Game Review: StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
Gaming is as much a victim of sequelitis as are movies. The key difference is that since game technology evolves much faster than film-making, the next iteration is at the very least more glossy, visually stunning and intricate. That being said, games are subject to the same dramatic principles and storyline is as much a part of the game experience as the visual imagery.
Like Inception, the much-hyped StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty from Blizzard Entertainment seems to be a humdinger of a game at first blush. Coming more a decade after the original StarCraft game, it delivers a rich, glamorous visual experience, but the same can't be said for its over-intricate and yet uninteresting backstory, the same hackneyed tale of rebels against an overarching Confederacy. Military science fiction has a set tenor, and it would be heresy to deviate from this pace, or to focus on subaltern studies in the space battlefields.
The characters are limited to trivial verbal reactions and mostly move from bunker to barracks to enemy territory, flashing some fury, yet not really engaging with the player like Red Dead Redemption or the Call of Duty series. The top-down gameplay distances one from the action, as it were, and the inter-campaign setting on the Hyperion battlecruiser is richly detailed, yet all too static.
The game features three races - the alien Protoss and Zerg and the Terran, that term which has not yet gained currency on our planet beyond the sci-fi realm. The single-player campaign storyline that is currently available is from the Terran perspective, while subsequent releases will feature the other two races, ensuring Title IX compliance. The usual build, deploy, and attack protocols apply in StarCraft II as in other RTS games, although the designers have included various random environmental elements to create an illusion of variety. Fortunately for the underpowered gamer, the game renders quite well on basic hardware with even a 128 MB GPU sufficient for low quality rendering. The game is available on both the Microsoft Windows and the Macintosh platforms. The cinematic cut-scenes are precisely that - cinematic - although a decade of visual spectacle has inured one to the experience.
The multiplayer experience on Battle.net has a lot going for it, and the StarCraft II Marketplace will introduce an etsy-like bazaar for maps and perhaps later custom embeddable widgets, if Blizzard borrows a page from their Warcraft playbook. Large online tournaments are likely to become the rage soon enough. Interestingly, StarCraft II holds the dubious distinction of being both the most pirated and biggest selling game to be distributed via BitTorrent this year.
Perhaps its the jaded nature of RTS and action-oriented gameplay in general that gives one a less than enthusiastic experience from this well-produced game, yet, if you're looking for revolutionary gameplay, this is not the game for you. All the same, it has hours of gameplay and at least momentarily you should feel yourself slipping into the game-verse and rooting for Jim Raynor and his motley crew against the evil Mengsk.