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Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty PC (Starcraft 2) Review - -

Gameplay 9.9
Graphics 8.9
Sound 8.9
Value 10
Distributor: Blizzard
Review Date:
August 2010
Andrew Bistak


Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

Blizzard’s Starcraft game has one of the most loyal followings to date and 12-years later, the sequel to this gaming blockbuster has finally arrived. As opposed to Earth based real-time strategy (RTS) games such as Command & Conquer, Blizzard added aliens, space ships and human colonisation to the fray which created one of the most playable and enjoyable games of this genre. Just like Warcraft which spawned the world’s most popular online game, Starcraft took players to an amazing universe that captured our imaginations and allowed us to embark on some of the most entertaining and challenging gaming experiences.

However, the biggest mistake to sequels is that sometimes the developers try to be too clever for their own good but for Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, the gameplay from the original 1998 title remains thoroughly in tact but there are plenty of new additions to make this current instalment stand tall and proud, especially with the 21st century graphics and almost perfect gaming engine. Another highlight of the game is that Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty contains two excellent gaming modes that include single-player and multiplayer so if you like both, you're in for a whole world of enjoyment.

The story of Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty (SC2) is set in the distant future, the 26th century to be precise and mankind has finally dominated the stars with their colonies reaching the far distances of space. Unfortunately for mankind, the universe is not a safe place and two alien species are also vying for top position in the food chain, the swarm-like Zerg and the technological advanced Protoss, two distinctly opposite and dangerous species. In terms of the previous game, SC2 is set a few years after the Brood War and gamers control Jim Raynor, a former outlaw turned saviour. Unfortunately Raynor has not made too many friends within the human colonies and the insidious Dominion with their leader, Emperor Mengsk wants him dead. Raynor also feels responsible for letting down his ex-partner Kerrigan, a former Ghost and his lover who was abducted by the Zerg and transformed into the deadly Queen of Blades, a Borg-like leader of this unstoppable alien hoard. With around 30 missions, you must help Raynor liberate a variety of planets from the Zerg, recover ancient artefacts for the Moebius Organisation and come face to face with the deadly Queen of Blades. Never played Starcraft before? Don't worry, it's a game that can easily be picked up story wise and gameplay wise by anyone.

It should also be noted that Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty primarily focuses on the humans in this instalment, however it does crossover with a variety of other stories that include the Zerg, Protoss and the Dominion. The single-player campaign of SC2 begins quite easily and for those who have never played an RTS before, the game gently puts you into this universe with tutorials and a considerable amount of assistance. For those who have been here before, you can change the difficulty which does makes things considerably more challenging and if you do find yourself losing too often, you can lower the difficulty when you return to the hub.

The hub in SC2 originally starts in a sci-fi Wild West saloon on another planet where you can access in-game options, mission statistics, upgrades and talk with NPC’s to progress the story. It’s fun to explore these areas upon returning from a mission as it opens up new story segments, research abilities and powerful upgrades. The TV news and fake commercials of SC2 really adds to the atmosphere of the game and although they are quite relaxed and comedic at times, they are also quite insightful as to what is happening in the universe, albeit a little biased. As you move through the various missions, your hub location changes such as moving you to the capital ship called the Hyperion which gives you access to more areas like the bridge, cantina, armoury and research laboratories. Without spoiling the story too much, there are some great surprises along the way, including familiar faces and some interesting Protoss stories to liven up the gameplay.

Ironically the gameplay of SC2 hasn’t really changed that much and although it’s quite reminiscent of the original game, it still contains that traditional RTS aspect that includes resource gathering, building and a mixture of offence and defence. For most missions, you begin with a command centre and generally a few buildings such as a barrack and a vespene gas factory with some SCV’s to mine crystals or gas. From there, it’s up to the player to fortify their base and forces from upgrading buildings, completing objectives and missions guidelines. The beauty of SC2 is that it is not as static as the original, especially with the introduction of optional missions and bonus objectives.

