StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a military science fiction real-time strategy video game developed by Blizzard Entertainment as a sequel to the award-winning 1998 video game StarCraft. Released on July 27, 2010, StarCraft II is split into three installments: the base game with the subtitle Wings of Liberty, and two 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 is built around three species: the Terrans, human exiles from Earth; the Zerg, a race of insectoid genetic assimilators; and the Protoss, a species with vast psionic power. 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 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.
Here’s what’s awesome about the game:
- Campaign offers a lot of variety
- Awesome cinematics and great voice acting
- Element of choice gives campaign lots of replay value Excellent online play featuring three disparate but balanced factions
The downside is probably just a few battle net issues which you read about at their wiki page, so I’m not going to get into details.
Anyway, for starters the campaign is the first of many of these delights. You may have heard that Starcraft II features only a single campaign: that of the human faction known as the Terrans. One of the game’s few disappointments is that the other two factions–the Protoss and the Zerg–don’t really get featured as playbale factions, so if you’re a first-timer playing online, don’t expect the campaign to prepare you for the potential onslaught. But the campaign is so much deeper, offering loads of variety, including an entire set of missions that divulges important story elements from an entirely different perspective. Yet even outside of those devious missions, you accomplish diverse and interesting tasks throughout the story. In one early mission, lava periodically rises onto the mainland, posing a threat to any units not positioned on high ground. In another, an exploding sun causes a deadly wall of flame to steadily push you across the map. From one mission to the next, there’s an intriguing new development that keeps you devoted to seeing what surprise is waiting for you next.
Many of these missions are RTS standards: Lead these small groups of units down this linear path, defend this specific structure, and so on. Yet Starcraft II gives these tasks meaningful context. Take the very first mission, for example. It’s a very easy training mission, but one side objective has you take down holograms displaying emperor Arcturus Mengsk’s political propaganda. After destroying these displays and arriving at your objective, the citizens rise up and join you, and you get a sense of the Terran dominion’s heavy hand, as well as the peoples’ desire to be freed from tyranny. A later mission puts you in control of an enormous mech and sends you off on a fiery rampage. Controlling a single unit in an RTS for any period of time isn’t always fun, but because of how the mission is presented and its meaning within the story, this simple single-unit romp feels completely satisfying.
Apart from missions, you also closely follow Jim Raynor as he struggles to fight off the threat of the alien Zerg race, topple the manipulative Emperor Mengsk from his throne, and come to terms with his own guilt over the fate of Sarah Kerrigan. If you’re headed into this sequel without any knowledge of prior events, you need not worry that you’ll be in the dark: the campaign does an excellent job of filling in backstory even as the current narrative unfolds. The plot is uncomplicated, and the dialogue is action-movie simple, but Starcraft II’s excellent cinematics, evocative soundtrack, and top-notch voice acting have a way of keeping you glued to the screen. Hero Jim Raynor is a strong but troubled man. You hear it in his voice and see it on his face, and the way the soundtrack signals his presence with its telltale twangs; you see it in the dark, moody way he’s so often lit.
Wait! there’s more! You do more than just watch cutscenes in between missions, however. This downtime is your chance to get to know the crew of Raynor’s battlecruiser, the Hyperion. In a style similar to that of an adventure game, when you click on various characters and items on the screen, you might be rewarded with a short cutscene, a clever quip from a nerdy scientist, or a broadcast from a not-so-fair-and-balanced news agency. But these interludes aren’t just for clicking and watching: You also upgrade and enhance your units and structures in important ways. By spending research points you earn on particular missions, you will gain access to permanent upgrades and new units normally associated with the Zerg and Protoss factions. However, these are either/or propositions: choosing one research option will lock you out of the other choice offered. You also earn currency to spend on other permanent upgrades or on mercenary units you can immediately summon to the battlefield. By their very nature, these options give the campaign replay value–value that’s further elevated by a few occasions on which you must make a choice during the campaign that determines the course of minor story elements. These decisions don’t just bring narrative consequences, however; they also determine which of two or more potential missions you must complete and have further impact on what units you might have access to or the enemy units you will face. So while it may seem like a single campiagn only game – all these things really come together so well to make it well rounded.
Battle.net Play Online
This Battle.net interface has its drawbacks. In order to play the game at all, you must create a Battle.net account and associate it with your game key. To earn achievements–even those in the single-player modes–you must be signed in to your account, which means always remaining online. Fortunately, you can play the campaign as a guest when not signed into your Battle.net account, though you won’t earn any rewards that way.
Starcraft II is an intrinsically social experience. When friends receive achievements, you get a notification, which might drive a bit of friendly competition. You unlock and select from various user icons, which identify you to your friends and to your multiplayer rivals. You select which achievements you want to show off to anyone viewing your profile. And if you aren’t sure which of your friends might be playing, the game will search your Facebook friends list and automatically send an invite to anyone with a Battle.net account. The social integration, the achievement notifications, and the intuitive and smooth interface make Battle.net–usually–a positive way of interfacing with Starcraft II.
All said and done – Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is not just an old game with a pretty new face. It’s a varied and full-featured jewel that will keep you stuck to your computer chair for weeks, months, and even years to come.
Here’s how the game DVD looks – just for kicks
We give it a 5/5