Review: Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
It’s here. After twelve long years, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is finally here! And I’m here to give you the run-down of how things are in the world of StarCraft. Enjoy your stay!
I bought the collector’s edition. I normally don’t buy collector’s editions, but I actually really respect Blizzard’s games. They’re pretty much perfect on release, and when you buy a Blizzard game, you know you’re buying quality. It’s like buying a Valve game. The packaging is pretty awesome. It’s made of cardboard, but it’s none of that flimsy cardboard that will get smashed if you put any pressure on it. It’s sturdy. Inside this beautiful package, there’s an art book, a comic book, the soundtrack, a DVD with the cinematic movies and behind the scenes, a 2GB USB thumb drive that is in the shape of some futuristic space dog tags (included on this is a copy of the original game and expansion pack), and of course, the main product, StarCraft II.
I’ve seen on NeoGaf a few people complaining about install time. Hours. And hours. I was installed and patched within 20 minutes or less. I was eating while it installed and when I went back over to check it. I’m not denying it could take that long, but it didn’t happen to me. While installing, you do have to activate the product through Battle.net. Seriously, not that bad of DRM. I have actually heard that once it’s activated on a computer, you can run in a “Guest” mode to play offline. I haven’t tried this, but it should clear up some concern that people had about not being able to play their game when the servers are down, a concern I greatly share.
When you load up the game, you’re greeted with a login screen for your Battle.net account. Create your profile name, and there you are. The menu. Single player? Multiplayer? First thing I did was mess around in the profile settings. I had to check out the collector’s edition’s avatars. Avatars are unlocked by doing certain things in the game, such as beat 5 multiplayer games with your choice of race. I picked the Terran Diablo avatar, since I’m more of a Diablo fan than anything else. I also scrolled the achievements in the game, just to see what types of things I’ll be challenged to do. Boy, there’s some tough ones! Beating this game on Brutal? I can only imagine the stress levels of playing through that. Unlike Xbox Live achievements, these are setup more like Steams achievements. You don’t get a total score. You basically just collect them for your own personal enjoyment. No e-peen Viagra here!
Graphically, this is the best I’ve seen, beating out anything I’ve see in an RTS game so far. Best of all, the game runs at a rather smooth frame rate. From what I’ve seen from other players (personal and indirect), it runs rather well on mid-range machines as well. Textures are really high end. When you zoom in, you can really tell they put some great effort in the art department. Explosions and the gore is just more eye candy that is done Blizzard-well. The music in the game is outstanding, and deserves special mention. I’m actually glad I got the soundtrack, which replaced my Misfits album that’s been playing for a little over a year on repeat in my car. (Track 3 is killer, by the way). Voice acting a hit and miss, mainly a hit.
Single player: I started on Normal, as I want to get familiar with action based RTS gaming again, compared to my more laid back Civilization IV I’ve been pushing out for over 30 hours a week. The menu is perfect. Rarely have I cared about discussing a menu before, but this one is unique. It’s a bar, with a bit of a western/space feel. There’s your guy, Jim Raynor, sitting at a bar, having a drink. Next to him is a marine in full armor named Tychus Findley. You’ll learn about these guys as you play. There’s so much hidden interaction that it gives a more life-like feel to the game.
The story, I’m not going to go into as I want everyone to experience it. All I’m going to reveal is it’s long, fun, and challenging.
Multi Player: I’ve played my fair share of beta, so I’ll give a mix of both worlds. First, Battle.net. Battle.net’s match making service should put Xbox Live match making to shame. It doesn’t just find a game to jump into. It finds players who are about equal to you. It works most of the time. Sometimes you’ll run into a player that’s obviously overpowered. Usually, this is from the expert players just now getting into the game and having to go through the same newbie ladder as the rest of us. And if you’re no good, you get to jump through 50 practice games to get familiar with the game. Or you can skip the ladder matches and find your own matches through Custom Games. Custom games will be explained later.
Getting friends is easy. Search by email, add friends through their user name, or find your Facebook friends through an easy import system. Once you have a friend, you can then add them to your party and jump in match-rankings, or just Custom Games. What’s really great is you can have a “friendship” ladder in the game, meaning it will show how you and Joe Blow friend rank as a team, separate from your main ladder.
Balance is really not an issue in this game. From beta, I felt this game was already well balanced. It’s typical ground vs. ground vs. air vs. air gameplay. However, it’s all about how quick you are at the game. With the replay editor, you can download professional matches and watch build orders, learn some of their moves, and establish base from those. Or you can re-watch your own games and see what great or horrible moves you’ve already accomplished.
Now, time to talk about Custom Games. With Blizzard’s awesome map editor, you can basically make new games out of the StarCraft engine. People familiar with defense tower title, PixelJunk Monster, or other tower defense games may be familiar with the TD maps that players have put out. Waves of monsters, limited cash, skill: it’s the name of the game. Last night, I played a match of Double Dragon beat-em-up action, complete with a player select screen, co-op, and more. It’s a real treat to see this early on, so many great new gameplay methods are being used. It’s taken the original StarCraft and WarCraft III map editing to new lengths already.
Blizzards also introducing a marketplace for premium maps and units. We’ll get more details on this later, but in theory, this is going to be the place you get the maps that players have made that are totally awesome and may create new game experiences.
Just a friendly hint to those who are wanting to master the game: don’t give up! You’ve got to lose a few to win one. At least until you get familiar. Don’t let a “Protoss Cannon Rush”, “Reaper Rush”, or “Zergling Rush” distract you from playing. You’ll learn how to defeat them with time.
+Beautiful looking game with great music.
+Familiar and new gameplay.
-No LAN support whatsoever.
-Playing on Battle.net with a losing team record.
TL;DR: Buy this sucker, sucka!
Reviewed on the PC.