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Customer Review

94 of 125 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Like watching a childhood hero succumb to vice, August 10, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (Video Game)
****November 2011 Addendum****

The game is fun overall. Multiplayer is a fun experience, even despite the repetitive nature of it. I had previously complained that the game was so unbalanced, they had to remove dozens of units from the multiplayer experience. Even with them out, multiplayer is still GROSSLY unbalanced. Units like the Thor and the Void Ray are ridiculously overpowered compared to virtually every other unit, and they have no real counter; the Zerg have no counter for them---Hydralisks are inexplicably weak against Void Rays, Mutalisks are killed far too easily, and Thors have a hidden splash attack with their Anti-Air missiles, which does double damage to light units (ie, mutalisks). This attack is to Void Rays and Mutalisks what fire is to rice paper.

There is no unit balance as Starcraft had; it's become an arms race; first person to spam Thors or Void Rays wins.

*****

And to think the biggest worry I had upon seeing screenshots early on was that the buildings and units looked so bloated, fat, and cartoony. In fact they do seem rather bloated and cartoony compared to their Starcraft counterparts, but it's not nearly as horrendous as I'd initially thought it out to be.

To get the easy stuff out of the way: If you care not for the story and only for the gameplay, then 3 stars out of 5 is a fair rating.

I don't know why Starcraft was so innovative a game as it was. It simply looked different, smooth and was extremely well-balanced. It was a slick game with easily identifiable units on the field with easily identifiable sounds, weapons, and controls and interface. It was an innovation and improvement over the engine used in Warcraft II.

Here, there is none. They claimed to have completely re-made the engine from scratch, but you could copy and paste the UI onto Command & Conquer 3 or Command & Conquer 4 and it would look pretty much the same. It's not at all a bad thing, but it's not really a good thing either if you're looking to play this as a new game. It essentially feels like C&C3 with cartoonier units.

The game mechanics that went into making Starcraft so incredibly balanced will have to be re-discovered here, as new units are frequent in coming, old units have stats changed, and units like the Medic become essential for infantry squads, as they auto-heal when you move or attack-move them with a group, rather than wandering out up into an enemy because you'd need to micro-manage them directly.

Initially I'd have considered the Protoss terribly, horribly, atrociously overpowered due to weapons like the Colossus and the Void Ray, but later missions showed that there was more to come for Zerg and Terran to even the odds. This, however, says very very little for traditional defensive units like the Photon Cannon, Bunkers, and units like the Zealot. You may as well not even make them anymore, unless you plan on massing them in gargantuan numbers, as they contribute next to nothing within huge armies, whereas in Starcraft, the melee abilities of a Zealot made it essential under a Defiler's swarm ability, or for fast attacks.

But the absolute bane of this entry of the franchise is undoubtedly the writing.

Virtually everything Jim Raynor or Tychus Findlay or Matt Horner says can be found in one line or another from any other movie, TV show, or video game. There's almost nothing anyone says that isn't cliche', stupid, poorly delivered, or so bland and generic you can skip it and miss out on nothing.

Remember Arcturus Mengsk. Remember Mengsk of Korhal, and how the Confederacy nuked Korhal into an uninhabitable wasteland. Remember how Mengsk fought and bled and suffered to fight them, with his rebel group the Sons of Korhal. He was a character so morally ambiguous that he would suffer in order to help civilians, and then out of utter rage and vengeance, use psi emitters to obliterate entire Confederate planets, drawing billions of Zerg onto Antigua Prime and Tarsonis.

He wanted to (and successfully did) end the war and end the Confederacy, and not end up spending decades fighting hard guerrilla war with the Confederate remnants. He mad a bad decision, it was the wrong one, but he made it, and he was going to live with it. He was like Joseph Stalin in his ceaseless aggression to power and to the safety and security of all Terrans.

The Arcturus Mengsk in Starcraft 2 is better compared with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He and his administration create laws so blatantly false and outrageous, even CHILDREN would not fall for it. And this is presented CONSTANTLY in the form of UNN broadcasts featuring an obvious parody of news pundits. One mission sees you, Raynor's rebels, liberate a civilian area from the Zerg and Dominion forces. This is then reported on the news where a field reporter reports to the UNN pundit. He then asks about civilian casualties, and the reporter says "Actually, the only civilian casualties thus far have been crossfire from overzealous Dominion forces" and as soon as she finishes, they panickedly go back to the pundit who panickedly remarks "Uh, well, there you have it ladies and gentlemen; Jim Raynor, killing innocent women and children!"

The actions of Arcturus Mengsk, having civilians rounded up and slaughtered, or encouraging neighbors to spy on one another, or abandoning half his Dominion at the first sign of Zerg threat so as to protect his core worlds, is so completely out of character for the Starcraft Mengsk that it's a farce. It's buffoonery, and it's made less funny if you've played the Terran campaign in Starcraft 1.

