I was a huge fan of the original Starcraft game back in the day, but who wasn't? Sure Blizzard distracted us with gaming masterpieces like the Warcraft franchise, but when us RTS fans saw their fantasy-based Warcraft games come out with three releases and even an MMORPG, it left us asking "Where's my Sci-Fi?" Swords and axes are nice and all, but I want the satisfaction of ripping through alien flesh with a chainsaw! Well Blizzard finally came out with an answer to the science fiction crowd by announcing the release of the long awaited Starcraft 2.
I don't know how many die-hard fans stood in lines waiting for the special midnight release; but I beat them all to the punch! A good friend of mine works at a popular video game retailer. I won't name names, but let's just say it's a place where people stop to buy games. He hooked me up with an advanced copy, so I was safe at home sipping my favorite brand of gas station slurpee working on that ten gigabyte install while you nerds were all climbing over each other like a bunch of preteen girls going after the limited release of Beach Bimbo Barbie.
I get to 90% install and what do I see? A big ugly error message plastered right over the screen. So I rebooted the whole rig, crossed my fingers, said a prayer to Optimus Prime, and started the install over again. Now I might have took it as a sign right there that things weren't worth all the hype. My gaming rig can handle any software on the market today, so any errors that pop up can only be the fault of poor, lazy programming. Anyway, I guess the leader of the Autobots must have been watching over me, because this time it kicked in all the way to 100%.
So there I was, sitting at my desk ready to be blown away by the gaming marvel that was Starcraft 2. I watched all the intro movies and started up a campaign. The new 3D engine they raved about is about on par with games of its type, but come on! This is Starcraft 2 we're talking about. I expected to get blown away, not just given more of the same modern visuals and lousy voice acting. At least Fallout 3 got Liam Neeson; you'd think something with the prestige of Starcraft and Blizzard behind it would have gotten someone who actually graduated acting school to portray the voices.
Then the game play started. Terran campaign. Where the hell are my Zerg and Protoss? Oh that's right, Blizzard is going to give future releases; essentially making us loyal consumers purchase the game three times to get all the goodies that should have been included in the original box! It's not really Starcraft if I'm not controlling a horde of alien insects intent on eating all life and turning the planet into their brood nest.
Whatever. Screw that. I turn campaign mode off and jump right in for some multiplayer action. What do I find? Connection error. Connection error. Connection error. Blizzard's Battlenet doesn't even know how to set up games properly. After about two hours of toying with it and ranting on the Starcraft forums with scores of other disappointed gamers, I gave it up and went back to the campaign mode.
The storyline sucks, that's all I can say about that. It's the most unimaginative dribble I've seen in a video game since Final Fantasy X. But I can ignore a bad story as long as the game play is good. I mean it's a video game not a novel, so screw the writers, just tell me they've got some decent designers. That's not too much to hope for in a long awaited video game twelve years in the making, right?
So amid occasional unexplained crashes as I try to make my way through the campaign mode (I found saving the game every thirty minutes is a good idea to protect yourself against fatal glitches.) I find I'm getting frustrated. There's an obvious power balance issue with low tier Protoss units able to tear apart anything I send at them; while my own Terran units seem to splatter supposedly higher powered Zerg units against the wall with just a few laser blasts. That makes every battle either too damn difficult, or so easy it's not even worth playing. You'd think Starcraft would have been able to find that sweet middle ground.
What bugged me the most of all however was the limit of the camera. It was like the game wanted me hovering just above the action at all times with no option of zooming out to survey the whole battlefield, or plot multiple attacks on a target. I found I could either manage things at my base, or send orders to my troops in the field, but never both without a lot of time wasted. Way to take the Strategy out of Real Time Strategy, Blizzard.
Next time I'll take the hint right from the beginning. I'm not falling for the hype of this poorly constructed game that's just relying on the fame of its predecessor to trick gamers into buying not just one, but three separate games to try and relive the experience of a real gaming breakthrough. It's just Starcraft people, with prettier graphics and ten times the bugs.
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