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StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty
StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

PC
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment Official Site: http://www.starcraft2.com/
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment Classification: M15+
Release Date:
27th July 2010
StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Genre: Strategy
Developer: Blizzard Enterta...
Official Site: http://www.starcraft2...
Publisher: Blizzard Enterta...
Classification: M15+
Release Date:
27th July 2010
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StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty Review
Review By @ 04:47pm 02/08/10
PC
It was some time ago now that I loaded the StarCraft II Beta, trembling with excitement that my all-time favourite game finally had disgorged a successor. In a tragic moment that will haunt me for some time, when the installation finished I actually uttered the now-iconic phrase "well, it's about time!".

Literally hundreds of games later the beta closed and we eagerly waited for the retail game to finally deploy. It's been a long time since a PC game generated this sort of hype. PC gamers have glared at the headline-grabbing launches of franchises like Modern Warfare with a kind of bemused outrage - this is our scene.

Does StarCraft II meet expectations? Have the concerns raised by players in the beta been addressed? Is the single player campaign up to Blizzard's standards? Is it fun? Read on!



Sound and Vision
We won't spend a lot of time here. The game's cinematics have been widely distributed, and video of the game in play rapaciously consumed by most followers of the game via YouTube and official shoutcasts.

StarCraft II looks and sounds like the A-grade title it is. There are a wide range of options for customisation, reflecting Blizzard's ongoing philosophy of extending their games to the broadest range of players possible, while still producing gorgeous visuals when viewed at higher settings.

Gamers with a taste for eye-candy will love the range of explosions and death animations in the game. At times it's just fun to watch replays in high quality to watch the combat unfold. Buildings explode gratuitously and judicious use of physics decorates the animations artfully as chunks of the dearly departed roll off cliffs and bounce across the battlefield.

Overall it's a great-looking RTS presented in the style of the original classic.

It should be noted that the game when viewed at the low settings is not particularly appealing. OK, it's a bit awful. If you are borderline to the minimum requirements you might want to seriously consider an upgrade to properly experience StarCraft II. If you're just here to pwn nubs then you may not care.

The soundtrack is typically high quality, and the voice acting in the single-player campaign is professional and well produced. The script at times seemed a little artificial but not overly jarring. This reflects the focus of StarCraft II - this is a game meant to be played, not passively watched like an RPG.



Single-Player Campaign
Let's be straight here - Wings of Liberty's single-player campaign is a refreshing improvement over the previous offerings and includes a wealth of engrossing gameplay and significant replay potential. There is a lot of content to get through in the main mission series, and lots of Achievements to attempt on the re-run (more on these later).

As a primarily multiplayer StarCraft kinda guy, I'm slowly making my way through the campaign in downtime. However, what I've seen to-date is excellent and the feedback from other players has been very positive.

The levels are well-crafted and contain lots of "doodads" for flavour. Indeed, so well are the levels crafted that the not-to-scale standard building structures like your Command Centre and Barracks stand out as not quite right. It's not a big problem but it does highlight the amount of effort that went into the campaign's levels.

The gameplay during the campaign is a mixture of standard build, expand & kill RTS missions with some interesting flavour thrown in. Without going too spoiler-y, there are a number of environmental challenges that present unique problems for players to solve.

There are also the standard defend-for-20-minutes missions and the like, but these are generally well done and have enough side objectives that they don't tend to feel tedious.

Between missions, the environment is interactive and presents non-linear progression paths. Each stage of the game has several missions, and you have an environment with people you can talk to. It's a little static (you don't move around) but it works pretty well. Ultimately this is a supporting and backdrop element to the game and it fulfils this purpose well.



It's certainly a big step up from the cut-scenes and dialog with a "next" button that StarCraft and Brood War featured.

While the over-arching story is locked, you can choose individual missions to undertake and you are rewarded with new units and upgrades to add to your arsenal. The decisions that you make do not appear to impact the generally linear storyline. This is typical of Blizzard - there is one single canonical story.

I would have liked to see the non-linear story expanded with deeper impact to decisions made and actions taken but it's not a big issue. The tale is engrossing enough that this linear progression is not a major issue.

The single-player adventure is also carried out while connected to Battle.net, and Achievements liberally dotted through its gameplay are added to your Battle.net profile, which is quite neat. These Achievements are the key replay option - testing your prowess against mission objectives under varying conditions and encouraging new gameplay styles to beat them.

