Starcraft 2 Review
Gaming Review SC2 Star Craft Starcraft 2 RTS Real Time Strategy
Over two months ago I was able to dip my foot into a game that I have been waiting far too many years to see. A game that’s predecessor stole nearly three years of my life of enjoyment, hatred, and many hours of custom map editing. Finally, the wait was over and I truly got to experience the entirety of Starcraft 2. Last time I was only able to give everyone a taste of what was available, however I didn’t want to spoil too much, thus I felt I left out far too much. (If you have not already, you can read my preview of Starcraft 2 here .) Now, I wish to fully review the features of Starcraft 2, and hopefully show everyone why I believe it has, and will continue to be, one of the best Real Time Strategy (RTS) games available.
In Starcraft 2, there are three different races for you to choose from. These include Terrain, Zerg, and Protoss. Each race looks and feels in a unique way, and they each function in their own way.
Terran- are human colonists. Their units consist of human soldiers and mechanical vehicles. For the terran all structures must be built by SCVs (the gatherer/constructor unit) some structures have the ability to lift off and relocate, and buildings and vehicles are able to be repaired.
Zerg - A race with an organic / evolution basis. The idea behind the zerg is that they are organisms that become what is necessary of them for the advancement of their race. Drones must evolve into structures and units are only produced from hives, in which larva spawn. A unique trait to the zerg is that they can have multiple units being created at the same time; where as the other races must build one at a time (with some exceptions). Zerg units also have the ability to regenerate health over time.
Protoss- are a highly advanced race with the ability to “warp in” units rather than constructing them. Because of this, a structure only needs to be set and will continue to warp itself in, thus the probe can continue to do other tasks. All protoss units have shields (which are able to regenerate) thus they tend to have higher overall hit points than the other races. However, this comes at the expense of units costing more to build.
While each race has its pros and cons, there really isn’t a factor of one race being the best or more powerful. The beauty in starcraft is that there tend to be counters to every unit, thus the knowledge of what your opponent is building can be what decides the outcome of the game.
Besides the game looking beautiful, it is also very simplistic. Fans of the first starcraft will not see much of a change in how the interface looks and operates. To any new players, there are a few basic things to keep aware of and use on the interface. What covers a good 2/3 of your screen will be the actual game. While this is very important, the bottom 1/3 is possibly even more so.
Minimap- In the lower left side you have a map of the entire area available in your current game. Clicking anywhere on this minimap will allow you to view that area. While you can also move around the map via the arrow keys or dragging your mouse to the edges of the screen, the mini map provides a much quicker solution. This is also a quick reference to units (that are visible to you, both friendly and foe)and will ping when you are under attack in an area you are not currently viewing.
Commands - on the lower right corner, there are 15 boxes. When a unit or structure is selected, icons will pop up giving you all the available commands to issue your unit. While you can choose to click every command to tell your units what you want them to do, shortcut keys are provided for every action. It is good practice to learn all the shortcut keys for whatever race you play. However, if you are new to the game it is good to read and understand what all the commands do.
Unit Info – at the bottom center of the screen you will have a large box that gives you an overview of the current unit(s) or structure you have selected. When a single unit is targeted, detailed info about remaining hp, attack power, defense, etc is given. When a group of units is selected, each one will be represented by a “wireframe” of each unit and change color (from green -> yellow -> red) based on remaining hp. This information is critical as it allows you to know the status of your army, allowing you to make critical decisions such as which units need to be moved out of the front lines and when to retreat.
Now that you have an idea of the races you can control and how the game looks and plays, let’s review this thing.
Install and Menu Screen:
If you haven’t had the opportunity to play the original starcraft, do not fret. During the install process (which can take quite a long time, being 12GB) there is a nice storyboard that explains the major events up to the current game. While there is quite a lot left out, it does not feel significant enough to confuse a new player all too much. Some of these are explained decently; but if you really enjoy a good story, it is worth reading up on the first game.
The layout of the main menu is quite a bit different then the last starcraft, but it is easier to get familiar with. It also shows how much technology has changed in the last ten years. For example, you must login via the internet at the launch, whereas in SC:BW you had to select multiplayer first, then login to play the multiplayer. Also, your account is linked to your single player experience. Which allows the addition of things such as achievements to the game.
At the main menu you are launched into the single player part of the game, given options to play (or continue) the campaign, play against a computer in a multiplayer type setting, or play challenges. You can also choose the tutorial if you have very little experience with RTS games, or are just rusty. At the top there are a few options including: your profile, league info, and replays, along with switching between single and multiplayer. Finally at the bottom are your friends list, the time and a menu... in case you actually want to quit playing.
