StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty Review

Blizzard had a huge challenge to overcome with the release of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (WoL). Apart from the expectations for multiplayer from the StarCraft: Brood War community, it had to sell its campaign to the larger audience and then coax those players back into the multiplayer game. The decision was made early on to separate the campaign and multiplayer games and, as such, this is really two games in one.

First and foremost, I agree with Blizzard's decision to split the game into the initial Terran campaign and forthcoming expansions with the Zerg and Protoss campaigns. This campaign is huge and completely worthy being presented as the first offering of the StarCraft II trilogy. I don't know if I would have been able to handle 90 missions all at once, nor would I have wanted 10 missions for each race in the game and each expansion.

The mini-Protoss campaign included in WoL also serves as a great change of pace and offers an awesome bit of narrative alongside the main missions. The main star of the singleplayer campaign, however, is the mission design. Each mission is unique and presents a new mechanic or minigame. Repetitive base-building is minimized and the time spent waiting while you build an army is brief. Bonus objectives are numerous and the achievements add another layer on top encouraging multiple playthroughs.

You'll probably see all of the plot twists a mile away, but Blizzard has done a great job with bringing StarCraft's world into present day with the singleplayer campaign's presentation and non-linear design. Once the campaign is finished, it's time for a quick pit-stop with the game's 9 challenges, all intended to teach multiplayer concepts like unit counters, hotkey usage, rush defense, and multitasking. Everyone should play them as they are not only educational, but challenging and fun.

The multiplayer is basically what was available during phase 2 of the beta test and is a fairly balanced initial offering. It should have something for everyone ranging from 1v1 ladder play all the way to comp stomps and custom games. It remains to be seen if the meta-game will continue to evolve in a major way prior to the expansions, but I'm hopeful that new maps and more players will lead to some interesting builds and strategies in the short-term.

While the game itself is incredibly polished, both on and offline, 2.0 is still very much a work-in-progress. There are some issues that remain--lack of chat rooms, custom map publishing limitations--but Blizzard is hopefully working to solve these in due time. Would I have wanted the game delayed until 2.0 exhibited the same maturity as the game itself? Absolutely not! I'll deal with its shortcomings if it means I get to play StarCraft II.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty isn't perfect, but it's damn close. The campaign is engrossing and varied, while the multiplayer component will be played for years to come. The upcoming expansions will help refresh the game when they are finally released and should bring major changes to the competitive scene. 2.0 stands out as the game's low-point, but should only annoy the die-hards. For most players, it functions well enough and allows them to get in and play some games. And as their track record shows, Blizzard tends to support its games for an extremely long time.

From The Chatty
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    August 2, 2010 4:07 PM

    Brian, I think you were a little too harsh on BattleNet 2.0. I didn't play StarCraft 1, so I can't compare the two systems, but nevertheless, I am impressed by what Blizzard has put out. BattleNet 2.0 is incredibly polished and functional. The matchmaking seems better than any game I've ever played before, and the UI is clean and easy to navigate. The animated, transforming box at the top always gets me to smile too.

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      August 2, 2010 4:08 PM

      I said as much. 2.0 isn't the UI. I also state that only the hardcore will likely care, but for them they are very real issues. For everyone else, it works great.

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      August 2, 2010 4:12 PM

      Bnet 2.0 is the loneliest place on the internet. There's zero interaction with anyone outside your immediate group of friends. And adding friends is the worst system ever. You need a 3 digit ID code or their email, so I can't just add everyone I know by just their handle. I hate how Bnet 2.0 is billed as a next-gen social interaction platform, but it sucks in every way imaginable when compared to services released 10 years ago.

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        August 2, 2010 4:15 PM

        Bnet 2.0 worked fine for me for adding friends. Added around 30 through Facebook automatically and the rest in one shot with handle + ID from the shack listing of names.

        I've got over 100 friends listed and it only took me about 15 minutes to setup.

