Friday, 3 February 2012

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

   StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a military science fiction real-time strategy video game developed and released by Blizzard Entertainment for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. A sequel to the award-winning 1998 video game StarCraft and its expansions, the game was released worldwide on July 27, 2010.It is split into three installments: the base game with the subtitle Wings of Liberty, and two upcoming expansion packs, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void.

   Set in the 26th century in a distant part of the Milky Way galaxy, the game revolves around three species: the Terrans, human exiles from Earth; the Zerg, a super-species of assimilated life forms; and the Protoss, a technologically advanced species with vast mental powers. Wings of Liberty focuses on the Terrans, while the expansions Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void will focus on the Zerg and Protoss, respectively. The game is set four years after the events of 1998's StarCraft: Brood War, and follows the exploits of Jim Raynor as he leads an insurgent group against the autocratic Terran Dominion. The game includes both new and returning characters and locations from the original game.

   The game was met with very positive reviews from critics, receiving an aggregated score of 93% from Metacritic. Similar to its predecessor, StarCraft II was praised for its engaging gameplay, as well as its introduction of new features and improved storytelling. The game was criticized for lacking features that existed in the original StarCraft game including LAN play and a single multiplayer region. In its first month on sale, over three million copies of StarCraft II were sold worldwide.


   StarCraft II features the return of the three species from the original game: Protoss, Terran, and Zerg. In the Terran campaign, the original StarCraft briefing room is replaced with an interactive version of the battlecruiser Hyperion, with Jim Raynor, now a bitter and hard-drinking mercenary captain, as the central character. In a departure from previous Blizzard games, the campaign is non-linear, with Raynor taking jobs for money and using that money to buy additional units and upgrades. Although each playthrough will vary, the end result remains consistent, keeping the storyline linear. Vice President Rob Pardo stressed that each campaign will function very differently.The Terran campaign, Wings of Liberty, places players in a mercenary-style campaign, as Terran rebel Jim Raynor performs missions for cash. The second release, the Zerg campaign Heart of the Swarm, will have role-playing elements. The player will level up the Queen of Blades, Kerrigan, throughout the missions. In the last expansion, the Protoss campaign Legacy of the Void, the dark templar Zeratul will have to employ diplomacy between Protoss tribes to acquire units and technologies for each mission. Wings of Liberty has 29 playable campaign missions, but only 26 of them are playable in a single playthrough since three missions are choice-related alternates. There is one secret mission named "Piercing the Shroud", which can be unlocked on the "Media Blitz" mission.

   Several unique missions are included in the Wings of Liberty campaign. In one level, lava floods the battlefield every five minutes, forcing the player to move their units to high ground or watch them get destroyed. In another mission, enemy units will only attack the player at night. Finally, in one mission, the player tries to influence the tide of an AI-controlled battle with only a single unit, a Spectre. The single player missions are highly customizable and are featured in the StarCraft II Community Zone. Between missions, players can choose units, buildings, and upgrades that are not available in the multiplayer missions.A major new addition to the map-making community will be the StarCraft II Marketplace, where high quality maps will be sold for a small fee as "premium maps" over The mode of payment has not yet been announced. Lead Designer Dustin Browder has mentioned that even maps like player-created Defense of the Ancients in Warcraft III would not meet the quality requirements to be branded as a premium map.

   Wings of Liberty features approximately the same number of units as the original StarCraft.Some units from the original game have returned, some featuring new upgrades and abilities. For example, the Protoss Zealot, a melee unit from the original game, now has the researchable ability to dash forward and quickly reach nearby enemies as a refinement of its speed upgrade from the original. Other units have been replaced or removed entirely.Other changes to unit design have been inspired by story events in StarCraft and its expansion, Brood War, replacing old units with new or renamed versions which sport different attributes and abilities.Units in StarCraft II have new abilities, compared to the original, that encourage more complex interaction with the game environment. Among these are the inclusion of units that can traverse varying levels of terrain, or have the ability to teleport short distances.Some Protoss units can be warped into pylon-powered areas using the Warp Gate, a slight modification of an existing building called the Gateway. StarCraft II's campaign also has exclusive units which are only playable in the campaign and not in the regular multiplayer mode, though they are available for custom maps. These mostly consist of units which have been scrapped from development such as the Terran Diamondback as well as various returning units from the original StarCraft such as the Terran Wraith and Vulture.


