StarCraft

a game by Blizzard Entertainment
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 4 reviews, 8 reviews are shown
User Rating: 8.0/10 - 1 vote
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See also: Starcraft Series

Similar to the frenzied wait for Mario 64 and Resident Evil 2, the anticipation for StarCraft reached mythical proportions during its two-year development. Does the follow-up to WarCraft II deliver the goods? Absolutely.

Star Wars

In StarCraft, three unique races vie for absolute intergalactic power: the Terrans, a humanoid ragtag fleet; the Zerg, a bug-type infestation tribe reminiscent of the villains in the Alien films; and the Protoss, a slow but powerful community of conquerors.

StarCraft offers three solo campaigns, each consisting of 10 missions. Players start as the Terrans, then proceed to the more difficult Zerg and Protoss episodes. The story line is compelling, and the plot points actually occur during gameplay, as do the cut scenes. The strong, varied single-player game contains survival, reconnaissance, and domination missions. However, because the scenarios begin easy and become extremely difficult, the lack of a difficulty setting is quite troublesome.

Rolling Into Battle

StarCraft's visuals aren't much better than WarCraft II's; nor does the complacent music match its predecessor's pounding combat drums. However, StarCraft's special effects--from the lighting to the explosions to the enhanced voices--immerse you in the thick of battle.

As one might expect from the developers of Diablo, StarCraft truly shines in multiplayer action. Battle.net, Blizzard's free matchup service, puts human opponents just a click away. Nevertheless, StarCraft's A.I. is the strongest opponent you'll find. The game knows when to attack, when to retreat, r how to handle reconnaissance, and when to exploit your weaknesses.

The sharp interface instantly feels familiar, but it doesn't overcome the genre's traditional problems, such as units that can't negotiate complicated terrain.

Well Crafted

Forgoing the glam of Myth and the bulk of Age of Empires, StarCraft delivers a magnificent three-pronged attack featuring sheer strategy, towering complexity and awesome playability. StarCraft surpasses all other real-time strategy games by simply excelling at tactical war.

ProTips:

  • The name of the Zerg game is quantity--don't be afraid to spawn three or four hatcheries next to one another to quickly build a substantial force.
  • In multiplayer games, stock up on a lot of basic infantry to head off eager earlybird attackers, then use them for protection as you build advanced units.
  • During one-on-one matches, set up two camps as soon as you can afford the second one. Your opponent may not think of looking for you in two diferent places.
  • To learn the intricacies of StarCraft's map design, start by editing a pre-existing map: It has all of the necessary resources already in place.
  • In the sixth mission of the Terran campaign, don't try to take on all of the Zerg Spore Colonies. Instead, use Goliaths to clear a thin path to the downed Norad II ship, then go in with the dropships.

Download StarCraft

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

Protoss Missions Strategy Guide + General Tips

GENERAL TIPS

Get off to a successful start in StarCraft

Build quickly and nave a plan. II you don't build quickly, you're dead. And if you don't have a good plan worked out you waste time and you'll probably end up dead When rushed, don't be afraid to use your workers to attack the enemy. I build workers until I have eight and then build a farm' (overlord, supply depot or pylori that supports a greater population. Then I add a tew more workers and build a soldier-producing structure (gateway, barracks, spawning pool). Now I produce both workers and soldiers (zealots, mannes, Zerglings) at the same time I warn about 20 workers gathering crystal, and another lour gathering vespene gas -that's at my first base Establish a second base quickly, otherwise you'll lose the resource war. Take a worker and scout alter you have produced 15-20 workers. Start building a second base and send a squad of soldiers over to protect it Scout your enemy early and adjust your building pattern based on what you see. Every race has a long-range attacker (guardians, reavers, and siege tanks in siege mode), so understand how to deal with these units or else they will knock out your defensive structures from afar Generally, air units are good lor dealing with these. However, a smart opponent will support his long-range attacker with anti-air support. Be prepared to pay a price to take out these long-range units. Combined arms laches are essential to a successful attack once the rush phase is over. Use ground forces to take out ant-air. and air units to take out ground forces.

The Protoss Missions

1. First Strike

Cross the river and head towards the Protoss base You'll skirmish along the way. so keep your force together Once at the base, build probes to gather resources Protect your base with photon cannons and build an attack force. A mix of zealots and dragoons is aN you need to sweep the map free of Zerg -5-10 of each will work.

