StarCraft is the example of an indisputably industry altering game that deserved a sequel 15 years ago but had to wait for the technology to advance enough to do it justice. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is every bit the sequel that does right by the original. Picking up where the StarCraft: Brood Wars expansion left off Wings of Liberty follows Jim Raynor and his raiders on their journey for liberation from the tyrannical leader Mengsk and the pursuit of Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades.
Campaign Interface– Unquestionably one of the most engaging features of StarCraft II is the Flag Ship Hyperion. This alluring little user interface allows you to take your rightful place among Jim Raynor, Tychus Findlay and commander Matt Horner aboard the battle cruiser dubbed Hyperion. While aboard the Hyperion you can investigate interesting individuals who assist you during the campaign. Locations within the Hyperion that can be visited include the Armory, Cantina, Laboratory, and bridge. Each location allowing you to perform certain functions such as hiring mercenaries, upgrading vehicles, improving your weapon tech, and viewing available missions. Even the manliest of manly men who play this game have to admit they role-play as a star bound anti-hero mean-machine backed up with a whole lot of ammunition.
Graphics and Gravity– Typically I don’t get too enthusiastic about graphics because often good graphics are a substitute for good gameplay and storytelling. However, this game is a shiny penny you can’t help but obtain a Gollum level of enthusiasm over. Precious explosions, eviscerations and incinerations will make each skirmish as satisfying as the last and the realistic physics bring these experiences to a point where you may just enjoy watching your own squadron get absolutely devastated in a brilliant display of heavenly light, hellfire, steel and bone. Burn Baby Burn.
Plot– The plot to this game picks up right where we left off with the original StarCraft. This game embodies every cliché you could ask for and you’ll love every moment of those quirky sidekicks, sappy romantic scenes, and heart wrenching betrayals. You readily look beyond all the typical tropes because you genuinely want those gritty, sentimental, dreamy, maddening moments to happen. If you aren’t a fan boy already be prepared to swoon and gush over the StarCraft universe in an embarrassing display of joyful squeaks and potentially emasculating moments of exuberant celebration. I admit with no guilt or chagrin the fan girl squeals of delight as I deployed my first nuclear assault on unsuspecting victims. You don’t need to tell me twice to construct additional pylons.
Spam to win– One of the few turn-offs I encountered during my 48 hour StarCraft II marathon is the sad fact that if you spam your chosen races most powerful unit you will typically command every combat situation. There was rarely ever an instance when I couldn’t accomplish my goals by spamming marines. Fortunately for those looking to role-play a little more you certainly are capable of creating squads of marines, ghosts, and medics to assign to suicide missions to nuke a critical target. The campaign also does an adequate job of limiting the effectiveness of certain units on certain missions so the spam-to-win approach kept your unit usage quite varied.
Achievements – Typically I shy away from achievements in games simply because it is a sad gimmick to force individuals to replay through a game to “catch them all” even when the fun has come and gone. You feel a sickening compulsion to obtain that 100% completion even if it is meaningless. With that said the achievements in this game actually got me excited to engage in interesting gameplay styles in order to obtain them. They range from commanding a giant laser drill to destroy all life to denying the swarm from overtaking a planet you are supposed to be evacuating. Achievements in SC2 actually give you an opportunity to play through in a different way and for that I am amending my “I hate achievements” clause to have an addendum: “Okay… some of them aren’t mind numbing soul sucking black holes of my precious time”.
Cinematic– The cinematic experience of StarCraft II is breath taking. The opening sequence alone has many of us crying out for blizzard to bust into the movie industry and bring us a StarCraft movie. As always blizzard cut scenes are something noteworthy and we should all thank them for putting their full effort into making a solid game.
If you played and enjoyed the original StarCraft and the expansions you’ll thoroughly enjoy the gameplay and the storyline of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. If you don’t already own this gem I suggest you find a weekend to hole up in your bunker and disable communications because the swarm is coming and you’ll need your complete attention for the coming carnage.