It’s a sequel twelve years in the making, gamers have been anticipating it for ages, and finally it has hit PC’s. The game even boasts primitive, yet satisfying, co-op capabilities. Yes it’s Duke Nu....errr, no it’s not. It’s StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, and Co-Optimus is going to take a look to see just how co-op the game is, as well as how well its RTS formula as evolved for this long awaited sequel. Will our co-op go soaring to the stars or never quite leave the ground?
Entering the StarCraft II realm after a 12 year gap between right now and the first game seems like it would be like re-learning some great skill. Playing a game like this is like picking up a bicycle after 12 years - it’s simple, but you might need a little refresher before really taking off. Thankfully, Blizzard has made sure to give you the proper training wheels before sending you on your way, and it helps that not a whole lot has changed.
While installing the game, you’ll get a great recap from the first game for those that forget or never played the campaign story. You’re left with a broken outlaw of a man, Jim Raynor, angry at his former ally turned tyrant Emperor, and tormented by the guilt of losing Kerrigan at the hands of the Zerg. At least, they cover the main story - but oddly leave out the events from the expansion pack The Brood War. After being brought up to date and watching one of those nicely rendered intro cinematics that Blizzard is famous for, you’re given your first mission.
While the game is mostly familiar, StarCraft II feels a bit different than the StarCraft you may be used to. The campaign mixes things up a bit by creating a hybrid between the great things like the original StarCraft, WarCraft 3, and even adds some Dawn of War 2 style RPG-lite elements. The a strong mission variety here, and not all of them are simply build a base and kill all the bad guys. While some follow this formula, others have you protecting a goal, while other missions will have you searching for artifacts from the advanced and proud Protoss, or the vast infectious Zerg. There is even a nice surprise new race that makes an appearance, but I won’t ruin that for those interested in the story. These can then be used to research and upgrade your units with new technology.
Other missions have you taking a small contingency of “hero” characters through hostile territory armed only with a healing unit and a few special powers, while others utilize environmental hazards like rising pools of lava or day and night cycles to mix things up. All of the missions do serve the main goal: Uncovering the treachery of the now Terran (human) “Emperor” as well as stopping an advancing Zerg Plague set to wipe out the entire universe. I’m guessing SARS masks didn’t work.
StarCraft II’s RTS elements are still largely based on mining minerals or collecting Vespine gas with your SCVs. Fortunately there are quite a few purchasable and permanent campaign upgrades that help with this tediousness, including self-mining gas refineries, and faster building SCV’s. Balancing your force vs. defense is absolutely necessary, especially when some missions leave you with a precious few resources in general. Completely new is a merc system which allows you to hire upgraded Mercenary units and drop them in during missions - for the right price.
Between these great missions you’re dropped into a richly detailed static screen, it almost looks like a point and click adventure game. In it you’ll see Jim Raynor and crew in various areas of a ship (or bar). There’s a cantina, command bridge, a laboratory, and other areas with a variety of shiny things around him to click on and check out. These different idle screens will have a lot of interaction and you’ll be able to get additional story elements through news broadcasts or by talking with characters. Most importantly you can purchase upgrades and research new units and technology to help you along the way as well as hire mercenary factions for additional aid.