RETRO – One galaxy is never enough for three bloodthirsty races with a conquering mind! In the 26th century the Terrans, exiles from Earth, the insectoid Zerg, and the noble Protoss are waging once again a bitter and bloody war between themselves for the rule of the known universe. The first episode of the trilogy of StarCraft II, Wings of Liberty we are leading one of the most striking characters of the Terrans: Jim Raynor, who became a bitter and hard drinking mercenary captain.
Remorse and alcohol is a deadly cocktail. It leads to cynicism, self-loathing and deep depression. Fortunately for Jim Raynor, it didn’t destroy his will to fight. What it did destroy though is his idealism: nowdays the only thing he cares for is money. And this great difference in his mentality changed the single player gameplay of StarCraft II as well: from the completely linear campaign of the first episode we have now a non linear, mercenary style one as we perform each mission for hard earned cash.
At the conclusion of Brood War, nobody understood the purpose of Kerrigan retreating to volcanic planet of Char, home base of the Zergs. The Queen of Blades and her Zerg forces became the dominant faction in the Koprulu Sector, they have annihilated the United Earth Directorate’s Expeditionary Force, defeated the Terran Dominion and invaded the Protoss homeworld of Auir.She had all the necessary power to crush once and forever the two other factions.
Still, in those four years past, she vanished without a trace. As for the Terrans nothing has changed. Arcturus Mengsk – the former leader of the Sons of Korhal – after fighting against the draconic Confederacy, and getting to power, begun to build his own dictatorship. In some of the missions we can see his statues everywhere, and on some holographic messages he gives speeches to the disgusted populace.
Besides taking mercenary jobs, Jim Raynor has sworn to hit the forces of Mengsk everywhere he can, since he’s still bitter and vengeful over the treason of the former leader of the Sons of Korhal who has left Kerrigan be captured by the zergs. There isn’t really an open war raging between them though, just some skirmishes. Then an old pal of Raynor: Tychus Findlay comes in picture, and asks to join him to get some proton artifact for the mysterious Moebius organization. Raynor leaves the planet with his ship, Hyperion.
Friends in need are friends indeed
After the opening missions you are on the bridge of the Jim Raynor’s spaceship, the Hyperion. As the non-linear story progress, you will have more and more advisors on your ship, who will propose us more tasks on different planets. The missions suits their personality or personal goals: the gentle Dr. Ariel Hanson will ask for more human civilians to be saved, the rogue ghost agent Gabriel Tosh tries to lure us into pirate-like missions, while Tychus Findlay demands to dig out or steal more Protoss artifacts.
Your choice not only changes the storyline somewhat (different playtroughs leads to different twists) but your personal relationships with the characters as well. For example, if you finish more missions for Dr. Hanson, she will eventually fall in love with Raynor. First we have to speak to each person in very Mass Effect-like conversations – the only thing missing was that unfortunately we can’t choose between different answers here.
Still the story and the conversations are pretty good – especially the meetings between Raynor and Tychus Findlay, the macho and rugged space marine. There are only a few predictable or boring one-liners, like the one when Tychus asks Raynor about Kerrigan’s goal for attacking the humans again. Raynor’s answer: “To finish the job.” No shit Sherlock…
Play Again Jim!
The character of James E. “Jim” Raynor was created by Chris Metzen and James Phinney, with his physical appearance having been designed by Chris Metzen. In both StarCraft and its expansion Brood War, Raynor was voiced by Robert Clotworthy, who returned for the sequel StarCraft II.
Raynor originally appeared in the first game as a twenty-nine year old Terran, a marshal on a backwater colony world. He later joins a growing revolution against the oppressive Confederacy of Man before becoming disillusioned with its cause and forming his own paramilitary group.
His character is further developed through the novels Liberty’s Crusade and Queen of Blades. Raynor normally appears in-game piloting a vulture scavenger bike, although he has also appeared in-game as a marine unit and as the commander of the Behemoth-class battlecruiser Hyperion. As one of the main characters of StarCraft, Raynor has been critically praised for character depth and the quality of Clotworthy’s voice acting; one survey by GameSpot put Raynor as one of the top ten heroes in video gaming.
Blonde babes of StarCraft II
The voice actors for StarCraft II were all talented, but the sexiest was definitely Tricia Helfer, the blonde beauty all RTS gamers should know already. From where? Well, she was the hot NOD general Kilian Qatar in Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars and Kane’s Wrath.