Ultimately though, it's a single-player experience. The AI is trigger-driven and the difficulty ramps up only via tougher and more numerous enemies. If you want to engage a truly difficult and unpredictable adversary you'll need to stick your head up and take the plunge into what is really the main game - online multiplayer over Battle.net.



Multiplayer Gameplay
As we noted in our beta review, the core gameplay of StarCraft II stays true to its predecessor. This carries through to the multiplayer mode; the game is evolutionary rather than revolutionary and it shows. This is likely a smart move by the game's creators, as the original has been declared over and over as the most successful Real-Time Strategy game of all time.

StarCraft II is more than a simple reskin though. If you can believe it, the game is faster-paced, and the addition of even harder counters than the original make unit makeup decisions even more crucial and good intel via scouting utterly priceless. Certain units (such as the Protoss Colossus) are designed to annihilate particular enemy unit types and do so with brutal efficiency.

Miss your foe's tech change at your peril, or suffer terrible, terrible damage.

Fortunately, Blizzard has recognised that we aren't all over-stimmed Koreans born with natural APM of over 9,000. Battle.net's shiny new ranking system constantly evaluates your performance and pits you against opponents that should test your skill. It works surprisingly well - and only gets better the more you play.

Online multiplayer in StarCraft II is everything a StarCraft veteran wanted and more. Better, the ranking system allows newbies to find a league suitable to their skill level while they "level up". There are also a number of training modes to learn the skills and gain the knowledge needed to bring down the rain on your foes across Battle.Net.



Battle.Net 2.0
StarCraft II brings with it the next major version of Blizzard's Battle.net system and a swirling wave of controversy. Is it a visionary step forward, a lemon, or just incomplete?

New leagues enhance the Battle.net ladder, with players broadly ranking bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond depending on skill. The system works well - although some players dislike the small 100-player sub-ladders that fill out each of the leagues. Each to their own.

Battle.net 2.0 upgrades the original StarCraft multiplayer system with a notion of Parties which allow for ranked team play. Each party (or combination of players) are individually ranked, granting each unique grouping of friends in the 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4 arenas a distinct experience. A plethora of Achievements grants a sense of advancement to multiplayer gameplay, carefully crafted to generally enhance and promote quality play rather than detract from it.

Unfortunately, Achievements and leagues are probably the best of the new Battle.net. The new gaming platform has been welcomed with a chorus of criticism, ranging from concerns over regionalisation to a lack of core features one would expect in 2010 such as chat channels, clan integration etc.

The map editor is one of the best released with a game to-date - effectively a game engine. Sadly the map publishing framework in Battle.net 2.0 is clunky and somehow manages to make it more difficult to get the map you want with the players you want. For example - with everything auto-arranged, there is just no way to request particular skilled players with particular maps.



Battle.net 2.0 ushered in RealID and new regions, both contentious additions.

For the first time we have a "local" Blizzard server (Singapore) to a roaring chorus of do not want. More explicitly, do not want to be locked here. Game copies shipped in Australia are locked down to the Singapore server - meaning some Australian players who pre-ordered internationally are stuck on North America away from their friends. Some Australian ISPs do not route data locally to Asia and send the packets all the way to the US anyway.

RealID is the other component of the new social framework for Battle.net - and has also found itself under tight player scrutiny, with concerns over privacy. Additionally criticism is mounting that many of Battle.net's new features such as cross-game chat are only available using RealID - by surrendering your real name and email address to the players you wish to contact.

Worse, RealID is crippled by regionalisation. Australian players, locked to the SEA, cannot connect to, or even see, the status of North American World of WarCraft players including Aussies on Oceanic realms.

Fortunately Blizzard recognised the unique issues for South-East Asia region players, relented late in the beta and promised to relax these region restrictions for Australian players within "about 60 days" of release. Blizzard: we have our timers set and ticking.

The result is a beautiful but limited experience, relying on exterior social frameworks to facilitate what was once a busy (if at times noisy) space. Battle.net 2.0 - until you get a few friends hooked up - is an eerily quiet arena given the thousands of participants.

The integrated voice chat system is unreliable and low quality at best. Many gamers resort to out-of-game replacements like dedicated vent servers.

