The ultimate RTS for the non RTS gamer.
After a long 12 years, the day has come when Blizzard Entertainment declared that "the wait is finally over" and released StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty to the public on July 27, 2010; A massive worldwide release that brings a question to the mind of millions of gamers: Was the wait worth it?
Paradoxically if you are an RTS gamer the answer to that question might just be a resounding "No". Surprisingly, that doesn’t mean the game is bad though.
Since both singleplayer and multiplayer are so different, reviewing both separately is probably the best choice; So having said that let’s get multiplayer out of the way first: There’s not much to say about it. The multiplayer in StarCraft II is a huge and refined version of the gameplay found in the original StarCraft that tries to maintain what was so popular with the first by keeping all the trappings and quirks that accompany your regular match of StarCraft, making it eerily similar to the gameplay in the original.
Sadly, the result of this attempt to keep things familiar also creates unfortunate side effects: If you are a player that’s just getting into RTS games, StarCraft II and its near impenetrable level of play might push you away, while the seasoned RTS gamer might find the gameplay boring and primitive. With a playerbase consisting of both beta users and longtime StarCraft players, the multiplayer experience is almost instantly off-limits for anyone that doesn’t want to invest some time in learning the game’s inner workings or for those who cannot stand the old interface and archaic gameplay involved. Even worse is the fact that multiplayer is the best thing available in this package.Which brings us nicely to the next point: On the other hand StarCraft II also includes a bold singleplayer experience, an “epic” story that attempts merging RTS action and storytelling with a daring combination of unique missions and making the game's in-between mission segments more dynamic, setting you down into an "adventure-game" style scene and letting the player watch, listen and interact with various elements of the background and character might reside in that screen.
This by itself is fine; however it all comes falling apart when you see the horribly contrasting level of detail Blizzard decided to sprinkle into the singleplayer experience.
Taking place 4 years after the events in StarCraft: Brood War, Starcraft II throws the player right next to the title's protagonist and old-time StarCraft figure Jim Raynor; a man who has seen better times, drinking in a crummy cantina. Right from the get-go and as you move through the game you might be able to see the main problem here: A lot of everything that happens outside combat, including the narrative, is terribly half-assed.
With some object models that would look more at home in a PlayStation game, incredibly blurry and low detail textures for anything other than the character's faces, animations repeating over and over again all across the board, there is a ton of odd little details that look really out of place and are present in each and every one of the game's graphical settings all taking away from the scenes; A situation that gets even worse when the characters actually open their mouths and shower you with poorly written dialogue and half-assed voice work punctuated with nonsensical quips and one-liners from some characters and outright groan inducing personalities from some "characters" Blizzard decided to include in their "epic" storyline.You really can’t blame the voice actors for mailing it in though, seeing how another big issue with this narrative is the sheer amount of poorly written plot hooks and events that the game tries to piece together into something akin to a storyline. It is not rare seeing characters make decisions that make no sense from their perspective, displaying a weird and almost prophetic ability to foresee how events will develop; while other characters make sudden decisions that are not only completely against what should be ingrained in their personalities but sometimes even what they were supposed to believe in just a couple scenes before.
The carnival of sadness doesn’t stop at that either, as these decision to make the game more dynamic also makes the gameplay suffer during campaign thanks to the game's squalid attempt at giving the player some choice over what to do during the course of the game. With both a research interface that lets you upgrade your units and acquire new ones as well as a series of events sprinkled through the plot that present the player with a choice regarding what to do during the coming mission, you might actually find yourself having trouble in some missions thanks to the decisions you made; Decisions that, since you are not able to change at any point other than reloading a save, might lock you out of getting certain achievements or even completing missions in the higher difficulties, an issue that becomes incredibly annoying when you are forced to replay hours and hours of campaign thanks to the choice Blizzard decided to give you. Hours upon hours of campaign that depending on your tolerance; you might not want to suffer through again for a narrative that in the end does little to advance the ongoing story of the universe.
This is the biggest issue with StarCraft II; Existing as a product that is being sold in chunks yet doesn’t accomplish anything it was set out to do as the first part of a trilogy. With RTS gameplay being the only good thing inside the game while also being off-putting for a section of the RTS gamer population, one has to wonder if this game might have been better off as just a single title with all three campaigns, however small they might have been.
As it is, with a multiplayer made mostly for the hardcore fan and a single player campaign that brings no narrative to the table, StarCraft II makes something very clear: unless you don’t know better or you are a hardcore SC player, this game is nowhere near as brilliant as it’s made out to be.