2. Into The Flames

Start in the NW corner. Protect the ramp to your base with photon cannons and expect to be attacked repeatedly Start a second base in the SW comer of the map. Fenix will arrive in the NE comer after 15 minutes. The Zerg base and the Cerebrate occupy the entire SE quarter of the map. The Cerebrate itself is in the SE comer. Build an attack force and hurry to the Cerebrate - again, zealots and dragoons are what you need. Ignore the Zerg sunken colonies - better to run past them in this case. You can use Fenix and his attack force for a combined assault, but keep Fenix alive. Again, protect your initial base, start a second base and protect that, and attack with a large force once Fenix arrives.

3. Higher Ground

Start in the SE comer There are two Zerg bases, one along the middle-western edge and one in the NE comer. Build probes and gather resources, and use photon cannons for defence. You will be attacked repeatedly. Start a second base on the SW corner of the map, but escort your probe with troops to protect it from burrowed Zerg. Your second base will also be attacked, so protect it well Now build up a strike force and take out the Zerg bases one at a time. Use the scouts for air power, and nibble away at sunken colonies to clear the way for your ground troops.

4. The Hunt For Tassadar

Start in the NE corner; Tassadar and Raynor are in the NW comer. Head NW and take the first right turn available. Then take the next left turn. Then take the next right turn and, after circling a bit, head NW down a corridor to find Tassadar. Use the templar's psiomc storm to attack any Zerg you find along the way.

Once you find Tassadar, immerfiately begin to build a base and protect it You can build templars (and archons) in this mission, so do so. The hallucinate option distracts attacking Zerg, and can also be used to make phantoms of Raynor's vulture bike, which can then be used to scout the map.

The best way to know when to escort Tassadar and Raynor safely back to the beacon you started at is lo build an attack force and see if you can work your way down there Once you can, protect Tassadar and Raynor and move them to the beacon to end the mission.

5. Choosing Sides

Start in the NW comer. There are three Zerg islands, one in the centre and one in each of the SW and SE corners. The beacon you need is in the SE comer. While you attack the middle island, use a fleet of scouts to occupy the air defences so you can use shuttles to unload zealots and dragoons. Once the middle island is secure, start a new base there and build even larger armies to attack the SE island with the beacon. Additional resources can be found along the northern edge of this map.

6. Into The Darkness

A maze mission, and the toughest one yet You'll find a variety of reinforcements throughout. Find beacons to unlock doors. Finally, be wary of burrowed Zerg -especially infested Terrans, who can immediately kill Tassadar. Use Tassadar's hallucinate spell to create phantom zealots to scout the way - never lead with Tassadar himself! His psiomc storm spell car take out Burrowed Zerg it you know where they are. Often you can move close to them, watch them unburrow, and move away immediately, causing them to burrow once more. Target that area wrth the psionic storm sped. Refer to the map lor directions to get through this one.

7. Homeland

Retreat your forces under fire to your base. Harvest and build, expanding due east to a second resource area (expect your base here to be attacked). There are three enemy Protoss bases, one along the eastern middle edge, one in the SW comer and one in the SE comer. The SE comer base has the conclave (nexus) you must destroy. Ignore the eastern base Take out the SW corner base (use a large force of combined arms) and then stage the final assault from here. Move along the bottom edge map. from west to east, to destroy the forces protecting the conclave in the SE comer.

8. The Trail Of Tassadar

Start in the NW comer. The map is trisected diagonally by water, but you hare enemy bases to the south and to the east on you side ot the water. Protect you base with many photon cannons. Too will need a strong attack force ot scouts as wed, as the enemy will use reavers to destroy your base defences trcm long range, so you'll need to engage mem quickly. Use Raynor's battlecruiser to help, but be careful - you can't repair it Take out me base to you south

first, using several waves of scouts to softer it up. Take out me photon cannons (Raynor can help here). Now build an attack force and take out the base. The second base to your NE simply requires a normal, albeit heavy, attack. Establish a small base near some crystals in the eastern edge of the map across the water. This area is lightly defended. The Stasis cell holding Tassadar is heavily defended in the SE corner. Simply mount an attack from your new eastern base and prepare to pay a heavy price.

9. Shadow Hunters

Start along the southern edge of the map. There are resources in both the SE and SW comers, so pick an area for your initial base. Build lots of photon cannons to defend the central bottleneck passage into the southern edge of the map. Establish your second base in the comer you didn't pick for your first base. While all mis is going on, take Zeratul and carefully walk him around the map. He can take out a surprising number of Zerg defences and stray Zerg units.

