The Best of The Escapist in 2010

The Escapist Staff | 20 Jan 2011 18:00
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Editor in Chief Russ Pitts describes our critical analysis of games as Experiential vs. Evaluative in that we value what it felt like to play a game more than awarding points for features. In 2010, The Escapist began giving the games that we played scores to provide a judgement of value for our readers and this review of StarCraft II epitomized what a five star game should feel like.


Review: StarCraft II

By Greg Tito

Excerpt: Even though StarCraft II is fairly derivative of recent sci-fi television series (there are notes of Firefly and Battlestar Galactica), it feels original for some reason. It could be the strong Southern American influence of the Terran race; most every character has a strong accent or at least a twang and the soundtrack is more Southern Rock than sweeping orchestra. The cinematic story definitely has an Us vs. Them theme which feels very Southern.

That's not to say that the cutscenes are perfect. The dialogue can feel forced at times, and most of the representations of characters reside firmly in the uncanny valley. When a character's expression changes only once or twice in a 3 minute conversation, it just doesn't feel right. The leadup to the conclusion of StarCraft II is quite impressive, as Raynor is caught up in universe-altering events, but, when it was all over, I felt that the last scene didn't give me enough. I was left asking, "What happened? Did it work? How long do I have to wait for Heart of the Swarm?!?" Unfortunately, there's no word on when Blizzard will release the next installment. My guess is 2015.

One might argue that the single player campaign is a mere preamble to the multiplayer battles of StarCraft II, where your mettle is tested against the multitudes. I disagree. Despite the pressures of recreating the success of the multiplayer masterpiece of the first StarCraft, Blizzard obviously didn't put all of their eggs into perfecting just that portion of the game. The essence of StarCraft II is the saga of Raynor against the Zerg-infested Kerrigan and the struggle of freedom versus oppression. These themes are far from clear-cut, however; is Raynor's love/hatred of Kerrigan more important than the human race? Is freedom important when humanity is threatened by the Zerg?

As in any piece of interactive art, it's up to you to decide. The genius of StarCraft II is that these decisions rest in the very framework of how the game is played. By playing the missions, you embody Jim Raynor and decide where to place your resources and how to accomplish your goals. StarCraft II is not an open-ended experience, it is, in fact, fairly railroaded as modern games go, but it never feels like your decisions are meaningless. How you play, how effective you are as a battlefield general, matters.

Bottom Line: StarCraft II is a wonderful game, both as a story-telling experience and a strategically deep and tactically challenging game. The single-player campaign is deeply satisfying to complete.

Recommendation: If you have a games-ready PC, buy this game. If you don't, buy a decent PC and then buy StarCraft II.

Click here to read the full review and video supplement of StarCraft II

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