If my eyes seem a little bloodshot today, it's because I was up until 4 a.m. playing Starcraft 2 (officially "Starcraft II: Wings Of Liberty"), and truth be told, I'll probably be playing it again by the time you read this article.
As of my writing this, Starcraft 2 has been on the shelves for less than 24 hours, ending a waiting period that seemed to drag on for years - actually, it lasted the better part of a decade. And I spent a good majority of that time glued to the Blizzard Entertainment website, grasping at any information the company so carefully leaked out. I watched trailers over and over again, re-read press releases and marveled at unofficial rumors. Why? Because I love Starcraft.
Really. I LOVE Starcraft. Big Time.
I'd estimate the total time I've spent playing that game would make my mother cry. In fact, if they had an option to log hours spent playing the way airline pilots track flight time, I'd probably qualify for the New York to Hong Kong Route on a United Airlines 747. When Starcraft came out, I was living in the college dorms. And rather than study or establish a social life, I spent my time battling the Zerg swarm, the psychic-enhanced Protoss or the rough-and-tumble Terrans (humans).
How Does Starcraft 2 Hold Up To My Expectations?There's a funny thing about being a die hard fan of anything: You'll hold established work on a pedestal, and often it's impossible for a company to recreate the magic. I see it with bands and artists all the time. A huge cult following feels let down by the newest album or movie release, simply because it had higher expectations than any person or group could ever hope to topple. Add to that the constantly extended release date, and I'll admit that I might be sitting on the super critical side of the fence.
But that's neither here nor there - you didn't come here to read my disclaimer, so lets get down to business.
Installing Starcraft 2I run a year-old Macbook Pro laptop, and even though it's fairly new by most software standards, it barely met the minimum system requirements listed on the Starcraft 2 box. And even though the entire install program is contained on one DVD disc, it must have taken 30 minutes to fully install itself onto my hard drive.
Then the game required that I logged onto the Battle.net website to enter my product license, which was confusing as hell. I've got a World of Warcraft account tied to my email address - even though I rarely play - so after filling out a 5-minute form, I found out I already had an account. Kind of frustrating, but I'll give the company the benefit of the doubt and blame my early frustration on me.
But if you've got a Blizzard account through any of their other games, particularly World of Warcraft, keep in mind that you only need to log in with your email and password, skip the long-winded sign-up page.
Playing Starcraft 2The graphics during actual game play are nothing short of amazing, even though my poor little Macbook Pro runs as hot as a pizza oven while I'm playing, which makes me awful worried about zapping a hard drive or motherboard, so I'll probably force myself into playing short bursts rather than long extended sessions - at least until technology catches up with the tremendous computing requirements this game demands.
But yes, the game rocks.
Starcraft 2 plays like the original Starcraft, but on steroids. The developers kept the same interfaces and command keys, so old veterans like me will have no problem playing this game right out of the box. The units still build, attack, hold and maneuver with the same mouse and keyboard keys, and the same buildings still produce the same units and/or upgrades. No big changes on that end. Well, other than the addition of what will probably amount to tens - if not hundreds - of new units, specially-designed for this incarnation of the wildly-popular game.
I haven't played on the Battle.net yet, opting instead to play through the campaigns to learn the intricacies of the new units, and get a better feel for the game, especially since I'm playing on a trackpad rather than a mouse (which is possible - not recommended, but possible). And I've already cruised through the first four or five missions with relative ease, probably because my old Starcraft knowledge translates very well to this new addition.
The first thing I've noticed is a much more elaborate, non-linear story line, where you choose what path your character takes. In addition, as you complete levels and find new technologies, you'll earn credits which you can use to buy various upgrades, which remain available throughout your entire campaign, at least from what I can tell.
I kind of dig this idea, as it makes Starcraft 2 a little more like a long-term game, where the choices you make early on impact your strategies and effectiveness in later levels. At least that's what I think will happen. Like I said, I haven't played more than a few hours, so I can't speak to the storyline beyond that point.
Don't get me wrong, my initial impressions of Starcraft 2 are nothing short of amazing, but I'd feel remiss if I didn't mention a few things that really bug me. Starting with the super-long load time between levels. Granted the graphics are super amazing, but this game is a resource hog, and takes quite a while to load up before launching a new game.
And before you get any crazy ideas, my machine is blazing fast, with plenty of RAM and processor speed. It's probably just something we'll have to deal with. But the nice thing about constantly-improving computer technologies is that within a few years even the most ho-hum systems will have more power than the most expensive units of today, and they'll probably load this game up in a matter of seconds, not minutes. In the meantime, I'll stay annoyed.
I also noticed some really poor performance right off the bat, but I was playing the gamed "windowed." And once I switched it to "full screen" mode, it ran much smoother.
Starcraft 2 Review In A NutshellGo out and buy this game. Seriously. It was the best money I've spent in months. If you're half the Starcraft fanatic I was back in the day, you'll absolutely love what they'd done with this one.
Starcraft 2 was worth the wait.