Here, we can only imagine her body curves when we are listening to her sexy voice as Kerrigan… We must also mention Ali Hillis, the pretty Californian girl, as Dr. Ariel Hansen – she was also the voice talent for Mass Effect’s 2 Liara T’Soni and the also blonde Rena Durham, who is the voice for… the Protoss Mothership. Very pretty mothership indeed…
Home, sweet Hyperion
Besides serving as a meeting place with different characters, Raynor’s spaceship has other gameplay functions as well. Raynor can hang out in the cantina, drink some galactic whiskey, stare at the tits of a dancing gogo girl, and also hire mercenaries, who he can use on the battleground, or take a look at the latest “fair and balanced” (or rather: completely supporting Arturus Mengst) galactic television news.
In the armory Raynor can upgrade his units with different extras which will be very useful on the battlefield and also take a look at his special units. In the laboratory you can research different alien technology, which will be useful for upgrading the Terran military buildings and also develop special units, like the Predator (with the Zerg research) and the Raven (with the Protoss research).
Here you can also chat with Ariel Hanson, which will bring us more missions and those conversations about the troubled past of our rugged hero will soften the heart of the pretty female doctor as well… On the Bridge you can meet Horner, Raynor’s second in command, a regular, no-nonsense young Terran officer, who hates Tychus with all his heart and also gives you missions, like the other characters. There’s the Star Map as well, where you can choose from three missions. Even if it feels a lot like Mass Effect, the whole spaceship idea is a very good one, and brings some much needed change to the old RTS formula.
Veni, vidi, samey
And it’s much needed indeed, since there is not much change in the gameplay on the battlefield. Basically we have the same old real time strategy formula: we build bases, and we either defend them, or go out and kick some enemy ass. We can gather two kinds of resources: minerals and vespine gas and upgrade our units and buildings. If all this seems familiar to you, chances are great, that you have already played at least one RTS. In term of basic gameplay, StarCraft II is no different from all the others, the real difference is in the presentation itself.
There is an incredible amount of detail on every map: giant billboards near deserted cities, prairie dog-like animals yapping at you, flocks of birds, that fly in the air, when your troops are approaching and little lava beasts, that flees to your base. The planets themselves are noticeably different and the mission goals as well. Most of the missions are really interesting: you have to save humans from Zerg infestation, or exterminate the already infected population, steal Protoss relics, while the Protoss and and Zergs are fighting each other, and so on.
Still, there are some pretty annoying mission goals. For example, on the planet, where the lava level regularly rose, I had to gather 8000 minerals for the mission to end and since I have already exterminated all the enemy, I had to wait a LONG, LONG time, until I got all the minerals. This mission felt clearly rushed.
StarCraft II eats your hardware for breakfast?
Blizzard games were never about the unbelievable graphics and StarCraft II is no different from this formula. Still, StarCraft II looks pretty good with everything pumped up to maximum – if your machine can handle it. Everything looks polished with lots of details in the unit, animation and textures department as well.
The problem with the mid to low range spec machines isn’t that they start to stutter, when there’s a big battle, explosions or many units are on the screen, but rather that the game behaves strangely: while at first the framerate seems okay, suddenly everything slows down to a turtle pace, then some PCs even locks down, so you have to push the reset button to reboot.
The same thing happened to me, so I was I had to fiddle a lot with my graphics drivers and game settings, until I have finally found out, that the culprit is the texture resolution. I hope that Blizzard will fix those issues, since besides this bug my machine could run the game just fine with everything on ultra.
Fortunately there are zero problems in the sound department, with an absolutely gorgeous and epic musical score, and a fantastic voice talent. All the actors are phenomenal, but we have to give especially kudos to Robert Clotworthy (Jim Raynor), Neil Kaplan (Tychus Findlay) and the sexy Tricia Helfer who was a surprisingly good choice for Kerrigan.
Vincent, are we happy?
Yes, we are definitely are. Even, if the basic gameplay is the same and there are some hiccups to the game (the graphical bug mentioned was a mean one), still, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is an absolute, instant classic. The only thing I truly miss is leading Kerrigan with her zerglings, but the following year the Queen of Blades made her appearance as well in Heart of the Swarm.
+ The old gameplay is still very addictive
+ The story is top notch
+ Graphics as well
– The old gameplay is a bit… old…
– Kerrigan was missing here
– Some graphical bug were present
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Relase date: 2010.07.27