Starcraft II: The Wings of Liberty Review

  • Format: PC (version reviewed), Mac
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Players: 1-8
  • Site:

Twelve years ago Blizzard Entertainment crafted a little crack rock known as Starcraft, an RTS strategy game that’s been lauded as one of the most tightly balanced titles to date. Officially announced over two years ago, and finally coming out just this month, Blizzard’s sequel has hit Earth, and it’s not a crack rock this time: it’s a crack meteor.

The game, which still features the same three races—Terran, Protoss, and Zerg—takes place some five years after Brood Lords, the original Starcraft expansion. The game will bring you up to date if you haven’t played the original, so we won’t waste too much time with story here, suffice to say the conflict centres on space rebel Jim Raynor and his ex-babe Kerrigan, who’s since morphed into something of an alien hive queen. The conflict feels a bit flat at times, as do the characters, but the plot is simple, strong, and engaging enough to keep your attention when you’re not blasting enemies into meat cinders.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the franchise is the inclusion of the Hyperion, Raynor’s Battle Cruiser, in which you’ll spend your time between missions. While players can immediately skip ahead to the next space battle, the Hyperion proves to be worth a bit of poking around. On board are characters who provide commentary on previous or upcoming missions, jukeboxes loaded with unique music, and upgrades for units and structures that can be used throughout the campaign. These segments play out in the style of a point-and-click adventure game, and are successful largely due to the amount of detail Blizzard packed into this glimpse of their universe. Whether you’re reading up on unit types in the armory, watching news reports, or playing the cantina’s Lost Viking arcade game, the Hyperion provides ample amounts of entertainment.

Welcome to the Hyperion, and yes, it has a bar.

As for the missions themselves, players should find them varied and compelling. In one, for instance, players must coordinate their attacks with a day-night cycle, the latter half of which brings hordes of enemies that require a tightly-managed defence (and lots of flame-throwers!); in another, buildings and units must be continuously moved across the map to avoid a wall of fire that threatens to engulf the entire planet. Ultimately, many of the missions boil down to search-and-destroy or hold-and-defend objectives, but Blizzard has done enough to make them feel like much more.

Some players might feel jilted by the fact that the campaign is Terran-only (save for a few hidden Protoss missions), seeing as how the original and its expansion included campaigns for all three races. Still, there are 29 missions in total, each of which has bonus secondary objectives and challenges for varying difficulties. Add the aptly-named Brutal difficulty, and voilà! Plenty of replay value for those interested solely in the single-player experience.

Brutal difficulty will be... uh, brutal.

Of course, the real attraction for Starcraft II is its multiplayer. While the Beta more-or-less established that Starcraft II was going to own online gamers’ souls for months (if not years) to come, the retail version serves as the final proof. Gamers can play ranked 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, and 4v4 matches, or play cooperative, unranked matches against computer opponents. A slew of custom maps and matches are already online (including the heralded DotA), and more arrive by the day. In short, Starcraft II is turning out to be a multiplayer monster.

Of course, all of Starcraft’s online glory wouldn’t be much without the new, Blizzard’s latest innovation in gaming community. The service is cross game, meaning that friends playing World of Warcraft can chat with you between missions. Furthermore, there is no subscription fee to speak of, and the interface is incredibly polished, efficient, and quick: No one at the Critical Gamer office has waited for more than a full minute for a 1v1 or 2v2 match, and the larger matches load in two minutes or less. Blizzard has also integrated a Facebook application into the service, automatically adding registered friends if you agree for it to do so, making it easier than ever to connect and play with more people from Real Life. Lastly, Blizzard’s ranking system works like a charm, providing unique rankings to each team setup you play with; so whereas you and Joe Blow might be ranked 37 in the Bronze League for 2v2, you and Joe Schmoe can be pushing for placement in Diamond League.

The in all its shiny blue-and-orange glory.

It would have been nice to see some new multiplayer units for the retail release of Starcraft II (especially the ones available only in the campaign), but Blizzard probably has to save something besides new campaign missions for their next instalment…

Here at the CG office, we’re a bit weary of issuing perfect 10/10s. In theory, there shouldn’t ever be a “perfect” game. By their very nature, the complexity of and scope of digital titles should warrant at least one weak spot, one moment or scenario where the game itself feels flat, where the developers had to push through for the sake of making a deadline. If Starcraft II has such a spot, it doesn’t show. The gameplay is practically boiled down to a science, and the highly-polished presentation is downright astounding. Even the story, the one possibly “weak” portion of the game, is still entirely appropriate for the genre and feel of the title: Kick-Ass Action Blockbuster.

In short, there’s nothing about Starcraft II that needs fixing, tweaking, or changing. It’s been over a decade since the release of its predecessor, and every one of its dozen years of development is apparent. Starcraft II is back on the block, boys and girls, and it was bloody worth the wait.


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Written by Robert L.

One comment

  1. Liam Race (Deathawaits ID) /

    What a great game this review nails it; perfect single player and the most addictive multiplayer around. The army’s are so balanced which is so important for RTS’s.

    Catch me on Deathawaits.

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