The cerebrates he needs to kill are located in the NW and NE central edges of the map. However, you will need to secure these areas before you can risk sending Zeratul there. Beware of Zerg defilers in this one. Use arbiters to cloak your units so the defilers cannot target them with their plague attack. To win, produce a large attack force and sweep me map clear from south to north. Use observers to find burrowed Zerg.

10. Eye Of The Iii Storm

A spectacular final mission! Start with two bases, one Terran and one Protoss. The key is securing enough secondary resource areas to build enough units to survive the Zerg onslaught. The Zerg defences are comprised of a large base containing me Overmind in me centre of me map, surrounded by four smaller Zerg bases. Expect to take out two to three of these smaller bases before the final assault. The Terrans start in the NW corner. To their south you will find moie crystal - unfortunately, a Zerg base is right next to me crystal. Soften up mis Zerg base with air attacks, and men establish a couple of missile towers along the ridge overlooking their base. Support me towers with marines and men roll up a couple of siege tanks and put mem in siege mode overlooking me Zerg crystals. They will destroy all the Zerg drones and several Zerg structures. Now take an attack force and roll down me ramp into the Zerg base to destroy it.

While all mis Terran activity is in progress, you also have to keep your Protoss busy. After securing your initial Protoss base, take an attack force and a probe and move due west You'll find some undefended crystal to harvest. Build a base here (expect to be attacked).

After you have these additional two bases (one Terran and one Protoss), work on me remaining Zerg bases. Pinch me Zerg base to me north of your new Protoss base with Protoss attacks from me south and Terran attacks from me north. Once you eliminate this base, me mission is well in hand. Build large attack forces and attack me other satellite Zerg bases to me east of me Overmind. Establish mini-bases near crystal deposits you gain control of. and drop in Gateways and Barracks and produce a stream of soldiers. The final assault simply requires a large force. The Overmind is difficult to kill, so expect to hammer on it for a bit.

Part 1: Terran and Zerg missions strategy guide

The Terran missions

Wasteland

Goals: Find Jim Raynor, move to your base, mine crystals, build a barracks and ten marines.

Proceed along a straight diagonal line to your base in the SE corner, finding Raynor on the way. Keep your force together and the Zerg present no problem. Get to the base and start your SCVs mining crystal. Build more SCVs, a barracks, and the marines you need. You may be attacked, so keep your forces together.

Backwater Station

Goals: Kill the Zerg and keep Raynor alive.

Build SCVs and mine crystals and build another six marines. Move your soldiers and Raynor north, and liberate the terran structures by 'touching' them. You'll fight scattered pockets of Zerg, so keep your soldiers together. Get a few firebats at the liberated Terran base and two SCVs. Start them mining. Take your soldiers and move them towards the NE corner of the map. You'll fight some more Zerg, and then find the infested Terran Command Center. Destroy that and you win the mission.

Desperate Alliance

Goal: Survive for 30 minutes.

Build with defence in mind. A quick scan of your base reveals two choke points. Build three bunkers (don't forget to put soldiers in the bunkers!) and three missile towers at each choke point and you will be fine, as the clock ticks down and the friendly dropships arrive. Back up the choke points with some marines and firebats, and put some marines up on the elevated platforms as well. Keep mining and building supply depots and soldiers and you will prevail.

The Jacobs Installation

Goal: Find data disks and keep Raynor alive.

This one's a maze. Keep your force together to mass fire. Use the 'A' key to move them. Make sure that Raynor survives, and eventually you'll find the objective marker and end the mission. There are also teleport pads that look like objective markers. Check the screenshot for the best route to take.

Revolution

Goal: Move Kerrigan to the Confederate command center, keep Kerrigan and Raynor alive and destroy the Confederate base.

Move Raynor and your force south and find Kerrigan. Move south across the bridge and then east. Destroy three missile towers. You will encounter light resistance. Further east you will see a missile tower and a bunker. Destroy the tower and then retreat from the bunker. With the tower gone, cloak Kerrigan and move her east and up the hill into the enemy camp and on to the objective marker. You then hear that the base rebelled and is under your command.

Destroy the Confederate base in the south. Mine gas and crystal and protect your base entrances. Build wraiths and research cloaking at your starport. Take eight wraiths, cloak them and fly south and take out the Confederate refinery, Command Center and other units. The quick method is to use your wraiths to take out the missile towers. Replace destroyed wraiths with newly built ones. Once the towers are gone, destroy the rest of the base with cloaked wraiths. To avoid wraith casualties, build dropships and drop marines near the Confederate base to take out the missile towers.

