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After many years and much anticipation, I finally got a chance to sit down and play through the campaign Wings of Liberty. I am/was a hardcore Starcraft fan. I played Starcraft from the day it was released. I still occasionally play a few games! I am a good Starcraft player and a hardcore fan who has really looked forward to a sequel.
10+ years later and I beat the campaign in two days. The missions were not difficult, challenging, and mostly not even interesting. They created a few novelty missions, notably controlling a single hero and dodging environmental effects. These were essentially the only changes to the game-play within a campaign. On the whole though, if you enjoyed the Starcraft campaigns you will enjoy this.
The heralded innovations in story-telling for RTS are uninspiring. It is very similar to the way in which Mass Effect fleshes out its story. You are on a ship and you travel to different parts of the ship and talk to people. These people will give you upgrades, missions, and help enthrall you. Honestly, it is almost exactly a copy of Mass Effect. It is new to see for RTS though, but I think it is a positive addition. I felt like it improved upon Starcraft's story delivery, but did not improve much upon Warcraft III.
**** SPOILERS *****
The actual story, however, is premised very similarly to Mass Effect. A mysterious force (Reapers/Xel'Naga) that has been hidden away is acting on the universe from the shadows (literally in SC, figuratively with the collectors and saren in ME) and will eradicate all life. You play a rebel hero who goes out on his own to stop the threat (Raynor is a hold-out rebel against Mengsk and gets entangled with the Xel'Naga; Shepard believes in a Reaper threat and goes rogue to save the galaxy at all costs).
The characters are very weak. Comically weak, even. Raynor, Zeratul, and Kerrigan are the only characters who feel developed--but they had two other games and literature to do most of the legwork. The rest of the characters are unmemorable and comically random.
At one point, there is a budding romance between a Doctor and Raynor. The doctor, for reasons I do not know, disappears from the story. She leaves the Hyperion after kissing Raynor to "cure" the Zerg? She is said to have hidden motivations as well. What was the point of creating a romance interest when Raynor later rescues Kerrigan (and is still in love with her)?
Another character Tosh shows up to give a mission. He we stay if you take his side in a mission, although he honestly adds nothing to the story. His story trait mysteriously alluding to facts he has no reason to know of, but oddly he never knows enough about those facts to be helpful. I think his primary addition to the story is his accent.
A friend from Raynor's past, Tychus, is clearly going to betray Raynor. You know this almost from the moment he is introduced. Your captain says this, Tosh says this, the Doctor hints at this, the other crewmembers hint at this. You even know his suit can blow up at any time and kill him. Its very obvious he is going to betray you. But he does not betray you. Not until the final mission. While I expected who he was working for, he had ample opportunity to betray you for Mengsk at more opportune times, Mengsk finally wants Tychus to betray Raynor in the last mission by killing Kerrigan. I do not get this. It would be understandable if he had tried to kill Kerrigan without the Mengsk part, so why add that in? It seemed so random when it happened that I laughed out loud and go looked at funny by my girlfriend. At that point, I thought he HAD to be working for the Zerg or the Xel'naga or that he was really Samir Duran. Nope, it was just Mengsk. Mengsk didn't want to stop Raynor from broadcasting the ugly truth about him, but he'll be ****ed if he lets a powerless Kerrigan live for her crimes!
*** END SPOILERS ***
The story was very weak and very disappointing. The finish feels forced It just lops off at a poor time. All three campaigns should have been included, the quality noticeably suffers. Let me quote another summary...
In summary, the story behind Starcraft 2 is a shallow, uninteresting affair, inflated far beyond its worth. The narrative lacks both tension and direction, and the characters are generic and unempathetic. While the actual missions in the game are a lot of fun, the narrative that links them all to each other is sorely lacking, and painfully insufficient compared to the stories told in Starcraft and Brood War.
The gameplay is more or less the same as the first Starcraft. This is both good and bad. The original Starcraft has an extremely high skill-cap that makes it a great e-sport (in Korea). SC II maintains this. However, there are a few distinct changes that stand out in my mind, born from years of gameplay experience, that should have been made and were not.
The most important and necessary is an increase in grouping options and functionality. Having your medics go in first and your firebats cordoned off by your marines should not ever happen, but did in Starcraft. Constantly. Or Dragoons blocking other Dragoons/Zealots/other units. Or your ultralisk gets stuck running behind your hydralisks like a buffoon. These issues all still occur and are still incredibly stupid. If anything, with the new increase in units, it seems to have been made worse. Notably, your marauders should be towards the front since they have more armor and slow the melee units trying to attack. There is also the issue of different unit speeds. Some units move in well before the bulk of your army because they move quicker. They often get slaughtered without accomplishing anything. There is no reason they should do this when grouped.
An "intuitive grouping" option could go a long way towards solving this particular annoyance. It could be turned on/off. The argument against this consists mainly of a decrease in skill cap. However, there are still many things a high-skill player could micro-manage. Grouping options and formation selection would also be less perfect than a skilled person could make anyway.
A second issue that exists, although this is minor, is that the balance between micro-managing units and mananging production is still terribly offset. A skilled player can micro-manage the formation of their units, they can create groups of flanking units and launch flanking attacks, use unit abilities, rotate weaker units to the back so they are less likely to die, they can ensure they take advantage of terrain (high ground in this), and they can cherry pick the targets. Most players though, get stuck focusing on making sure they're producing units, making sure they're capturing expansions, making sure they're upgrading tech. These players often just mass units and then mass attack in a direction. I am a skilled player in this regard, though, and I actually feel I enjoy the game LESS as a result. I turn into a cyborg and do all these things. I have less fun when I do this as I have no time to enjoy it. I feel like they should balance this part of the game by making unit cap smaller and easier to hit. Overwhelming numbers + micromanagement > overwhelming numbers > micromanagement.
The online play will be great. There is a powerful mapmaker too. I think multiplayer is the primary worth you get from the game. However, it is not a significant upgrade from the original SC in this respect. I feel, primarily, like I'm getting a graphics update and a new unit pack. This is good, but expensive for what you're getting. Also, there are some controversial changes to battle.net from the old SC that many describe as negative. I will not go into it because I have not spent time on it though!
My final score is 6.0/10. I want to give it more, but the campaign does not warrant it. It is too short, it is incomplete, and I feel my loyalty was taken advantage of. The multiplayer is not enhanced enough by SC II to warrant spending $60 and whatever the other expansions will cost. If they had added the other campaigns, it would be a good, solid buy. As it is though, buy if you're a fan and going to multiplayer often. If you're not already a fan or not going to play it online constantly, then go buy three other used games a store or a half dozen games on steam that are as good. Wait until you can get it cheaper for the story.
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well most of the people i know who bought sc2 didnt play the campaign because they said its pointless unless you played campaigne of sc1. they just play against each other.