Finally, after over a ten year wait, Starcraft II was finally released. The famed RTS series from Blizzard was first released in spring 1998 and the expansion Brood War was released later that same year.
For those who skipped the single player campaign in the previous games, they were missing out. The single player campaigns in Starcraft and Brood War were phenomenal and amongst the best sci-fi stories I recall in a video game series. They were definitely on par with the Mass Effect series. How does the single player campaign of Wings of Liberty pan out?
WARNING: There may be spoilers below if you have not played the original Starcraft or are unaware of the original Starcraft storyline.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty follows the story of Jim Raynor. You’re out to start a revolution against the Dominion, which is run by the Emperor Arcturus Mengsk. The story follows you and your troops as you build up resources necessary to mount your war, meet allies, and of course contend with threats from the Zerg and Protoss forces. While it isn’t an Oscar worthy storyline, with a number of cliches within in, it’s a well done story worthy of your time. Some games have cliche stories that are never capable of grabbing your attention, but there is enough intrigue and desire to figure out what will happen that you’ll want to play the whole single-player campaign till the end. Several plot twists occur, and you will regularly guess about who you can and cannot trust along the way.
Compared to the original Starcraft, the story telling of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single-campaign story is much better. Instead of “video-chat” sessions between all major characters or in-game chats between little game sprites, you now have full-fledged in-engine cutscenes between campaign missions (and there are still great pre-rendered cutscenes too). Between campaigns, you’ll have the opportunity to move around your ship and talk to various characters, watch Dominion television propaganda, talk with other members of your crew, and discuss items of interest with them. All of this together makes the characters and the Starcraft universe come to life. They just aren’t little talking heads like they were in previous games. At several points, you’ll get flashback scenes or pictures showing you what Sarah Kerrigan looked like before she turned into the Queen of Blades. It’s sort of touching, as it puts a face on the Sarah Kerrigan that you never really saw in the first game.
While the storytelling is much better than its predecessor, the overall story feels unfulfilled and without closure. For those who aren’t aware, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty only follows the story of the Terrans (with a few side missions involving another race). Later sequels will give you single-player campaigns for the Zerg and the Protoss. If there is one gripe about the game’s story, this is it. There are various teases to future storylines and future story arks, but by the end of the game, you feel that there is no real conclusion to the story. It’s much like the Lord of the Rings movies. While there is a definite stopping point, and you feel you got your money’s worth, you can’t help put feel disappointed.
The single player campaign is much like the earlier Starcraft single players. You get a series of missions, increasingly more complex and introducing you to more units and structures along the way. Due to the fact you only play as the Terrans in this game, the introduction of units and structures is pretty slow. Returning players may feel the story and campaign aren’t going anywhere, but new players may feel it offers a good balance.
The campaigns offer an interesting mix of fun and diverse missions. While there are your typical “destroy all the enemies” or “survive enemies” missions, there are some unique ones too. You’ll find missions that have different conditions between night and day and environmental factors that can destroy structures.
One of the most interesting aspects of Starcraft II are the RPG-like elements they’ve added into the campaign. After a certain point, you can select the order in which you perform missions. In some cases, you’ll have to choose how to complete a mission by choosing to help one side or another. The choice may affect what types of units are available to you for the remainder of the campaign. The branching paths don’t deviate the story greatly, but it’s a nice touch. You’ll get different cutscenes depending on your choices. Don’t worry if you want to see the cutscene and don’t want to replay the entire game, a mission archive allows you to play the alternate path just see the cutscenes.
Accomplishing missions now also gives you credits or points that you can use for upgrades or the ability to hire mercenaries. You can upgrade specific abilities of units, enhance the strength/life of units, or enhance building structures. It offers an interesting set of branching paths to customize how you want to play the rest of the campaign. Unlike RPGs, you can’t just grind your way to unlocking everything. In some cases, there are upgrades where you must choose one or the other, and that’s how you’ll proceed throughout the rest of the campaign.
Even with all these minor branching paths, the replayability of the game isn’t enhanced that much. You may want to replay some missions to unlock achievements, but the desire to replay the entire campaign is limited. Including the branching paths, there are 29 missions in all to play, which is a healthy amount for this type of game.
I won’t go into the gameplay in that much depth, as it is much like the earlier entries in the series. To put it simply, it’s an real-time strategy game. Your job is to collect resources (minerals and gas) and use those resources to construct buildings or units. You’ll need to balance your desire for defense, offense, tech upgrades, and expanding to new locations when your current resources run out. There are some nice enhancements from the previous game. SCVs are more intelligent, they auto-repair nearby structures. Your control groups can carry more units now too. Many of the new units are fun to control and play with, especially the reapers, a marine-like unit that can hop from lower to higher ground with temporary flight.
Similar to Warcraft III, there are some “hero” like skills that certain units have. Again, not an incredible upgrade, but it’s a nice fun addition. It makes some of the non-resource gathering missions a little more interesting.
Starcraft II also offers differing levels of difficult and varying achievements that can increase the replayability of each mission.
Graphics and Sound
Blizzard is known for making PC friendly video games that don’t require the best tech on the market. The system requirements for Starcraft II were modest at best. Even though modest, you’ll find some great graphics and sound. The in-game engine cutscenes are already Xbox 360 and PS3 quality on the medium level. The voice acting is stellar.
Overall, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is an excellent game for those interested in the single player aspects. The $60 price tag may be a bit high for this game if you are primarily interested in just the single-player campaign, so you may wish to wait for the price drop. The campaign is not particularly long. While you have an opportunity to do challenges and gain achievements, the replayability is rather limited. Unlike Starcraft or Brood War, it didn’t feel as though there were any epic campaign missions. In both of the previous games, there were several missions that stood out as particularly exciting and challenging. You’d want to play those missions multiple times to see how you could beat it. Those campaigns may exist in the Starcraft II Zerg and Protoss campaigns instead.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Easter Eggs
“Starcraft” – Wikipedia
“Starcraft: Brood War” – Wikipedia