StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
Science fiction and video games…if you’re like me, and I know I am (ba-dum-ch!), you’ll turn your head at either one of those things. StarCraft II takes both of those things, adds a western-ish-y theme, and puts the player back into the driver’s seat of commanding an army once more.
One thing that stood out immediately is how much StarCraft II feels like StarCraft I, despite the twelve-year difference in release date. It also didn’t take me long to get back into the flow of things despite not having played StarCraft I for years.
So what is StarCraft? What is StarCraft II? Is it really a national sport in Korea?
StarCraft is a RTS (Real Time Strategy) game released on the PC in 1998 by a company called Blizzard. To you non-gamers, you may recognize the name as they are the same people who developed World of Warcraft, a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) that has been in existence for about eight years. Blizzard was also responsible for getting me hooked on RTS games in the first place, having released Warcraft II in 1995. Warcraft II was the first game I played online with other people, using a primitive 52K modem to dial via phone and connect to my friend’s computer. Back in those days, playing via TCP/IP connection and phone line was a pain in the backside. If ANYONE called either phone line, there was a good chance you’d be disconnected from your game. If ANYONE picked up the phone in either household, they’d be treated to old school modem static/sounds which would also kick you off of your game. Playing online back in those days required letting everyone in your house know that you were using the phone and not to mess with it.
Anyway…StarCraft II. StarCraft II is also an RTS, requiring players to collect resources, build buildings, and create and manage an army to destroy your opponent(s). Like StarCraft I, StarCraft II has both a single player campaign and the ability to play skirmish maps with the AI and other people online. StarCraft I’s campaign led you through the story of three races, the Terrans, the Zerg, and the Protoss. StarCraft II has something similar, though Blizzard has opted to sell three separate games featuring a campaign specific to each of those three races.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was released in 2010 and features the Terran campaign/story, though there are a few bonus maps to where you can play as the Protoss. Skirmish and online play does allow you to pick from any of the three races. Some StarCraft players were miffed when they found out that they’d have to pay $50.00-$60.00 three times to experience all three campaigns. Blizzard has gone on to explain that the amount of content in the Terran campaign alone justifies the price tag. The Zerg and Protoss campaigns are still in development.
The single player campaign is fairly long and has a wide variety of scripted missions. It’s not simply, build a base, build an army, destroy your opponent, rinse, repeat. In one mission I found myself on a lava planet where the lava level rose every so many minutes and I had to make sure all of my buildings and units were on the high ground when it happened. In another mission, I was forced to defend a base with an active day and night cycle with zombie like units attacking at night.
In between missions, you’re able to buy upgrades for your units and buildings and even buy unique units that aren’t available in multiplayer mainly due to balance reasons. You’re also able to hire mercenaries and call upon them when you need them. As an added bonus, you won’t need to know your StarCraft I lore to play StarCraft II. It helps to have beaten StarCraft I to know how it ended, but I never made it past the Terran campaign (the first one you play in SC1) and I didn’t feel lost while playing StarCraft II. Unlike StarCraft I, you’re able to interact with various things in between missions based on where the main character, Jim Raynor, currently is. You’ll also have access to a Jukebox which plays various songs. You’ll be able to listen to a small variety of music, from redone versions of “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama” to new silly StarCraft themed songs like “A Zerg, A Shotgun and You”. There are also times in the campaign where you are given two choices, often good or evil, and are forced to choose which path you’d like to play out.
Multiplayer is back and more popular than ever. Oh, and in case you were curious about my earlier “question” about whether or not StarCraft is a national sport in Korea…in short, the answer is yes…in South Korea. They, on occasion, hold professional tournaments where players compete to win prize money. The non-gamer may shrug that off as “well, it’s not like it’s as popular as football or anything” and they’d be wrong. These tournaments are held in stadiums and well over 100,000 people have been reported to fill its seats in one sitting. On average, about 60,000-80,000 people attend a Super Bowl in the US. So yeah, depending on where you live, StarCraft is kind of a big deal. Like football and other sports here in the US, professional StarCraft players train ruthlessly and even have their own fan club.
For those that don’t play professionally, there’s a matchmaking system that pits a player, based on their skill level, with someone of equal skill. Do well on a regular basis and you’ll be climbing the leagues in no time, going from Bronze to Silver to Gold and so on and so forth. There are also achievements you can earn and a way to track your statistics.
Personally, I have yet to play a ranked multiplayer match. I’m not very competitive, at least, not like I was ten years ago. Getting older means slowing down and losing patience with things a lot more quickly than you used to. I play for fun, mainly coop with another person against the AI on Easy or Medium. There are plenty of maps to choose from, including custom maps made by other players via the map editor. Players can upload their creations into a vast database and you are free to try them out as you please.
One thing that irks me about the game is that you need to create a Battle.net account even if you planned on just playing this game’s single player function. You also have to login to create a profile. You can opt to play offline after that, however achievements and tracking are disabled.
Another issue is the Real ID system. Most games have a “friends list” but this take it a bit extreme. In order to add someone to your friends list via Real ID, you have to give your personal email address to the other player. Your first and last name are also visible, though to my knowledge no further personal information is given out. In theory, if I met a player through a random match and enjoyed my experience, I would have to risk offering up my email and name just so I can maybe play with him or her again in the future. Some people aren’t bothered by this, but nowadays people can find out a lot about you just with your full name and email alone. Blizzard employees tried curtailing fears by explaining via a forum thread that there was no risk and offered their own emails and names to lead by example. Within hours, forum users who hated the Real ID idea posted the addresses and other personal information of said Blizzard employees on the same forum thread to prove a point. While I get that posting real names might discourage douchebaggery, people have a right to their privacy. I can only imagine how many inappropriate comments female gamers get when male gamers find out that the person they just “friended” is a *gasp* woman. To this end (because I like my privacy), I only add people I know to my friends list.
Overall, I enjoyed the game. I do have to break from it for a while on occasion, mainly because I get bored with the limited amount of units you are allowed to work with in skirmish. You’re still given a fair amount, don’t get me wrong, but after so many marine rushes, battle cruiser armada attacks, Zerg rushes, etc…it gets repetitious, at least against the AI. Custom maps can help alleviate this if it becomes an issue. It’s a great “party game” however if you have a group of friends, be it competitive or friendly play.
If you are a fan of RTSs in general, you can’t go wrong in giving this game a look. As always, check your system specs and the game requirements before purchasing.
Final Verdict: 7/10