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Denny Markovic
02 Aug, 2010

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Review

PC Review | The Wings of Liberty soar.
After 12 years of anticipation, three years of post-announcement hype, and a Beta that lasted a good few months (and was quite fantastic, mind you), the sequel to one of the most beloved PC games ever released, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty has finally arrived. Blizzard Entertainment is notorious for taking their sweet time with their games, but are also known to release some seriously polished stuff. From Diablo to World of WarCraft, Blizzard has maintained a very solid track record, even if it does take about 80 human years for them to release a game. So how does arguably one of the most anticipated sequels in gaming history fare? Read on to find out.

Wings of Liberty is based four years after the events of StarCraft: Brood War, where the Dominion, lead by the tyrant Arcturus Mengsk dominates the Terran sectors, the enigmatic Protoss and their clans are in disarray and seeking to rebuild their once glorious empire, and the Queen of Blades, Kerrigan has mysteriously gone silent, as her Zerg broods laying dormant on their home world Char. You play as Jim Raynor, the returning hero from the original StarCraft who leads a band of anti-dominion forces known as Raynor’s Raiders. While the Raiders seek to overthrow the Dominion and reveal Mengsk for the tyrant and traitor that he is, they are vastly outnumbered and outgunned, and are on the brink of collapse as they are torn apart by propaganda against them, and Raynor continues looking down the sights of a bottle, blaming himself for the loss of Kerrigan to the Zerg and Mengsk’ rise to power.

All this quickly changes however when an old friend of Raynor’s, Tychus Findlay, appears and offers the Raiders some jobs to find alien artifacts for a mysterious corporation. Who are of course willing to pay big bucks. This throws the revolution into full gear and progresses the story forward, which is both thrilling and full of character development.

The main Bridge in Wings of Liberty's Campaign.

The main Bridge in Wings of Liberty's Campaign.
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Most people who played the original games and loved the story will get the biggest kick out of this narrative, as it not only reveals many new problems, but resolves some enormous ones that have lain dormant for 12 years. The story is full of twists and turns and ends one a very high note and in a somewhat surprising fashion, making us rethink the entire concept of what the next game, Heart of the Swarm will do. And though much of it is a huge level of fan service to the already massive fan base, the story is highly accessible even to complete newbies, as character development and backstory is explained clearly and with expertise.

But not only is the story superbly told, but it integrates exceptionally well with the gameplay itself. Wings of Liberty as everyone knows is an RTS game and plays much like the original; mine exotic resources in order to build a strong economy, which leads to building up a base, powerful units and eventually dominating the game. The basic concept is exactly the same as the original, and it certainly feels like StarCraft. But the single player campaign has been kicked up several notches to elevate it to something that’s not just a simple RTS with a story tacked on.

As you progress throughout the single player, you eventually end up abroad Raynor’s capital ship, the Hyperion. Here the game acts out like a point and click game, where you can talk to characters abroad the ship to learn new things, get to know them and also interact with objects. Missions are played out on the main bridge through the star map, and are presented in a non-linear fashion, allowing you to do optional (but highly rewarding) missions and main missions that give you access to new units, technology and interesting side stories of many characters. As you complete more missions, you gain access to more of the ship. Eventually you’re allowed to enter the Lab, which can be used to upgrade certain buildings and technology collected from either Protoss or Zerg research artifacts, which are scattered throughout the game in several missions. The Armory allows you to spend credits earned from missions on unit add-ons and upgrades, and the Cantina acts more as a chill out ground to watch some quite humorous news reports on the television, hire Mercenaries to use in missions, and even play a vertical scrolling shooter on the arcade machine. The game is extensive and surprisingly very deep, with several different units, options and technological upgrades to choose from which will help you in one way or the other on missions. Most missions will also give you access to new units, many of which are not even in the Multiplayer aspect of the game, so there’s plenty of things to do and see in the campaign; and we haven’t even talked about how the missions pan out.

The armory is both deep, extensive and interesting.

The armory is both deep, extensive and interesting.
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Missions and objectives in Wings of Liberty are ultimately played out like a typical RTS game at the core. However, the story and features are integrated so well into the mission structure that it doesn’t just feel like a skirmish, but that you’re actually fighting and doing things for a reason. Objectives are consistently dynamic and creative, with an earlier level for example requiring you to collect a special form of minerals from ancient geysers, the while fending Protoss forces off your main base and denying them from closing off many of the other geysers on the level. There’s another level which mostly consists of lava, and you have to mine 8000 minerals to complete the mission, while defending yourself from Zerg armies, and moving your workers to high ground when the lava begins to rise. It’s fast paced and exhilarating, requiring some very quick manoeuvres and consistent macro and micromanagement. The game also has several difficulty levels so if it gets too hard, you can bump the difficulty down without worry; meanwhile for the veterans, they have the brutal difficulty setting which damn well lives up to its name, forcing the player into taking on very clever AI opponents and managing his own forces at an insane pace.

