Nukezilla Review: Starcraft 2: Wings Of Liberty (Single Player Campaign) (PC)
If there’s one thing that Blizzard could never be accused of it’s rushing out their games. In the 12 years since Starcraft was released, the real-time strategy genre has mutated in countless ways. Some developers went for a ‘macro’ approach and gave us hundreds, if not thousands of soldiers to command at a time. Others, most notably Relic, refined their games to the point where Dawn Of War 2 only allowed the player to control four units at a time.
Apart from a greatly modernised interface and a little more automation for certain unit behaviours, Starcraft 2: Wings Of Liberty ignores most of its genre’s mutations. At its core, this is a traditional RTS where bases are built, workers are dispatched and hordes of units are pumped out. The three playable races are back, though not all of them are playable during the Wings Of Liberty campaign. The humans, Terrans in Starcraft parlance, are the focus of the game as you re-start James Raynor’s rebellion against the hated empire of Arcturus Mengsk. Though much of the game involves Raynor’s insurgency against the ruling Terrang faction, there are plenty of opportunities to fight the insectoid hordes of the Zerg and the elite, high-tech forces of the Protoss.
In place of drastic changes to basic mechanics, Blizzard have focused on spicing up the context in which these mechanics are used. Timed events and unique enemies are regularly employed and I really felt that it helped each mission feel new and exciting. Starcraft 2‘s missions have a faster pace than the first game’s and kept me on my toes most of the time. The old RTS trope of throwing up a cutscene and depositing the player in a bog-standard match against the computer never reared its head. Blizzard have clearly thought about bringing new players into the experience and as such, the standard difficulty level won’t present much of a challenge to experienced RTS players. I checked out the ‘hard’ setting for the first few levels but found it a touch overwhelming as the complexity of missions steadily rose. That being said, I was trying to finish the game so that I could bring you my opinions on it. With a little more time and a little more practice, I’d probably have found the harder difficulty more rewarding.
Between battles, Blizzard have included a central hub where the player can research new technologies, hire mercenary teams to summon during battle, improve their existing units or just speak to various characters before choosing their next mission. There’s a clear link between choosing a mission, it’s subsequent rewards and spending those rewards to prepare for the following mission. Instead of branching, the campaign offers a number of potential missions at once, to complete in the order the player chooses. It all combined to give me a pleasing sense of agency over how my army developed and where it was deployed to without any risk of hobbling myself. There’s plenty of background humour included in this hub area, I recommend trying out the in-game arcade machine and listening to the jukebox. Apparently even in the distant future, rednecks will still want Neil Young to remember that a southern man don’t need him around.
The word that sprang to mind throughout so much of Starcraft 2: Wings Of Liberty’s campaign was “polish”, the only exception being the dialogue in many of the game’s cutscenes. The dialogue was so clunky and cliche’d that I lost interest in sitting through the games pre and post-mission videos. Blizzard got so much right in terms of building the world and plotting an epic story that the failure to give the characters anything interesting to say is incredibly jarring. The artless writing stands in stark contrast to the incredibly well-realised mechanics, structure and level design.
Like many fans, I was very disappointed by the news that each race’s campaign would be separated out across multiple releases. I questioned whether the Terran campaign alone would feel like a complete experience. My fears were dismissed by the end of the Wings Of Liberty campaign. The game evoked both a powerful sense of nostalgia and a desire to discover what Blizzard have added to the formula. I enjoyed each mission more than the last and found myself staying up late and waking up early to fight the next battle. With the addition of achievements and the inter-mission decisions, I might even go back to the campaign and see if that ‘hard’ difficulty is a little less frustrating now that I’ve mastered the basics. I really can’t say enough good things about Starcraft 2: Wings Of Liberty’s campaign, you owe it to yourself to play it.
Disclaimer: This game was reviewed on a PC with a 2.5ghz dual-core processor, 2gb of RAM and a 512mb 8800GT graphics card.