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Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Review

I have now been playing Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty by Blizzard Entertainment for a week, nearly exclusively since its release on July 27th, so I suppose it’s about time for a review. To start with, true to typical Blizzard form, this is an incredibly solid game.

And this isn't even on the highest settings!

Early Starcraft II Campaign

Let’s start with the single player campaign. Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty follows the story of rebel commander Jim Raynor, picking up four years after the end of Starcraft: Brood War. If, like me, you have been waiting eagerly to see how the story continues, then you should enjoy this next installment. The story wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I found it… satisfying. There are a total of 29 playable levels in the campaign, and each is quite polished. The graphics upgrade is beautiful, and there are a number of wonderful polished features, both big and small. These included areas where the original was lacking, like path finding. Between levels, the player may manage upgrades, mercenaries and more, as well as choose what order to play levels in, and in so doing, what rewards to receive before or after attempting other missions. I was slightly disappointed that there are no playable Zerg levels in the campaign, not because I love playing Zerg, but because one of the important functions of a single player campaign is to prepare the player for online play. This is largely offset, however, by the challenge missions which include each race, and custom games which allow players to get acquainted against computer players.

I haven’t played a lot of multiplayer Starcraft II since it came out, but as far as I’ve seen, it’s about the same as in the beta, which I played quite a bit of, and already discussed. I will reiterate that I am quite disappointed that they did not include LAN play, which was a staple of the original Starcraft. The original encouraged multiplayer with a single copy of the game through the Spawn version feature, but Starcraft II discourages it by limiting players to online accounts. Otherwise, the multiplayer is enjoyable, especially in larger groups, albeit highly competitive online. The core concepts of the game are easy to learn, but there is so much room for strategic options that the possibility of truly mastering the game is questionable.

I’ve found commentaries from multiple people that Blizzard failed to take chances with Starcraft II, that they simply slapped a fresh coat of paint on the original, and that they should have made more radical changes instead of playing it safe. They cite Warcraft III, which made bold strides forward from its predecessor, with the addition of new races, and so on. To me, this is unfair. The original Starcraft has a very delicate and perfected balance, one which has made it extremely popular around the world. Not only that, but the three-race arrangement is a classic that redefined the RTS genre. Imagine what Starcraft would have been like had Blizzard thrown in new races, and rearranged the entire game. What would the Starcraft fan base have done if they had? I don’t think this was a matter of “taking chances” or lacking courage – I think it was a matter of avoiding a likely disastrous mistake. Blizzard has done a fantastic job of retaining the nostalgic classic features of the original, while expanding and adapting for the sequel. Players will find plenty of new material over the original. Let’s be fair: adding new races to the Warcraft series was catching it up to Starcraft, and games were being created within Starcraft long before they were in Warcraft III.

I’m going to be playing Starcraft II for a very long time, just as I did with the original. I think a lot of people will be.

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