Just about a year ago, we wrote that Starcraft 2 had been a long time coming and that we were looking forward to getting our hands on a copy. That time has arrived: we've spent the last few days feverishly playing the single player campaign and multiplayer bouts, cutting ourselves off from contact with the outside world. We'll have a complete review of Starcraft 2 soon, but for now here's a list of the things we're pleased to see in Blizzard's latest epic (as well as a few minor disappointments).
We love: The enthralling storyline
It builds on an extensive back-story, and Starcraft 2's narrative expands the canon significantly, with a few choice flashbacks helping create an exciting adventure that you want to keep playing. One could argue that the story isn't particularly extensive — it is lengthened by a half-hour mission between each chapter — but plenty of events take place (although we won't spoil it, we promise) and there's never a dull moment. Just like a Dan Brown book, new twists pop up along the way and the action never ceases. Best of all, you're forced to make decisions that influence the path of the story, giving you a sense of investment in the unfolding events. It's no secret that Wings of Liberty is the first of three parts, but if you think this is an excuse for a mediocre single player campaign you'd be dead wrong.
We love: Awesome full-motion video cut-scenes
There are no two ways about this: Starcraft 2's cinematic cut-scenes are excellent. They're consistently well thought out and directed, with no cringeworthy moments and some impressive visual effects. The in-game graphics of Starcraft 2 aren't all that jaw-dropping, but the cut-scenes do a good job of immersing you in the Starcraft universe. They're packed with hard-hitting action and occasional moments of levity. Watching every cut-scene in between missions is a great way to brush up on your Starcraft lore and get reacquainted with old allies and enemies.
We love: Some minor interface and gameplay tweaks
Starcraft 2's similarity to the original is a polarising topic — either you hate the seemingly lazy attitude to game design or love how similar it is to the original. It's not identical, however, with a few tweaks that we think enhance the experience. Zooming and panning the camera, for example — it might not sound like much, but if there's a lull in the action it's great to be able to get down to ground level and admire the grandeur (or disarray) of your troops. We also like the ability to pause between missions to upgrade units, research new technologies or blow off some steam. Hanging out in the cantina gives you the chance to watch some news, interact with NPCs for more back-story or play mini-games on an arcade machine. Being able to choose your next mission is a bonus — if one is a bit hard or sounds a bit boring, you don't have to tackle it straight away.
We love: Getting thrashed in multiplayer
Yep, just like the old days. When we were young we were big fans of Starcraft and the Brood War expansion, often spending hours on end (over dial-up Internet, mind you) fielding huge armies and discovering new strategies. In between single player Starcraft 2 action we jumped online for a few quick multiplayer bouts... and were promptly beaten by all and sundry. Starcraft 2 offers some slight changes to multiplayer, but it still stays true to the finely balanced three-race system. This is good for hardcore players who can duke it out with the greats just like they have been for the last 12 years, and the tiered and ranked Battle.net system actually does a reasonably good job of matching you up with a player of similar skill.
We still got whipped, though.
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