Starcraft (SC) 2 - A Review
Today feels like a great day to write about a videogame, so let's go straight to the top and talk about Blizzard Entertainment's newest submission to the videogame library.
Starcraft 2 was released on July 27 of this year and, according to this site, sold over 1.5 million copies by the end of the second day of its release. This was to be expected, as this game is the sequel of one of the most critically acclaimed real time strategy games of all time. Case in point, the original Starcraft is still played all around the world. As I write this, some people may be starting up their newest custom game to battle against the AI or other human players.
Read on as I review this game!
Starcraft 2 Packaging
If you came into Starcraft 2 expecting a highly original story, then I fear that I'm going to have to disappoint you. If you came into Starcraft 2 expecting a cliché, but immersive plot, then you'll be more than satisfied. The game's campaign casts you as human (Terran as they're called in-game) rag-tag mercenary Jim Raynor, who has one burning desire at the start of the campaign: Overthrow the Terran Dominion (an oppressive regime controlling the Koprulu Sector, which is the game's setting) and kill Arcturus Mengsk.
At the start of the game, you're stuck with only Marines, but as you complete missions, you unlock more unit types, including returning favorites from the first Starcraft and even some new campaign-only units that are unusable in regular custom games. You will encounter the enigmatic Protoss (a race of psionic beings that are highly advanced in terms of technology) as both friend and foe and also fight against the insect-like Zerg in a plotline that, by the end of it, will have consequences far greater than a simple change of regime.
In summary, the plot's nothing to write home about, but I'll be darned if it doesn't hook you all the same. The use of in-game cut-scenes and videos serves to drive the point home that you're in a war that could determine the fate of the known universe. But, I won't mention more to prevent spoilers.
This, my dear readers, is what sold the first Starcraft and what gets this game to sell, and big. On the surface, hardcore RTS players may scoff at the limited options for resources (compare this game to Rise of Nations, for an extreme example, and you'll see the difference in resource management), as there are only two of them. You have Minerals, which are a basic resource that can be gathered by the workers of each race (Space Construction Vehicles, or SCVs as they're called in-game for Terrans, Drones for the Zerg, and Probes for the Protoss) as well as Vespene Gas, which allows you to construct advanced units and structures after you gather it in its refined form from a Vespene Geyser. However, I consider this a plus. You have less resources to worry about, so you can concentrate on the reason why everyone plays RTS games...the battles.
The basic RTS gameplay should be familiar to fans of the genre. You gather resources with your workers to make more advanced military buildings and then produce your units from said buildings. You then send them out to wage war and (hopefully) win you the game. Starcraft 2 doesn't deviate from this norm, but manages to create a game that's really easy to learn, and maddeningly difficult to master (so if you were leery of buying the game because you feel you'd get bored easily...that will not happen.).
Each of the three races plays drastically different, especially if we compare them to their Starcraft 1 counterparts. This game includes the Terran campaign, which in my opinion is the easiest race to learn to play (so kudos on creating an oversized tutorial for that race in the form of the campaign; it really helps.). The Protoss take second place with Zerg being a pretty difficult third. There's nothing quite as rewarding as learning the quirks that make your favorite race tick and using them to conquer your enemies.
Starcraft 2 has a counter system that punishes (or rather, attempts to) players for massing one type of unit only. For example, Terrans get a unit early on called the Marauder. It's a heavy infantry unit that shoots missiles. They're deadly against armored units such as the Zerg Roach, but get wiped out relatively easy with rush tactics, such as those that can be used with the Zerg Zergling. So, as you can see, it's all about having the right units at the right time.
As I haven't played online, I can't comment on the game's multiplayer (since this game has no LAN functionality, which is a point I'm going to elaborate on in the next section of this article), but I've seen a few replays and would like to say that the game looks much better mechanically than 1 ever did. What I mean by this is that you see a nice variety of units and more opportunities to come back from a disadvantage by exploiting the counter system, rather than the mass unit mentality most players, even in the highest echelons of ladder play, had back in the original game.
But, unfortunately, not all can be glitter and gold. The next section is going to touch some controversies surrounding this game release that have affected the public's opinion on it (but, apparently, not nearly as much as the doomsayers were saying it would).
This game, which marks the first game release to be launched by Blizzard while forming a part of the joint company Activision Blizzard, has also been surrounded by much controversy. I'm going to list the topics that have angered the fanbase (and me as well, for some of the points):
No LAN Functionality
I remember all of the games I've ever played with my dad in Starcraft 1, and it wouldn't have been possible without LAN, since we didn't have a shared Internet connection (for that matter, we still don't). However, in a brazen move (that's supposed to combat piracy but I don't buy that angle one bit), Blizzard has removed this core functionality from the game. LAN helped Starcraft grow as an e-sport over in Korea, to the point where it's not an overstatement to call that game one of Korea's religions.
According to Blizzard, they decided to do this so people would play exclusively over their new and improved Battle.net servers. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you will, but this reeks of control and data mining. If you have to play multiplayer over their servers, they can see every game ever played. This has several pros (helps with race balancing, helps to stop hackers from doing their dirty deeds) as well as some cons (total loss of privacy, inability to play multiplayer if the servers crash).
This has angered so many players in part due to Blizzard's past. In the olden days of Warcraft 2 and Starcraft 1, you could Spawn a copy of the game on another person's computer. This allowed said player to play multiplayer, but only if you were hosting the game. This sometimes got the person so enamored with the game, that he/she bit the bullet and went to a local game store to buy it. That's actually how my dad got into playing, which by extension got me in as well.To go from that to a business model that forces you to get one copy of the game per person just cries out greed.
Feel free to cue the usual *World of Warcraft got them greedy* argument, since I'm so tempted to use it right now.
Battle.Net 2.0 or 0.5?
A complaint I've been reading way too much on gaming forums from frequent online players is that the "new" Battle.net is actually a regression of sorts, relative to the original Battle.net. There's no chat channels and the ability to add a friend is restricted. Basically, you have Real ID which essentially means all of your in-game friends will know your real name. For some reason, that doesn't pique my interest at all. I'll take the anonymity thank you very much. After all, the only people who should know my real name will already know it anyways, so...
Also, the ability to select custom games is limited as well. So, if you want to play a map that's not on the most popular list...tough luck.
Seriously? SERIOUSLY? This shouldn't even need a discussion, but here goes:
Facebook is well known for data mining its users, and making it nigh impossible to permanently delete your account. They want to have all of your information to sell to third parties for $$$. To you, Facebook is a social application (perhaps THE social network of this decade), but to them you're just a number to exploit. So, you let Blizzard integrate itself into your Facebook account...can you see where I'm going with this?
This game is licensed to you, not sold
Really Blizzard? REALLY? Blizzard Entertainment needs to realize that good games will sell. Period. The pirates don't matter and reselling doesn't matter. You will be in the green if your game is good. When did they forget that anyways? :/
This just about concludes this hub. In spite of the negativity in my last section, I wholeheartedly recommend this game if you're a fan of the original Starcraft or RTS games in general. The gameplay will not disappoint. The rest, well, your mileage may vary. ;)
Until the next time, take care and have fun! ;)