Of course, StarCraft has always been about the multiplayer, and from what we’ve played so far, it’s a blast. Still, we’re not professional level players; we wouldn’t be able to tell you if we think unit X needs to have its damage nerfed by X points. But we can say that it feels balanced, and with so many people playing, the matchmaking system seems like it’s doing its job quite well. We haven't run into any problems finding matches quickly, and because of StarCraft's popularity we wonder if we ever will. We found ourselves regularly matched against players of equal skill once we got a few games under our belt.
In many ways, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty feels like StarCraft 2.0 – and that’s a good thing. You’re still gathering resources and building up your army to destroy the other player’s base first. The Zerg are still all about numbers, the Protoss still sport strong but expensive units, and the Terran still support their troops with lots of tanks and ships. Blizzard didn’t mess with the gameplay formula that made the original so intense. Instead, they've refined and polished everything to the point of perfection. Play matches in the lower level multiplayer leagues, and you can get away with easy wins using cheap tactics, like Zergling or Zealot rushes or skipping up the tech tree to air units. But those one note tricks won’t get you very far in the higher tier leagues where scouting, counter-building, and making micro/macro management of your units and economy are more important.
Every unit or tactic has a vulnerability. A large group of Protoss Zealots early on in a match might seem strong, but a small squad of Zerg Roaches will tear them apart. Even end-game units, the biggest most expensive vehicles and starships are weak against specific units from each faction.
And if you're serious aboutgetting better, StarCraft II gives you just about every tool you'll want or need to improve your game. After every match, the end game battle report gives you a second-by-second summary, showing you exactly what you and your opponent were building and buying throughout the entire match. For a more detailed recap, you can use the game's robust replay system, which allows you to fast forward and rewind as you review the match from your perspective, your opponent's or a god's eye view with the fog of war completely lifted. Plus, it's always fun to save memorable matches to watch again later.
Above: There are also special Challenge missions, which were designed to prepare you for multiplayer. They’ll familiarize you with each units’ strengths and weaknesses and prep you for defending against rush attacks
Then there's the Galaxy Map Editor, which also comes with the game. Our friends at PC Gamer have published a great tutorial that will show you how to create your own custom StarCraft II maps. But fans have also created cart racers, prototypes for RPGs, and other promising projects during the brief period when it was available to participants in the StarCraft II multiplayer beta.
We can't wait to see what great things will come next, now that the game has officially launched.
Above: An early version of Wacky Races, a cart racing mod for StarCraft II
StarCraft? Of course! A cynic might say that “StarCraft II is just StarCraft I with new units and better graphics.” But at the same time, that's all we've really been wanting. “It's StarCraft I, but with new units and better graphics!” Wings of Liberty keeps everything we loved about the original StarCraft, refining and polishing every aspect to the point of perfection.
WarCraft III? Yes. We liked WarCraft III's hero system, but the cost of upkeep for your units ensured that you've never command the sorts of huge armies you can wield in StarCraft II. The thick clouds of Mutalisks and the massive swarms of Marines are back. Sometimes quantity counts.
Dawn of War II? By the Emperor, yes. We loved what Relic did with the Warhammer 40K universe in the Dawn of War series, home of the original Space Marines, the Eldar and the Tyrannids. But StarCraft II outshines the Dawn of War series. The campaign is more satisfying, the multiplayer plays better, and matchmaking via Battle.net works better, making StarCraft II the clear winner.
Congratulations. You've made it to the end of the review, the place where it is customary to list the game's caveats. Sure, it may bother some that you need to log into Battle.net and be online to earn achievements. There's also the controversial RealID system for adding friends through Battle.net that have made many uncomfortable. But really, these quibbles aren't deal breakers by any means. If you're still on the fence about StarCraft II, don't be. It's awesome.
The wait was worth it. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty delivers on all fronts with unique singleplayer missions, a gripping story for the campaign and excellent multiplayer. Prepare yourself for the definitive RTS of the decade. StarCraft II is the new standard and will cast a shadow over all RTS titles that follow for quite some time.
Jul 30, 2010