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StarCraft" Blasts into our Hearts

Blizzard Does Good...

A couple of years ago, Blizzard Entertainment unleashed one of the best computer games we’d ever played up to that point. WarCraft II was a real-time strategy game that pitted humans against orcs in a fantasy setting reminiscent of Tolkien’s epic "Lord of the Rings." We were so hooked that we desperately wanted to see a sequel – and Blizzard has finally given us just that.

StarCraft (Windows 95/NT 4.0) is the same kind of game, but punched up thanks to the inevitable technological changes that have happened since WarCraft II premiered.

And we love it, too.

StarCraft puts you in command of the Terran, Zerg, and/or Protoss forces, and the basic idea is (not surprisingly) to wipe the scourge of the enemy forces from the universe. As with WarCraft, you start each campaign with basic "drones" and use them to build your base and from there you train your forces and build their materiel.

Naturally, just as you’re getting your forces ready, they come under attack from whichever enemy you’re fighting in that particular scenario – so it behooves you to be quick and alert.

StarCraft starts you out with easy campaigns that teach you the ins and outs of each race and their related technology, then gets progressively more complicated as you get up to speed.

Each race is completely different. The Terrans are a pretty straightforward sci-fi extrapolation of today’s humanity (except that they’re really the outcast dregs of the human race), but the Zerg are a disgustingly "creepy" organic race that evolve from larvae into whatever other form is required for planetary conquest. The Protoss, "an ancient and powerful race," are the most advanced of the three species, and possibly the most fun to be.

a ZergStorybook Fable…

The game follows a narrative storyline that continues to unfold as you progress through thirty different missions set on various space platforms or planetary surfaces. Each mission is self contained, but leads logically to the next one until you’ve become master of the universe. Well animated, and very cinematic, cutscenes pop up between levels to add some perspective to what you’re doing.

Each level has a briefing before it, performed by various characters in the game, and despite their being well written and voiced, sometime you’d like to just get on with the carnage.

And there is, indeed, carnage, though it’s "comic book" style and is unlikely to warp the kids’ minds. If you’re familiar with WarCraft II, you’ll find it very similar, except that the graphics and animation are superior.

Multiplayer Capability…

Once you’ve mastered the different levels, you can go back to the built in scenarios (and there are a bunch of them) or use the campaign editor to create your own.

Or, as with most games these days, you can go online, either via modem, network, or on the Internet. Incidentally, access is free, as long as you have Internet access.

The Long and Short…

StarCraft was definitely worth the wait. It’s everything that made WarCraft II great, with enough new stuff (including new technology) to make it more than interesting. Graphics and sound are first rate, as is the gameplay and even the overall imagination behind it.

In short, we loved it, and can’t wait to see what Blizzard has up its corporate sleeve for an encore.


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January 31, 2006