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LTTP: StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

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Hell, it’s about time.”

Recalling that StarCraft II announcement trailer warms my heart. I followed the media rollout for StarCraft II but when I discovered the entire StarCraft II saga was split into three titles, I decided to wait for the inevitable Battle Chest. I bought StarCraft and Brood War that way, so I figured it made sense to do the same for StarCraft II.

But low prices are tough to ignore. So when I saw StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and the Heart of the Swarm expansion were available for $9.99 each, I couldn’t resist.

I like StarCraft but I never played them “properly”. It’s a numbers game and yet I try to play it like a quality over quantity game like Company of Heroes or WarCraft III. I usually start off well but never manage to keep up with my ever expanding source of minerals. I also tend to diversify my armies way too much and never focus on doing one thing well. It’s why I had to bump the difficulty from Hard to Normal for the final bout against Kerrigan.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty introduced conveniences that I’ve come to expect in a modern game let alone a modern real-time strategy game. Checkpoints and adjustable difficulties make it convenient to cater the experience to my skill level. Embedded tooltips demystify the resource gathering enigma and ensured novices knew how many SCVs to employ for optimal rate of return. All these player aids gave me a false sense of confidence going into the game.

I decided to play StarCraft II on Hard and was quickly reminded how out of touch I was. I had to restrict myself and pick one or two things to exploit and not stretch myself thin. I successfully made my way through the 25 or so missions but couldn’t conquer the Queen of Blades herself. Blizzard eased the need for duplicate Terran buildings by offering upgrades that enabled them to pump out multiple units simultaneously but I found that reinforced bad habits.

Although it was a bit disheartening to finish the game with a conceit, I was still very away with what I played. Blizzard did an outstanding job modernizing StarCraft and its style of realtime strategy. I expected them to introduce new units and a continuation of the story. I didn’t expect them diversify the missions like they did. I didn’t expect to play a mission that focused on the Terran ability to relocate their structures by fleeing a fiery wall of death. I was amused by their clever take on the capture and hold missions where I was defending and using a giant laser drill to access an ancient vault and fend off oncoming Protoss who were none too pleased by our presence.

Upon further reflection these missions weren’t as unique as I originally thought but the window dressing and setups made them standout. At the end of the day, I was still plopping Marines into bunkers, building Supply Depots and upgrading my troops’ abilities. It’s a shame that they weren’t able to permanently outfit their troops with better gear. You’d think that would be possible with all that technology.

I love the Mass Effect series for giving us the freedom to choose missions and development paths of its crew. I’m guessing Blizzard shared my sentiments because I love their integration of those ideas into StarCraft II. I played as Space Sherriff turned Rebel, Jim Raynor and was in command of his Battlecruiser, the Hyperion. Every mission on the Star Map had its rewards in the guise of new units, credits and Research points to enhance and customize units to my liking. I was able select missions based on my needs at the time. For example, I wanted ways to fend off the primary antagonist, so I decided to focus on the Zerg centric improvements first.

Unfortunately, this is where StarCraft’s past and present were at odds. On one hand, I was interacting with key characters and making unit defining decisions. On the other hand, I was still starting from scratch most of the time by building barracks and pumping out faceless units. It brings into question the logistics and priorities of Jim Raynor and gang. Apparently, Kerrigan means everything to Jim and she’s worth sacrificing countless of those criminals turned Space Marines to rescue.

The game wasn’t sailing at 60FPS but I was fine with the in-game performance on my PC. I was irked by the long loading times which I would have mitigated with an SSD install if I had known. They were surprisingly long compared to more technically demanding titles.

Admittedly, picking and choosing missions simply meant I was reordering them. There were only a couple of instances where my choice of mission would lock out an alternate mission. The decisions weren’t tough to make and I could see the difference in outcomes were relatively minute but I still appreciated the fact that they offered choices. I would love to see Blizzard take this idea further resulting in players making tougher choices.

After five years, I finally finished StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. I’ll take a brief break before tackling Heart of the Swarm but I am looking forward to manipulating the moist and terrifying units that are the Zerg. I’m very curious what Blizzard installed in the place of the Terran Hyperion ship. Am I inside a giant Overlord? I’m also very curious how they’ll handle the characters, news feeds and even music for the Zerg. Will I be chatting it up with a Zergling? I can picture the Protoss’ take on the Hyperion but I can fathom how Blizzard will handle these insect-like creatures. Fortunately for me, I don’t have to wait three years to find out.

Must Play

Ratings Guide

For more information on StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, visit the official site.

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