juvenfly's StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC) review

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  • juvenfly has written a total of 6 reviews. The last one was for I Am Alive

Not Just a Fresh Coat of Paint

 

Starcraft 2 is a game that’s been a long time coming.   It’s also a game that’s gotten a whole mess of negative sentiment from what I can only hope is the usual vocal minority on the internet who condemn games like this based on some weird bizzaro-world metric for what makes games fun.   That said, let’s go ahead and get those concerns out of the way.   Starcraft 2 is not Starcraft 1 with a shiny new coat of paint.   When you buy Starcraft 2, you are not paying $60 for 1/3 of a game.   If those were your chief concerns that kept you from buying it right away, stop reading this review right now and go buy it for crying out loud.

 
For those of you who’re still here, let’s start with the single player.   Again, one of the main complaints people have had before even getting a chance to play the single player campaign is that it’s only a Terran campaign, so it’s gonna feel short and incomplete right?   This could not be further from the truth.   Not only is each individual mission in Starcraft 2 much more involved and interesting than anything in the first game, but there is an all new metagame thrown on top that ties everything together much better than the original.   What this really means is that the absurdly long conversations with talking heads before missions are gone.   Hallelujah!

Instead, Starcraft 2 really embraces the Terrans as the space-truckers they are (like…for reals…you’ll see).   So you spend your time between missions in a nasty, broke down bar in the middle of nowhere for a while, where you can watch UNN news reports on current events, listen to some space country on the juke box, or talk to key characters about what’s going on in the game’s story.   After a few missions you decide to get the hell outta dodge and spend most of the rest of the campaign running things from your battlecruiser.   This adds a lab, where you can spend research points you earn from bonus objectives during missions to buy some pretty crazy upgrades.   Some of them are admittedly less crazy, like giving bunkers extra health, but the robot panther that does AoE melee damage and the Zerg Mind Control Tower that lets you permanently take control of any Zerg unit make it worthwhile to go after those bonus objectives.   Then there’s the armory, where you can spend the money you earn from each mission on unit specific upgrades, like stimpacks for marines or improved anti-air capabilities for your battlecruisers.  

The Armory tells you what percentage of your men are criminally insane.  No really.

Then there are the cinematics.   Blizzard does not disappoint as there are numerous in-engine cinematics in addition to the pre-rendered variety that are absolutely gorgeous.   The in-engine cinematics didn’t look so hot on my rig, but that’s because I’m still using the same computer I built on an emergency budget in college five years ago after my old one CAUGHT FIRE while I was using it (the moral of the story?   Don’t skimp on your MoBo, kids).   From what I’ve seen on youtube and the like, they actually look pretty damn good if you’ve got anything more sophisticated than an abacus to run SC2 on, but the fact that it scales well enough to run on my god awful machine is definitely worth noting.  

 
So yeah, there’s a lot to do between missions in Starcraft 2 and I found myself enjoying it almost as much as the missions themselves, even if it’s all relatively simple point-and-click adventure game style stuff.   “That’s all well and good,” you say, “but what about the multiplayer?”   Well, I’m admittedly not a huge Starcraft multiplayer guy.   I like it.   It’s fun, but I’ve never had the time or interest (read: skill) to get good at it.   Still, if there’s any part of the game that feels like Starcraft 1 but with a new coat of paint, this would be it.   But even here, between the crazily more robust implementation of battle.net, and the rebalancing that’s been done, it’s absolutely a brand new game.   Sure the three factions still have the same general feel, and having some SC1 experience will definitely help, but you’re not going to be able to just hop in and start doing the exact same things you were doing in SC1.    

