I will admit to having joined the StarCraft party a little late. In fact, I wasn't much of an RTS fan at all until I succumbed to groupthink back in 2002 and bought WarCraft III just because everyone else was doing it. I had tried several RTS games previous to this, but the pattern was consistent... I'd fiddle with it for a while, get bored, and never go back. WC3, though, was a game changer. It looked great. It had great humor, a rich, vibrant setting, and an actual, honest-to-goodness storyline that anyone could possibly care about. Other RTSes seemed a chore, but this was a pleasure, and became the first such game that I ever actually completed.
|There are many units in Starcraft 2, and I'm certain one of these fucking assholes gievs SOJ.|
I wanted more! So I went retro and hit the bargain bin to grab StarCraft. But after firing it up, it became painfully clear that you can't live in the past. After the lush audio-visual feast of WC3, this just was not going to cut it. I'm sure it was all well and good in 1998, but I quickly dismissed it, writing off the $9.99 as a failed experiment, and put it on the shelf. Well, lost it, actually.
Years later (2007), I heard that, unbelievably, people were still playing the game. Not only that, an entire nation of Asian-type people had turned it into a profession. My head went like this: (tilts head quizzically), and overcome by a wave of curiosity, boredom and desperation, I plunked down another $9.99 to give it another try, and see what all the fuss was, and continued to be, about.
I slogged dutifully through the first, Terran, campaign. It had been an enjoyable enough romp, but I was terrible at it, and building and moving little marine guys randomly around the board ceased to have much charm by the time I hit the last mission. Determined to play the game to completion, though, I pressed on, and began the first Zerg mission.
That's, right there, when I "got it". It was such an unexpected departure, so completely different from anything else I'd experienced in an RTS, all that ooey, gooey, slimy stuff all at my command, that I was hooked. From then on, I never noticed the dated graphics, or the somewhat clunky interface, or any of the other niceties that hadn't come along by 1998. Loved it. Still sucked at it, but loved it.
After I completed it, all I could think was, why the hell didn't they make a new version of this? And as whatever God you want to make up is my witness, it was the very next day that the CEO of Blizzard stood in front of a seething mass of South Koreans, and announced it: StarCraft II was coming. And so were those Koreans.
Why, I got so excited, I even created a slightly satirical website to mark the occasion, and begin the countdown to the most anticipated RTS game release in the history of everything! And count down we did. I still remember a news headline: "Blizzard Confirms, No StarCraft 2 In 2007." Aw man, we gotta wait until next year?
2010?! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? We waited three years to finally get this announcement: "SC2 will be released in 2010, but will only have a campaign for one of the three races." This thing that, so long ago, I had been so hyped up for, now just pissed me off whenever I thought of it. Even as the release date, July 27, approached, all I could think about was how psyched I should have been for it, and how psyched I most definitely was not. I debated not even bothering to buy it for a while, but groupthink, and a nostalgia for more innocent times, once again took hold.
SC2 currently has a 93/100 rating over at Metacritic. I will now review StarCraft II in the format of, taking all of the complaints that those who ranked it less than 10/10 noted, and explaining why those complaints are stupid, idiotic, and completely fucking insane. That's the format for this review, starting now.
COMPLAINT #1: "It's just StarCraft with better graphics and a better interface."
I would like to, at this point, bring up another acclaimed science fiction game from the past. I would like to bring up "X-COM". I would, while bringing this up, like to point out that the whole of the Internet is comprised of 90% porn, and 1% my grandmother sending out warnings about not microwaving water. Do you know what the other 9% is? The other 9% is X-COM fans bitching and moaning about how "all we want is X-COM, but with better graphics and a better interface!" And every year, some new "X-COM-like" comes out, and every year, it sucks, and every year, these 9%'ers weep all over again into their bags of used insulin needles.
Let's discount the various additions and changes to the game. Let's say that it's an exact copy of the original StarCraft, except with better graphics and better interface. Do you know how to describe that game? FUCKING FANTASTIC. The original was about as close to perfection as you can get, so you know what a great thing to do would be? To not muck with it, and just bring it up to speed, technologically. Which is, essentially, what Blizzard did. There ARE changes, there ARE additions, but the "core values" and mechanics are all relatively unchanged. Do you know what that makes StarCraft II? FUCKING FANTASTIC.
COMPLAINT #2: "A full priced game, but you only get the one race?? WAAAAAaaaa..."