The Single Player campaign will net you about 20-30 hours of play very easily. This depends on how keen you are on exploring, which we highly encourage doing so. There are plenty of secrets and Easter eggs scattered throughout the campaign, and even in our second playthrough we’re still finding new things (including a secret mission). It’s a highly replayable component of the game, and it’s obvious that Blizzard has put an incredible amount of work and detail into it, with a superbly paced and well told story that is sure to blow many minds away.

But of course, Wings of Liberty can’t have the StarCraft name without having a Multiplayer component, and as we stated in our preview of the Beta, the component is fantastic, if not very challenging. Once you’re done with the Campaign, Multiplayer and all its features await you, and it’s somehow managed to be completely accessible to newbies and veterans alike, which is surprising considering the immense level of skill that many players have shown in StarCraft. Multiplayer is spread out in leagues, which are dictated by how well you do in five placement matches. Once you’ve done your first five matches (whether it be 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4, all have separate leagues), you are placed in a league which is similar to your skill level, which consist of Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. These leagues work surprisingly very well and remove much of the disparity in skill levels, and in turn allows people to fully enjoy the game and slowly become a better player. And even prior to the league matches, there is an optional practice league for completely new players, which slows down the game and walls off the entrance, allowing you to play against other newcomers to learn the ropes and slowly get up to speed with the large changes and dynamics of the game.

Yo mommaship's so fat..

Yo mommaship's so fat..
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And if that’s not enough for you (yes, there is more), there are the Challenge modes, which further add replayability to an already incredibly deep game. Challenge Mode is a single player component which pans out across all three races, basically teaching you what units counter what in match ups, with your job requiring you to either beat a time limit, destroy a bunch of units with minimal losses to your own, or utilise the abilities of units to maximise efficiency. You’re rated accordingly for each challenge, and there are 9 overall to be completed, ranging from basic all the way to expert mode, which requires you to only use hotkeys and not click on actual abilities. It’s a fun, addictive and fairly challenging mode that will get most new players up to speed, and test the mettle of the experienced.

Apart from the game’s insane amount of content, Wings of Liberty also looks and sounds stunning. While it’s certainly not a game that boasts technical ability, it manages to balance out great looking visuals (with incredible aesthetic) with excellent optimisation, running on three year old hardware perfectly fine. Everything has a unique and interesting look to it and are extremely well detailed, giving off a tonne of personality to a game that is already extensive in its character development. Animation work and in-game models in the single player are superbly done, and if those cut-scenes weren’t enough, you’ve got Blizzards world renowned pre-rendered work in there too, which is quite easily some of and if not the best CGI we have ever seen in a video game. The audio is a massive treat to the senses as well, with excellent sound effects, very high quality voice work (with many of the original voice actors returning) and a wonderfully composed and epic soundtrack adding to the atmosphere of the game.

If you’ve skim-read through the review or just scrolled down to look at the score, you might be surprised to see that even after all the immense praise we’ve given the game, it’s not exactly a perfect score. While the game has virtually flawless gameplay mechanics and incredible production values, we do wonder why Blizzard has chosen to do some of the things they have done with their new Battle.net 2.0 platform. While almost all of it is extremely polished and very well implemented, we question why Blizzard decided to region lock everyone and remove chat rooms. While they don’t necessarily affect the gameplay experience, region locking is somewhat redundant (though will apparently be unlocked in the near future), and the lack of chatrooms is both strange and a little disappointing, as Blizzards earlier RTS titles took pride in having such a tight-knit community in chat.

The CG work is absolutely mind-blowing.

The CG work is absolutely mind-blowing.
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With that said however, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is pretty much an absolute must buy for anyone even considering it, with an enormous amount of content available (and this isn’t even delving into community driven custom maps with the highly advanced free editor), an extraordinarily high level of polish and some very genre-bending single player aspects (and believe us, this is no third of a game). Blizzard once again prove their worth in the industry, and like Valve, show that the PC still has plenty of life in it, and a massive and passionate community to fuel it. The king of RTS has returned, and it’s about damn time.
The Score
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is the definitive RTS experience that bends the genre to its will, and is one of the best PC exclusive titles to be released in years.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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39 Comments
3 years ago
Nice review icon_smile.gif cant wait to play this should have it later today hopefully
3 years ago
I'm not much an RTS fan, didn't even play SC1, but this is single handedly taking away all my time that should be spend doing uni study (far from the first time Denny has introduced me to a game that does this to me either, beginning to suspect him of being sent from the future to prevent me taking over the world), and I haven't even touched single player yet.

So if you're a noob and worried you'll get slaughtered over and over, don't be, the game is very good to beginners with practice league and tutorials, also I'm sure there's plenty of people happy to help on PALGN (such as in the thread in the PC gaming forum).

