Starcraft 2 Review (PC)
Starcraft 2 must have been an incredible struggle to make. Not that I can fault Blizzard, because, lets face it, creating a sequel to Starcraft – one of the largest and most popular PC games to date, the game that single handedly saved South Korea (okay I made that one up, but it is a national pastime there) – must have been an incredibly difficult challenge.
How to give all the Starcraft fans a game they could recognize and yet still create something new?! Choices had to be made and clearly it was not easy, because it took them over ten years.
Despite everything, the game was finally released and it has been an unmitigated success. Proof: The Starcraft 2 Plane! (Okay it’s a cross promotion with Korean Air, but still how awesome do you have to be to get to advertise on a plan?!)
The result, Starcraft 2, is incredibly conservative, more conservative then I expected. The game play itself has hardly changed; it makes me think they decorated Starcraft with fancy graphics, wrapped it in a pretty interface and stuck on a 2.
This is not necessarily a negative. Starcraft is a fabulous game and getting a similar yet updated experience is not bad in any way. Buuuut, it’s also not very new.
Again, I can’t blame Blizzard for playing it safe. They tried to step just a fraction out of the RTS box with Warcraft 3, and though it didn’t get booed off the stage, it also wasn’t a massive box office success. Why take the chance?
Release date: July 27 2010
Platform I played on: PC
Genre: Real-time Strategy
Played loads of Starcraft, rocked it and want to be really good at Starcraft 2? Well then it’s a bit of a different story because lots of the units have changed, which means different strategies. Thankfully many of the keyboard shortcuts are the same! Wee!
But if you are like me and hardly noticed that the units changed (because its been so long since I played the old version), this game play is going to feel really familiar and comfortable. Thus I am skipping all the gory RTS game play mechanics. If you don’t know about Starcraft then…then…play Starcraft 2 (it actually has a really great introduction to the RTS genre built in.)
The single player campaign really shows the most innovation. The whole interface is shiny and new.
But it had to be to make room for new additions – the research tree (which can be found in the Laboratory, yay for experimenting on alien goo) and the purchasable tech upgrades (which are found in the Armory). Money and research points (aka alien goo) are rewards for completing various campaign missions.
The Cantina is home to mercenaries for hire, bad juke box music, a dancing Night Elf, lots of people to chat with, bad TV to watch, and an old Blizzard game that you can play on the arcade machine (updated version of The Lost Vikings). Check in there often, as it’s quite amusing.
Most of the missions can be found on the bridge along with captain type people like Jim Raynor.
Each of these locations is housed on Raynor’s space ship and is essentially a static scene. The beginning screens and the ending screens are at different locations, but most of the campaign is spent on the ship.
The scenes actually remind me a lot of the Diablo 2 character selection screen (keeping in the Blizzard theme there!) Various parts are selectable but the overall image doesn’t really change or move much.
I found most of the ‘in-between mission’ activities to be quite entertaining, spending money and research points to gain new abilities and units, hiring mercenaries and checking out the latest news report on TV; almost more entertaining then the missions themselves.
Most of the missions revolve around the Terrans (aka Humans) and are set up in such a way that each new mission introduces a new Terran unit, which means that by the end of the campaign most people should be proficient with the Terran tech tree.
Although there were some non Terran missions, it’s clear that the Protoss and Zerg are going to get their time in the sun in upcoming expansions.
Overall the missions are varied and quite interesting. I ended up playing the entire game on the casual difficulty mode (that’s the easiest) mainly because I didn’t want to have to struggle with the game or get stuck, I wanted to have a fun breezy time and actually make it all the way through.
Which is exactly what I experienced. Lots of the missions were really easy, but I was never left bored.
World and Story
Drama, drama, drama!
Really, it’s hard for me to imagine how they could pack more drama into the story. Was the original storyline this dramatic? Don’t actually remember since it’s been so long.
It doesn’t matter if you remember the first one or not, because they cover everything you need to know. But just in case, here is what I remember: Kerrigan was left on the Zerg planet and turned into the Zerg’s Queen of Blades. There, totally caught up.
In Starcraft 2, it is years later and brokenhearted Jim Raynor is still trying to find a way to bring Kerrigan back from Zerg-hood. Which is basically what the whole story is about.
Lots of other stuff happens but I don’t want to spoil it, so I will just leave it vague. Remember: drama!
Higher resolutions only seem to make everything crisper. Besides, the game is much to fast paced to stop and stare at graphics most of the time. Frankly this game could have 8 bit and still play just as well.
