in Review

Those Crafty Stars

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

It’s been 12 years since the original StarCraft came out. Seven years since development of this sequel came out. Three years since the game was officially announced. Two years since we learned StarCraft II would be split into three releases. A year since the game’s beta began. And 24 days since StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the first chapter of the StarCraft sequel trilogy, was finally released. Although it seemed like it would never happen, StarCraft II not only came out, but has transformed from novelty to fact of life. Now that the question of when Wings of Liberty would actually come out has been answered, the only one left is: Was it worth the wait?

It’s hard to think of a game with more pressure on it than a StarCraft sequel. The original was one of the most influential RTS games ever. It remained so popular in Korea that it became a sport. With a legacy like that, how do you live up to those levels of expectations? By modernizing the experience. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty doesn’t rewrite the book on StarCraft, it introduces clever new units, a bunch of new singleplayer modes and a streamlined multiplayer experience. Blizzard does enough to make the game seem fresh; familiar yet still worth the wait.

Wings of Liberty is the Terran-focused singleplayer campaign. We’ll have to wait a while to get the Zerg and Protoss thirds, unlike the first game which packed all the stories in one. The sequel gets away with that by putting a lot of work into the Terran story, which picks up a few years after the end of Brood War. Jim Raynor is back, fighting his war against Terran dictator Arcturus Mengsk while dealing with his regrets over the fate of Sarah Kerrigan. The campaign mode covers 29 missions and delivers a satisfying story that ends like what you’d expect the first of a trilogy to end like. The story between missions is made a lot more interesting thanks to the introduction of Wing Commander-esque interactions, Blizzard-quality cinematics, and singleplayer-only upgrades that let you see what an OP’ed Terran plays like. The missions themselves are interesting because they often feature clever gimmicks, like one where you have to defend yourself from Zerg zombies at night, but are free to destroy their bases during the day, since the sun kills them on that planet.

Beyond the campaign, Wings of Liberty has tutorials to help newbies learn how to play and a challenges feature, that is designed to help master gameplay. The player is asked to learn unit counters, build bases quickly, and hotkey everything. After playing the campaign and the challenges, a new player will have a grasp on all the units in the game, base building strategy and micro-management. Multiplayer is probably most players main draw to StarCraft II, so I really appreciate all the effort Blizzard made in making getting into the game easy.

And the multiplayer is everything you could hope it to be. Featuring the new, StarCraft II includes everything gamers could ask for, aside from LAN support. There are a number of modes to play, AI support, party support, leagues, ladders, everything I can imagine gamers are asking for. They smartly make you participate in five placement matches before you really get into the multiplayer, allowing to analyze your skill and match you with similar players. I’m still just getting into the online stuff, but it seems like Blizzard has included everything I need for maximum RTS fun.

When you get to the very core of it, I could see people argue that StarCraft is the ADD generation’s chess. The game requires so many actions-per-minute and tactical strategy, it’s a real change of pace from all the shooters that dominate the market today. And sure, it’s wrapped in space trucking fun, but few games are so deeply rewarding and dangerously addictive.