Genre: Strategy Developer: Blizzard Entertainment Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment Classification: TBC Release Date: To be advised (future release) Platforms:PC
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Superficially speaking, StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty is an outstanding game. The game scales beautifully - my 30ish month old PC runs the game without dropping any frames and looks great doing it (all settings on Ultra).
The actual gameplay is great too - Wings of Liberty is an objective focused RTS experience with quite a bit of extra gameplay for those who want to challenge themselves/explore the maps.
Anyone not familiar with RTS gameplay should learn the basics - the real time strategy genre focuses on you commanding an army - building units and bases, finding and holding chokepoints and spreading your resources and assets efficiently are all key to success in any RTS game, and SC2 is no exception.
The focus on objectives keeps SC2 moving along without stagnating - the missions in the campaign of SC2 rarely feature a task list of just wiping out your enemy, with train robberies, prison breaks and mineral harvesting while dodging lava tides keeping things interesting.
Each mission introduces a new unit type as well - intended to keep the gameplay as dynamic as possible, it usually meant free units and a an obvious tactic for success. StarCraft players typically pride themselves on being able to churn out as many troops as quickly as humanly possible - free units just speeds this process up.
To combat this, Blizzard uses the objectives to artificially extend the length of each mission, usually by forcing players to wait on wave spawns. Itís simple to understand the why behind the artificial extension of each mission, because without it SC2 might be very short - but it seems counter-intuitive to the way youíre supposed to play the game.
This was deliberate by Blizzard, and so I can appreciate their intentions. They didnít want singleplayer to act as some sort of training ground for multiplayer - this is further demonstrated by the available training option for punters who feel theyíre no good against others.
The emphasis this time for the campaign mode was solely on delivering a strong story - which is probably where the team at Blizzard have made the biggest mistake. The problem is the game canít decide whether itís serious or parody - making either portion difficult to take.
When focused and serious, StarCraft 2 is an outstanding mixture of themes - part revolutionary, part reformed outlaw, Jim Raynor (the main character) struggles with the loyalties of the men who follow him, his burden of responsibility and motivations known only to himself.
The serious parts are also responsible for what Blizzard does best - some of the best FMV cutscenes around. Sadly, these arenít backed up with the in-game cutscenes, where character animations often fail to reach plural status, with the in scene characters repeating the exact same movements over and over until the scene is finished.
When silly, the game is weighed down by comic relief characters like the pimply Egon Stetmann - your scientist and the ultra stereotypical geek - and the bickering news anchors, Kate Lockwell and Donny Vermillion. These characters actually serve to contrast the gameís other characters unfavourably, even if they are actually funny.
Switching from Egon to Jim makes our hero look jockish, especially when he orders the scientist around. It feels a little like the writers were ashamed of their fanbase - most players wonít directly relate to Egon, but Iíd say most human beings will find it easier to relate to the realistically proportioned Stetmann than Raynor, who makes Marcus Fenix look like a puny wimp.
I hate to do the classic flip flop, but despite disliking these features of the characterisation I still enjoyed the story. The serious parts are serious and sometimes stunning to watch, and the comic parts are genuinely funny - as long as you get the constant references to other Blizzard titles.
The defining feature of the story is that I actually know what happened this time. In the first game I basically ignored the story, because the delivery was anything but elegant, and I wanted to get around to building bases and killing zerglings. This time I did more than just watch the story unfold - I dove in to every piece of information the game offered. Naturally, this didn't really help be a better gamer.
Challenges featuring AI designed specifically to teach the player how to be better at the basics endeared the multiplayer aspect of SC2 to a scrub like me. Iíve tried my hand at the challenges and I have a clear understanding of where my weaknesses lie - a key to providing a decent challenge in any game is giving players the opportunity to understand how they can be better.
The matchmaking system is also really well thought out - not something I usually expect at all. The game puts you through your paces with practice matches before placing you in one of the gameís leagues - fortunately for those not-so-confident in their abilities these practice matches are numerous, but itís actually better for you to try and get placed early so you can practice against players who actually are of comparable skill to you.
Custom matches are in place if you want to play against your friends - or play the awesome maps people have already made, including some 0 day Tower Defence stuff. The ingenuity of the map building community is already outdoing itself - boding well for the life of the game online, as map building is a key proponent to longevity.
Multiplayer features less units than singleplayer, but allows you to play as all three races and gives you a more direct RTS experience. It also doesnít require a lot of prior knowledge like the campaign does, though you will probably want to at least do the tutorials if youíre going to skip the campaign.
StarCraft 2 is very much a game for its fans - the gameplay is very similar to the previous game, the story makes no concessions for newcomers and is littered with in-jokes and the multiplayer is filled with people who have been refining their skills for 12 years. New players are in for a bit of a shock, but after a little research many will find themselves enthralled by the game - though the research is necessary.
StarCraft 2 doesnít really do anything to grow the RTS as an actual game - much of what SC2 does better is in the area of matchmaking and social networking, which betters the player experience. The gameplay is very similar, with most changes existing simply to meet current RTS standards.
The polish on the rest of the game serves to highlight it in areas where itís lacking and so the artificially extended campaign, crude characterisation and inelegant animating stands out in what is otherwise an outstanding game. Despite its downfalls the campaign and extensive multiplayer combine to deliver a game well worth the money - and there are still two more parts coming in expansion packs.
Overall the game can get a good rating based purely on the Single Player campaign which is very long and has multiple choices along the way aswell as some really good challenges
At anytime you can go back and redo mission on other levels or to get the bonus objectives, all of this gives you a player score and also the 1st time you complete a mission on any level you get money to buy upgrades for Skirmish mode, and optional research point quests in most missions which can be used to research new technologies and when you redo missions you get those research points again. Once you have maxed out research those research points get exchanged for money
The story is a bit predictable in what the choices will lead too but still very engaging, even if you never played the first starcraft as i don't remember playing much if at all.
If you've played Command and Conquer, the game is identical in gameplay very close to C&C3, though the races are actually taken from Warhammer/Starship Troppers mostly, and Blizzard has no problem saying they take ideas from other sources are rework them into there games.
Which is pretty obvious in this, the Skerg are almost clones of the Skorn in C&C3 and Alien, very similar look, very similar sounds, some very similar unit types. The sounds are very C&C too even down to the cyborg guiding you along the way in the campaign
Also the Skerg are very Borg like in there actions.
Lastly names taken from other sources aswell,
Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings just to name a few
The skirmish mode is identical to Command and Conquer series, though has a lot more maps off the bat