The cinematics are fabulous, but the in game cinematics leave a bit to be desired. Mostly its just fine, its just the characters that are a bit blocky and the animation is choppy. I just wish they had put everyone in a huge space Marine suit. Would have made everyone look and feel much better.
Also it’s obvious that the main characters got all the detail love, because the two line characters look poor in comparison. (And I’m not impressed with the Kerrigan model which makes me sad since she kicks ass.)
The single player game has quite a bit of replay incentive built into it. One aspect is collecting achievements, which are different for the various levels of difficulty that the campaign can be played on.
Another facet is the research tree. Each tree is split into two separate sides; picking one will prevent its opposite from being selectable. Also while playing the campaign a few such choices are given, do the air raid or try the ground maneuver.
The only way to experience everything is to play through the campaign several times as multiplayer does not feature any of the bonus upgrades or units that the campaign does. (This is done btw, by clicking on ‘single player’ and then ‘restart campaign’.)
While the single player experience is really fun, this game is really all about multiplayer. And there are a lot of multiplayer options! Various 1-4 versus other players, which battle.net will match you up and rank you automatically. But if you are more inclined for cooperative, you can play 1-4 players against computer opponents.
I’ve played both and have found my preference is for coop over player vs player (pvp). This is mainly because pvp games have a tendency to be over within the first 10 minutes. It basically becomes a race to see who can make the most units the fastest. Even in professional gaming it’s all about APM (actions per minute), the higher the better.
But even coop isn’t without its faults. The computer is only so smart and will sometimes cheat to make up for its lack of intuition. I still find this to be the most fun, mainly because Blizzard programmed their computer AI to be asshole free. =)
Things that bothered me
-Why am I stuck playing Terran?
Although I liked how each unit got its moment to shine – it really built a lot of understanding for each and every unit and the Terran tech tree – I was stuck trying to figure out the other races in multiplayer; meaning lots of loosing. I haven’t even bothered with Zerg, which makes me sad because that’s all I played in Starcraft.
-Really sucks that I cant play off line.
Not much more to say about that. I liked my LAN capabilities in Starcraft and miss them now.
-Voice chat is crap.
I can’t seem to hear anyone else no matter how much I turn up the volume. I turn down the game and crank up the overall volume and its still crappy. Everyone sounds super tinny and far away (haha!). Still prefer Ventrilo, or even better, having everyone in the same room!
-Choices, I’m never good with those.
There are various things to research, but it’s an either/or choice. Also various mercenaries to purchase and upgrades to buy, but you will never get enough money in a single campaign to purchase them all.
I see how they want people to play through the game a few times to experience them all, which is not what bothers me so much about the choices. It’s that I’m stuck with the choices I made and sadly I made some poor ones early on. Being a nooblet, I just didn’t know it mattered.
-Units you earn in the game are not in multiplayer.
Some campaign units that you get used to having available are not in multiplayer. Its understandable since the Zerg and Protoss do not get any extra units and it wouldn’t be fair in multiplayer, but one does get used to having certain capabilities that are then not transferable.
-Battle.Net menus are confusing.
I just have a very hard time finding anything in the menu system. Took me forever to figure out how to change my profile picture (its not found in the profile tab like you would think, you have to right click your picture which then gives you a selection.) It’s just a bunch of little stuff like that, which makes access harder.
-Writing is super corny.
There was much eye rolling on my part. But I guess that just goes along with the whole drama theme of the story.
-Escape used to mean something!!
The escape key no longer brings up the menu. Years of training has made me dependent on that escape key and now it’s useless. /pout
The crashing was a bit annoying, scratch that, very annoying, since I lost some game progress, but it seems to be fixed now.
Progress (Time played/Game finished)
Finally finished the campaign on casual difficulty, which took me around twenty hours. Started over and ran a few of the beginning missions on normal difficulty just to see what it was like (not much harder really) which has probably been around five hours. I’m not really interested in doing the achievements, nor playing much more of the other difficulty levels so that wraps up the campaign for me.
But I have been playing multiplayer with friends, also around twenty hours so far, and the plan is to continue. Basically its not on my uninstall list, and will probably stay off of it for a while.
But at its core, it’s Starcraft all over again and I was really hoping for some innovation in the game. Part of the issue with not introducing new game play mechanics is that all the old problems are still there.
Why can’t there be a new Starcraft Race?