StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Review
publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
developer: Blizzard Entertainment
PIV 2.6Ghz, 1GB RAM, 12GB HDD, 128MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Jul 27, 10
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For more than 15 years Blizzard Entertainment has succeeded in maintaining a powerful community for all of its major game franchises, including Diablo, World of Warcraft and, naturally, StarCraft (1998). Best known for their methodical approach to each development process, Blizzard kept StarCraft fans waiting for a long time, until (in 2007) they finally announced a full-blown sequel to the internationally popular real-time strategy. Given Blizzard's reputation of delivering top-notch products, the huge community of eager die-hard fans and the developer's promises for a variety of features, expectations were right through the roof on this one.
StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty kicks off four years after the Brood War, when the Dominion, yet again, assumed control as the main Terran force in the Koprulu sector. Kerrigan (a.k.a. The Queen of Blades) assembled the Zerg swarm at the planet Char, while the Protoss also assume a more submissive role in the galaxy. Meanwhile, veteran fighter Jim Raynor, along with a group called Raynor's Raiders, started to oppose the Dominion and Emperor Arcturus Mengsk's tyrannical rule. Mengsk, of course, is using the power of the media to label Raynor as an enemy of the human race and a terrorist. As Raynor liberates a group of on Mar Sara, his homeworld, he hooks up with old friend - a convict Tychus Findley, who served a sentence for a crime both he and Raynor were guilty of. Anyhow, Tychus and Raynor are now working together to gather the so-called Xel'Naga artifacts for a scientific organization named the Moebius Foundation.
Frenzied attack, you say? All Zerg attacks are frenzied. I hate frenzied attacks.
Gotta pee... now what?
Blizzard's remarkable gift for story-telling is now embodied in yet another game. For this very reason, there are probably few people out there who won't be lured by the narrative, marvelously animated cut-scenes, stunning art direction worthy of any preceding achievement from Blizzard, in addition to the carefully crafted characters. Top-notch voice acting adds another important layer to the overall atmosphere. Every single voice-over in this game gives the characters an adequate and unique personality. Congrats to Blizzard for pulling this off. With each completed mission the game lures you deeper into its lore and the characters' backstories. There's plenty of dialogue to keep you interested, as well as a variety of well-directed cut-scenes to enjoy before and after each mission. In short, the cinematic quality of StarCraft 2 is probably its best asset and something that's going to draw in many gamers around the world as they march slowly through the main single-player campaign.
StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty is a classic real-time strategy in every possible sense of the term. Franchise veterans are going to feel right at home, since the sequel brings almost every element from the original into play, in addition to adding a bunch of nifty new features for each race. Nothing too fancy or complicated though, which is probably just as well, bearing in mind how difficult and taxing it is to please fans and hardcore strategy players. In other words, Blizzard decided to play it safe by changing precious little in terms of the RTS basics. Everything you're hoping to find in a good strategy game is incorporated extremely well in StarCraft 2. Accumulating resources, base building and unit production goes smoothly and without a hitch in every mission (the same thing can be said for the multiplayer). Whether you're strictly using 'hotkeys' or the mouse or a combo of both, it's straightforward and shouldn't be a problem even for newbies.
Enemy AI does almost everything it can to stop you during single-player missions. Mind you, experienced strategy gamers might want to consider increasing the difficulty, because they are likely to complete the main story mode on 'Normal' relatively quickly. Generally, units are intelligent enough to put up a decent fight and I must say, for a real-time strategy, both friendly and enemy units have solid path-finding. In a nutshell, the AI is as polished and as good as it gets, with only a few minor and extremely rare problems occurring during gameplay (one Zerg unit got stuck on rock in the terrain and started to run around in small circles... - in my entire experience with the game, that happened only once, so it isn't anything to be upset about).
Right from the outset it becomes clear that Blizzard's goal was to develop a flawless multiplayer game. And from what we've heard from numerous players, StarCraft 2 isn't exactly what you'd call a flawless experience. There were several reports of the game crashing to the desktop and, more importantly, serious overheating problems for GPUs when the game is in between missions in the single-player campaign. Blizzard confirmed this and have offered a workaround.
The visuals in the game are impressive. Lovingly created units and maps evoke one of Blizzard's hallmarks - their incredible devotion to detail, which can be observed in beautifully animated characters and various objects in the environment. Performance wise, StarCraft 2 was skillfully optimized to run on a variety of rigs, so we didn't have any trouble with the game on mid-range and even low-range systems. So, well done there, Blizz.
StarCraft 2 has a powerful cinematic appeal that's present throughout the entire single-player campaign. Blizzard keeps things fresh in the story mode by adding a variety of features and a number of things players can do as they unwrap the main storyline. The additional Protoss missions, which are essential to the plot, are great, offering a taste of the faction and giving us an idea of how the mysterious alien race conducts itself in battle. It's easy to grow fond of the characters and there's a fair amount of laid-back humor (although cheesy) thrown into some of the game's dialogue sequences, so it's never tedious.
8.9 Very Good
Well-polished and extremely entertaining multiplayer, everything StarCraft fans were hoping for, and it's equally engaging for new-comers, the single-player campaign features an engaging story, appealing characters, first-rate voiceovers and a spectacular soundtrack;
Some segments in the game may cause serious overheating problems with certain GPUs (albeit there's a workaround), lack of Protoss and Zerg story modes, certain units are omitted in the multiplayer, connectivity issues are a major hitch during LAN matches.