Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty lifts the acclaimed series to new heights

Isabel Johnson, News Editor

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty


5 stars

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty was one of the most anticipated video games of all time. The original Starcraft has sold over 11 million copies since 1998 and gathered legions of devoted followers. Blizzard claimed in a press release about Starcraft II, “With more than 1.5 million copies sold in its first 48 hours, Blizzard Entertainment’s sci-fi sequel is the bestselling PC game of 2010 and the fastest-selling strategy game of all time.”

Starcraft is widely considered one of the best real time strategy (RTS) games ever made. Korea even has two television channels devoted to professional Starcraft matches and pro players in Korea reach levels of stardom similar to members of boy-bands in the US. In fact, Starcraft is easily the most popular e-sport in the world.

Arguably the best aspect of the game is the multiplayer matches. With a account, players can face other players from around the world in 1v1, 2v2, free-for-all, 3v3 or 4v4 battles. Players’ fingers will be so busy clicking and forming control groups that they almost won’t have enough time to be snide at their opponents. But, that is why we have chat-speak, I suppose.

The new game has been streamlined to make it easier to play multiplayer without being completely overwhelmed, but players will undoubtedly find new strategies and techniques to gain an edge. Strategies used in the original game have grown more complex over the decade since its release, as well as the required clicking speed to play at the highest levels. Korean professionals will continue clicking even if they aren’t performing an action so that their fingers don’t cramp mid-match. Of course, they are paid to play the game, and nobody with a normal job will stand much chance against them. But even in lower levels of play, there were frightening amounts of clicking that took place in the original Starcraft. Fortunately, some things have been smoothed out to reduce clicks in Starcraft II.

Still, the tradition of madly clicking your mouse, while slightly less necessary, isn’t going anywhere. The developers can make it easier to perform tasks, but players will perform more tasks.

For players new to RTS, Blizzard created four slowed-down novice maps to practice your 1v1 skills. Players can experiment with the three races to learn which suits their style: the Protoss, the Zerg or the Terrans. They will have more time to consider their moves and learn from mistakes for their first 40 matches. Players can choose to skip the novice matches and move into ranked league matches at any time, but the pace will be much faster. Anyone who has not played RTS against other people before should at least try the novice maps. The regular matches can get brutal very quickly.

Currently, Terrans are slightly overpowered against the Protoss and the Zerg for higher levels of play, but the average player will not have any real advantage from playing as a Terran. Blizzard will be fixing that and other minor game play issues in their version 1.1 patch, due out in September.

The system that uses to rank players is slightly complicated, but assures fair matches. Each player participates in series of ranking matches against other players of varying skill. Depending on their performance, the system places the player in one of five leagues: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum or Diamond. Within a league, the player is placed in a division, which consists of 100 players. Each player within the division is ranked, and depending on performance within their division, a player may be moved by the system to a higher or lower league. Players move up the ranks within their division by winning matches, but playing a match against a low ranked player gives less points for winning than against a highly ranked player.

Blizzard has plans to make another ranking system within the leagues, so that the top players from each division can compete against each other, but that is still in the works.

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty features a campaign with 29 missions from a Terran point of view. The story picks up four years after Starcraft’s expansion, Brood War, ends and is centered around Jim Raynor, former lawman of a backwater planet who is leading a revolution against the tyrannical Terran Dominion, while battling Zerg invasions and occasionally the Protoss.

The Zerg, led by the Queen of Blades, have returned to wreak havoc on the galaxy, after their retreat at the end of Brood War.

Without spoiling the plot, I can say that the storyline is not particularly original, but Blizzard wasn’t aiming for groundbreaking storytelling anyways. It is entertaining, and more than adequate to carry the campaign’s battles.

Cut scenes before and after each mission provide motivation and a reason for the flurry of clicking that occurs while playing, but RTS veterans may find the gameplay too easy on the Normal difficulty setting. Of course, many may find the Brutal difficulty too hard on the last levels, so shoot for Hard and ramp it up if that’s easy.

Earning various achievements throughout the campaign, player versus A.I. games and multiplayer matches can earn you new “portraits,” which are the pictures attached to player names, and new insignias which can be painted on your units. The best are very difficult to earn, but the rush of stylish superiority you’ll feel over your foes will be worth it.

I definitely will be aiming for Kerrigan’s portrait at some point. Yes, I am a girl and yes, I play video games, so no, I do not want an ugly man-face for my player portrait.

I would definitely say that this game is worth playing and buying, although if you’re broke you should wait until it gets cheaper than the $60 it costs now. Fortunately, online play is free for life, though you may be charged to change your player name later, so choose the first wisely. The graphics are pretty without killing video cards, which is standard for Blizzard games, so you won’t need a brand new, top-of-the-line computer to play it and it works for both PC and Mac.

Just remember, the Zerg may be ugly, but they can and will destroy your planet and infest you with a weird virus that makes you one of them. So kill them all.