   Four years after the Brood War, the Dominion is once again the dominant Terran power in the Koprulu sector. News reports reveal that in the four years since the end of the Brood Wars the standing Dominion military forces have been reduced and trillions have been spent hunting down rebel forces that operate against the Dominion. For reasons unknown, Kerrigan gathered the swarm at Char and then vanished from sight. With the Zerg gone, the Protoss have once again taken a passive role in the galaxy. Jim Raynor has formed a revolutionary group named Raynor's Raiders in order to overthrow Dominion Emperor Arcturus Mengsk. On Mar Sara, Raynor meets with an old comrade, Tychus Findlay. Together, they liberate the local population from Dominion control and also discover a component of a mysterious Xel'Naga artifact. As the Zerg begin to overrun Mar Sara, Raynor arranges an evacuation to his battlecruiser, the Hyperion, captained by Matt Horner.

   The Raiders embark on a series of missions to find the remaining pieces of the Xel'Naga artifact, which they sell to the enigmatic Moebius Foundation in order to fund their revolution. Along the way, they meet with Gabriel Tosh, a rogue Dominion psychic assassin known as a Spectre, and Ariel Hanson, a researcher on the Zerg and leader of a small farming colony. The Raiders perform missions to help Tosh procure the raw materials to train new Spectres. They also aid Hanson as she attempts to secure her colonists who are caught between the Zerg infesting their planets and the Protoss attempting to eradicate the infestation. Horner also arranges a series of missions to undermine Mengsk, recovering intelligence information about his war crimes and broadcasting them to the Dominion. Finally, Zeratul sneaks aboard the Hyperion to deliver a psychic crystal which allows Raynor to share visions involving a prophecy regarding the future of the Zerg and Protoss, as well as a mysterious hybrid of the two, the ultimate revelation being that only Kerrigan has the power to prevent the eradication of all life in the sector and beyond.

   After collecting more artifact pieces, Raynor's forces encounter Dominion battleships at the pre-agreed Moebius Foundation rendezvous point. The Moebius Foundation is revealed to be under the control of Valerian Mengsk, Arcturus' son. Valerian, intending to show himself as a worthy successor to his father, asks Raynor to help him invade Char and use the artifact to restore Kerrigan's humanity, thus weakening the Zerg. To the initial dismay of the crew, Raynor agrees. With Valerian's aid Raynor recovers the final artifact piece and the Raiders and Dominion invade Char. The Dominion fleet is severely damaged by the heavy Zerg defenses, but Raynor secures a foothold on Char and rendezvous with Dominion forces lead by Horace Warfield. Warfield is injured and appoints Raynor commander of the Dominion survivors. The combined forces push towards the main Hive Cluster of the planet, protecting the artifact while it charges energy, and the artifact eventually destroys all Zerg within its blast radius. Raynor's team finds Kerrigan restored to human form; however, Tychus reveals that he made a deal with Arcturus Mengsk, trading Kerrigan's life for his own freedom. Raynor defends Kerrigan from Tychus' attempt to kill her, shooting Tychus in the process. The closing scene shows Raynor carrying Sarah Kerrigan across the battlefield in his arms.

IMDb:  Rates this game with a 9.2/10.0.
According to IGN: "Is Blizzard's latest also it's greatest?", rated "Amazing" with an overall score of 9.0/10.0 and ranked #35 out of 16771 PC rated games.

IGN Ratings for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC):
  • 10 "Presentation"
Incredibly high production values throughout, from the cut-scenes to the interface and menus across campaign and multiplayer modes.
  • 9.0 "Graphics"
Looks great on ultra if you've got the power to handle it, and will run on a wide variety of systems.
  • 9.0 "Sound"
The slashes and booms of combat make battle more exciting, and an appropriately epic score backs up the action. Also the Hyperion jukebox is worth listening to.
  • 9.0 "Gameplay"
A great variety of mission types in the campaign, and a meticulously designed and balanced set of units and abilities for multiplayer.
  • 9.5 "Lasting Appeal"
Play against AI foes, replay the campaign, and spent endless hours online in ranking matches. Then if you're bored, check out all the custom content.