Ultimately these concerns are peripheral, the ranking system works and SEA Battle.net is stable and available with only the first night presenting any stability problems. What will keep you plugging away deep into the night is the engaging and at times frustrating experience of pitting your will against other players online.

What we liked
  • Polished single-player campaign with engrossing storyline
  • Lush graphics and quality sounds
  • Stable and reliable Battle.net
  • Extremely addictive online multiplayer
  • Excellent, ongoing replay value
  • Excellent map editor
What we didn't like
  • Region-locking
  • Lack of chat and social functions (no StarCraft II AUS-1 channel!)
  • Map publishing needs work
  • Some BNet features limited to RealID
  • Integrated voice chat lacklustre
More
We gave it:
9.0
OUT OF 10
Latest Comments
Phar4oh
Posted 05:29pm 02/8/10
I agree with all that. Very well rounded review. I'm sure Blizzard with continue to address the issues that crop up. Bliz! Please sort out the voice chat! It doesn't work on my G35!!! >:(
d^
Posted 05:39pm 02/8/10
Battle.net 2.0 isn't actually part of the game, I don't think it should count towards the review score...
CSIRAC
Posted 05:42pm 02/8/10
lol.. could of at least made some screenshots up. Those ones are so old and not even current. (mostly)

Battle.net 2.0 isn't actually part of the game, I don't think it should count towards the review score...


It's so deeply integrated into the game theres no way you wouldnt factor bnet2.0 into sc2's score. Besides that why wouldnt you factor the multiplayer interface into the games...multiplayer...?

derp

last edited by CSIRAC at 17:42:14 02/Aug/10
Stephen
Posted 05:44pm 02/8/10
I really want to get this game.
deface
Posted 06:03pm 02/8/10
You have to log in to bnet to play even single player, so its part of the game.
Hogfather
Posted 06:08pm 02/8/10
Yeh no discussion of StarCraft II can really avoid Battle.net. You can't play on BNet 1.0, and BNet 2.0 is a touted feature of the game. It needs attention, and reviews should highlight its current shortcomings to be balanced and fair - while also noting all the things it does well.
lol.. could of at least made some screenshots up. Those ones are so old and not even current. (mostly)

Heh I supplied text not imagery :P The colossus in particular stands out as a little dated ;)
Bertis
Posted 07:22pm 02/8/10
Hmm I agree that the shortcomings of Bnet2.0 should come into the rating... but I think the sheer quality of the game outweighs all of those minor problems.

It's easy to be picky when it comes to Blizzard games... I think it's a fair assumption that people will still be playing this game in 10+ years time so in my opinion it deserves a 10 just for that.
Khel
Posted 07:28pm 02/8/10
Yeah, in-game voice chat doesn't work at all for me either, or for my brother, and from a bit of googling its not an uncommon problem. Pretty lame :(
ctd
Posted 07:36pm 02/8/10
Works for me. It didnt work when I had directsound option on. Changed it to FMOD codec.
Midda
Posted 07:39pm 02/8/10
I add all of my PC games into my Steam games list, so you could always talk to your opponent using Steam's built-in chat (assuming the person you're playing with/against is on your Steam list).
Hogfather
Posted 08:40pm 02/8/10
Hmm I agree that the shortcomings of Bnet2.0 should come into the rating... but I think the sheer quality of the game outweighs all of those minor problems. It's easy to be picky when it comes to Blizzard games... I think it's a fair assumption that people will still be playing this game in 10+ years time so in my opinion it deserves a 10 just for that.

Yeh I had a really hard time settling on a score. I sat there for some time. On the one hand, the game is brilliant. It really is. I desperately wanted to give it a ten - and it may deserve it, I've been post-midnight in StarCraft II every night since launch! - but with the list of shortcomings I found that hard to justify. BNet 2.0 is a feature of the game, and in so many ways it managed to be worse than BNet 1.0.

A review targetted at Americans may well merit a 9.5 or 10.0.

But Battle.Net is a listed feature of the game, and its deficient at the moment. You just can't deny that. Regionalisation has hit Aussies very hard too, dividing the players -- poor deface! -- and together its a bit of a black mark. The problems and confusion around launch for Australia were poorly communicated and unnecessarily meant that some players are for now STUCK on the wrong server (USA) with no option but to wait for the unlock.

