I’ve talked previously about Starcraft 2, how I felt about receiving it on release day and how I reacted to two issues of choice in the single-player game, but I haven’t really reviewed it properly, so I thought I’d do so today. For those who don’t know, Starcraft is Blizzard’s sci-fi/fantasy IP about humans living in kind of frontier space with an hive-alien race called Zerg and an ancient-tech-alien race called Protoss. The game itself is a real time strategy game, which means you manage building up your base and sending your troops to attack theirs (and their base) in each game. In the single-player campaign, there are often other more specific objectives you have to accomplish with the resources you find/leverage.
The Starcraft 2 single-player campaign was pretty impressive. Not only did it cleanly introduce the player to the units and structures you can build (by way of play-to-learn levels), but it also told an interesting story and made me care a bit about my choices (by rewarding me with more story or with stuff) and gave me a wide range of customization – and since RTS games are about “customizing” the units you use and the strategy you take based on what’s happening minute to minute, further customization is a perfect addition here where in other games it may just feel extraneous. I liked that the missions you got in single player varied widely in goal type, and it usually wasn’t “kill all the enemy buildings,” which is great because I can do that in multiplayer vs. a real human opponent. One thing I disliked (although I admit this could be personal preference) is that the achievements/badges you get in the campaign mode aren’t told to you until after you complete a mission, and when you make a choice about what sort of customization you want, it is often irreversible – two things that made me feel like I was forced to replay the same content to “achieve everything.”
Speaking of which, the multiplayer in Starcraft 2 is actually something I got a head start on, joining the beta along with many friends to play online. Multiplayer in Starcraft continues to be the pinnacle of online real-time strategy games for me: it has the right number of units, the right number of structures required to make those units, and the right number of “spellcasting” units so that the intense micromanagement of your units is an opt-in experience. I am by no means an excellent Starcraft 2 player, but I love playing with friends in 2v2 or 3v3 capacity, and the game is well set up to make that function.
Sequel Power: More like Back to the Future 2, less like Terminator 2 (good, though!)
Use of Choice and Achievements to Enforce Replay: C
Zergling Rush: Still strong, after all these years!