Norad 2

Goal: Bring two dropships and Raynor to the downed battlecruiser.

Mine crystal and gas. Build more SCVs. Use the two SCVs to repair the battlecruiser, goliaths, and bunkers near General Duke. Place marines and SCVs in the bunkers. Do not move any of these units up the hill or you will trigger an attack. Use these SCVs to repair throughout. Defend your main base. To the north, up the hill, you will find more crystal and gas, but Zerg as well. To win you need to defend your base well, and then build an attack force, push north and work your way back south through all the Zerg to get to the battlecruiser. A quicker method is to build a dropship and head to the southern edge of the map. Hug the edge and drop marines up on the SE ridge. Your dropship may be destroyed while unloading. Take the marines (may take several loads) and destroy the Zerg Dors and sunken colonies up on the ridge to clear a path for a dropship to fly Raynor directly to the battlecruiser. Unload him on the objective marker and you win.

The Trump Card

Goal: Take Psi emitter to the objective marker and keep Kerrigan alive.

Move the Academy and Starport to your main base, along with Kerrigan and the other units. Abandon the base down south next to the crystals. Build SCVs, mine, and build base defences - bunkers and missile towers. Build a small fleet of wraiths and fly them south, cloak them, and selectively destroy whatever enemies you can. Build an army of marines and seige tanks, and move to the abandoned southern base and reclaim it to mine the crystals and gas. Take your army and gradually push east and then north from this new base. There are many enemy goliaths and seige tanks, so don't push too fast. Put a row of tanks in seige mode and use your marines to draw the enemy to them. Use a science vessel to uncover any cloaked wraiths. Replenish your troops and keep pushing until you get to the objective marker, and then bring the SCV with the Psi emitter to it to end the mission.

The Big Push

Goal: Kill the Confederates and keep Duke alive.

Start in the SE corner, and transport your forces a short hop to the NW and build a base. Use your wraiths and Duke's battlecruiser to take out light resistance. Place your buildings next to their upgrades. Now build and secure your base. There arc three enemy camps: one to the north of your base, one in the NW corner, and one the eastern edge of the map. Don't be afraid to use Duke's Yamato cannon to take out missile towers to clear the way for your wraiths. Build an extra command center or two with nuclear silos. Use Ghosts to spot for your nuclear attacks, but keep them cloaked. They need to maintain visual contact with the target for the strike to be delivered. Take out the bases one by one. Take out the north base first to get more resources.

New Gettysberg

Goals: Don't destroy any Zerg structures, kill the Protoss and keep Kerrigan alive.

Seal off your base! The Zerg are immediately to your NW and west and attack throughout. There are three entrances to your base. Use bunkers and missile towers to defend these. Defend your SE border with missile towers as well. The Protoss will launch air attacks against it. The Protoss also attack your base by land at your SW entrance. Quickly expand, and grab the minerals and gas in the SW corner of the map. Resources are limited. Now go on the attack. Use Kerrigan and her cloaking ability to roam inside the Protoss-controlled areas, and pick off individual enemies. The Protoss have two bases: one in the NE and one in the SE. If you carefully attack by air with a few battlecruisers and cloaked wraiths, repairing when necessary, you can whittle away at the Protoss.

The Hammer Falls

Goal: Destroy the ion cannon and keep Raynor alive.

Quickly mine and build. Move an attack force up the ramps and then to the east. You'll encounter some stiff resistance. After defeating this initial force, move to secure this centre portion of the map. To the NW there are additional resources you need later. The NE corner of this map is a hotbed of opposition. The western edge contains another enemy base. They will send attack forces against your newly established base in the middle, so build defences quickly. Holding then entering resources is the key. Once you successfully establish a presence and defend it adequately, you can build and then turn your attention to the ion cannon located along the NW corner of the map. You will have to use dropships to get to it. Build battlecruisers to take out the missile towers, but beware of ghosts and their lockdown missiles. Once the missile towers have been neutralised, begin ferrying over troops. This is a tough fight. The enemy will continually dropship in reinforcements as well. Once your head is established, it should then just be a matter of time. Use battlecruisers to mount the final attack. When the cannon is destroyed, the mission ends. Congratulations!

