StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the long-awaited follow-up to the 1998 smash hit StarCraft, takes the rock-solid gameplay of the original and adds 21st-century polish to create a new gold standard for real-time strategy games.
For many fans of that genre, the 1998 StarCraft by Blizzard Entertainment was a brilliant game that raised the bar so high that no other game has surpassed it. To this day, there are gamers online playing the original. It's that good.
Blizzard knew this, and while developing StarCraft II, the company very much took the play-it-safe approach. This isn't necessarily a bad thing in this case, though, as the fundamental gameplay of both games is so unbelievably good that altering anything substantially would almost surely have negative effects on the overall experience.
Upon playing StarCraft II for the first time, players of the original will feel right at home and will be able to start building bases in no time. The visual upgrades are welcome, and although not top of the line, they are impressive for the complexity and scale of some battles.
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Many other real-time strategy games focus on preparing the player for multiplayer or artificial intelligence battles, but StarCraft II really shines in single-player mode. There is a well-delivered single-player campaign mode with a deep and interesting story line.
Besides building bases and battling for survival, players will be aboard a spaceship, where a completely new interface presents itself. On this spaceship, players are able to perform upgrades, acquire new missions, prepare for upcoming missions, hear back story on certain events or even watch videos based on the current objective. This creates a rich and rewarding single-player experience.
Multiplayer or AI modes in StarCraft II also hark back to the original. There are subtle changes to the core strategies, but all in all, it feels very much the same. Make no mistake, the zergling rush, aka blitzing enemies, is back with a vengeance.
The new and improved incorporation of online service Battle.net into the game is a welcome addition and is implemented well. New gamers should definitely play a lot of AI modes before going into true multiplayer online, though, because the skill level of many players is extremely high after 12 years of play.
StarCraft II might initially feel like a rehashed, visually upgraded version of the 1998 original, but after investing some hours, players will quickly find there is a bit more depth here. For fans of the genre, this is an absolute must-buy game because it probably will be around for 12 more years at the top of the charts.