StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Review
War returns to the stars!
Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 21st October 2010
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
- Developer: Blizzard
- Publisher: Blizzard
- Release Date: 27th July 2010
StarCraft is regarded as one of the finest strategy games of its time, so it's a little strange that it has taken twelve years for its sequel to arrive. But as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty picks up where the original game left off, focusing on the conflict between the Protoss, Terrans, and Zerg. The game follows the exploits of Jim Raynor a former Marshal turned rebel leader who is set on freeing the masses from the tyrannical control of the Dominion, an evil empire made up of former Terran allies and also eliminating the deadly threat posed by the Zerg.
Unlike most strategy games, the story in StarCraft II is told incredibly well and is given a lot more prominence than in most RTS game’s. The story is progressed by simple scenes which you can navigate, similar to a point and click adventure. Clicking on certain elements will launch dialogue sequences and sometime beautifully crafted cut-scenes that give you insights into the characters and the situations they find themselves in, almost as if you were playing a role-playing game. It is this level of depth that makes StarCraft standout from other strategy titles and really draws you into the playing experience the title offers.
Since the original game, the real-time strategy genre has gone through something of a transformation, with most games now ignoring the resource and base building elements that featured in StarCraft and instead concentrating on providing the player with a more tactical based experience with individual units earning experience and new skills. But instead of dumping everything you may have liked about the original, the development team have thankfully remained faithful to the franchise’s roots but also introduced some new features that stop things feeling stale.
With all this in mind its fairly easy to say that StarCraft II emanates with a feeling of nostalgia, harking back to the days when the real-time strategy genre was at its peak, serving up several top titles. The games missions really contribute to this, with the game assigning you tasks such as escorting A.I controlled units, defending strongholds and most enjoyable of all going on the offensive to wipe out enemies from certain locations. Unlike most strategy games Wings of Liberty at points lets you choose which missions you undertake with each choice altering the path you take to the games climax. This system has two main benefits, one it makes you actually feel like a commander in charge of your own army, giving priority to what’s important to you whether its saving lives or making money to expand your forces, and two enhances the replay value of the single player campaign as you can play it a different way. The only criticism you can level at the game is that the single player campaign only allows you to play as one faction giving the story a somewhat skewed viewpoint as you never get to see the other side of the coin so to speak.
Missions are structured exactly as you would expect with a main objective to complete in order to progress and several optional bonus objectives to undertake for those who like a challenge. However, unlike most games that place such tasks in missions as simple filler. In StarCraft II there’s more incentive to complete these tasks as you are rewarded with large amounts of credits for doing so.
Credits can then be used to hire mercenary units or to buy upgrades for your own units making them more effective in battle. Which becomes something of a necessity as you progress through the game, with the challenge shifting greatly from that which guides you in during the games early stages.
A.I in the game is solid with enemies attacking in force and in different ways testing your strategy along the way. It’s also refreshing to see enemy forces not relenting, as an example when they get you on the ropes they keep coming to make sure they finish you off. To counter this blizzard have provided you with a plentiful supply and varied range of units to take into battle, allowing you to come up with effective and varied strategies. The game also features brilliant path finding, if you click on an area on the map your units will get there with out you having to worry about following them around building a progressive path along the way, this is something of a breath of fresh air and helps keep micro-management to a minimum.
Away from the single player campaign StarCraft II has a huge number of multiplayer options, so much so its epic and to new players will undoubtedly seem somewhat daunting. The game multiplayer is powered by a new version of Battle net that has all the spit and polish you would expect from a gaming platform, including a range of achievements that are even available to unlock in campaign mode.
The multiplayer aspect unlike the single player allows you to play as one of three factions, each with its own unique units that offer varied and different playing styles. Some of which have been completely overhauled from the original game, whilst others are completely new. The multiplayer aspect allows you to participate in six player free for alls or team up with a friend to take on an A.I team. But for those looking for a challenge, then the ranked league matches are a must this sees you competing in a series of matches in order to reach the top of your mini-league. The game also offers you the opportunity to test out new strategies by allowing you to participate in up to 50 slow-paced practice matches, and also serve to ease new players into the StarCraft multiplayer experience.
To accompany its fantastic gameplay Wings of Liberty has stunning visuals with fantastic 3D rendered units that encompass an amazing level of detail. The use of colour on the units also gives them a near comic book look, as the armoured Mechs of your space marines standout from varied terrains you do battle on. But as already touched on, the games best visuals are saved for the stunning cut-scenes which are accompanied with some fine voice acting, really pulling you in to the engrossing story of StarCraft II.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a traditional real-time strategy which ticks all the right boxes. The deadly and fast thinking A.I will prove to be a challenge to even the most seasoned strategy gamer, whilst the ability to make decision and the extensive multiplayer support will keep you playing for a long time to come.
Review Score: 9.5/10
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