The Zerg missions

Among the Ruins

Goals: Create a spawning pool, hydralisk den, protect the chysalis and destroy the Terran base.

Create drones, mine, and build your spawning pool and hydralisk den. Create a dozen hydralisks and march them NE along with some Zerglings. There are two Terran bases protected by goliaths and soldiers. You'll probably have to create two or three squads of hydralisks to accomplish the job. Just keep pressing towards the main Terran base with a sizeable force.

Egression

Goals: Use a drone to move the chyrsalis to the objective marker.

Mine and use a unit to activate the hunter-killers guarding the chysalis. Use them and other attackers to clear the area of just to the SE of Protoss. Mutate a hive into a greater hive and create a spire. Build hydralisks and mutalisks. Use a force of hydralisks and mutalisks to clear the way to the objective marker, which is a bit of a maze, and when done move the chrysalis to the marker. The main Protoss base is along the western edge of the map. You don't have to destroy it.

The New Dominion

Goal: Protect the chrysalis and eliminate the humans.

Mine and build your base. Build hydralisks and mutalisks. Build detectors and hidden colonies to protect the chrysalis. Move up the ridge to the north and fight the Terrans to claim the area. Build a second base here. Now build an attack force of mutalisks and fly due east and then north and defeat the Terran forces on the NE edge of the map here. Research the overlord transport option. Use overlords to bring hydralisks to the beach head. Now it's a matter of pushing west along the ridge and overcoming the many Terran forces. Use mutalisks to take out seige tanks. Be sure to leave a force behind to protect the chrysalis.

Agent of the Swarm

Goal: Protect the chrysalis and infest or destroy Raynor's command centre.

This one's straightforward. Build and protect your base, and then build up a sizeable strike force of mutalisks to take out Raynor's command center in the NE corner. The island in the middle has additional resources, so you can transport a drone to build a base also. Defend your home base - it will be attacked throughout. To get good map intel, use a queen to parasite a Terran transport moving back and forth.

The Amerigo

Goal: Move Kerrigan to the supercomputer.

Kerrigan is the key. Using her cloaking, she can run ahead alone and clear the hallways. Use her 'Consume' ability to eat Zerglings and replenish her energy so she can stay cloaked longer. Beware of hidden missile traps though -they reveal Kerrigan. Use the hunter-killers to take out the missiles. Retreat when wounded, and burrow to heal. If all else fails, Kerrigan will also heal over time, so tuck her in a safe spot and get up and take five.

The Dark Templar

Goal: Destroy the Protoss and then take Kerrigan to fight Tassadar.

Start in the NW corner and build and fortify with sunken colonies and detectors. Also build hydralisks, and when your base is attacked (repeatedly), cloak Kerrigan and use her -she's your best weapon. Psionic storm is quite effective. The key to winning this one is to expand and grab the resources to the immediate east and south and build new bases. Use overlords to transport drones. The south is protected by a small Protoss force. Once you have expanded, build your strike force. Take 12 mutalisks and six or more guardians along with an overlord (for spotting) and head SE. The Protoss have quite an encampment along both edges of the map down. It may take several strike forces to defeat them. Use your overlord to spy on their defences, and then use the guardians to take out the defences from long range. Expect the Protoss to respond quickly. Use your mutalisks to protect the guardians. Remember to pull back and heal if necessary. For the final battle with Tassadar, just port Kerrigan there.

The Culling

Goal: Defeat the renegade Zerg.

The key is to expand rapidly. You start with a nice strike force but no base. Immediately go north and encounter a weakly defended Zerg colony. Destroy them and then use your drones to create a new colony. Now it's mine and build time. Put in a spawning pool after your production is ramped up, and create 18 Zerglings. Take these, backed by your starting group of mutalisks, and head due west. You'll find another enemy Zerg base. Destroy it and establish a second colony here.

Now it's build and research time. Defend your bases well with sunken colonies and spore detectors. Both will be attacked repeatedly. Hydralisks will also help. The enemy Zerg will use overlords to transport attack forces throughout, so the attacks can be a bit unpredictable. The main enemy encampments are located along the NE and north edges of the maps. Upgraded mutalisks and guardians can take out most of these.

Eye for an Eye

Goal: Don't let the Dark Templars escape, destroy the Protoss, and keep Kerrigan alive.

One of the toughest. There are three beacons that the Dark Templars can use to escape. Defend them all. Keep an overlord near each to spot the invisible units. Essentially, you have to manage a war on three fronts. Use the Nydus Canals to shuffle back and forth rapidly.

