I haven’t posted on this site for a while. That’s because all my computer time has been spent on the magical splendor that is Starcraft 2. 12 years after the release of the original Starcraft, we finally have a sequel to what is probably the most popular RTS of all time. Is it worth your sixty dollars? Find out after the jump.
The graphics for this game are intense. My computer is about 4-5 years old, so needless to say, when I tried to install the game on it, it simply laughed at me and told me that it wasn’t happening. Disheartened, I installed the game on my mother’s grossly overpowered computer that she uses to play mahjong. This computer is about 2 years old, and decided to put the graphics on Low as default. I was able to raise it to Medium with only occasional slowdown. I fear even trying High or god forbid “Ultra”. Regardless, the graphics are still astounding. Firebats shoot jets of fire that waver the air. Battlecrusiers crash into the earth and explode into pieces that bounce around the landscape. The Zerg in particular look appropriately disgusting in all their forms, especially when they have infested buildings. In-engine cutscenes usually disappoint me, but in this case they are done much better than usual. Of course, the pre-rendered cutscenes are amazing, as expected.
All in all, the graphics are astounding, as long as your computer can handle it.
This is obviously where it’s at. Over the last 12 years, Blizzard has had plenty of time to fine tune the already wonderful basis they had established with the first game. Too many changes and they could ruin what was almost a perfect game. Too few, and they’d be chided for re-releasing the original. I think they hit a happy medium. Some units have been removed, but many more have been added. The amount of units controllable at one time has double from 12 to 24, a godsend given how many units you will often be moving about.
The story is not linear like the original game. Instead, you are given a choice of missions to select from, and you choose which ones to embark upon. Occasionally you will be given a choice to make by two opposing characters, and your mission will vary depending on who you side with. These are very black and white choices, not a karma system such as that of Fallout 3. It’s not implemented often though, so I can’t knock it too much.
What I can be unhappy about, however, is the lack of simple resource management missions. Some missions in the first Starcraft would take hours. All you had was your starter base. Your only goal was to destroy your opponent. No gimmicks, nothing. Just don’t die. Starcraft 2 appears to disagree with this formula, most likely in an attempt to entice casual gamers into purchasing the game. But sometimes I just want to build my base instead of constantly outrunning a wall of fire, or racing another guy in a mineral collecting challenge, or killing an enemy that comes back every 30 seconds. Every single mission has something like that: some sort of time-based gimmick inhibiting the originally simple nature of the game. Some are interesting, but some just get annoying.
The main Starcraft theme is back, slightly remixed into several different versions. The ambient music in most levels isn’t too intrusive, but stays quietly in the background, as ambient music should. The sound effects have improved greatly from the first game. I played the game with headphones recently, and felt far more into the game than without them. Explosions and gunfire feels like it’s happening right next to you, even Character personalities have been updated, and the voice actors are absolutely wonderful. My favorite may be the female Banshee pilot with quotes such as “Today’s in flight movie will be Ghost Academy: The musical, starring Zack Affron and Corbin Green” and “Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit stim packs.”
The story is a continuation from the first Starcraft, which I won’t spoil for you if you haven’t played the first one. Suffice to say that some events have taken place between the two games, but nothing significant has changed. The story is still told in pre- and post- mission cutscenes, but also in the interactive lobbies between missions. You can talk to various characters, purchase weapon and unit upgrades, and watch propaganda-esque newscasts given by the corrupt government. The story is much more clearly stated in this game than in the first one, which contained much of the backstory in a manual that probably 8 people read.
Starcraft 2 has some flaws, and definitely will not please everyone, especially hardcore adherents of the first installment, who may be unhappy with some of the changes. But for someone new to the series, it’s easy to pick up and play, and for someone returning after a long wait, it will be like meeting an old friend again. Starcraft 2 gets 8/10.