Review Date: August 21 2010
Publisher: Blizzard Enertainment
Developer: Blizzard Enertainment
ESRB Rating: Teen
Genre: Real-time Strategy Game
Platforms: Windows, Mac
It has been many years since Blizzard released an RTS game and more than a decade since the original StarCraft came out, but the long wait for StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty is finally over. Sequels can be risky because some people want unique and innovative changes, while others want the game to stay close to its roots, which, after all, bought about the franchise's popularity in the first place. StarCraft 2 manages to walk a fine line between the old and the new that is likely to go over well with both long-time fans and those that are just introducing themselves to the IP.
Although the single-player campaign will be broken into three parts, one for each race, the multiplayer component of Wings of Liberty is complete. As in the original, you play as either Terran, Protoss, or Zerg, three races that are dramatically different from one another, both in how they look and how they play.
Featured in the single-player campaign in Wings of Liberty, the Terran are technologically advanced human descendants. Terrans have fewer limitations on building spots than the other races, because Protoss can only build near pylons and Zerg need creep to build on. Terran supply depots make handy walls and can be lowered to allow friendly troops through.
Although they still have Battlecruisers, Ghosts, and Marines, Terrans have several new units in StarCraft 2. Firebats are replaced by Marauders, which have an attack that slows the enemy and does high damage to armored units. The Banshee is a new air unit that can only attack ground targets, and the Thor is a large mechanical walker that makes quite an impression on the battlefield.
The Protoss are an advanced alien race with powerful psionic abilities. When playing Protoss you have to plan your construction around pylons, which are needed to increase your unit count. Probes, the Protoss worker unit, summon buildings into position, so they fill requests quickly compared to Terran SCVs. Protoss structures gradually heal themselves, but there is no way to repair or heal Protoss units.
Along with their customary Zealots and Templars, Protoss now has the Colossus, a tall spider-like vehicle armed with lasers that sweep through enemy targets. They've also been granted the Mothership, a costly flying fortress that deals out considerable damage and cloaks friendly units in its proximity.
Least like the other races are the Zerg, an alien insectoid species that relies on the strength of numbers to overwhelm the enemy. Most of the Zerg units, including their worker Drones, begin as Larva that spawn from the hatchery. Instead of requistioning Drones directly from the hatchery akin to the other factions, Zerg players need to turn a Larva into Drones, which are then sacrificed when a structure is created.
Zerglings, Mutalisks, and Hydralisks are among the units that remain from the original. New to the field are Roaches, suicidal Banelings, and Overseers, which are like Overlords with different abilities, such as detection.
The Zerg are one of the most unique races ever seen in an RTS game, and it takes a while to adjust to the unusual play style they require. There are a lot of small things Zerg players constantly need to attend to. Both their bases and their units seems to demand more management than the other factions, and they have no structure that makes an effective wall. I'd wager that Zerg are at a slight disadvantage right now, but there is likely to be more balance tweaks in upcoming patches.
Maps and Match Types
There is an incredibly large selection of 52 multiplayer maps that ship with StarCraft 2, typically designed with a certain amount of symetry to ensure that neither side starts with a big advantage. They aren't all available on every Ladder because they have different numbers of starting positions, ranging from 2 to 8.