Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Review
Traditional and fresh in all the right ways, this strategy sequel is an absolute joy for veterans and newcomers alike.
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.) And though you can indicate that you are unavailable and block other users, you cannot make yourself invisible to the players on your friends list if you aren't in a social mood. 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.
StarCraft II is a competitive game of the highest order, and as such, it offers a fully featured online experience that is as thrilling as it is grueling. It begins with choosing the faction that best suits your play style. Every race offers versatility within its own units, and any number of strategies could be key to your success. If you play as Protoss, you might become enamored with the ominous flying void rays, which destroy both ground and air units with a focused beam of energy. But an enemy with a ready counter (say, Terran marines) might take advantage of the void's need to charge up before it fires. The Zerg are well known for facilitating rush tactics, but if you face a zergling rush as a Terran, flame-spewing hellions may be your answer. There are great opportunities for satisfying micromanagement with each race, whether that means using the Protoss phoenix to lift ground units into the sky or transforming soaring Terran vikings into assault walkers. Each of the three factions possesses its own strengths and weaknesses, but there are so many different ways of approaching the battle that you need to stay flexible, scout the enemy, and respond accordingly.
These units and strategies make Starcraft II very similar to its predecessor. You won't see the drastic changes seen in the most recent Dawn of War and Command & Conquer games; Starcraft II is a highly traditional RTS. But you shouldn't discount the tweaks, the minor changes, and the additions and subtractions that differentiate this sequel from what came before. The larvaelike Protoss reaver, for example, was jettisoned in favor of the looming colossus, a thin-legged walker that razes ground units with a buzzing beam. (A group of them climbing over a short cliff into your base is a terrifying sight.) The Terran thor is a mechanical mass of limbs and missile launchers that can take on both air and ground units. (Their unit responses also sound suspiciously like Arnold Schwarzenegger.) On the Zerg side, nydus worms allow quick underground travel, and unlike the original game's nydus canals, they can be placed anywhere in your line of sight. Starcraft II will surely see some unit tweaks in the coming months, but even at this stage, the factions seem remarkably balanced, and every unit has an appropriate reply. You might miss your favorite units from the original, but the new ones are every bit as fun to use.
The amount of content available in online play (and in offline play in skirmish mode) is remarkable. There are dozens of maps that support up 12 players, and matches can be tailored in the usual ways--grouping players into different teams, setting the game speed, and so on. You might group up with friends and conspire to take down an all-AI team or try your hand at a desperate six-player free-for-all. However, to show off your strategizing prowess, you'll want to get into ranked league matches, which is as easy as playing a series of games to determine which league you'll be placed in and then inching your way to the top. If this sounds intimidating, don't worry; you can take part in up to 50 slow-paced preliminary matches to get yourself prepared for the big boys.
If you need further practice, you can always take on the AI in a stand-alone skirmish, and numerous AI difficulty levels let you set your own pace. There are also a series of challenges designed to get you familiar with each faction's units, as well as the intricacies of hotkeys, rush defense, and other gameplay elements. These challenges are enjoyable, testing your knowledge of proper counters and giving you a chance to learn the ins and outs of units and structures you don't utilize in the campaign. Like every other mode, the learning curve of these challenges is smooth, rewarding novices with lower-level achievements while pushing experts to try for the top-tier rewards. You may lament the inability to further practice with friends over a local area network, but fortunately, the Battle.net interface functions smoothly, and players that cause extreme lag can be removed from matches.
Starcraft II was clearly built to run on all manner of PCs. Its system requirements are relatively low, and even at the highest settings, noticeable aliasing and some simple geometry keep it from setting a new bar for technical wizardry. Yet, it sports a wonderful sci-fi look and is filled with little details that constantly catch your eye, from buzzards scouring the dusty land to tiny civilian robots flitting to and fro. The campaign features a lovely variety of different environments, from tree-lined roadways stretching through green meadows to the charred crust of once-populated worlds. Units move with absolute fluidity, making the simple act of issuing orders a pleasure. Equally great sound effects augment the pleasure. The clicks and gurgles of the Zerg are appropriately repulsive, while the hums and buzzes of Protoss structures and units are distinctive and satisfying.
The most dedicated of the dedicated will further contribute to Starcraft II's longevity by using the included user creation tools to develop new maps, new modifications, and even entirely different kinds of games. One such game--a top-down shoot-'em-up--is already featured within the campaign to show off the possibilities these tools bring to the table. These tools aren't as simple to use as what you'd find in, say, Little Big Planet, but there are already a good number of custom maps and modes to download, and there are assuredly many, many more on their way. But even without a burgeoning supply of user-created content, Starcraft II would stand on its own as a true gem, providing strategy veterans with a tournament-focused online package while easing newcomers in with easier difficulty levels, offline challenges, and even a friendly introduction to competitive play. The campaign's focus on the Terrans and a few scattered inconveniences aren't great nuisances--not in an RTS as outstanding as this one. 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.
Bottom line, this is one of the best series of all times! The campaign is long and the multi player is even longer involving. Even my 10 year old son plays this game and will spend hours doing so. We just pre ordered the Heart of the Swarm yesterday. When I play the campaign, I will drink some Gentlemen Jacks whiskey just like Jim Rayner in the game. Well, not sure if it is Gentlemen Jacks he is drinking. But, it looks like whiskey. Just gets me into the game even more.
10 of 10 ,i really hated strategy games,but after playing this masterpiece,I think I should try the strategy genre more .
@outlawst Same here . Starcraft 2 changed me . Now I play every genre out there . Played alot of games after playing this . Looking Forward to Rome 2 , HOTS , COH 2 etc .
I'm going to sum up this whole review and spare ALL of you a huge reading expense.
The game is awesome go get it.
Kevin, your review is terrible. You must be in bronze league. I can tell by your poor assessment of the greatest online multiplayer game ever created.
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- Starcraft: Ghost (XBOX, PS2, GC),
- Starcraft (PC, MAC),
- Starcraft: Brood War (PC, MAC),
- Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC, MAC),
- Blizzard DOTA (PC, MAC),
- Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm (PC, MAC),
- Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void (PC, MAC),
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