Battlecruiser, Still Operational

Roach Infestation!

I’m not a fan of Blizzard, I admit. But if I were to choose my favorite game from the company’s oeuvre, then I’d have to pick StarCraft. Not only this game has a balanced and streamlined gameplay but it has also bestowed me priceless memories of playing this with friends, from head to head dial-up LAN games to massive 8 people free for all, and winners gets all the bragging rights. So, even though I’m bound to a code of frugality of not buying games in full price, I sacrilegiously bought StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty in the hopes of reliving those memories.

Sentimentality aside, however, StarCraft II is still the StarCraft we know and love. But it’s even more streamlined than before, making it the most finely-tuned RTS game right now. There’s no new race, it’s still just the Terrans, Zergs and Protoss jumping on each others throats. You still mine minerals and harvest Vespene gas with your SCVs, Drones and Probes. The unit designs are mostly the same and, unlike most RTS games that are out now, you don’t have heroes (which means we probably won’t see a DotA-like mod in the future?). So if you’re worried that your skills have atrophied for not having played the game in years, don’t be. There’s a chance that your old strategies will still work here. Of course, with some newer units, which aren’t that many, your tactics might need a little tweaking to make it more effective.

While the skirmish and versus battles have stayed the same, the campaign mode went under a makeover. For starters, only the Terran campaign is available in Wings of Liberty. The Protoss and Zerg campaigns will be shipped separately on a later date. Many gamers, myself included, didn’t like Blizzard for this decision. But, after playing the game, I now understand –a little– why they did it. The campaign is in no way short. It took me about a week to finish it. The presentation of the campaign is also quite sterling. Cinematic cutscenes are employed to deliver the narrative, from mission briefings to instances that advances the story. So it has more atmosphere and personality than the first game. There’s also a “downtime” between missions, in which you can explore the few areas of your Battlecruiser, your command hub in the campaign, and interact with NPCs and objects to learn more about the story, research and upgrade your tech, recruit special units, or even play a mini arcade game.

On the technical part of the game, I have to say the graphics is just mesmerizing. StarCraft II is the prettiest RTS game I’ve seen visually to date. And my video settings is only at high, not even on ultra. However, you’ll hardly ever notice of how sweet this game’s eye candy during battles, especially when you’re being “Zerged”. But on the campaign mode, the cutscenes will just make you drool of how beautiful this game is. On the audio side, the voice overs in the campaign are well acted. Especially on characters like Tychus and Raynor. As for the bugs, I’ve never encountered one. Like I said earlier, this is a streamlined game. So I’m pretty sure Blizzard hammered out the bugs before the release date. Although, loading times are a bit longer (20-30 seconds) than my other games.

As I’ve said, StarCraft II is still the StarCraft we know and love. Sure, there are new units for you to play with and the graphics has been upgraded. But the core gameplay remains the same. Think of it as a remastered Led Zeppelin album. The music is still the same old good stuff but the audio quality is much better than it was. With that said, whether playing on Battle.net, competing against an AI, completing all the achievements, or beating the campaign mode on hard difficulty, I think StarCraft II will remain installed on our PCs for a very long time.

Score: A-

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Parting Shot

My battlecruiser during my trip to and from the Philippines

If there’s any place in the world where StarCraft gets the most love, then it’s Korea. Just how much Koreans love StarCraft? Well, some Koreans have become pro gamers and earn a living by playing StarCraft and, also, painted the StarCraft II logo (with Jim Raynor) in most planes by Korean Airlines.

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