Looking just at Terrans, for example, medics and firebats are gone (but only from multiplayer).  Instead, Terran have the heavy-infantry Marauders, which deal heavy damage and can be upgraded to have their grenades slow enemy units (which is great for countering zealots with charge or chasing down stragglers when your enemy tries to retreat).  With medics gone, dropships have taken up the healing role and are now called Medevacs, so a standard terran strategy now is to pump out marines and marauders while teching to medevacs and then having several of them follow your main force around healing.  This also makes it easy to load up 8 marines into a medevac, swing around the back of your enemy's main or expansion and do some good harassing with stim packs to decimate their workers quickly while having the stim damage healed by the medevac.  Zerg queens can now expand the creep by pooping out creep tumors.  Creep management is huge for Zerg mobility as all units move much faster on the creep.  So if you can get all your expansions connected with creep, you can be all over the map in no time.    Protoss can now (through upgrades) warp their basic ground units in anywhere where there's a pylon.  This leads to lots of high level protoss players using some really interesting pylon positioning to get attacks as well as defensive maneuvers set up in some really interesting positions.  And those are just a small number of ways the multiplayer plays differently from the original.  The more you really dig in, the more you see has changed.


And for those of you who feel intimidated, not only is there a ranking system that should in theory match you with people around your same skill level, there are even 9 challenges (3 for each race) that try to teach the basics of counters, hotkeys, etc. that are vital to being competitive in Starcraft 2 multiplayer.   And that’s not all!   There’s also a sort of beginners’ league that’s totally voluntary.   If you want up to your first 50 matches to be on smaller maps that have sealed off starting zones to discourage rushing, Blizzard is here for you.   All in all, it’s much more accessible than the last game for those who haven’t necessarily been spending 4 hours a day on youtube watching build order videos.

 OK, so one thing remains exactly the same:  there will be a lot of dudes on your monitor trying to kill all the other dudes on your monitor (who are probably also quite numerous).

This game is huge.   This game is good.   If you like RTS games, if you like Blizzard games, if you liked Starcraft, hell if you like games period, you should buy this game.

To sum up:

+ Does a much better job with narrative and character development than its predecessor

+ The campaign is long and varied with some unexpected twists

+ Multiplayer is still frantic and highly skill based like the first game

- It makes me want to buy a new computer so I can see what those textures look like

In case you’re curious about your own rig…my current rig at a glance:

AMD Athlon64 3500+

ATI Radeon X1300 512MB

2GB EDO RAM (kidding, but it is 2GB)

Windows Vista

I got relatively smooth gameplay throughout the campaign at 1280x768 with all the details set as low as possible.   I could definitely start to notice some slowdown on larger battles, and don’t think I’ll be trying anything beyond 1v1 as far as multiplayer goes until I get a new rig.
 
 
UPDATE:  Check out my updated multiplayer impressions in my blog!

19 Comments
Edited by Diamond

How is the game not SC1 with a fresh coat of paint?  You mentioned that point but never elaborated on why.
 
It seems to me the main thing would be the upgrade system for units?

Posted by TMThomsen
@Diamond: Lots of new units and most of the old ones have been changed.
 ...and then there's a fantastic single-player campaign worth the money alone.
Posted by Balizar

Great Review!

Edited by Juvenfly
@Diamond:   The campaign is much more involved and fleshed out with a brand new metagame thrown on top (that I did mention).  But, you're right, I didn't go into a whole lot of detail about the multiplayer and what makes that not just exactly the same.  The easy answer is what's gone and what's new.  Looking just at Terrans, who I have the most experience with in single- and multiplayer, medics and firebats are gone for one.  Instead, Terran have the heavy-infantry Marauders, which deal heavy damage and can be upgraded to have their grenades slow enemy units (which is great for countering zealots with charge or chasing down stragglers when your enemy tries to retreat).  With medics gone, dropships have taken up the healing role and are now called Medevac, so a standard terran strategy now is to pump out marines and marauders while teching to medevacs and then having seveal of them follow your main force around healing.  This also makes it easy to load up 8 marines into a medevac, swing around the back of your enemy's main of expansion and do some good harassing with stim packs to decimate their workers quickly while having the stim damage healed by the medevac.
 
