Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Game Review: StarCraft II

I haven’t finished the single player campaign yet, I think I’m mission 26/29, but I’m ready to give my opinion of Blizzard’s latest.

Not a lot as changed. We’ve basically got StarCraft HD. This is however in no way a bad thing. Often times I find developers ‘innovating’ for the save of a marketing bullet point rather than for anything actually added for substance. A prettier StarCraft with better controls? Sign me up.

The single player campaign follows Raynor in his quest to take out Mengsk, deserter of a certain hot psychic redhead Raynor was interested in. Very nearly each mission introduces a map gimmick and a single new unit to exploit said gimmick. For example one mission has you defending high ground while being attacked by waves of Protoss. Bring on the siege tanks! The gimmicks are at a glance neat (zerg zombies and lava flooding levels were especially nice), however most of them also have some sort of timer in place. Often it seems as though there’s no time to build up a force and develop a strategy. Essentially you can build a ton of whatever new unit was introduced that level and you’ll be fine. I wish there was more maps that gave you objectives with no gimmicks involved.

During the campaign you’ll get credits after each mission and usually get research points allowing you to develop new tech based on Protoss or Zerg observations. Each research tech tree (Zerg/Protoss) consist of 2 choices per level and once you choose you lock out the other option. Tier 1 Zerg for example lets you upgrade your bunkers, you can chose extra health or adding an automated turret, effectively a extra marine. There are a wide variety of choices and some of them I can see being almost game breaking. One option allows for instant supply depots, another allows for automatic vespene gas mining without assigning SCVs. Research isn’t hard to come by, a lot is optional but you’ll rarely have to search out a map to acquire.

Accumulated credits are spent on unit and building upgrades, and hiring mercenaries. First, I love mercenaries. The initial ‘contract’ is cheap and they allow you to summon elite versions of existing unit types. The cool thing about them is they arrive instantly via dropship, a couple clicks and you have an instant elite strike force ready to go. I often found myself training a few medics and group with merc infantry.

Credits are also spent on unit upgrades. Much more varied than the research, nearly every single has 2 upgrades. You can purchase both and some of them are exceptional. Bunker upgrades provide +1 range, and +2 capacity. A Spectre (psychotic Ghosts) upgrade makes so stealth no longer uses energy. Nearly all of them are useful though you will need to pick and chose.

In between missions you explore the Hyperion, Mengsk’s old flagship battlecruiser Rayor stole back in SC1. It’s flashing than the conference calls in SC1, though ultimately it amounts to clicking on everything then moving to the next room to click on everything there.

Multiplayer… Well, I haven’t played any multiplayer yet. I got my ass kicked in beta and have no particular desire to do it again. Word is it’s still got the legendary StarCraft balance between races. Please note also that several units in he game are campaign exclusive and not available in multiplayer. Medics, Firebats, Vultures, Goliaths are all not going to appear on

I wish the maps didn’t feel so gimmicky. I also wish they’d put in a freaking pause button so I can review the battle and issue orders after formulating a strategy. At times feels like a quasi-action game. Still, StarCraft in HD is @#$%ing StarCraft in HD.

4 1/2 out of 5 Stars

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