Build a hydralisk force and use the canal to stage them in the upper left corner. Move back east with these, along the upper edge of the map. Kill the Protoss and build a new base here next to the resources. Now build and research, being sure to protect the three beacons well. Create an airforce - mutalisks and guardians - and head south from the upper right corner of the map. There's a Protoss base midway down the eastern edge and another small encampment in the SE corner. Take these out and build new colonies. Build up a large attack force and take out the largest Protoss base located in SW corner. Once this is gone, move north up the map and take out the final base along the western edge.

The Invasion of Auir

Goals: Take a drone to the Khaydarin crystal, mine that crystal, defend the mine, and return the crystal to your beacon.

Another tough one. Build and research quickly. Send 12 Zerglings due east along the top edge of the map to gain control of a second resource area protected by Protoss. Establish a second base there. The ridge to the south of your main base is protected by photon cannons. Use guardians to destroy them. There's a natural alley down the center of your map that you need to control. Build a strike force and slug it out. It may take you several waves of attackers, but grab this centre alley and build a third base. Protect it well with sunken colonies and detectors. The Protoss will repeatedly attack all your bases, using shuttles to drop in troops.

Push down the middle of the map. There are Protoss bases on both the east and west middle sections of the map. The Khaydarin crystal is down near the bottom middle of the map. You can attempt to take out the Protoss bases or push ahead to the crystal. Once you get to the crystal, a ten-minute timer starts. You need to protect the crystal during this ten minutes, so keep building your force and assign the Khaydarin crystal mine as the destination for newly created units. Once the timer expires, take the drone carrying the crystal to the beacon to end the mission.

Full Circle

Destroy the Protoss temple.

Build quickly and expand, but protect your main base with many sunken colonies and detectors. There are mineral and gas deposits to the immediate east and west of your main base, so build bases there as well. This should give you most of what you need for the usual airforce - mutalisks and guardians - and begin using them to soften up the Protoss defences. You need to take out those photon cannons! The map is pinched off in the middle by some water, so you can establish some defences at the choke points if you like, though it isn't really necessary. Use a combination of air power and hydralisks to push your way through the stiff defences that protect the temple. When you have destroyed the temple, the mission ends.

The game then went on to sell an incredible 1.6 million worldwide, prompting Blizzard to release the now obligatory 'mission pack' as soon as they could get it out the door. In some ways then, Warcraft 2 can be I seen as being almost solely responsible for building the excellent reputation Blizzard enjoy today. Then, of course, Diablo appeared on the scene with its gorgeous graphics and fantastic gameplay and Blizzard were suddenly one of the developers to watch.

We are now at the latest stage in Blizzard's development and I for one can't wait to get my hands on a playable copy of Starcraft. You see, although I quite enjoyed Warcraft 1 and 2, I'd much rather play with spaceships and rockets than a group of Tolkienesque characters, which in some ways explains why I awarded comparatively low scores to both the Warcraft games.

I write this having had the privilege of sitting with the Blizzard chaps and watching them play through the first few stages of the game. Typically for a Blizzard title, it looks absolutely gorgeous. It also looks as though it will be just as addictive as Diablo, which I completed three times over a two-week period and will probably go back to again sometime soon. Try to imagine the incredibly crisp graphics of Diablo applied to highly detailed futuristic combat units and you'll get some idea of what to expect. Blizzard have taken onboard the few criticisms levelled at the two Warcraft games and have designed a brand new SjK interface and gone to great lengths to make sure that Starcraft has more unit types than any game of this genre has ever seen. Starcraft also has a very strong on-going storyline. This is something that Blizzard introduced to the real-time strategy genre with Warcraft 2 and the trend looks set to continue with their latest project. So it seems that Blizzard are about to repeat the success of Warcraft 2 and Diablo and further cement their reputation as a leading force in games development. I spoke to Bill Roper, the games' producer, who is understandably very excited about Blizzard's biggest project to date.

Blizzard's Rise To Fame As A Prominent games developer has been well charted. With Warcraft 1 and 2 and Diablo winning a well-deserved place in the hearts of self-respecting gamers worldwide, hopes are understandably high for their latest title.

But before we go any further, let's ask ourselves what we can reasonably expect from a game that follows in the footsteps of Red Alert, Dark Reign and Total Annihilation. Improved graphics are obviously expected by the discerning real-time strategy aficionado, and Blizzard duly deliver with consummate ease in this department, with highly detailed units and impressive terrain providing a realistic backdrop for your wanton destruction.