Zerg queens can now expand the creep by pooping out creep tumors.  Creep management is huge for Zerg mobility as all units move much faster on the creep.  So if you can get all your expansions connected with creep, you can be all over the map in no time.  
 
Protoss can now (through upgrades) warp their basic ground units in anywhere where there's a pylon.  This leads to lots of high level protoss players using some really interesting pylon positioning to get attacks as well as defensive maneuvers set up in some really interesting positions. 
 
I've also edited the original review to include more info about multiplayer changes now.  Thanks for the constructive criticism!
Posted by blipadouzi

I just wish the game wasn't PC only... my computer is out of commission but I own like 6 different consoles :S

Posted by Juvenfly

While I usually scoff at people who say this about FPS games, I've played enough Halo Wars to know, games like SC2 need a keyboard and mouse.  It's not even optional.  
 
That said...I feel your pain.  I'm actually setting aside some student loan money to build a new desktop for "work."  Word 2010 totally needs 8GB of RAM to run smoothly right?

Posted by MysteriousBob

RTS games are all the same.

Posted by Willy105
@MysteriousBob said:
" RTS games are all the same. "
So are shooters, and platformers, and puzzle games, and RPG's.
 
That's what we call a 'genre'.
Posted by Ping5000

I disagree with the character development and narrative being better. I really, really enjoyed the long debriefs from SC1; there was a lot of tension between characters and it did a lot to keep me invested, whereas SC2 really went nowhere with the story until the end, which led perfectly into the Zerg campaign. A shame we'll have to wait two years for it. A great game, but the campaign's story was a major disappoint for me.

Posted by Juvenfly
@Ping5000:   Well, to each his own, I suppose.  Maybe I shouldn't have said "better", but it's certainly a more elegant solution than the talking heads from SC1.  The story takes a tighter focus, really concentrating on Jim Raynor at the expense of other characters, and I'm OK with that.  You might not have as large a cast of characters as you did in the first game, but I really felt like we learned more about Jimmy in the first few missions of SC2 than we did in all of SC1's campaigns.  I personally liked it much better, even though I thought it was a little curious that the events in Brood War are pretty much glossed over by the story.  Maybe there will be more reference to that in the Zerg campaign (and here's hoping it won't be a full 2 years until we find out). 
Posted by JoanMartorell

good review. I have almost the same computer and I suffered everytime an in-engine cinematics started as it moved at 3/4ths of its normal speed. If you want to see the campain with full textures(just textures, everything else low) low down your screen resolution to 1024x720 and play it with textures at ultra, the cinematics would look realy slow and may constantly slow down while the sound keeps at normal speed, but the game itself looks good(except in some episodes like the lava planet where you harvest the rare minerals and zeratul's 3rd mission)

Posted by Earthborn
@Ping5000 said:
"I disagree with the character development and narrative being better. I really, really enjoyed the long debriefs from SC1; there was a lot of tension between characters and it did a lot to keep me invested, whereas SC2 really went nowhere with the story until the end, which led perfectly into the Zerg campaign. A shame we'll have to wait two years for it. A great game, but the campaign's story was a major disappoint for me. "

Yeah I agree here. The writing was trite and predictable as well.
Posted by Balthagor
@Willy105 said:
" @MysteriousBob said:
" RTS games are all the same. "
So are shooters, and platformers, and puzzle games, and RPG's.  That's what we call a 'genre'. "
+1
Posted by SJSchmidt93

I think other than some balance issues, the multiplayer is perfect. 
 
I was not too fond of the singleplayer though.

Posted by fjor

nice review duder!!! :)

Posted by Juvenfly
@fjor:   Thanks!  Stay tuned for a Shank review sometime this weekend.
Posted by MattBosten

Great review. Gutted that my laptop can't run it.

Posted by Yummylee

I really liked the absurdly long conversations with talking heads in the original, personally.

Posted by CapnChaosDK

Good review, had a great time myself with this game.

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