Regionalisation means that SEA custom maps are scarce and lower quality that EU or USA. SEA's RealID is almost entirely pointless. Achievements may not really mean anything, but I don't relish starting at 0 again when I get to the server I want to actually play on.

None of these problems were necessary and the fact that they've decided to fix it after launch is short sighted, but it meant I couldn't give it a ten and be honest about how I felt about the entire game right now :(
groganus
Posted 08:21pm 02/8/10
Yeah foolish me bought a EU copy from a digital download site as i couldnt find a store locally that had it in stock.. (except for eb, but f*** eb and there crazy prices) so i grab an EU version of the game, figuring.. whilst i might be region locked for matching games, surely i can still playing with friends... turns out i cant.

ctd
Posted 08:49pm 02/8/10
Haha fail. They are completely different servers.
konstie
Posted 08:54pm 02/8/10
yay just won my first match! marine rush w medi dudes FTW
simul
Posted 08:57pm 02/8/10
Good review,

Agree with everything, except for maybe the B-Net 2.0 stuff. I totally agree that it should be in there. However its pretty obvious that B-Net 2 is still evolving, so a lot of the listed problems will be gone soon enough (blizzard have already said there is coming chat + clans etc). I dunno, to me, a review should be able to be looked back on in 6 months and its still relevant (unless there are show-stopping bugs that would influence my decision to buy).
Hogfather
Posted 09:31pm 02/8/10
Agree with everything, except for maybe the B-Net 2.0 stuff. I totally agree that it should be in there. However its pretty obvious that B-Net 2 is still evolving, so a lot of the listed problems will be gone soon enough (blizzard have already said there is coming chat + clans etc). I dunno, to me, a review should be able to be looked back on in 6 months and its still relevant (unless there are show-stopping bugs that would influence my decision to buy).

Well, the elements of the review that would influence a buy will remain valid really - a 9.0 is in my mind a ringing endorsement, and I lavished the game with praise throughout. I don't think anyone coudl come away from the review with other than a positive rap with a solid indication of value for money and repla. I

If someone is reading this in 6 months time wondering, yes, you want to buy the game. Its awesome, and I'm still playing!

But Battle.Net's essentially incomplete nature and the mess that is Aussie regionalisation (to me) prevented a perfect 10.0. If the game at the time of review isn't technically perfect or is clearly incomplete then -- to me -- you can't give it a perfect score. As I say this is my favourite game franchise of all time, I'm the biggest fanboy on the planet, but it felt weird to serve up criticism of the launch and give it a 10.

Each to his own!
konstie
Posted 09:32pm 02/8/10
oops. disregard this post
Steve Farrelly
Posted 09:33pm 02/8/10
screens updated yo
Hogfather
Posted 10:18pm 02/8/10
You're a machine Steve!

Here's a couple of screens you can have ahahahhah!



AND THEN



KABOOM BABY
Beanith
Posted 09:58pm 02/8/10
Great review even if at times it felt like I was being gently beaten with a thesaurus :P

I've had a blast with the single player. going to give the multi player a go soon and inflate someone's win tally
eXemplar
Posted 11:04pm 02/8/10
Has there been a game release this year that hasn't been marred by some multiplayre related scar? Personally, as a game I'd give this a 9 but as an experience it barely scrapes by anything above 6 or 7 at the extreme.
infi
Posted 11:44pm 02/8/10
I want to know if the gameplay is better than Company of Heroes?

last edited by infi at 23:44:21 02/Aug/10
Hogfather
Posted 11:52pm 02/8/10
They're very diffierent games. Its going to come down to preference ultimately.
deface
Posted 02:34am 03/8/10
You're going to post that nuke as often as you can aren't you hogs?
Infidel
Posted 04:05am 03/8/10
graphics look nice on those screenshots, I've been playing on a macbook pro with the 9400 graphics card and its really not up to scratch
paveway
Posted 07:38am 03/8/10
god it sucks trying to learn a game from scratch like this to try and be somewhat competetive online
Infidel
Posted 07:40am 03/8/10
prety much does, I went into silver league after getting out of the 5 pregame thingies only to get my ass handed to me every game i play now in some very different creative ways may i add
paveway
Posted 07:51am 03/8/10
i like the protos so i can only play skirmishes to try and learn them, atleast if you like terran you get the single player campaign
ctd
Posted 08:10am 03/8/10
Pave.If you are talking about MP.. the campaign wont be helpful. There is the practice league matches that don't count towards rank or stats + they have modified maps to stop rushing. best way to start from scratch imo.

