This was the most anticipated game at the time of release (in Korea…), in fact sales figures on the first day showed that Europe and the United States sold 1.8 million copies. While that may seem pretty awesome, in Korea on the first day of the game being live there were 3-4 million players online. We lose again.
I’m sure most of you are aware of the sheer scale of popularity that the Starcraft games have in Korea and for those of you who don’t just take this in, top players can make upwards of £200,000 a year.
You may close your jaw now.
Anyway, enough jibba jabba! Fans of the first game will be pleased to know that the three original races (Zerg, Protoss & Terran) are still there and as balanced as ever. The game has an extremely well balanced and seriously well designed multiplayer match making system, but the new Starcraft 2 has got one fantastic single player campaign which I certainly didn’t expect. In my opinion RTS single player campaigns always tend to disappoint ever so slightly and can feel a bit monotonous, but this certainly wasn’t the case here.
You follow the story of Jim Raynor four years after his fight in the first Starcraft series. Now since it has been 12 years since the first game I am confident in saying that a large number of players will have no idea what on earth the game is about, but thankfully you are given a well needed full plot recap while installing the game (much like WoW players will know from their installers). I won’t go down the road of recapping the story for you (as this review would never end) but I will give a brief outline of where you find yourself at the start of the story. As previously mentioned, you follow the story of Jim Raynor living on a desolate planet like some kind of washed up superhero. Throughout, you follow his fight to save the love of his life (Kerrigan), the attempt to bring down the evil Dominion and battle to survive the myriad of Zerg swarms. As for anything else… I wouldn’t want to ruin the story for you now would I?
What are the differences that set this RTS apart from all the others? Well many games in this genre have attempted to breathe new life into their series but Starcraft 2 seems to have almost ignored any advances at all. There is no cover system like Dawn of War and mining minerals and gas are still key to survival in game. I must admit when I first heard that the gameplay didn’t feature any ‘ground-breaking’ new twists to it I was a little disappointed, however once I got my hands on the game I could not have been happier. I am by no means an RTS player but Starcraft made me want to work and I absolutely could not stop playing all aspects of the game. I look at it from the ‘ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mantra and feel that Blizzard just decided that the first game in the franchise simply needed to be brought up to date.
One thing I must commend is the way that the game has been developed to almost subliminally make you a fully competent player by the end of the campaign. As the game goes on you get introduced to ever increasing ways of controlling your team and your interface which can only be a reflection on how much time Blizzard took in developing this game. You’re not dragged into this kicking and screaming either, you are gently introduced into the campaign, and throughout your skill level is increased. For once I can safely say that it is worth playing this campaign before hopping onto the fast paced destruction that would be multiplayer! This is great as it differs from most games I play in this day in age, where the multiplayer often takes front seat above single player. In all fairness it does here too, but there clearly has been just as much hard work on the single player to bring those players who aren’t ready up to scratch and able to compete on an online level.
I have always believed and will claim that Blizzard are the absolute kings of cutscenes and/or trailers and the cutscenes in this game are EPIC. The really blow me away and I find myself ‘YouTubing’ on a weekly basis just to get re-immersed in the awesomeness of the blockbuster-like Hollywood quality videos. While you do find yourself being told the story through tiny talking heads on the screen it is nowhere near as bad as previous games and the cutscenes are about as immersive as they can get. Not only that, between missions you will find yourself in a bar or room in which you can play arcade side games and check your progress as well as being able to play Starcraft themed country songs (also for any WoW players keep your eyes peeled for numerous Warcraft easter eggs littered through the game).
One slight problem I must address about this game is the sheer number of expansions planned for the game in the coming years. It does seem that before we know it Starcraft 2 may be drained of every ounce of story due to a flooding of games. Also while you may find this one campaign fantastic you will inevitably and unfortunately have to pay for campaigns that include the other two races to be released with expansions. This is disappointing but seems to be the way that developers are going now (again think about Dawn of War and its expansions).
The multiplayer side of the game is what will have you playing it for years to come, literally years. There was an extensive beta period and it really ironed out any major issues that arose. You are able to play as all three races but they have been slightly tuned to make sure there is a perfect level of balance (there are no heroes as that would just wreak havoc with balance).
There are leagues in which you compete in 5 ‘placement’ games where the maps have certain blockades to stop anyone rushing, and you are then consequently put into the most relevant league to your skill. These range from bronze all the way up to Master *cue heavenly music*. This is not just a brilliant way of helping the newer players in a game like Starcraft, it is absolutely essential. The tactics must be studied till your eyes are bleeding to fully understand what’s going on and most people playing this game who are relatively successful have been playing for the last 10 years or so (a bit of head start, don’t you think)?
In addition to the placement games there are single player challenge modes which are unique to each race and level by level, step by step teach you how to attack with different units, how to counter other races and how to defend against swarms of enemies. This mode was made solely to help you improve your multiplayer abilities and yet again it proves that Blizzard have really catered for every type of player, understanding that many people wont be able to jump into a game and survive longer than 10 seconds or even understand what scouting, pooling, rushing, zerging… list goes on.
What amazed me about this game was one thing in particular, and that was the attitude of every person you come across. At the start of every game you are greeted with a ‘glhf’ (good luck have fun) and at the end no matter what you get a ‘gg’ (good game). In fact most players I came across were more than willing to have a friendly chat or joke about goings on in the tense battle that we were in. Even in skirmish matches with the A.I you get a ‘gg’ at the end which is a nice little touch and hint to any people who aren’t aware of the common courtesy that appears online. This is something that I can safely say is non-existent in any other game, at least on the scale it is happening in Starcraft 2.
Starcraft 2 kept a lot of people waiting a long time, and that seems to be how Blizzard likes to do things. Fans of the Diablo series of games (of which I’m a massive nerd) will know that Diablo 3 was first mentioned back in 2008 and still has no beta date let alone release date. While this may be annoying I must commend Blizzard for the way that they do not churn out mediocre or even relatively good games every 6 months. They are not afraid of making the impatient consumer wait for the perfect product, which in the case of Starcraft 2 has really paid off. I’ve been reading thousands upon thousands of comments from the good old internet anonymous person slating the price of the game, the graphics, the gameplay and I have to say that while haters will hate, Blizzard is a really commendable company who (like I keep saying) doesn’t release a full priced game every 10 months (*Ehm Call of Duty/Activision*). Such a high review coming from a person who historically hates RTS games is testament to how playable this really is. No matter what your skill level is, you will find a challenge that will hook you in and have you playing for hours.