I am not that into multi-player, as far as real time strategy games are concerned. Even if purchasing directly from Blizzard Store means spending less, Starcraft II does cost more than the average PC games today. So, is the money well spent?
Many friends asked me: Does Starcraft II play the same way as the original game that is 12 years older, merely as a graphic update? For a start, this sequel does play like the old game. But in a good way. Playing Starcraft II is like cycling. Once you are on a bicycle, even if you have not cycled for donkey number of years, when you start paddling, it is the good old feeling once again. If you are new to the game, there are in-game tutorial videos to guide you through. There are also an in-game reference guide listing of all the units, what their strength and weakness are. If you have played the original game 12 years ago, in no time, you would start labeling your units and structures, issuing build and kill orders, and building up the defence and a balanced troop – much like a second nature to you.
To say that Starcraft II plays merely like the old game in all aspects is grossly a misconception. There is a robust achievement system that encourage you to replay each mission with a harder setting or harder goals that are clearly defined . In turn, achievement scores are earned. I like this aspect a lot because getting through the plot is rather easy. Playing a beautiful game is not. While the achievement score means little other than an overall sense of satisfaction, there are mission credits that you can spent on permanently upgrading your units and structures and hiring mercenaries to fight with you. There are also Zerg and Protoss research points for you to unlock useful abilities. Abilities that require you to carefully decide based on the trade offs. If you are not that into micromanagement for instance, go for passive benefits.
Starcraft II is an accessible game (which reminds me of World of Warcraft). On normal setting, most of the campaigns are forgiving, except the time critical ones that may require you to up your thinking and execution speed. There are often main objectives that you must achieve in order to progress. And there are bonus objectives that are rewarding, but not a must to complete. If normal setting is too hard for you, you can lower it to casual. And if normal mode is too easy for you, there is a hard mode. And there is a brutal mode too. Completing the entire game in brutal mode will earn you a Sarah Kerrigan online portrait (and a lot of respect from the Starcraft gamers).
There are often multiple strategies that can lead to victory. Each campaign showcases a new unit. I must say, I only get to use that new unit a lot on that particular campaign. Thereafter, I usually stick with what works best for me. In my case, air domination. I do at times feel bad that there are so many units that I don’t get to use besides that one campaign when they were introduced. Perhaps single-player campaigns are training ground to the multi-player games?
Another point to note is that there are rare occasions that you may make a plot related decision that opens up a new mission while closing off another. But fear not, you get to play these alternative missions after you beat the game. Instead of progressing the plot in a linear manner like the original Starcraft, you get to take on different mission chains in the order you prefer. Having said that, you must complete each chain before you can head for the final plot. In that sense, the plot is still linear. Just that you get to – most of the time – choose which mission comes first.
It is true that majority of the time you play as a Terran. Starcraft II is in no way lesser than the original game in terms of the number of missions. I enjoy the deeper story and character development. On that note, I can understand why some may wish that the story develops in parallel with the other two races – Zerg and Protoss.
I in particularly enjoy watching the cut-scenes prior and after each mission. Good story development remains as the strength of the Starcraft franchise. The cinematic clips are beautiful. And you get to watch them again and again once you have unlocked them. The music is beautiful too. There is a jukebox and it plays some Western music as well as rock music in the 70s (I think … and my favorite track is “Raw Power”). There is much humor in the game. I like that anything-but-unbiased UNN news broadcast a lot.
Depending on how good you are with this genre, total play time may vary. I am not so good at real time strategy games. I reckon I may have spent about 20 to 30 hours to complete the game in normal mode including reloading the mission in order to try another strategy. Now that I have completed the game, I may spend some time to collect the missing achievement points on normal mode. Unsure if I would try the hard and brutal mode but if you do, be prepared to put aside more time and effort.
Does the game worth my US$59.99? Without a doubt.