StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty review

The most highly anticipated RTS of the decade doesn't disappoint

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One early mission finds you clearing a colony of Terrans who have been infested by the Zerg. The zombie-like monstrosities will only attack once the sun has set, leaving you with only a small window of time to raze as many of their buildings as possible before rushing back to your base to fortify your defense.

Another mission leaves you on an unstable planet that’s about to burst at its seams. Lava is slowly flooding the map from the map, constantly creeping forward as you are forced to push your forces forward towards the right, moving your mobile bases to minimize damage along the way.

Above: Another mission has you manning a giant laser cannon to cut through thick walls protecting an artifact guarded by Protoss. You’ll need to turn the cannon on the incoming waves of Protoss forces who don’t take kindly to your tomb raiding

But for every minute you spend playing through the great missions in the campaign, you’ll want to spend at least two exploring the Hyperion. Raynor’s giant battlecruiser is your hub between missions and it’s chock-full treats that invite you to explore the ship every time you complete a mission.

There’s the Cantina, where you can hire mercenaries. These specialized units are veteran soldiers and can arrive on the battlefield instantly via drop ship. As you complete more missions, you’ll unlock more of these powerful units and can hire them to join your forces for the right price. Here, you’ll also be able to watch special news reports highlighting your conquests across the galaxy. There’s even a jukebox with a ton of country songs and a working arcade cabinet with a rather decent vertical shooter.

Above: As you complete more missions, you’ll receive new trophies to display on the wall on the upper-right

Above: The playable arcade machine in the corner is a nice touch

There’s also the Armory, a level on the Hyperion where you can purchase upgrades for your units and structures for future missions. If you have enough credits, you can upgrade you can improve your Siege Tanks so their splash damage doesn’t hurt friendly units as much, for example. It’s also worth noting that during the campaign, you’ll gain access to lots of special Terran units, which aren’t available in multiplayer. Often times, these units are favorites from the original StarCraft. So when you’re ready, you can improve your Firebats’ flamers so their attacks cover a wider radius, or improve the rate that your Medics heal friendly troops.

Above: Your armory will fill up as you complete more missions and acquire new units

Head to the Laboratory, and you can also unlock useful upgrades and new units. When playing through the campaign’s missions, you’ll often stumble across secondary objectives that yield research points for the Protoss and Zerg races. As you accumulate research points, Dr. Egon Stetmann, your onboard gadget geek, will be able to develop useful additions to your arsenal based on his findings from studying the alien races. Climb the Zerg research tree, for example, and you can help Stetmann develop Biosteel. Inspired by the Zerg’s regenerative properties, it allows your vehicles to regain hit points slowly. Similar upgrades and new units can also be unlocked after finding enough Protoss research points.

Above: Click on the units in your armory for some background lore

A Touch of Firefly

As you get to know your crew members and explore the ship, it’s hard not to notice elements that remind us Joss Whedon’s science fiction Western, Firefly. The Terrans were always portrayed as being a bit country in the original StarCraft. But like Firefly’s Malcolm Reynolds or Red Dead Redemption’s John Marston, Jim Raynor is a Western hero of the highest order.

Armed with a revolver and a bottle of bourbon, Raynor is unflappable, with a quick comeback delivered with an easy going attitude for every problem of galactic proportions that come his way. The one-liners are plentiful and painfully cheesy at times, but despite all that, the melodrama in between serious missions is always welcome – and when cutscenes fade to black with a twangy slide guitar riff, it’s hard not to marry memories of Serenity soaring through space with Raynor’s Hyperion. It’s good stuff.

Above: Jim Raynor is no Malcolm Reynolds, but you'll still like him a lot

Above: Another unique mission has you robbing Dominion supply trains

More info

DescriptionAfter years of waiting, Blizzard gave their fans what they most wanted: the sequel to one of the most legendary, beloved PC real-time strategy games. StarCraft II's space-combat is as much of a spectator sport as it is a highly demanded, finely-tuned test of one's micro and macro skills.
Franchise nameStarCraft
UK franchise nameStarcraft
US censor rating"Rating Pending"
UK censor rating""
Alternative names"StarCraft II","Star Craft II","Star Craft 2","StarCraft 2","SC2","SCII"