But the absolute worst has to be Zeratul and the Protoss.

In Starcraft, the Protoss were the big tough fanatical race. They were loyal, courageous, religious, and xenophobic. They had highly advanced technology, but otherwise were very much like the Terrans in terms of being well-rounded, with good people and bad people making good decisions and bad decisions.

In Starcraft 2, you could replace them with night elves in World of Warcraft or any random race of wizards or magicians from any medieval fantasy work involving people speaking with stunted syllables about ancient prophecies and fallen ones and doom.

TVTropes has something called "Flanderization", named for Ned Flanders in "The Simpsons", who believe it or not, was once a NORMAL character who was religious, but also did "naughty" things and drank beer and such. "Flanderization" refers to taking ONE character trait of an otherwise normal character, and making that trait THE defining characteristic of it, to the exclusion of all else.

This has happened BIG TIME with the Protoss, where religious fanaticism and mysticism has now become the defining trait of the Protoss. Nothing Zeratul (or Nibbler, as I call him, because he's voiced by the same actor) says is not painful to listen to, straight out of every Lord of the Rings knockoff, good or bad, and done worse.

Mild Spoilers abound here: For whatever reason, whereas Raynor and the Terrans are written at a third grade level of vocabulary and storytelling, Zeratul is written at a kindergarten level. It becomes teeth-gnashingly irritating to have a cutscene show you where to go, and to have Zeratul SLOWLY exclaim "I must go over there and link with that thing, but there are Zerg in the way! They may be... problematic", or a mission where Zerg attack your base every three minutes, and when there's thirty seconds left, Zeratul ALWAYS says "The Zerg are massing for an attack! To arms!"

Zeratul's fight with Kerrigan is not so much a fight as a World of Warcraft-looking cutscene featuring an exchange of magic pixie powers---I mean, "psionic energy"

And then comes Zeratul's FIRST crowning moment of stupidity (because there's at least two) that comes as such a smack in the face to Starcraft fans, it becomes less the fault of the character, and more the fault of BAD WRITING. Zeratul encounters a Protoss/Zerg Hybrid, and then states in that stilted, bland and monotonous delivery "Who could have created such a thing?"

DID NO ONE ON THE WRITING STAFF EVEN READ THE SCRIPTS OF THE FIRST GAME, NOT EVEN NEEDING TO PLAY IT?

So while you're saying "Duran" again and again and again, the next mission comes and here's Zeratul's stupidity that is again the fault of bad writing, not because of total ignorance of the first game, but out of just bad writing:

Zeratul encounters the "ghost" of an old friend. The FIRST THING this old friend says is "I have come to you from beyond this world", and the FIRST THING Zeratul says is "But you died!"

The idiocy then continues as this old friend tells the story of the Overmind and its true purpose, and Zeratul chimes in POINTLESS commentary that only shows how utterly STUPID he is, not able to use age as an excuse to not understand the concept of "lies" and "ulterior motives" and "not everything is as it seems". The old friend remarks something about the Overmind, and Zeratul says "DUH DUH BUT, THE, OVERMIND, WAS, A, MONSTROSITY!" and this old friend has to chide Zeratul like a child that it only SEEMED this way to him.

I remark on World of Warcraft and magical fantasy a lot in this review. Know that I am not trashing on the genre, or on World of Warcraft. It is likely a fine game, but my point is that it is an entirely different genre game from this. The same way you wouldn't want to see rubber-forehead aliens in "Battlestar Galactica" or slapstick comedy in "Schindler's List", I don't want to see magical fantasy-type superstition and talks of "Prophecy", "Chosen One", "Fallen One", "the Damned", "Doom", and such in a hard science fiction game.

In fact Starcraft 2 does seem at times like that one disastrous step that Warcraft 3 did with the series; turning it from low-fantasy into high-fantasy, which actually went on to greater things in acquiring a whole new fanbase with World of Warcraft.

It doesn't fit on Starcraft 2. And seeing the Starcraft series go from something dark, ambiguous, and hard, to something literally at grade-school level in its simplicity, is like watching a childhood hero succumb to drugs or alcohol.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 19, 2010 12:06:03 AM PDT
K. Forrester says:
I agree with you completely. Excellent review

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2010 7:29:22 PM PDT
Indeed, I was going to post a review and I'm glad I found yours which says it far better than I could have. I am very glad that I tested this on a friend's computer (did not bother to finish it) and will not be buying it.

Everyone I've spoken to agrees that the story is terrible - just grossly absurd. Shame, shame, shame. This franchise is dead to me and can never be revived.

Posted on Oct 19, 2010 6:01:41 PM PDT
Eric says:
Lmao, this review is solid gold. Excellent work.

Posted on Nov 3, 2010 6:54:10 PM PDT
Thanks for this review. It totally display why sc2 was a disappointment. Blizzard have not done their homework.

