Review | Starcraft 2
Return of the King…
Format: PC | Genre: RTS | Publisher: Blizzard | Developer: Blizzard | Release date: 27/07/2010 | Price: £44.99
One of the most hotly anticipated games ever has finally arrived. Greg Giddens gives his verdict on STARCRAFT 2: WINGS OF LIBERTY.
OVER A decade has passed since the original Starcraft took PC gaming by storm. Finally the sequel has arrived, and to overwhelming expectations. But without any shadow of a doubt Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty has met the hype head on, and in some respects surpassed what fans had hoped for.
An old friend
At its core Starcraft 2 is refreshingly familiar. After years of RTS titles evolving and expanding their range of experiences, Starcraft 2 ignores all that and sticks with the standard resource gathering, base building, and combat that we’re all familiar with. As a result there’s little to distractyou from diving straight in and within minutes you’ll feel like you’ve never left the Starcraft universe. In some respects it’s a shame there’s so little new to the formula, however, there is no denying how refined the RTS experience feels and plays. Despite almost no advancements in premise, Starcraft 2 still achieves a ridiculously high standard in quality, through exceptionally balanced units with a great deal of variety and excellent mission and narrative structure. This doesn’t, however, make Starcraft 2 unambitious. The setup alone of only featuring a single race’s campaign seemed like a risk all those months ago when announced, but with an impressive 29 missions with such marvellous variety, the risk certainly paid off. In no way is this an incomplete game.
In addition, the mission hub particularly stands out as a testament to Blizzard’s creativity and ability to make changes to the conventional in all the rights ways. Taking place mostly on the Hyperion – central protagonist Jim Raynor’s flagship – the mission hub is a beautifully and meticulously detailed environment full of interactive crew and equipment. Between missions the hub becomes your home and respite from battle, but far from serving as just a mission selection area, the Hyperion allows you to converse with characters, watch news broadcasts often relevant to your previous mission, makes upgrades to units and structure, research new technologies, hire expensive but powerful mercenaries, or even take a break from it all on an arcade machine. The hub adds a dash of RPG elements to the RTS mix, revealing the stories behind key characters and providing a dedicated zone to manage your forces upgrades and research. You essentiallypersonalise the experience, exploring the back-stories of characters you want to get to know better, and making key decisions with unit upgrades and research to fit your style and tactics. Further along you’re presented with decisions that test your attachment to characters against the benefits between your choices, it doesn’t change much in the grand scheme of things but it adds a personal stake and further personalises your available units. What’s so remarkable about the Hyperion hub it is how immersive it is, it completely pulls you into the Starcraft universe, and through the exceptional presentation – in both visuals and audio, with some excellent voice work – the epic Starcraft universe and ongoing narrative has never felt so tangible.
This high quality presentation on the Hyperion also carries across to in-game, with silky smooth animations, dazzling explosions and weapons fire, and highly detailed terrain, structures, and units. Starcraft 2 is visual busy and consistently beautiful. The score is also excellent, with its orchestral riffs and haunting vocals. Starcraft 2’s production values are extremely impressive and absolutely convey the epic feel the narrative and universe deserve.
Previously on Starcraft…
Narrative wise, Starcraft 2 takes place four years after the Brood War expansion to the original. Jim Raynor has built up a loyal and formidable force and continues his battle to bring Dominion leader Mengsk to justice. The Queen of Blades, Kerrigan, continues to lead the Zerg swarm, and the Protoss are still in recovery having lost their home-world. Playing through the eyes of Jim Raynor you get to experience the Terran’s chapter in Stracraft 2’s trilogy, following a central plot which leads to you engaging both the Zerg and Protoss forces, as well as following some additional stories relevant to particular crew members on the Hyperion. The central plot is contained enough to make Wings of Liberty feel complete but it’s obviously only a smaller element of an epic narrative, although the ending is fairly inconclusive for many of the plot points which were raised up as important earlier on in the campaign. The lack of a more comprehensive conclusion, however, is but a nitpick, and considering the two additional chapters yet to come, there’s plenty of time to wrap up the odd loose end.
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