Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty Reviewed

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Starcraft 2: Multiplayer, Conclusion

The one arguable flaw in Starcraft 2's single player game is that it doesn't do much to prepare you for multiplayer. While you'll have a solid grasp on the basics of base construction and defense after completing the campaign, playing against humans is very different than playing against the computer AI. This is exacerbated by the unit and research differences between the two modes. Many of the units that returned from Starcraft in the single-player game—Firebats, Medics, Wraiths, and Goliaths, to name a few—are unavailable in multiplayer.


Pro Tip:  Never, ever trust a Zerg player who tells you he's new after his partner DCs.

This necessitates a change of tactics, both compared to the single-player game and the original Starcraft. Team Blizzard has taken multiple steps to ease the transition—the game provides a variety of "Challenge" scenarios, many of which are aimed at teaching players how to effectively micromanage units as well as identify the proper response to a variety of attacks.

Once online, gamers are offered 50 Practice League missions with special novice maps and a slower game speed. The practice league can be skipped, but the matches are an excellent way to become acquainted with all three races before venturing into the big leagues.

Balance And Differences

Starcraft's great contribution to RTS gaming wasn't just its story but its faction design. Unlike Warcraft 2, where the differences between Horde and Alliance boiled down to different sprites, animations, and spells, the Protoss, Zerg, and Terrans played distinctly differently. Starcraft 2 retains and builds on this core principle; the refinements and changes to the three races manage to significantly alter gameplay without contradicting the original game's design. Terrans are still excellent defenders with moderate unit costs, Protoss units are more expensive but generally more powerful, and the Zerg still favor fast strikes and cheap units.

One of the significant changes to SC2 as compared to SC is the availability / effectiveness of ground-to-air units. Terran Marines are still the earliest and cheapest A2G unit and Protoss have early access to the Stalker (Dragoon 2.0), but Hydralisks have moved deeper in the tech tree and Goliaths are gone. This encourages Terran and Zerg players to build more air units to counter air attacks rather than relying on ground units—the Terran Thor is highly effective as a G2A unit in certain circumstances, but is too expensive and slow to fill the Goliath's shoes as a walking missile turret.


The left-hand image is of a Zerg base in the early stages of construction and fully zoomed in; the Hatchery in that image is mutating into a lair. On the right, a group of enemy Mutalisks are destroying my base--a fully mutated Zerg Lair is to the lower-left.

Hydralisks, meanwhile, are still an important component of Zerg strategy, but aren't the automatic go-to unit that they were in SC:BW. They suffer a significant movement penalty when not on creep and will be cut to shreds when facing an entrenched Siege Tank or Marine/Marauder combo, particularly if the latter is backed by a Medivac or two.

The best way to get into SC2's multiplayer is to dive in headfirst, possibly with a handy online guide open. The practice games are a great way to get experience and beginning strategies are easy to learn and effective.


Protoss Void Rays are a new addition to the game; their beam weapons take several seconds to charge to full power. Once charged, a full group of VR's can cut through enemies in seconds.

As for whether or not multiplayer is balanced, it's easier to flip the question around and ask: "Does game balance need tweaking?" The answer here is undoubtedly yes—Blizzard has already listed changes it will introduce in the first major game patch, due in September. That said, game balance is pretty darn good right now; we've had a lot of fun in multiplayer against all three races and on multiple maps.

Conclusion:


Jim Raynor, the original Big Damn Hero

Starcraft 2 is a great game whether you play the campaign, play online, or both. The storyline is compelling, the missions are interesting, and Blizzard has taken pains to gradually introduce multiplayer newbies to online games without smashing them in the face with an iron pan of difficulty. Our fears that the single-player campaign might be too short were groundless; the company's announcement that the sequels—Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void—will be priced as expansion packs rather than stand-alone titles makes Starcraft 2 all the more compelling.

If you disliked the original Starcraft or don't play RTS games, SC2 won't change your mind on either point. Everyone else will have a blast. 

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