How about believable and vaguely realistic Al? Let's face it, strategy buffs have long since tired of giving units the simplest of orders, only to stare at their monitors in disbelief as their computer minions wander off aimlessly around the game map, finally meeting their digital makers at the hands of roaming enemy soldiers. This is the single most infuriating element of the real-time strategy (RTS) genre. Every single RTS game released to date suffers from serious Al problems, and any game that makes any headway in this complex area should be loudly applauded. The law of averages suggests that such a game wrll undoubtedly emerge sooner or later. Unfortunately its name will not be StarCraft.

Anybody home?

Many of the mission maps in StarCraft have narrow lanes and passageways your units must traverse in order to get to their destination. A typical StarCraft scenario in cases such as this will now follow: order four or five units to make their way through a narrow passageway. One or two will make it through. The others don't fit. What do they do?

Do they wait patiently while their fellow combatants filter through and then follow suit? Not on your life. Prepare once again to stare in horror as your units travel halfway round the universe to get to their destination. Why on earth do programmers have so much difficulty in getting this right? Surely a simple queuing system would solve the problem, with units waiting their turn to get through tight areas of the map? Whatever the reason, it all seems beyond the greatest games programmers in the world, and the ones who suffer most from this idiotic display of incompetence are the long-standing RTS faithful. Technically, StarCraft is a very good-looking RTS game with the same Al problems that have plagued this genre from the very beginning. Once you get past this fact, however, a very playable strategy game awaits you, albeit one which you may have seen, and in many respects played, many times before.

No alarms and no surprises

So sang Radiohead in their infinite wisdom (long may they reign). One wonders whether they were privy to an exclusive preview of StarCraft, because we have found through playing the game extensively that there are indeed no surprises whatsoever to be found from one end of the StarCraft experience to the other. Build units, send them into battle, upgrade structures for increasingly powerful hardware and defences, search for crystals to provide energy for your buildings and units... It's all way, way too familiar. From the early RTS days of Dune 2, right through to the recent success of Total Annihilation, the formula remains the same. However, this formula has worked for all StarCraft's most capable rivals - a fact that Blizzard are no doubt keenly aware of. But whether or not it will work for you depends on how you take to the later stages of the game. Allow me to explain.

A game of three halves

The StarCraft universe is comprised of three warring factions: the Terrans (humans), the Zergs (an organic race) and the Protoss (experts in Psionics). The Terran campaign serves as a tutorial for the game in general, and it works well in this sense, since Blizzard seem to have simply re-designed the graphics for the Zerg and Protoss races based on the Terrans, while keeping the basic functions of B the units more or less the same. For B example, the Terran supply depots serve F the same purpose as Zerg Overlords, enabling you to create new units. Zerg spore colonies, for their part, serve the same purpose as Terran missile turrets (they h defend your base from aerial attacks).

Similarly, the Protoss have their own units which perform the same basic functions. For this reason you may experience a slight feeling of deja vu as you make your way through the different campaigns. Red Alert fans in particular will be interested to note that there are missions in StarCraft which give you the task of guiding a single unit through an entire level. These missions prove to be the only deviation from the standard 'build and destroy' missions: and indeed this was the case with Red Alert, which seems to be the sole inspiration for StarCraft's 'lonesome hero' missions.

RTS veterans won't find anything here to get wildly excited about, but having said that, while StarCraft won't win any awards whatsoever for originality, it's a highly playable, visually impressive example of the genre. For some people this will be enough. In fact, if you haven't played many games of this type you'll welcome it with open arms. Even if you've already made your way through Dark Reign, Red Alert (in particular) and TA, you still won't be disappointed by this game. But don't expect any surprises. Think of StarCraft as Blizzard's generic mission disk for all your favourite RTS games and you won't be a million miles from the truth.

The creators of the epic Warcraft series rocket into space with Starcraft, a real-time strategy game set in a galaxy plagued with war. Playing as the leader of one of three races (Terrans, Zurg, or Protoss), gamers must complete 30 missions that traverse outer space, interstellar command stations, and planetary surfaces. Of course, each species has its own abilities, attributes, and story line, and all three fight with their own style of technology and battle units. Starcraft will support eight-player action via modem, a network, or the Internet; gamers will also be able to log onto Blizzard's Battle.net server free of charge.

