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.

Verdict:
Must Play

Ratings Guide

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

Checkpoint: March Rushed Edition

I can’t believe it’s already March. Where did February go? How did it disappear so quickly? I honestly don’t know. In some ways, I did want the months to fly by but I didn’t expect them to move at this pace.

Last year, there was an air of uncertainty with my life. I was in a relationship but there were many questions surrounding it. This March — ┬ádespite being single — I’m feeling very comfortable and focused. This time last year I was focusing on myself while this year, I’m focusing on family.

I’ve also been focusing on StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty’s campaign. It’s been very pleasant and a bit of a surprise for me. I didn’t realize how varied and inventive the missions would be. At it’s very core, it is just build armies and eliminate the enemy but the manner and circumstances surrounding each mission were inventive.

I’ve also started playing my FIFA 15 campaign at “World Class” difficulty. It’s been challenging and forces the game to be played in a realistic fashion.

Checkpoint: Ram, Goat or Sheep Edition

Doesn’t matter what the zodiac sign is called in English. It doesn’t change the fact that I wish all those who are born with this sign the very best in the coming year.

The past week was nice. Lots of food with loved ones and all that. I caught a lot more of the Chinese free preview channels from Rogers this year and it’s fascinating to see it evolve over the past several years. It’s inching closer and closer to North American style of shows. Variety shows are still uniquely Asian but singing contests and other reality TV concepts have made their way into Chinese TV.

I wonder if Storage Wars: Shanghai is a thing.

I finished Wind Waker HD and started StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. I could have spent a bit more time seeking out heart pieces but I decided to stab Ganon in the face. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is pretty awesome so far. I am very impressed with the variety in the campaign and look forward to playing more on a daily basis.

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Trailer

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Part two of StarCraft II will debut on March 12, 2013. I have yet to play “Wings of Liberty” so watching this spoiler filled trailer was a bit of a mistake on my part. Oh well.

I have no plans on picking up any of these StarCraft II titles until the “BattleChest” debuts which I suspect it will be sometime in 2016 going by Blizzard’s release schedule. I have no interest in the multiplayer so being out of “the loop” on that front is okay by me.