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StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty – hands-on

There are frustrations to be found – the van cannot be ordered to stop and cannot be told when to leave, and if you begin to flag in one wave, you’ll be hard-pressed to prepare for the next. The challenge mounts regardless of whether or not you’re rising to it, while few concessions are made to strategy-blind morons like ourselves -there are no quicksaves or checkpoints.

Repeated attempts, however, reveal the thinking behind Agria’s design – it’s short, and Blizzard want you to crack it in a single shot. The colonists will ferry themselves to the port automatically to prevent you from amassing an armada of Firebats – Blizzard want you to be efficient and to build a balanced and effective squad. Finding the right ratios of medics to marines, and marines to Firebats, and knowing when to use the roadside bunkers (pretty much never, considering the Zerg seem to enjoy smashing them up so much), is key to keeping fatalities down.

Of course, we couldn’t manage this seemingly simple task, allowing countless civilians to have their heads lopped off by flailing Zerg claws and eliciting pained cries from Dr. Swann along the lines of “Oh God, the slaughter... I can’t bear to look.”

If on the other hand, you were any good at StarCraft II, there are Zerg chrysalises to harvest for an extra challenge – and you can even take the fight back to their hive if you really want to show them up. In this way, StarCraft II missions are tightly defined and replayable games in themselves, with often bespoke rules and objectives you won’t encounter in other areas. A great example of this is a directive that takes you to a volcanic chamber which regularly floods with lava. Not only does it look fantastic but it’s a game-changing variable, and one you won’t have been practicing for.

Originality and ingenuity abound, then, and all astoundingly well-presented in this point-and-click style overworld populated by slick, well-acted and highly exaggerated military men. We can’t wait to be awful at this game.

Oct 16, 2009