Oh and any new players, PM me if you want a game and I'll add you then we can organise a game and maybe hop on vent too, wouldn't mind having some new players closer to my skill to compete against.

Speaking of vent though we've got a channel up in it (IP:Port in my sig) now for SC2 so feel free to hop on and use it for some games, if necessary I can create sub channels for team battles if we get enough people/interest in that.
3 years ago
Agree with review and Puddingfork here.. That's basically where I am at, someone who didn't play the first but is enjoying the second immensely. I don't see myself getting good enough to play with the big boys.. but having the practise league there will allow me to give it a try and maybe surprise myself.
3 years ago
The story, missions, multiplayer and the achievement system are all top-notch here. Blows the original game out of the water. The only things I can wish for are a more in-depth challenge mode (only nine missions, pretty much 3 for each race) and more features on Battle.net (chat, clans, etc).

Is anyone else reminded of the Wing Commander series by the campaign's story sections, walking around the Hyperion? =)
3 years ago
grim-one wrote
Is anyone else reminded of the Wing Commander series by the campaign's story sections, walking around the Hyperion? =)
Absolutely i was just thinking the same thing last night, i think its a great addition. Now i want a current gen wing commander!
3 years ago
I played the original, but on in single player. It's a testament to the second instalment that I have already ventured online and has my butt kicked but will be coming back for more!

Everything is just so nicely implemented (I haven't had any of the hassles that some have been reporting). The campaign is absorbing and varied. The VS a.i aspect is a great way to get the basics of multiplayer, and then the pratice league is there to ease yourself into some online battles.

I really want Zerg and Protoss campaigns though.
3 years ago
On the topic of sound, is it me, or does the voice actor on the goliaths totally not match the portrait for them?

Also, at first I was like *meh* at the campaign, I'm up to the 5/6th mission now I think it is where you need to make your first real decision. WOW.

I was literally sitting there for 15 min replaying the conversation trying to choose who to side with. Bravo Blizzard. Bravo.
3 years ago
mantra79 wrote
grim-one wrote
Is anyone else reminded of the Wing Commander series by the campaign's story sections, walking around the Hyperion? =)
Absolutely i was just thinking the same thing last night, i think its a great addition. Now i want a current gen wing commander!
With Mark Hamill!

I loved the WC series.. it seemed like so much more than "Tie vs X-Wing".. probably because of the fresh and well told story.
3 years ago
Zhou wrote
On the topic of sound, is it me, or does the voice actor on the goliaths totally not match the portrait for them?

Also, at first I was like *meh* at the campaign, I'm up to the 5/6th mission now I think it is where you need to make your first real decision. WOW.

I was literally sitting there for 15 min replaying the conversation trying to choose who to side with. Bravo Blizzard. Bravo.
There's this one mission you have to decide.. I won't spoil it for others by saying what it is.. but yer.. I made he decision based on what I would have done in the situation rather than just gameplay.

I remember thinking, "We may just need a little crazy to win this thing.. so I'm going with them."
3 years ago
^I hated that second decision. Took me a good 20 mins to decide, as being a massive fan of the lore and the backstories, I already knew about and loved the characters. They did a hell of a job with the choices.
3 years ago
light487 wrote
There's this one mission you have to decide.. I won't spoil it for others by saying what it is.. but yer.. I made he decision based on what I would have done in the situation rather than just gameplay.

I remember thinking, "We may just need a little crazy to win this thing.. so I'm going with them."
guessing that was where you have a choice between two similar units, one of which can be permenantly cloaked? i went for them- then never actually used that unit at any point in campaign lol. didn't use predators or science vessels much after unlocking them from research either, though science vessels are epic since they're basically medics for vehicles + mobile detection (incidentally, did anyone ever come across any cloaked units in the campaign? closest i remember seeing was some burrowed zerg).
3 years ago
so I should probbably try and track down the first game to play before I give this one a whirl hey?
3 years ago
^ you don't really need to for the story to make sense (they recap what happened in the first game + expansion pretty well) but the first game is pretty good anyway and not that hard to find for <$20.
3 years ago
I'd definitely recommend chasing down a copy of the original sc+ bw. You dont need fancy graphics to tell an epic story.
3 years ago
I'm loving every minute of it so far but my one question for people who have finished it is this.

Is the story good enough to justify only one campaign?

I mean, if you got three campaigns in the game, do people think that would actually be a DETRIMENT to the story that's been told? I'm still a bit iffy on the whole Terran only thing, and I'd like to think they made the right choice, but being so hooked on Multiplayer I can't see myself polishing off the single any time soon.
3 years ago
Sin Ogaris wrote
I'm loving every minute of it so far but my one question for people who have finished it is this.

Is the story good enough to justify only one campaign?

