Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
Starcraft II, Blizzards soon-to-be released Real Time Strategy game, is the sequel to the ever popular, and possibly timeless, original Starcraft (1998). Ask anyone who called themselves a gamer between 1998 and present day and they will tell you that they have at one time spent countless hours hammering away at keyboard hotkeys trying to take down the enigmatic Protoss, vile Zerg, or utilitarian Terran forces who have been hammering away at their base for hours.
What made Starcraft so successful?
Blizzard Entertainment was then a privately held company who had only a view titles under their belt. Notably, they had published RTS hits Warcraft: Orcs vs. Humans and the follow up title, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. It only made sense to expand upon the Warcraft game style and include a future based technology story.
Fun Fact: Lesser known to the community at large, Blizzard also wrote “Lost Vikings” an SNES & DOS based game and several other well known games before their name became a household item.
Blizzard’s combination of engrossing storylines, simple control system, low learning curves, and stunning cinematic cut scenes, made these titles popular single player games. The real fun wasn’t in single player mode, however, Blizzard also invented, and still maintain, Battle.net, one of the first successful internet based multiplayer shells. Battle.net allowed owners of Blizzard games to play, for free, against others across the world without the need to track down privately owned IP addresses.
The model of Starcraft was essentially the same as that of Warcraft. There were noticeable differences in quality, and the game play went somewhat deeper than that of the Warcraft series at the time. Instead of two races, there were three. Instead of classic fantasy characters, interplanetary combat ensued, buildings could fly, bombs could be dropped, units could cloak, even elevations were considered, but essentially the game offered another round of Warcraft, albeit somewhat more elegantly, and it gave Blizzard fans another round of exactly what they needed: Pure Fun.
Why was there only one expansion?
Actually, there were three expansions and one spin-off. Shortly after the release in 1998, the expansion Insurrection was developed by Aztech New Media and released with authorization from Blizzard. It included over 100 multiplayer maps and 30 campaign missions. It was critically reviewed and found to be lacking in quality. It was not widely distributed and Blizzard does not offer support for it. Later, a second expansion was written by Stardock and authorized by Blizzard, which again failed to capture the audience in any meaningful way. It was considered an average addition to the series, but was “at least challenging.” Blizzard finally took control of the reins and created Starcraft: Brood War, the most well known expansion. The expansion offered new units, new campaigns, and created even more depth to the storyline. It left an open ending for the development of Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty. Lastly, Starcraft: Ghost was being developed as a spin-off title for the GameCube. Development of the game turned out to be a nightmare. Announced in 2002, the game was finally put out of development in 2006, when it became apparent that in order for the game to succeed it would need to be completely re-written to match up with standards in graphics and technology. However, Starcraft: Ghost was never officially cancelled and Blizzard stubbornly refuses to say they will never finish it. Perhaps the game will be born again in the wake of Starcraft 2? It seemed obvious that with the success of Starcraft a sequel would be forthcoming, but it was a long time before fans even received word that one would be developed.
Hurry up and wait….
So, somewhere along the line, the Starcraft real-time-strategy was completely tabled. The last real development being the release of Starcraft: Brood War in final quarter 1998. Fans have been waiting for 12 years for a sequel to be made. Why has Blizzard put off this seemingly obvious title for so long? Fingers point abounds to the success of mega-blockbuster hit, World of Warcraft. The game, which has purportedly over 11.5 million active subscribers (2008) is a pure online MMORPG, has been a huge success for Blizzard since its release in 2004. The process of managing the game, has likely taken a huge toll on company resources. In addition, some fans speculate the Blizzard does not want to cannibalize their customer base by injecting new titles into the market which they believe would be successful and potentially take away from their cash cow, World of Warcraft (WoW). This same reason is often quoted when asked about Diablo III, which is the sequel to the popular Blizzard Trilogy, Diablo, which has also not been revisited since Diablo II’s release in 2000. In a 2009 article written by Rob Fahey of PC News, Blizzard’s VP of Game Design Rob Pardo and Starcraft II lead producer Chris Sigaty can both be quoted as pointing the finger at World of Warcraft. “A lot of our artists went over and worked on WOW – I was called off, too.” said Sigaty. “One of the reasons that Starcraft II had some delays very early on in development is because a fair amount of the design team went onto World of Warcraft for a year to really help finish that game off.” states Pardo.