Posted on May 18, 2011 1:24:07 AM PDT
RobertM525 says:
Nice review, though SC/SC2 aren't "hard science fiction" games. They're science fantasy (e.g., Star Wars).

Still, I appreciate the review. It reminds me of why I'm growing tired of Blizzard's games and why I have no interest in playing SC2. I believe Chris Metzen is the chief writer for all of Blizzard's games, and I don't think he's capable of any original thought. All the Blizz games have their stories and their "lore elements" (e.g., races, magic) ripped off of major sci-fi fantasy. It's all so ham-fisted that it's almost painful-especially compared to games like Mass Effect.

Posted on May 26, 2011 6:20:26 AM PDT
I just have to ask for clarification: Have you read ANY of the SC or SCII novels? If not, then that may be why you find issue with how the story unfolds. I'll admit, I haven't read each and every SC or SCII novel, but I've read enough to see how they all relate to each other, especially the Dark Templar Saga if you want to really understand the current environment where SCII kicks off from seeing as the events in there basically layout the foundation to the Protoss episode, and allude to things that take place in the Terran episode as well.

The major story line in told in the 3 books don't directly relate to the main SCII line, but everything presented in the books (the current states of the Dominion and what Mengsk has been doing, the Conclave and how they've been trying to rebuild and reconcile with the Dark Templar, and why the Swarm has been sitting back "hiding" out for so long) is presented in some form or another and gives you a sense of what is trying to be portrayed in Wings of Liberty. Not only that, but I believe Christie golden was working with the writers of Wings to produce the Dark Templar Saga in a manner that attempted to bring the story up-to-date without completely giving it all away.

I'll agree, at first I was confused with some of the things going on as the campaign unfolded, but after I read the Dark Templar Saga it some of it made sense, so I started to pick up other SC and SCII novels to see if more light could be shed on what was happening as well possibly get a feeling on where the other two releases will take the story line. All I'm saying is, instead of going off of just the games and what the story line is with them, actually do the research and spend the time to get into the SC universe before you just go and bash it. Given, majority of the lines maybe cheesy or unoriginal, but then again what wasn't in SC? It was all cheesy but it was done in such a way that you found it innovative. Look at what happen to Fenix, he's about to start what should have been an epic battle while defending a temple but his psi-blades "malfunction"?!? A veteran high templar warrior has malfunctioning psi-blades? I don't think so, but when I saw that cut scene back in '98 I laughed my butt off! It was all cheesy and farfetched, but it was done in such a light that made it seem original. SCII, in my opinion, is also done like that. The same humor, the same drama, the same on the edge of your seat action was there the entire 26+ hours it took me to get through the campaign the first time.

As for the "mystic fantasy" aspect of Zeratul and the Protoss, do you not remember Tassadar and Zeratul in SC talking about combining the "light" templar powers with the "dark" templar powers? Do you not remember how mystic and elusive the dark templar where first portrayed? Given, Brood War kind of de-mystified them a bit in the game play, but the story line still had them being a more religious based faction then you're trying to portray them. So no, it wasn't like they went from being a highly evolved race with little to no belief structure to a devolved mystical race. The Dark Templar have always been mystical, and the bits and pieces you see in Wings of Liberty are of Dark Templar, not the Protoss as a whole. Remember, the Dark Templar have only been reunited with the Protoss for a decade or less. Again, pick up a few SC and SCII novels and read them, you'll find a lot of information that will shed light on what you perceive to be a huge change from the original to now.

Just my .02 on the matter. As for your review, even though I disagree with a lot of how you perceive things, it's very well written and doesn't just bash the game for things (for good or bad) that needed to be done. So thanks for presenting something other than the stereo typically we hate Activison/Blizzard because they're trying to make money point of view. It good to see a review on the actual game play/story line instead.

In reply to an earlier post on May 26, 2011 11:20:14 AM PDT
Aiex Halo says:
I read the first three novels. Forgot the name. Third one was best, second was worst.

And I just finished re-playing the original game campaign. I notice there seems to be a lot of stuff oddly missing (which even the unused missions don't fully justify) such as Tassadar's relationship with Raynor and other Terrans. But the Protoss STILL weren't so mystical fantasy high elves as they are in SC2.

Their drawing psionic power seemed as plausible and pragmatic as humans drawing on combat training or meditative techniques, just some ability of theirs as mundane as our fists and feet, yet when mastered, can achieve great results.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 29, 2011 12:02:30 PM PDT
JKaz says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Nov 12, 2011 8:16:12 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 12, 2011 8:18:10 AM PST
Bjorn says:
Loved your thoughts on the dialog. The "one liners" comment is dead on. Too many folks give undeserved praise to Blizzard's writing for various reasons. Starstruck and unread would be my guesses.

Posted on Nov 30, 2011 2:51:58 PM PST
Jarom Allen says:
Your entire balance argument was voided when you said "Hydralisks are inexplicably weak against Void Rays."
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