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          August 2, 2010 4:29 PM

          Right, but you used a thread and facebook. I personally don't want to do the facebook integration. I have a thread with a bunch of friends posted, but the point is that people who haven't posted in that thread are essentially invisible to me. Even if I know their handle. I don't have a problem adding friends where I know their information; it's people who's information I don't have that are the hard part. For Steam/Counter-Strike, that's not a problem. You can setup a Steam group from which you can add different people. You can designate a server as a gathering place for people you know. You can't do any of these things in Bnet 2.0.

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            August 2, 2010 4:40 PM

            I'm confused. If you don't have their information, how are you suggesting you add them?

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              August 2, 2010 4:59 PM

              I'm saying before Bnet 2.0, you could have a common area for people to group. For example, instead of adding every single person in that shack thread to my friendslist, there could have been a #shacknews channel created and people would constantly filter in and out of there. Or there could have been a shacknews-SC2 group created and people would join that. That's a much better way of interacting with people rather than finding every single person's ID/email out and adding them to your friendslist.

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          August 3, 2010 9:52 AM

          I propose a simple experiment for you, Brian. Mutually add 10 people from ladder games that you've played to your friend's list that you would be interested in gaming with in the future either in 2on2 or 1on1. See how far you get in a month.

          This wasn't a problem in SC1, WC3, etc etc... since after the game you can message the person easily (unique handle), or you get dumped into a channel & there is some downtime between games in which you can message people. Also, it was much easier to add players to your friend's list. /f add <username>. Bam. It's done. This can be done in game, in game lobby, or in chat lobby.

          In the new UI, you have to navigate through old matches, retrieve their 3 digit identifier, and then message them, have them respond, and then add each other to their respective list. It's cumbersome, awkward, and not intuitive at all. Worst part, no one responds to your requests. Case in point: how many people have requested you to be on their friend's list in all the ladder games you've played? I am willing to bet that it's zero. From all the ladder matches I've played since beta (200+), not once has anyone requested a friend invite. I've sent out ~50 friend invites, and have gotten responses from TWO players. Cadence and Gothzilla were their handles, but now I don't know how to contact them at all. Why? Cuz I don't have their unique identifier. So the two ladder friends I did make are lost in the void that is 2.0.

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            August 3, 2010 9:55 AM

            You actually don't have to find their 3 digit identifier and I believe you can add them as character friends without any mutual agreement.

            I've conversed with around 10 ladder opponents through beta and retail about the game we just played and some strategy talk.

            It's not ideal, but I think Blizzard will eventually address this with groups/chat. It just isn't going to be for a while.

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            August 3, 2010 10:02 AM

            Proof, I guess, that innovation isn't always a good thing? :P

            It is odd that they apparently spent 12 years just figuring out how to fuck up a chat client.

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            August 6, 2010 11:57 AM

            Just wanted to update you:

            Had a game last night, PvP where I won against a guy. PvP is my strongest match-up, his weakest.

            He gg'd but didn't quit, instead asking for some advice from me. I shared and then he gave me some tips on PvT and PvZ. We friend-listed each other and continued sharing our game reports for the next hour or two.

            It really just depends on the people you run into.

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      August 2, 2010 4:29 PM

      I find it lacking in the sense that there's no chatrooms anymore. Why are they removing the internets lol, this is a pc only game.

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        August 2, 2010 4:38 PM

        They are adding chat rooms, it's just going to take a few.

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          August 2, 2010 6:29 PM

          Yes, it was confirmed here in the shack that they are working on chatrooms, not for release date but not far from it either.

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      August 3, 2010 10:01 AM

      I wonder if we will be able to have bots after they implement the chat rooms. I remember in good ole where you would have some bots in a channel guarding your clan :D

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      August 3, 2010 11:07 AM

      It was so much easier to get what I needed to get done in Warcraft 3.

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        August 3, 2010 11:49 AM

        Apparently, the tedious babysitting is supposed to be the "depth" of this game.

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