This sounds way worse in the press release than it does when faced with the actual game. "You only get the one race" is misleading, of course. You only get the Terran campaign. The multiplayer/skirmish modes offer you the full gamut. But let's talk about that Terran campaign: It features between 25 and 29 missions for you to play through, nearly the amount of the full original game. But there's so much more going on in it, that it feels like more game than you got in the original. With so many more missions available, the story is allowed to move along at a more reasonable pace. More missions types and themes are there to be explored (and the missions in Wings of Liberty, the Terran campaign, are the very best I've ever seen in such a game.) And on top of that, you have so much more to do between missions. In a subtle move, Blizzard has removed one of the more ridiculous conceits in most RTS campaigns, that being that you have to research the same stuff over and over once you're on the battlefield. In the campaign here, you get an entire research/tech tree, and are given the choice to do whatever upgrades you want, in between missions. In another between-mission section, you're able to spend "credits" to give other upgrades to specific units/buildings. In ANOTHER section, you have to choice to hire "mercenaries", units that become available on the battlefield without having to build them. And on top of THAT, you'll end up doing different missions depending on the choices you make. And on top of that, saying that you only play as the Terrans during the campaign is not even true.
All of this comes together to form a campaign with such life, such immersiveness, that it really becomes a much more satisfying experience than the old "ten linear missions with this race", "now ten with this one..." Though the new design may largely only offer the illusion of non-linearity, it feels much more organic, and as a result, breathes a huge sense of freshness into the entire thing. So STOP FUCKING COMPLAINING, this is more game than you'll get from any other $60 game on the market.
COMPLAINT #3: "(blah blah, bunch of sperging bullshit about DRM, no LAN play, blah blah)"
God do I hate this shit. Every other review of this game on Amazon is 3 out of 5 stars, with the reviewer admitting it's a five-star game, but then getting all self-righteous and red-assed about... what, I don't know. "You have to have a battle.net account and it requires you log on and I will no longer support companies that blah blah draconian measures blah bl--" SHUT THE FUCK UP. If this is what you're angry about, then good luck to ya. First of all, you DON'T need to be connected all the time, but let's say you did. Do you know who 100% of the people who complain about always having to be connected to the internet are? 100% of them are people who are always connected to, and in most cases, always actively using, the goddamn internet. They just like getting all pissy and "fighting the power", because it gives them a sense of direction in their otherwise pointless lives.
And as far as bemoaning the lack of LAN play? NERD. There is only one group of people in the world who I will accept a complaint about this from, and it is professional South Korean StarCraft players, but I will not even accept it from them, because, get a real job you losers.
COMPLAINT #4: "This would have been great if it had come out in 2002."
So you're telling me that the same bits, the same mechanics, the same game is great or not depending on what the calendar on the wall says. This one frosts my ass more than any of the others, I think. One review even had the fucking balls to dock the game points because the "era of RTSes is over". Like we're talking about FUCKING SPRING FASHION here.
This is RTS perfected, is what it is. All extraneous nonsense removed. Core mechanics implemented perfectly. Just enough depth to make it one of those timeless games that gets better the better you get at it, without pointless complication for complication's sake.
And it looks oh so luscious. It is the best looking strategy game in the world. The environments are so lovingly rendered and detailed, you just want to stop building and rushing for a bit to soak it all up. And when forces collide, everything just comes to life in the most satisfying explosion of havoc to be found in any computer game, anywhere.
But more than any of that, the mark of a truly wonderful, wonderful game is when you don't mind losing. And lose you will, once you get online, because you suck at this game. But with apologies to Dwarf Fortress, even losing is fun, because the whole damn experience is fun. You'll lose and lose again, but no sense of frustration or hopelessness comes in, because you will learn from each loss. You can't help it. And the first time you try a new thing, some new tactic or macro strategy, you'll get a kick out of it, even if it results in getting slaughtered even quicker.
The world it creates, the sense of excitement it evokes, the sights and sounds it lavishes upon you just congeal into what might be the ultimate Package Of Fun. I haven't stopped playing since the moment I loaded it up and created my battle.net account, and it's within the realm of believability that I may not play anything else for a long, long time. There just doesn't seem to be any reason to.
Now I will rate this on a 1-100 scale, so that I can be featured on Metacritic. I will start at 100, and deduct points for its shortcomings:
1. Yes, only getting the one race campaign was annoying.
2. Documentation is nearly nonexistent. You're taught Terrans primarily by playing the campaign, but without anything similar for the other races, you're left somewhat in the dark.
3. You still can't zoom out to any reasonable level, but they did retain the utterly useless zoom-in function, which nobody would ever use for any reason ever.
4. The story, though far-reaching, is still on the level of sci-fi schlock written by a fourteen year old.
5. Blah blah, DRM, no LAN play, whatever all those other people said. I'll throw 'em a bone.
6. We have to wait god-knows how long for the next campaign.
7. WarCraft III doubled the number of available races. SC2 doesn't even add one.
8. I had one crash-to-desktop, and one auto-installed patch which rendered the game unplayable for a half an hour.
9. The opening cinematic is the same as the trailer they fed us three years ago.
10. Tanks can't run over marines. (Hi, Jonsey!)
For all of these shortcomings, I deduct the grand total of one (1) point.
99/100, and maybe my favorite game of all time.