StarCraft 2 Review
By - Richard J.
"Hell, it's about time!" - the saying plastered across nearly all promotions for Starcraft II. It has been twelve years since gamers started "Terran" it up in the original Starcraft. Despite my terrible pun, the original Starcraft has gone on to change the face of RTS'. It even went as far as being a national sport in South Korea. Starcraft is a synonym for Real Time Strategy. If you haven't already come to the conclusion: yes, Starcraft is a big deal.
So finally, after those twelve long years spent trying to craft (no pun intended) a worthy successor of the original Starcraft, Blizzard has a final product. As soon as you see the game, you will instantly recognize that it is Starcraft. But is this what we want? Can Starcraft II fill the massive shoes of its predecessor?
Let's start with the story. In Starcraft II, you play as James Raynor. Raynor is said to be a criminal: a terrorist. Instead, he is just a powerfull enemy of the Dominion. The Dominion is being ruled by a totalitarianism government, who is spewing false propaganda. Many of which targets Raynor. Along with convict Tychus and other characters you meet along your adventure, you must topple the Dominion.
The story in Starcraft II is really solid. From the minute you start a campaign, you are instantly sucked into this expansive world, and those who inhabit it.
But wait. You never played the original Starcraft and you feel overwhelmed by the thought of jumping head-first into the story of Starcraft II?
Don't worry, the smart folks over at Blizzard have got you covered. While Starcraft II is installing, a fairly detailed summary of the previous game is displayed on the installer, for your reading pleasure. However, don't think that reading is mandatory for newer players. Those who go head-first without any back story will do just fine, and will eventually learn everything in a short time period.
No matter how good the story is, the gameplay is where it is at in Starcraft 2. Just like the original Starcraft, the genre defining RTS gameplay is infectious. Although the gameplay may be a bit dated, and its difficulty may turn away new players, it's 100% Starcraft. You must gather minerals and resources, build bases, and send out troops while also defending your base. While this is solid gameplay that will never get old, there were some cool treats in the campaign mode. In the 26 missions available, the majority will be spent playing typical Starcraft.
However, there are a handful of missions that will have you controlling only one special troop, while the AI backs you up with an army. Personally, I felt that it was a nice break -- considering the basic base building missions can get a bit boring -- and they were all well made and quite fun. My favourite being a mission where you must guide a familiar Protoss through an area with only a few other troops. At the end of the mission, you must essentially play through the intro to Super Metroid (SNES). It may sound like something that isn't fun, but trust me, it's great.
Also, To help alleviate the intense difficulty for new players, the game has a "casual" mode which is perfect for those who are brand new to Starcraft or RTS' in general. This allows anyone to start mining minerals, gathering resources, and sending out troops. Finally, there is also a special "Galaxy Editor" which allows you to create special maps and campaigns. A special feature for Starcraft 2 is online connectivity and the ability to post your maps and campaigns for others, which is a new feature for Blizzard games. There isn't much to comment on as it is pretty much everything the description says, but from what I tested, it worked well. I didn't spend a ton of time with it, but I am definitely interested to mess around with it more after this review is published.
The graphics in Starcraft II are top notch. Running on the highest difficulty settings, bases, troops, vehicles, and enemies all look highly detailed. The cutscenes -- which use in-game graphics -- also look fantastic. One great thing about the graphics in Starcraft II is that there is almost never a drop in the framerate. As long as your PC can compete with the graphics setting you have chosen, you can run super smooth. No matter how many Zerg rush you, nor how many protoss warships, or Terran Odin's are destroyed, you will rarely suffer framerate slowdown. Unfortunately, keeping a constant frame-rate has dropped the graphics a bit. While Starcraft II's graphics look great, they definitely are not the best. It's a decision you will have to make: Incredible graphics with some technical issues, or fairly good graphics with rarely any technical issues?
Best of all, Blizzard plans for nearly everyone with a PC to play this game. They do this by allowing for the settings of Starcraft II to be turned way down. While having the graphics turned way down doesn't even compare to the "Ultra" settings, it still looks good, keeps a constant framerate, and opens the game up to those who want to game on PC, but don't want to constantly be updating their graphics cards. Personally, I think it is great that Blizzard considered all of the original Starcraft fans who maybe haven't updated their PCs for a while.
The soundtrack in Starcraft II is country music inspired, but with a space age twist. During battles, the music is full of twang and sometimes even a little dark. It feels like someone is sitting beside you noodling on a telecaster. But the music doesn't stop there. In the multiple bar settings in the game, there is always a juke box. The juke box has a bunch of clever Starcraft inspired covers of classic country music songs. These include an all female cover of "Sweet Home Alabama", and songs where dogs are replaced by Zerg. While it may sound not that appealing and really out there, it's actually quite easy to get into. Personally, I am not a huge fan of the juke box covers, but I really enjoyed the music that plays during battle.
Now of course, the best part of Starcraft II: the replay value. While there is a lengthy 15 hour campaign in Starcraft II, that doesn't even compare to the time you will spend with the multiplayer. You could easily spend 10's of hours playing some matches to keep you entertained. However, if you get sucked in and can't get enough, you could spend 100's of hours playing. People played Starcraft for 12 years waiting for this sequel, I could see players playing this one for another 12 years, especially with how advanced Battle .Net is.
When it comes down to it, Starcraft is a fantastic game. The problems I have this with this game are very few, and quite nit-picky. Fans of the original Starcraft will get exactly what they want from this sequel. It does a great service to fans of the original, while also being open to new players. Without a doubt, Starcraft II is one of the best PC games I have played in years, and it will not be forgotten when Game of the Year deliberations begin.
- Great Story
- Incredible Gameplay
- Graphic Settings Allow for Anyone to Play
- Outstanding Soundtrack
- Fantastic Gameplay Value
- Gameplay is a Bit Dated
- Graphics are Also a Little Dated
- Some Campaign Missions Get a Little Boring