All in all the new look is clean and is fairly easy to navigate.
The campaign is, for the most part, only the Terran side of the story. People who played both Starcraft and Brood War may be disappointed in the fact that the game is no longer divided up into a story for each race, however the execution is pulled off well.
When you start the first mission you are given a little background as to what is going on, and you basically have to lead a squad of marines from point A to point B. After a few missions pass, you start to realize that finally, RTS games no longer are just linear stories.
After the third mission several very nice and welcome additions are added into play; allowing you to decide which missions to undertake in what order, allowing for customization of units via purchased upgrades, and the ability to change how structures function by researching technology of both the protoss and zerg. This rewards you for completing all objectives in a mission, and allows you to play the game more like an RPG.
Another nice improvement to see is the massive improvements on the AI. The computer will better react to what you do and seems to change strategies, if necessary, as you fight. While I have not tested an actual 1v1 game against the AI; videos and playing the campaign assure me that Blizzard has done a good job at improving what used to be a horrendous computer player.
In my preview of Starcraft 2 I covered a large majority of changes and what was available for the multiplayer. So to prevent you from reading the same things twice, I will just go over how multiplayer is setup. From the main screen all you need to do is select the multiplayer tab in the upper corner and you will be given a few options. You just have to select the type of game you wish to play (quick match, custom, or join as a group)... and that's about it. With Battle.net 2.0 there are no longer chat rooms to hang out in, and the matchmaking system has been changed for ranked matches, while stripping everything else down to make it very simplistic. While I don't entirely agree with this choice, it does make the game fairly easy to get into and the addition of a league almost forces competitive gaming onto players. This also ensures you play with people around your current skill level.
There literally is far to much to say about the Map Editor to summarize it in just a few short paragraphs. Judging from what is available, there really is very little you can't do with the editor. From something like making a new RTS map, to a full on RPG, the Map Editor is basicly only limited by your imagination. To fully understand what is available on the Map Editor, check my last blog about Starcraft 2 for a video that was presented at Blizzcon last year. It truly is impressive.
It is very hard to give one score to this game, as the Campaign, Multiplayer, and Map Editor are all very distinct parts that are completely separate of each other. The campaign gives a very enjoyable experience and is a very welcome combination of RTS/RPG that actually works. The Multiplayer ladder system is a very good idea. Combined with the (possibly) limitless player created content of custom maps, the ability to play practice games at varying game speeds, and to save and watch games played… the multiplayer experience is incredible. The Map Editor is possibly the closest thing to programming on a game engine, but not quite at that point. While it will defiantly take a lot of time figuring out everything possible with the editor, the shear power of possibility available is impressive alone.
There are some short comings that can annoy and aggravate players. Some parts of the community feel that the AI is almost too good, allowing processes to be done without player adjustments. (such as drones automatically switching to other minerals, units choosing multiple targets to prevent overkilling too much, units moving for structures to be built, etc.) the lack of chartrooms on battle.net, and certain unit imbalances.
However this is clearly not enough to destroy such a great game. Starcraft 2 is defiantly a triple A game, but to be fair i cannot give this game a solid 10. I give Starcraft 2 a very well deserved 9.6 out of 10.
SC2 is not a game to pass up due to the dislike of RTS games or feeling the game is too hard. It is a game that can (and will) offer something for everyone. In time, there will be so much player created content that SC2 will offer far more than just a good RTS experience.
If you have not had the chance to get this game yet, now is your chance to get a copy, absolutely free! I have one CD-key for the full standard edition of the game that I will be giving to one lucky person. To put your name into the drawing, all you need to do is post a comment on this review, and add "+1" somewhere in your comment. If you want to double up your odds, then attempt to answer these 3 questions and email me your answers. (my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org) correctly answering all questions will give you one extra entry to the contest. (don’t post your answers as a comment, or you may be ruining your odds to win!)
1: What was the name of the Starcraft game that was planned for a console release, but was put on an indefinite hold?
2: What is the name of Jim Raynor’s Flagship?
3: What is the name of the vVv Gaming Podcast?
This contest will close on Sunday, August 8th at 3pm PST. A winner will be chosen Sunday night and will be e-mailed the CD-key. Best of luck!
Update 8/8/10: The contest is over, congratulations to the winner vVv Depredation!