Blizzard is ready to blast into outer space with the real-time strategy warfare it made popular with Warcraft. Starcraft sets up interstellar combat between three ambitious races. You can play as any of the alien societies, each of which has unique abilities and battle units. As the leader of your race, you must set up combat units to gather resources, train soldiers, and wage military campaigns in order to dominate galaxies. Starcraft can be played head-to-head or with up to eight players across a local area network or Blizzard's battle.net site at http://www.blizzard.com/bnet/bnet.htm. The stars are your destination.

Overview

This is a real-time strategy game like Age of Empires, Total Annihilation and some of the other titles, such as the Warcraft series, that Blizzard has produced. You play one of 3 races: the humanoid Terrans, the bug-like Zerg or the reptilian Protoss. Each race has its own advantages, with unique units, graphics and personality. There’s actually a fairly well-developed storyline for the game in the players’ guide, with histories of each race and run-downs of the characters you’ll encounter in the campaigns. The setting is 24th-Century futuristic, after Earth citizens have burned themselves out and have migrated to other parts of the galaxy. They run into the Zerg and the Protoss while fighting for planetary dominance on the Galactic Rim.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Like most games of this type, gameplay is on a playing field, with controls and a mini-map at the bottom of the screen. Units are controlled via mouse or keyboard shortcuts. You gather resources, in this case minerals and Vespene gas, to afford to produce workers, military units, buildings and upgraded technologies. You can play as a single player on different campaigns and scenarios, or multiplayer via network or on the Internet at Battle.net. Play, especially in battle situations, is very fast, although games themselves can last quite a while (hours, even) especially if the players are evenly matched. If you’ve already played this type of game before, you should be able to adapt to the feel of play fairly easily. Some units move so fast that it can be quite a task to follow them quickly enough with your mouse to select them. You can also self-design single or multi-player scenarios, or modify design on some of the already-installed scenarios.

Graphics

Overall, outstanding -- some of the best out there. The little movies that they play during some of the campaigns and right after installation are amazing. They do restrict you to a certain screen resolution (640 x 480) but because of the smallish size of the units, this makes sense. Some units, particularly Terran buildings, look so much alike that it can be difficult to tell them apart until you have played for awhile and get used to the subtle differences. The whole visual effect is very dark, which can make units difficult to see sometimes, so you may want to turn up the brightness on your monitor if you are having trouble. The control panel, while graphically nice to look at, takes up a bit too much screen real estate and could have been made smaller in relation to the playing field to avoid having to scroll so much during play. Map borders on the playing field also could be better defined, as it seems as if there is more map to look at when scrolling to the novice player, and you just run into a frustrating dead-end.

Audio

Very good and clear. Distinguishing between some of the odd sounds the units and buildings make takes experience, and sometimes the noises seem a bit incongruous with what they are supposed to represent. Music is very good. Definitely a game to buy good speakers for.

System Requirements

Windows 95/NT 4.0: Pentium 90 or higher, 16MB RAM, SVGA video card, Microsoft-compatible mouse, 2X CD-ROM drive (Quad-speed for Cinematics).

Macintosh: PowerMac or compatible, 16 MB RAM, System 7.5 or higher, 256-color, 640x480 display or better, 2X CD-ROM drive (Quad-speed for Cinematics).

Documentation

There is a tech tree chart of the buildings and a good manual that comes with the game. Reading both before play is a good idea. The manual gives background on the storyline and each of the three races, plus gives more specifics about each unit. Considering that many units look similar and there isn’t a lot of on-screen information about what each unit is and does, the printed material is a big help.

Parental Warning

This game, while not as graphically violent as many games out there, is still fairly raw and also includes a fair amount of off-color language. Parents may want to restrict this game to older children.

Bottom Line

Aside from a few minor gameplay and graphics problems, Starcraft definitely ranks at or near the top of the heap for games in its class. The inclusion of female characters is welcome and mostly well-done, if a bit on the just-there-for-decoration side. The cinematic animations are outstanding, dramatic and funny. Even the voice-over acting is really good. Multiplayer games are fast and furious, though it can take a while to get used to how alliances and teaming works. Scenarios are fun, but unless you’ve played for a while already and are familiar with the game, the computer players will come in and kick your butt. Save those for when you’re used to playing. The major complaint so far is with network gaming, as the game doesn’t allow for direct TCP/IP networking, so if you want Internet play you have to use Blizzard's Battle.Net. A great game with lots of replayability and hours of time-consuming fun.

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