Blizzard’s still got its game.
Blizzard Entertainment, the company that’s arguably responsible for bringing E-Sports into popularity is not fading out in the slightest. With a slew of gigantic games such as the Diablo Series, Warcraft Universe and the infamous Starcraft series, it poses itself up there at the top of the gaming development food chain. What separates Blizzard from most studios, however, is their loyalty toward their specific Intellectual Property(IP). Blizzard takes utmost care of the universes they create and continually expand upon the lore of their games to epic proportions.
One of the most striking successes of the company is having two games that dominated different halves of the hemisphere. Diablo II was famous on the west for the multiplayer features that predate MMORPGs that it had and in the East, Starcraft dominated via the skill-based Real-Time Strategy(RTS) matches that allowed gamers getting pitted against each other in massive tournaments.
Though Diablo is a marvel all on itself, and not to mention the later success of World of Warcraft, here in this article we review Starcraft II, and the future that the series that started RTS E-Sports settled in after its reign.
Starcraft. Or Brood War. For some 90’s kids it might ring a bell. The Starcraft series allegedly started as a Dawn of War game(look that up) that failed to get rights to the IP. You might notice the similarity of the DoW Space Marines and the Starcraft Marine and I’m not one to judge the possibilities of copying ideas.
With a compelling storyline, great graphics(for a 90’s game) and strictly no luck based gameplay that is both fun and balanced, Starcraft made a breakthrough in gaming history as both a single player game, but mostly as a competitive multiplayer arena.
The original Starcraft game became especially popular in South Korea and gone on to become a leader in pro-gaming. Being often heralded as the greatest RTS game ever made, is there even a chance for the sequel to come up to expectations of its legacy?
Well to me, the answer is a resounding yes. 12 long years after the release of the first installment, Starcraft II gives honor to the things that made the original a world changer. The market has been riddled here and there and hundreds of RTS games have been released in those 12 years. But this is one different among all else, mostly because it’s the same.
Starcraft II fills old players of Brood War with a feeling of foreignness and wonder at the amazingly great graphics that would come on par to other games developed years after, but also with nostalgia when the HUD gets into the screen and you’re taken in charge of the base.
What makes it great is that it’s not too much a deviation. Say you are a pilot of an old plane and have been presented by a new, sparkling F-16 Fighter Jet. There you are, at the cockpit, looking at all the new knobs and switches and displays that presented you with information never before available. But then you start up the engine, clutch the controls and realize it’s still just a plane, it’s faster, better, stronger, but still just a plane. You think of the things you can do, and give a short devious snicker.
Starcraft II is an RTS. It hosts a gameplay similar to Warcraft, Command and Conquer Series, Age of Empires and Stronghold. If you know those games, you won’t get lost.
Players take control of units that can move and attack other enemy units, gather resources to build structures that enable the creation of new units that enhance the strength of you army, and many other possible things.
You get to choose between the three ever popular factions of Starcraft to do battle in multiplayer, namely, Terran, Protoss, and Zerg. Each has different units and structures unique to them that you can use to defeat your enemies. With different factions come different ways they build their army, when to build which units, and how to go about controlling your units. With a colossal amount of possibilities to defeat each other and win the game, it’s defining for Starcraft to make gameplay wherein there’s no one greatest strategy to win. No faction is the strongest.
Blizzard’s painstaking attention to balance is what makes it all so fun to play again and again and again.
During the single player campaign of both Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm, and the upcoming Legacy of the Void, you get access to many different ways to augment your forces you couldn’t do in multiplayer. There are units that are not available otherwise including the ever popular characters including Jim Raynor, Sarah Kerrigan and Zeratul that not only help you get though the levels easier, but fill the game with lots more fun things to do that you otherwise can’t in multiplayer.
A lot of the original Starcraft: Brood War units come back in Starcraft II, but there are some that are removed or changed. Most of these units come back in the Single player campaign, and with it, a rush of nostalgia old players would love to experience. Furthermore, each mission in the campaign presents objectives that are unique to it such as using a giant drill to burn a hole through an ancient temple.
Starcraft hosts one of the largest and most intricate plots in the history of gaming, the sheer scale of warfare is reminiscent of the Dawn of War IP it allegedly was supposed to have. Now players may find themselves comparing the two worlds together, but with the coming of Starcraft II, it has established itself as clearly different.