I mean, if you got three campaigns in the game, do people think that would actually be a DETRIMENT to the story that's been told? I'm still a bit iffy on the whole Terran only thing, and I'd like to think they made the right choice, but being so hooked on Multiplayer I can't see myself polishing off the single any time soon.
I'd say it really deppends on how long the story goes for. If it's the length of say the human story in WC 3 then I'd call bullshit, if it's the length of all 4 campaigns in WC 3 then I'd say maybe they needed to split them up.
3 years ago
as far as i'm concerned, definately. each mission is different enough from the others in the game that the campaign would've definately suffered if they'd cut content. they would've had to cut all the side missions from characters like tosh, the zeratul missions (which make campaign so much better by being there because of the variation given by a change in race) and then a few of the main storyline missions, so the main storyline itself would have to be shortened since there's about 15 missions there.
3 years ago
I think I would rather have the zerg/protoss stories as dlc @ like $30 a pop complete with a few more units/maps/challenges.

It's going to be interesting to see how the present the protoss/zerg stories though. Eg will they have a carrier/overlord ship that you can walk around here and there?
3 years ago
Sin Ogaris wrote
I'm loving every minute of it so far but my one question for people who have finished it is this.

Is the story good enough to justify only one campaign?

I mean, if you got three campaigns in the game, do people think that would actually be a DETRIMENT to the story that's been told? I'm still a bit iffy on the whole Terran only thing, and I'd like to think they made the right choice, but being so hooked on Multiplayer I can't see myself polishing off the single any time soon.
The campaign is bigger than all 3 SC1 campaigns combined, which was about the size of all WC3. That and the story ends, REALLY well. Like, it leaves you hanging on what happens next, but has some really interesting resolutions and such and closes off some huge parts of the game. The second will be interesting as the concept of what you think it might do changes significantly after the end of this one, and the third may indeed change as well.

There's just a tonne of narrative to it all. It's turning out to be a lot more epic in proportion than I originally thought.
3 years ago
Perfect, that's exactly what I needed to hear. I've only done about 7 missions, and so far every single mission has been completely different. So if that holds up right the way through then I can't see my fears being warranted.

It's good to hear it from someone else.

I must say, kudos to Blizzard for making a sole campaign so damn engrossing.
3 years ago
Agent 042 wrote
light487 wrote
There's this one mission you have to decide.. I won't spoil it for others by saying what it is.. but yer.. I made he decision based on what I would have done in the situation rather than just gameplay.

I remember thinking, "We may just need a little crazy to win this thing.. so I'm going with them."
guessing that was where you have a choice between two similar units, one of which can be permenantly cloaked? i went for them- then never actually used that unit at any point in campaign lol. didn't use predators or science vessels much after unlocking them from research either, though science vessels are epic since they're basically medics for vehicles + mobile detection (incidentally, did anyone ever come across any cloaked units in the campaign? closest i remember seeing was some burrowed zerg).
Yer icon_smile.gif I found the same with many of the units being added. There's a lot of variety in the units, which is good but by the time you realise you could have used that special unit, you have already built up a massive army and added some mercs to it, so you don't really need the specialised units.
3 years ago
Sin Ogaris wrote
Perfect, that's exactly what I needed to hear. I've only done about 7 missions, and so far every single mission has been completely different. So if that holds up right the way through then I can't see my fears being warranted.

It's good to hear it from someone else.

I must say, kudos to Blizzard for making a sole campaign so damn engrossing.
Yer.. I was a little worried that the solo campaign would suffer the same fate as many other titles that rely heavily on the multiplayer to make sales. However, it is really worth the time and effort to get through. The side missions are great and not just stuck on and all the little conversations and stuff you have between missions are well presented and thought out as well.

I am eagerly awaiting the next chapter even though I haven't even finished the first one yet...

Do we have any idea when the next chapter is due?
3 years ago
i'd suspect it'll be at least a year, i think they had a few zerg/protoss missions done before they decided to split into 3 parts but not enough for a game the length of wings. that said, the gap between the original and brood war was apparently only about 8 months so it could be similar here.
3 years ago
Supposedly, it's more like an 18 month dev cycle.

To put it all into context, they've only just started developing Heart of the Swarm recently. And it's going to be another full-fledged campaign with additional multiplayer features (in the way of new units, new meta game, etc).

There's a fair bit of work for them to do, and from a marketing point of view they want to be riding the WoL wave for as long as they can.

My guess is late 2011/early 2012.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  27/07/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Activision
Genre:
  RTS
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  1
System Requirements:
Minimum Requirements:
• Windows XP SP3/Vista SP1/Windows 7
• 2.2 Ghz Pentium IV or equivalent AMD Athlon processor
• 1 GB system RAM/1.5 GB for Vista and Windows 7
• 128 MB NVidia GeForce 6600 GT/ATI Radeon 9800 PRO video card
• 1024x768 minimum display resolution
• Broadband connection

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