If you’re any kind of real-time strategy fan, that video probably gave you chills. It’s the weight of ten years of anticipation, and you’re right to be excited. Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty delivers the kind of experience that an evolved gaming community is looking for in increased supply. There is a lot of ground to cover here, so I’m going to hit these points in the order they hit me.
REAL ID/THE NEW BATTLE.NET: The new Real ID system creates that ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling one gets from the sensation of always having good friends close at hand. Your Battle.net friends can message you at any time. This means you can get invited to a custom multiplayer game while you’re playing the campaign, or that you can talk to your guild on World of Warcraft while waiting for 2v2 matchmaking to find you a game (which typically only takes a few seconds). The integration leaves you with the sensation that you’re sharing a unique experience with all your online buddies, whether they are playing Starcraft 2 or any other Blizzard title.
You and your online buddies will probably spend the first few minutes drooling at…
THE AESTHETIC: Starcraft 2 will grab you from the moment you start it up, and it will be very insistent about not letting you go. The entrancing music and engrossing CGI cut-scenes will combine to absorb your senses. I won’t say anything so cliche as: “it feels like you’re a part of the game,” because it doesn’t, but it can suck you in deep enough that it becomes easy to lose track of time.
Now for my personal favorite part…
THE CAMPAIGN: The original Starcraft had a pretty standard campaign mode for its time. You were given missions in a linear order, explained to you by disembodied talking heads representing video transmissions from the various major players in the story and punctuated by graphic cutscenes. Starcraft 2 deviates in a number of refreshing ways. In between missions the player can click his way around Jim Raynor’s flagship, the Hyperion. On the Hyperion, you can talk to passengers for story-related snippets, purchase upgrades for your troops at the armory, hire mercenaries in the cantina, or provide blanket upgrades for your armies by researching alien species in the laboratory. When you decide it’s time to take a mission, you can head to the bridge where you’ll be given the option to chart your course to anywhere between 2 and 4 different objectives. Each objective offers a different bonus for completion including money for new upgrades, research opportunities, and new units. The order in which you complete the missions will impact the type of army you can field later in the game.
Multiplayer features, along with Battle.net have also evolved elegantly. Rather than just tossing you into the maelstrom against the best and brightest, an ordeal that can be trying for even an avid RTS fan (personally, it ruined Brood War for me), Stacraft 2 offers a series of “Placement Matches” in 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4 brackets, slotting you into a league based on your performance. Your performance is then continually tracked so the challenge level is always appropriate. Besides that, it’s still a fast-paced romp, and the new units Blizzard designed for each race fit nicely into the power balance.
So let’s cut to the bottom line: should you buy this game? I’d say unequivocally yes. I’d place my RTS skill at below average, and I’m already more than satisfied with my purchase of the game. It’s visually stunning, the online community is immersive, and the campaign is extensive and fun. Nothing is sacrificed.