   In StarCraft II, it's still the Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss clashing against each other, and you're still mining minerals with SCVs, Drones, and Probes and pulling Vespene Gas from the ground to fuel production. It's a classic style of real-time strategy play, one old-school RTS gamers should be very familiar with. Compared to the changes Blizzard made between the traditional gameplay of Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and the hero-based leveling elements of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, StarCraft II feels like a relatively safe play; a game designed to slide in and discreetly supplant its predecessor instead of ruffle the feathers of longtime StarCraft devotees and risk rejection. While it's not a revolutionary game, it is one of the most fully featured, expertly designed, and impressively refined real-time strategy experiences on the market. 

   Even though at its most basic level a lot of the game is familiar, much has been adjusted. In no area is this more apparent than in the single-player campaign. Blizzard's decision to split the overall story of StarCraft II into three parts sparked some controversy when it was first announced; basically that means you only get to play as the Terran faction (with a few exceptions) for the solo portion, and must wait until later for the Zerg and Protoss campaigns to be released to see the entirety of the story. While that affects some of the impact of the tale, it in no way means you'll be starved for content if all you're looking to do in StarCraft II is play alone. There's a huge campaign here that could easily take many hours to play through (depending on your style and level of difficulty). It's all exceedingly well presented, with a totally reworked narrative delivery system, a few instances of choice driving the story, and options for inter-mission upgrades that make it feel like more of an role-playing experience than a series of mission that exist solely to get you ready for the multiplayer.

   Unlike the original game, this time around you won't be staring at the sparsely animated heads of major characters as they bicker and plot on video monitors between missions. Instead, Blizzard gives you a detailed world to play around in to give its fictional universe a greater sense of place and atmosphere. The action follows along with Jim Raynor, who begins the game as a gruff alcoholic in the process of rebelling against Arcturus Mengsk, the corrupt emperor of the Terran Dominion. If you've forgotten the StarCraft storyline or never got around to learning it, then it should be fairly easy to dig into this one, though you're going to miss a lot of references.

   Customization is a big part of the campaign's appeal, but really the best part is the mission design. It's quite a feat for Blizzard to stuff in this many missions and give each a unique feel, but that's exactly what's been done. Each can be broken down into basic and familiar escort, commando, defense, and assault types of tasks, but within each of these a special element is always thrown in. Sometimes it's a giant wave of fire slowly sweeping across a map spurring you to frequently relocate your base in pursuit of objectives. Sometimes it's a see-saw back and forth battle between armies as you vie to capture nodes located around map. Sometimes you'll just be in control of a single unit and need to stealth into enemy territory, relying on AI controlled allies to help wipe out detectors so you can snipe, slice and nuke your enemies into submission. I'd recommend any seasoned RTS player bump the difficulty to Hard since Normal is pretty easy, but regardless of skill level the game is always fun because the mission objectives are so diverse.

   Blizzard wasn't trying to do anything drastically different with StarCraft II. Much of the core gameplay of the original has been preserved, yet with plenty of tweaks, additional units and new abilities for veteran players to toy with and devise new approaches to competitive battles. Anyone intimidated by the notion of playing against live opponents will find a lot to enjoy, with a fantastically presented single-player campaign featuring impressively varied mission design supported by a memorable, though often cheesy, cast of characters. Then, if you're feeling courageous, the notion of venturing online is made more appealing by's automated ranking system that frequently matches you up with opponents of similar skill level. It's not a step forward for the genre, exactly, but StarCraft II is still one of the most polished, finely crafted and well presented real-time strategy games available.

Published by: Blizzard Entertainment
Developed by: Blizzard Entertainment
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Number of Players: 1-8
Release Date:
Europe: TBA 2010
Also Available On: Macintosh, Macintosh
Also known as: StarCraft II

No comments:

Post a Comment