However by completing more of these, it does give you incentive for additional bonuses such as “lost” weapons and research points but at the end of the day, it’s up to the player on how much of the story they wish to partake in. To give players a break from the traditional resource gathering, build and attack, some missions revolve around heroes such as escorting a hero and completing certain goals. Then the game tries something different and mixes them up both which can be quite challenging at times, especially when you are not controlling a hero. Some of the objectives must be completed such as assisting the colonists to be evacuated from a planet but it’s all been so well thought out that even though they may be frustrating, the enjoyment you get from success is unparalleled. In terms of missions, you are awarded credits (money) which can be used to upgrade units, purchase research options or hire mercenaries. The scope of customisations is very fun!

As mentioned, there are two resources in SC2 that include minerals and vespene gas which you need to collect through your SCV’s. This allows you to create units, building and also upgrade various facilities in your base. Sometimes it can be a challenge, especially if you run out of these resources and if you find other mines, it’s a careful balancing act to not only protect your base but also ensuring that the enemy doesn't find your new resource point. Then again, you could always move your buildings! You are however, limited to the types of units you can build initially in the game, but as you progress, your choices, depending your research streams allow you to create new units. In the Cantina of the bridge, there is a mercenary contact who allows you to hire mercenaries to boost your forces. Needless to say, unit creation is quite dynamic in SC2 which adds to the replay value of the title, but then, this is where multiplayer comes into the fray!

Multiplayer is considerably different than single-player because it opens up all the species for player control. If you’re playing other people online via Battle.Net, you have the choice of the Terrans (humans), Zerg or Protoss. Each has their pros and cons. The humans are pretty much an all rounder, whereas the Zerg can multiple considerably fast and the Protoss have some very powerful advanced technology but they are hampered by time constraints. Battle.Net is of course where all the fun is to be had online and although Korea are the kings of the Blizzard universe, there are still plenty of other allies and foes to be found around the world with some decent server locations and connections for Australia.

Connecting to an online game is quite simple, thanks to the intuitive menu system and you can even setup an almost social gaming network of people you generally play against, especially with the ability to import your Facebook contacts. However for those who have never played Starcraft before, I do recommend that people finish the excellent campaign mode in Starcraft 2 before they attempt to take on the world because you really need the experience before you take on bigger fish than yourself. In terms of updates and installation, SC2 can either be purchased from a store or purchased online via Battle.Net and although ours was the later, we only had two updates that were needed so far. Once again Blizzard’s Quality Assurance department is a first class experience.

Finally, to put this great game together are the wonderful graphics. The cinematics are a treat to watch in SC2, although sometimes there was some stutter but fortunately it didn’t hamper the experience. The hub areas in the game have some great attention to detail from clickable medals to research tanks, exploring is all part of the fun and Raynor and his supporting crew, especially the sexy Queen of Blades are animated perfectly. The in-game RTS graphics allow you to zoom in and out that looks quite reminiscent of the original game, although with a 21st century brush of graphics and special effects. The units are modelled well and they only got stuck a few times which did bring a smile back to my face because this was a problem in the original game. There is some good use of lighting in the game, especially during the night missions and the “fog of war” that prevents you from seeing what your enemies are up to which makes the gameplay more riveting. The soundtrack is quite majestic and powerful and finally we have the voice acting. At times the voice acting is clichéd and contrived but it suits the world perfectly and each unit has their own sayings which sometimes becomes repetitive but it’s a gem from the original game that still works today.

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is lengthy game and Blizzard has not skimped on any of the gaming aspects. The standout feature of Starcraft II is the story and characterisations which goes beyond the original and all the tweaks and changes to the RTS mechanics turns this game into one of the most addictive real-time strategy experiences in a long time. Even though this is chapter 1 of 3, I cannot wait for the other instalments of the Starcraft series and besides, with Battle.Net, waiting won’t be a problem with the engaging multiplayer experience. This is how sequels should be made and if you’re a fan of this gaming genre, you definitely need to add this to your collection now! Brilliant!



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