Think I got through about 1/4 of the campaign before I got bored. RTS SP is still carp.

Confirmed what I thought it would be before it was released. Four types of missions
-Defend this base for X mins
-kill these dudes with limited reinforcements
-protect some vip units
-heres some marines. kill a few enemies go to the base ahead and start a skirmish match

paveway
Posted 08:29am 03/8/10
well i'm just talking about learning the actual units

can you stay in the practice league for as long as you like?
Hogfather
Posted 09:06am 03/8/10
I think the practice league is like 25 games?

deface - yes. Everywhere. I'm trying to work it into my sig...
Nitro
Posted 09:13am 03/8/10
I'm keen to buy this but mighty scared of getting smoked by every mother f***** and his dog online
CHUB
Posted 09:14am 03/8/10
Anyone know if there's proleagues running for SC2 yet? Or if anything is planned in the near future?

I've been searching around and can't find anything, nothing from the OSL or MSL.
simul
Posted 09:34am 03/8/10
Theres also the strategy learning stuff, where they show you tricky s*** with units. Things like only use keyboard shortcuts.
paveway
Posted 09:38am 03/8/10
yeah i'm the same nitro, haven't got the balls to play online yet

though i've only played a couple of skirmishs with protos so far

those colossus's are pretty f*****g sick
MARLINBLADE
Posted 09:44am 03/8/10
Well i hardly played the first SC and SC2 has been my first xp with Battlenet 2 and from my pov it's pretty good. Obviously i have nothing to compare it against but i've been playing with a mate now for a while and it always lets me know if somethings happening. Seems pretty good to me...

Gameplay wise this is the first RTS i have really enjoyed the SP in. REALLY pollished and the story has been great so far.

Multi player wise, i'm really enjoying teaming up with mates and working together. The Co op mode vs AI saw us through a carton of Beam on sunday and i spent all day at work yesty getting over it... So yeah, SC2 is a definately taking up all my time at the mo and i'm really enjoying it... Don't know if i'll be into the online MP that much but i haven't tried it yet so i'm not ruling it out... just been having so much fun playing with mates at the mo
CSIRAC
Posted 10:06am 03/8/10
I've been searching around and can't find anything, nothing from the OSL or MSL.


Theres still lots of discussion between the organisers of the MSL and OSL and blizzard, since they have such a long history with SC. Off the bat though, blizzard has made a contract with GOMTV in Korea to host leagues. In terms of already established SC2 leagues, there are literally 10's and 10's of them in the states and in europe.

For now sc1 hasnt died yet, the teams in Korea are in the middle of their leagues so we'll see what happens there. GOMTV have hosted 3-4 TV matches between the top 2 Korean SC clans as show matches if thats any indication.
d^
Posted 01:48pm 03/8/10
So my copy arrived in the mail today, North American server for me.
glynd
Posted 01:58pm 03/8/10
pave, do the challenges aswell. although pretty basic, it gives you an idea of the units and what they counter / vulnerable to. I found using liquipedia just to check up on build orders and basic strats to be quite handy. http://wiki.teamliquid.net/starcraft2/Protoss_Strategy
Tollaz0r!
Posted 05:20pm 03/8/10

god it sucks trying to learn a game from scratch like this to try and be somewhat competetive online


I find that to be the best part.

I've focused on the Terrans, my first game I got rushed pretty hard. I quickly learned from that match to make HEAPS more SCV's.
The next match I got smoked by a single invis unit because I didn't which of my units was a detector, I figured the radar would show it, it didn't. I quickly learned the raven was a detector and to build the command base upgrade thingy.

It has been good, now at about 50% win rate.
I could get higher if I didn't experiment with different tactics and whatnot. Still in practice league.
Dazhel
Posted 06:12pm 03/8/10
Here's a couple of screens you can have ahahahhah! ...
AND THEN...
KABOOM BABY


Hahaha, nuclear launch detected!
JakeG
Posted 06:49pm 03/8/10
I'm giving this a miss as much as i want to play it...

Protip: never stop building scv's.
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