StarCraft II – Wings of Liberty
With the Terrans (Humans) the main focus of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is guaranteed to be the least interesting of the proposed trilogy. That mindset stems from the sneaking suspicion that this is just the Terran campaign from the original StarCraft, re-packaged with prettier graphics. While it can feel like this is the case early in the game, the notion is dispelled quite promptly.
To start with, the look of the game is so scalable that whether you have a 5-year-old laptop or ‘proper’ gaming rig, you’ll be able to play StarCraft comfortably while still pushing your machine to perform. However, we experienced performance issues on the Mac version; performance gradually deteriorated over the course of a session, but picked back up again if we quit and re-launched the game.
StarCraft and this sequel are Real-Time Strategy. Two or more sides frantically harvest materials so they can afford to create buildings and/or units, with the ultimate goal of annihilating each other.
StarCraft is royalty among this type of game, so a sequel is a pretty daunting thing to undertake. Thankfully, StarCraft II is a good game, building on what made the first game great, whilst adding plenty of new stuff to keep the veterans happy and tuning the difficulty with such precision a tuning fork and scalpel must have been alternately applied.
So what’s actually better about playing the game? Perhaps the biggest change is what happens in-between levels. For a start, we get more cut-scenes. More doesn’t mean superfluous, though; there’s very little ‘fat’ on them, meting out just the right amount of cliché to get the job done.
In a way, the cut-scenes, including the conversations with crew members, are the least important part of the in-between stuff. The crew conversations give you little to no choice as to how they play out. In other words, those who wanted Mass Effect-style crew banter should dial down their expectations. Of more import are the upgrade options available between missions, giving permanent upgrades to units and buildings, or buying extremely limited better versions of units, in the form of mercenaries. Additional in-between fun includes the space-shooter mini-game in the bar.
Within the levels themselves, there are usually some optional mission objectives. These both tie into Blizzard’s achievement system or provide the research required to attain yet more upgrades.
These upgrades aren’t the only way to make your play-time easier, as the game has four difficulty settings for each mission, with a fifth unlockable for the truly masochistic player. ‘Normal’ is quite comfortable, thank you, though ‘Easy’ is there for those missions where it’s just not clicking for you.
The variety within the basic setup of missions is changed around somewhat, with some good surprises in the course of the campaign and some cracking new units. The variety isn’t just in the units at your disposal: the levels themselves offer challenges, such as lava rising up to submerge resources you need to mine, or a planet whose extremely short days mean regular encounters with the monsters that only come out at night.
Let’s not forget the multiplayer, since StarCraft is all about multiplayer to some people. Arranged in ‘ladders’ referred to by the number of players on each side (1v1, 2v2 and 3v3), your rank is used for player-matching. It’s difficult to gauge how effective it is if you’re not very good at the game, but one thing’s for sure: if Blizzard is still making patches for Diablo II (released in 2000), StarCraft II will continue to evolve with the same vigour as the Zerg.
With so much single player and multiplayer content and an achievement system tying it all together, it seems that, even if you didn’t like StarCraft, the chances are good that you’ll like StarCraft II.