A very amazing strategy that Blizzard used is that each installment came within years from each other even though the engine did not change from each of them. This meant that most of the work done is not on the engineering side, but on the art, story and gameplay. It’s amazing to say that each wait between installments leave players with just the right combination of wonder of what will happen in the next one and satisfaction of what happened in the last that convince them that the next installment’s going to be worth even after a few years wait.
Another thing that’s unique about Starcraft II is that even though the scale of the story is gigantic, the storylines are quite personal, revolving around the frustrated love of Raynor and Kerrigan, the vengeance against Mengsk and the coming of an evil even greater than the conflict of the three races and how Kerrigan’s going to be the key to facing it. This is one of the more controversial changes in Starcraft II since the first game was quite on an impersonal viewpoint at all times and emphasized the world more than the second.
There are also a lot of other content that reinforces Starcraft II’s storyline. Those include games released between the two main games, a plethora of small stories at the official website, and some literature the company released.
From the origins of different Zerg species, to an individual Siege Tank pilot who had the lowdown with the Protoss. Starcraft found ways to interpret their gigantic world through the eyes of people that lived in their world.
Needless to say, if a game releases with graphics that are relevant even after 5 long years, it’s good. For a 2015 game, sure, it might not be THAT of a powerhouse anymore, but set it to ultra and it’ll burn off some mid-range graphics cards.
But in terms of theme and aesthetic value, Starcraft achieves superiority over competition by presenting 3 different factions with themes that are so pronounced for itself and there is almost no overlap of styles between the Zerg, Terran, and Protoss.
The Terrans sport blocky shapes and grayish metallic styles that are reminiscent of 90’s movies like Total Recall and the original RoboCop. The Protoss are clad in regal gold and gigantic arches that shine like stars, and glow with the light blue electricity and magic. Lastly, the Zerg are masses of writhing flesh and and corrupted fauna that seek to evolve itself ever continuously.
Blizzard’s ability to create such defined characteristics and merge them all together in amazing fashion is truly outstanding.
Starcraft II brings competitive to a new level. Starcraft II not only has built in support, but instead has its own tools for things such as voice chat and IM inside the game. It not only houses a game, but also a client and a massive system to keep its players managed and matches systematically made.
Another thing of note in Starcraft II is the upgrading of the replay system. No other game in the world houses a replay system that compares to Starcraft II. The replay system records all your actions, down to your individual clicks and camera panning, and can show important data such as Actions Per Minute(APM), build order, and various graphs of your army growth.
The famous Map Editor has also come back with Starcraft II, and if in some way you are still not satisfied with the gigantic offering that comes out of the box, Starcraft II gives modders and content creators countless ways to bring different ideas for games and maps in Starcraft II much similar to Warcraft III. Remember, with Warcraft III’s world editor tools came DotA and arguably the whole Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre, and with the new tools that Starcraft II offers up with their souped up Mar Editor, there are a multitude of games you can play with Starcraft, including an indie MOBA of their own.
+ Three races, all as balanced as they get
+Single player and Multiplayer are largely different and offer different gameplay
+Same formula as the first game, but hugely upgraded
+Powerful and intricate replay system
+Map Editor and tons of maps to play in custom games
+Amazing sci-fi story with a scale and detail few could compare to
+Game has amazingly high skill cap
-Players on Battle.net are on a very high skill range, consider practicing before pitting yourself against the good players there.
-Non-hardcore gamers will find the concept of playing match after match to hone your skills may find it repetitive
-There is a lot to learn to play even on a mediocre level online or against the AI in multiplayer style games
-Not so much humor in the game, very serious plot
-Doesn’t innovate much compared to the first game, just a refinement. Not for those looking for a fresh new RTS
Starcraft II is a great game, and with the completion of the trilogy comes the fruition of the narrative and the completeness that hardcore fans were anticipating for around 20 years. Starcraft II is not that easy to pick up, and it stands by with prioritizing its loyal fan base. Down to the starting narratives of Wings of Liberty to the hectic multiplayer gameplay, to the expansive controls and features, Starcraft II doesn’t hold your hand across its universe or the RTS genre, rather, it welcomes hardened veterans of the Brood War into new frontiers.
So to me, Starcraft II is exactly the way it should be. Sure, it’s not perfect in all senses, but it couldn’t have gone better in my opinion.
I give it 4/5.