Starcraft 2 Review

Many years ago when I was just a wee lad, full of precocious innocence and wonderment, and was just starting to really get into PC gaming, a friend recommended a new type of game to me called an RTS. "RTS," I said, adorably. "What is that?"

"Well," they said. "It's just like chess, except you can have as many pieces as you want and don't have to wait your turn!"

"Golly!" I replied as they lovingly tossled my hair.

So this friend supplied me with what I now recognize as the greatest RTS game and indeed, one of the greatest games I've ever played period. The graphics were good, decent even by today's standards, the campaigns were compelling and enjoyable, and the factions were well-balanced and had useful and unique units to match their respective strategies. I am speaking, of course, about Red Alert 2. Not long after that, someone gave me StarCraft, which wasn't too bad either.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is the sequel to StarCraft, released a brisk 12 years after the original, Blizzard spending most of the intervening time making more money than Switzerland through World of Warcraft, funded by an obscene number of gamers who perplexingly pay monthly subscription fees to play an online game; but then again, I never understood the appeal Pogs, Gigapets, or soccer, so who am I to judge?

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If I had to sum up StarCraft II in one word, it would be "cutscenes." There are many cutscenes, more cutscenes than you could possibly hope for, so many cutscenes that you could cut the cutscenes into a movie called "Cutscenes: The Director's Cut" with cutscenes too cut to show in theaters. There cutscenes before missions, after missions, during missions, cutscenes within cutscenes, and there are even cutscenes that you can choose to watch of your own free will, though if you're the sort of twisted masochistic pervert who enjoys these things, might I also suggest placing your testicles in a vise and sticking razor wire up your urethra as this will provide the same experience and save a bundle of time.

Past the Peter Jackson length cutscenes, the rest of the game is fairly good. By fairly good, I mean virtually identical to the original. Though I was never exceptionally good at StarCraft, I find that my strategy applied to the new game typically yields the same results. The new units don't really alter the game enough to require a comprehensive overhaul of your strategy. Despite this, the missions themselves are fun and somewhat challenging, of appropriate length, and doesn't pelt you with the endless pseudo-missions of "go destroy the other team, but this time it's different because you'll be on snow." The Terran campaign serves to sharpen the skills of rusty gamers with the jack-of-all-trades nature of the faction, while the Zerg and Protoss campaigns…don't exist. That's right, you get to dish out another 60 to 100 bucks over the next two to twelve years for the Zerg and Protoss expansion packs because…well there isn't a legitimate reason other than some profoundly devious marketing.

Seriously, it's like the Dr. Zhivago of video games

I have a laundry list of complaints to dish out, but let's just focus on a few. First off, fix the difficulty curve. As I mentioned I was never a great StarCraft player so I started out on normal. This was absurdly easy, so I bumped it up to hard. This was basically the same as normal with a handful of additional enemy units. I then switched to expert whereupon I was blasted backwards off my chair and only just managed to unplug my computer before several Zerglings leapt through my monitor. Why are the only options to play either chimp with down syndrome wearing oven mitts or the love child of General Rommel and a South Korean teenager? It should be a smooth gradient between difficulties, not a bunny hill ending abruptly with a brick wall.

Number two: fix the damn group select commands. As any moderately experienced RTS gamers knows, grouping units is a key to success. StarCraft 2 has the normal control-number grouping system but also adds this astonishingly annoying feature: in a normal game, if you have two groups that you want to move together, you select group one, press shift, and select group two. In StarCraft, this results in group two being absorbed into group one, completely defeating the purpose of splitting them in the first place. Therefore, if, for example, you have an air group, a ground group, and a support group, I would have to create five groups to serve my purpose; one for each type, one group to move them all together, and a fifth group for just combatants so that my SCV's don't hurl themselves at a group of on-rushing Zergs, kamikazing themselves and raising my blood pressure. I suppose this was done to make it easier to add units to existing groups, but I need to select multiple groups more often than I need to add single units.

The carnage is pretty sweet

Another group gripe; make unit commands distinct enough that they can interoperate with disparate units. Vikings can only attack air units while in the air and ground units while on the ground, and they switch by using the E and D keys. If you have them selected with your typical battle group, these keys will not work, requiring you to painstakingly seek out the Vikings, double click, press the appropriate key, and order them to attack, by which time the rest of your units are gawking vacantly directly into the Battlecruiser death cannon.

I could go on about a few other things, like just making attack move default or making the medics sound like medical professionals and not B-list porn stars, which I can only guess means that in the future women will be stuck in a permanent state of arousal and slutiness, but now I'm just nitpicking. Which is what I do. All in all, I guess I'd have to give a recommendation to StarCraft II. It works, it's challenging, and it will probably provide some good online play though I say that with the massive fucking disclaimer that online play is not an excuse for shitty single player play. It seems that StarCraft II is another example in a disturbingly increasing trend of game developers to not recognize the difference between a sequel and an expansion pack. StarCraft II is basically StarCraft with improved graphics and a handful of new units. They could have just improved the water effects and called it StarCraft: Source.

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Copyright 2011-2014 Chris Radomile