you to. Though Starcraft 2 is no slouch and has better art design on structures, landscapes, units and backgrounds than any previous RTS game I have played.
The animation between levels is fantastic as we have come to expect from Blizzard, and the little hints and clickable items between each level to delve into the story are also enjoyable.
Starcraft II requires an internet connection at all times to Battle.net to play the campaign mode if you want to track and save your progress, awards and the like. There is a way to install the game and play the campaign mode without online access but this can only be done after you have already loaded the game and it checked for its latest patches. The option to play multiplayer with family members in your own household is nonexistant off of a single purchased copy of the game however.
I understand Blizzard wanting to cut down on Piracy, but at least give players the option to purchase $10 licenses for in their own household, or allow them to create multiple player profiles under the same Battle.NET account. I don’t want my 6 year old to play strangers online, but I do want to be able to play him in some human vs CPU battles without buying 2 copies of Starcraft 2.
Some of the best features about Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty are the customizations you can acquire by earning credits during in game missions or research points by doing the optional in game bonuses. The credits can be used to purchase upgrades for your units and structures like additional hitpoints, special abilities and more. It allows for variation in how you play and helps in certain areas.
The research points come in either Zerg or Protoss research points and they give you different type of research options. Extra weaponry, unit armor upgrades…etc are all optional. The tech tree of the research upgrades is such that you are forced to pick one or the other upgrade at each level of the tree, this is different than credits where you can go back and select the upgrades you didn’t acquire for the same unit.
Another really fun thing about Starcraft II is the Mini Game(s) that you can play inside of Starcraft. There is one in the arcade inside the Cantina inside Raynor’s starship and it is a fully featured Xenon type of top/bottom scroller. I beat the first level and was hoping you can win some in game credits or research points by playing it. It is pretty fun though and breaks up the mood.
A hint is to click on everything between levels, especially the televisions featuring the news as they progress the story arc. Click on each character between each level as well as they all have something else to contribute to the story.
One love or hate feature of Starcraft II is the fact that it can tie into Facebook to import all of your friends who own and have activated the game. This basically allows you to easily connect and network with other Facebook players who are in your friends network and ties your real name into your Battle.net account which is what Blizzard was intending to do to prevent fraud and bad behavior in the game and forums.
Starcraft II is not completely something new but a refined version of something very familiar. This is more like an incredible enhancement over the original Starcraft and while it doesn’t push the RTS genre in any new directions it does revitalize it in my opinion. I rate Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty a 9 out of 10 so far for the Single Player Campaign mode. For the multiplayer mode I found that no the automatching consistently pitted me against players who were vastly superior to me and I lost 5 out of 5 online matches. If you have a friends network it is fairly easy to see who is online and start a multiplayer game and you can even set 2v2 matches with you and a buddy vs two other random people which was quite fun (we still lost though!).