Starcraft

a game by Blizzard Entertainment
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 4 reviews
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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.

Game Reviews

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.

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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