Game #32: Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (2010)

sc2wolDirector: Nicholas S. Carpenter
Language: English
Length: 26 levels
Finished on: 7 February 2016

I tried to download this game quite a while ago, maybe two or three years ago, and couldn’t, because of a firewall in my sharehouse. I found out just as I was leaving that the firewall hadn’t been in place anymore for months if not years, perhaps when the wifi had been refitted, and I felt cheated! So I set about downloading it and played it over the first couple of months of this year.

I decided to play the campaigns first before ever trying online play, which scares me a bit (actually I still haven’t tried it seriously, only against a friend in the same room). For some reason, the campaigns for Starcraft II are all in separate expansions to the game, which I didn’t really get. I think they did it on the excuse that they could put more detail in each campaign, which I guess is fair enough, but I think the real reason is money.

I used to play the original Starcraft when I was a kid (I was never good, to be clear), and I was glad to see that there was a clear progression from the units and style of the previous game to this one. Of course they’ve changed a lot of the things that were annoying – like removing the maximum number of units you can select at once. And of course there are many new units.

I found that, confusingly, the units and tech available in the campaign are very different from the ones available in multiplayer, which is a departure from how Blizzard’s other games have operated. In the campaign, the tech you get is researched on the deck of a battleship, using credits that you earn by completing missions and objectives, and it’s automatically available in-game, like you don’t have to do so much levelling-up while playing. Most levels also start you with a basic base so that you can get on with killing baddies. I found this streamlining useful, in the end.

The other big difference is the units – the campaign retains a few units from the original Starcraft that were removed from the multiplayer Starcraft II, like Firebats and Goliaths, for example, and it was a bit of a shock when I tried out the multiplayer against a computer and I didn’t know any of the units. There have been other changes too – like when playing Zerg, the way of making new units is slightly different, and in the multiplayer there’s a confusing mechanism with Queens to make more larvae or something, so the standard strategy from the original game of building two Hatcheries was made moot.

The campaign of the first game is the Terran one, and they put a lot of effort into it. There are a lot of cutscenes and cinematics, and the characters all have something to say when you complete a mission and go back to the battleship to upgrade and chill between levels. There are even a couple of places where you can make choices and it will give you a different level as a result, although you can also play through the alternative one if you so please.

The other thing I was impressed with were the levels themselves – they often have some kind of theme or extra obstacle, such as the levels with rising lava threatening to engulf you if you don’t get off the low ground. There aren’t any that just straight-up pit you against a computer, basically. They also don’t take too long, about half an hour each on average. This kept it interesting, and addictive. When I was playing it I’d often do three or four missions in one evening.

I’m glad I downloaded it, and I was happy overall. It’s not a perfect game by any means, and I found it confusing at times. I played the Zerg campaign too, but I’ll review that separately as it has, um, issues. I also started the Protoss one, but then I got sick and stopped playing for a while. I can’t start again just now because I’ve had a bit of a wrist injury and can’t use a computer mouse too much. But maybe when that’s better someone could challenge me to a game?

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