Last night, I Zerg Rushed home with my copy of Starcraft 2, hell-bent on freeing the Koprulu Sector from the grip of the oppressive Dominion. That is, if I could free the damn game from the grip of Blizzard’s security methods. I literally had to deal with almost an hour of loading, more loading, creating a Battle.Net account, authorizing my copy for Offline Play and then more loading. But all things considered, I was able to fire up the Hyperion on my ol’ iMac with little hiccups.
Starcraft 2 looks gorgeous- if you have a high-end computer. My iMac’s probably mid-powered, so by default the graphics were on low, making visuals in the real-time cutscenes lack detail and textures. I had to fix up the options to take a bit more risk so the visuals looked a notch better- it just wouldn’t do to see jaggy ugly PSX-era blips on my Starcraft 2 game. Still, there were noticeable chugs during heavy in-game cutscenes, but gameplay was fine and carried on smoothly for the most part, which is the most important. I soldiered into the Campaign mode and took on the first four missions.
These initial forays for Raynor’s Raiders should be pretty familiar to anyone who’s monitored this epic througout the past couple of years. You’re Jim Raynor, ex-Space Marshall after you burned bridges between yourself and the reigning Terran Tyrant, Arcturus Mengsk. Since then you’ve been drinking yourself to sleep with dreams of half-insect, half-human babes and putting a bullet into ol’ Mengsk’s head. One day, an old friend named Tychus Findley comes a-calling, giving you tips to some juicy mercenary contracts. Your little army needs the cash to keep fighting, so even if Tych is obviously slipperier than creep, you’re on his game for now.
The first mission is pretty much a cake walk to get you re-acquainted with moving your units around and seeing them gang up on enemies until they’re bits of bloody pulp. The next couple have a bit more bite, having you take on a small Dominion base and then holding out waiting for your pick-up as Zerg hordes rush in. A cool cutscene later and you find out about the big threat you’ve been feeling in your bones all this time. Later on you’re on a Zerg-infested planet trying to evacuate civilians abandoned by Mengsk to the insect hordes.
Raynor’s digs is pretty cool- your HQ is the Hyperion, the old Battle Cruiser you appropriated from Mengsk a few years back. No more basic menus or teleconferences galore here- the interface now puts you smack in the middle of a bridge, a cantina, a lab or the ship’s armory, with pertinent personnel there to strike a conversation with, or little bits to explore or play with, such as an arcade game near the bar, or a news program playing on the TV. It all makes the world so much more involved and more RPG-like, telling the ongoing story more than ever before. In short, it’s pretty awesome.
So far I think I’m doing fine. I’ve gone through most of the missions smoother than a buttered brisket, with little casualties and quite a bit of success. As a result, Jim and the Raiders are becoming Heroes of the People, with rebels joining up and development of the resources coming along swimmingly. In some cinematics and trailers I’ve seen in the past, there were moments where the crew seemed more openly hostile or frustrated with Raynor- things that may happen if you proceed badly or fail in some objectives.
It has been said in the literature and trailers that you shape the story by the choices you make, and how you play. I guess this means a sort of morality meter may be in effect. Do details like your going out of your way to save trapped rebels affect the plot, your progression and how your crew sees you? Also, there’s a push-and-pull of two opposites right in your home camp, with dedicated starship captain Matt Horner on one side, questionable merc Tychus on the other.
It would be interesting to see variables in this regard, but for now I’ll go with the flow. Things should get harder as the war gets along.
Needless to say I’m enjoying the game immensely, and this just brings me back to my old, old days of PC gaming- honestly, it was a Blizzard game, Diablo 2, that made me buy my first gaming PC. Now, I’m back onto keyboard and mouse jockeying and it’s with another sure-classic from these stone cold gaming gods. I’ll most surely be losing more sleep in the weeks ahead as I play, replay and play this awesome game more. Oh, the horror and the glory.