Despite the long delay in releasing the game, Blizzard has actually had a playable version of the game since 2005. Since WoW was released in 2004, it’s hard to imagine that the sole reason for the delay was just to finish off the development of World of Warcraft. It’s fathomable that the release of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty was delayed while Blizzard’s cash cow, World of Warcraft, was being managed and expanded upon. Now that WoW has reached a maturity in its product life cycle, Blizzard is releasing additional titles to pave the way for future success.
Wings of Liberty
Set four years after the end of the Brood War, players will control the now jaded (and apparently hard drinking) Captain Jim Raynor. Raynor was a key character in the original Starcraft, taking control of rag-tag units and forming the first resistances against the Zerg. Used and abused by Arcturus Mengsk, and reduced to simple mercenary status by Mengsk led propaganda, Raynor must once again muster forces against encroaching alien forces. Featuring a non-linear storyline, players will operate as Raynor who takes on jobs for cash. The money is used to purchase upgrades and new units, adding a new style of game play.
Blizzard is giving Battle.net a facelift with the kickoff of Starcraft II. The new Battle.net will feature improved Ladders and matchmaking, making the game more challenging as players of equal skill levels are pitted against each other. Sorry Griefers, your days may be numbered! (Griefers are players who will only play new, unskilled, players to improve their rankings and generally ruin the spirit of the game). In addition, the “replay” mode of each battle has been improved allowing players to pick apart their previous battles and improve their skills.
Wings of Liberty is actually part one in a three part series. Specifically, this portion of the trilogy focuses on the Terran campaign. Terrans are actually exiles from the human “main-worlds.” Players should recall from Starcraft: Brood War, that the Zerg was actually released upon the Terrans by their elitist Human counterparts from the United Earth Directorate. In Starcraft: Original, the opening cinematic for the Terran campaign reveals that the United Earth Directorate plans on “unleashing the Zerg” onto Terran worlds, though this is not made obvious until the expansion, Starcraft: Brood War. In the end, Admiral DuGalle, from the UED, is not able to contain the Zerg menace and his entire fleet is destroyed. DuGalle, stricken with grief from his actions, takes his own life. Ultimately, it is the infested human ghost, Kerrigan, who proves to be the ultimate enemy who has taken control of the Zerg and has retreated to safe space at the end of Brood Wars. Now, years later, the fight will resume and Raynor is once again at the front lines. “Wings of Liberty” is expected to provide players with 26-30 missions.
Later, Blizzard will be releasing additional expansions, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void. Aptly named for the Zerg and Protoss storylines.
While this game’s release date has been pushed back on several occasions, online retailers are stating an official release date of 12/31/2010. Pre-orders can be made at many online vendors including Newegg.com and Amazon.com.
Retail Pricing & Collector’s Edition
The game appears to be running fans about $59.99 while a collector’s edition is also being released for nigh on $99.99. The collector’s edition will have cool items such as a 176-page book of artwork, Wings of Liberty Comic #0, and unique in-game models for some units. Also included is a 2 GB flash drive replica of Jim Raynor’s dog-tags which comes preloaded with the original Starcraft and Starcraft: Brood War expansion! A DVD containing interviews and cinematics will also be included providing over an hour of content (Newegg.com).
System Requirements & Ratings
PC Minimum Requirements:
Windows XP SP3/Vista SP1/Windows 7
2.2 Ghz Pentium IV or equivalent AMD Athlon processor
1 GB system RAM/1.5 GB for Vista and Windows 7
128 MB NVidia GeForce 6600 GT/ATI Radeon 9800 PRO video card
1024×768 minimum display resolution
4 GB free hard space (Beta)
*Note: Ratings have not been finalized and are subject to change.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is rated T for Teen.
Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language (ESRB.org).
Cavalli, E. “World of Warcraft Hits 11.5 Million Users” Wired.com
Cut-Scene. “Starcraft: Terran Campaign (5:00-8:40)” Youtube.com
Fahey, Rob. “WoW held up Starcraft II for a Year” Eurogamer.net
Release Date “Starcraft 2” Newegg.com
Manual “Starcraft” ReplacementDocs.com
Manual “Starcraft: Brood Wars” ReplacementDocs.com
Staff Member “Blizzard Entertainment” Blizzard.com