Assassin: In 1998, on March 31st and November 30th, respectively, StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War burst onto the real-time strategy scene, in a time when the genre was defining its identity, both through revolutionary titles (Z, The Settlers, Genewars, Age of Empires, Dark Reign: The Future of War, Total Annihilation, Earth 2140, Imperium Galactica) as well as the battle between Westwood Studios (the Command & Conquer series) and Blizzard Entertainment (the Warcraft series).
12 years have passed since then and we can safely say that StarCraft is one of the most successful games of all time, with testimonies comprised of numerous awards and impressive sales, plus a popularity that put real time strategy games on two paths: mainstream, because even those who didn’t like the genre inevitably heard about StarCraft, and electronic sports, with the first world tournaments.
Bossman: Unlike you, when StarCraft (and later Brood War) were released I was still a kid, so at the time I played both of them, but then moved on to something else (heresy, I know). Only later did I begin to actually understand the true impact they had, especially in South Korea, where it’s basically a national sport for some time.
So to say that July 27th was for many the most anticipated date of the year would be an understatement. Trouble is, in these situations the expectations are through the roof and they usually lead to disappointments that are just as big, and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty isn’t as spotless as Blizzard’s reputation would lead us to believe.
Assassin: When it comes to longevity, the main argument going for StarCraft wasn’t really the single-player campaign or the technical aspects (cinematics, voice acting, music) but the three different, yet equally powerful races in multiplayer. In fact, StarCraft didn’t really bring anything revolutionary on the technical front, but regardless if you look at it as a whole or split into sections, it was a very solid game and further proof of Blizzard’s professionalism and dedication.
Bossman: It’s true that the multiplayer was the main catalyst behind its popularity, but it’s no secret that a lot of “old timers” were eagerly waiting to see the where the story of the three warring races from the Koprulu sector was headed – the Terrans, our cousins in a distant future, the Zerg, oversized bugs with a ferocious appetite and the noble Protoss, the most highly advanced when it comes to technology, but not without their own faults. Maybe that’s why the SC II manual (if we can even call it that) is more of a recap of the events thus far than a “how-to” book, and Blizzard’s efforts to take the single-player campaign to “the next level” can be seen right off the bat.
But before we start talking about the campaign, there are two things that we need to be very clear on. One, Wings of Liberty is the first part of a trilogy, so the ending certainly won’t appeal to everyone (myself included). This is a fact that everyone needs to come to terms with. Second, the focus is one the characters this time around and everything happens at a smaller scale than the events in SC and Brood War. I’m fairly sure that there will be people who will miss that “epic” feel of the original campaigns, protests which might not have been so fierce had Blizzard chose to forgo the safety of clichés.
Assassin: I didn’t have high expectations for the storyline in Wings of Liberty. Two years ago I read three books placed in the StarCraft universe and I was impressed that they managed to transpose me right in the action, at a character level.
Kerrigan’s abandonment in New Gettysburg feels more real and intense in Liberty’s Crusade than in the game, even if the later had the advantage of sounds and images. With Wings of Liberty I was just expecting a solid plotline, form wise, and I got more than that. I was surprised how the story was presented, with all the areas of the battlecruiser Hyperion, by the attention to details and cultural references, with the way they were incorporated into the gameplay.
I was however disappointed by the story when it came to substance. The renegade who tries to dull the pain with booze? The big muscled, apparently tough, hero with a heart of gold? The “twist” that you could see coming from a mile away and was practically spelled out for you in the Ghosts of the Past trailer? The ending which suppresses one of the main qualities of the story from the previous titles? Blizzard, you had an already released game and some pretty good books as a base, with millions of fans.
You had fan-made campaigns (Legacy of the Confederation) that were brilliant when it came to StarCraft characters and action. And you give us this? And I’m sorry, but the “there are still two more expansions to go” excuse doesn’t hold up – you didn’t do anything remarkable when you had the perfect starting point and you expect me to believe that after a mundane first part there’s something way better around the corner?
Bossman: Let’s not be too cynical, there is potential for the better regarding future expansions, but I was particularly baffled by the ease with which the scriptwriters chose to ignore past events just so they could create “revelations” in this one. I’m not the type of guy to argue with a Star Trek fan whether a faulty Plasma Injector can or can’t send you to an alternate universe (of course it can, doh!), but making Zeratul a senile old man for instance, who doesn’t remember what happened in the secret mission from Brood War is really pushing it, not to mention good ol’ Jim Raynor. Ultimately, the main issue is that these tricks and clichés are too in your face.