StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
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Game Reviewed: StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Platform: PC (also on MAC)
Category: Real-Time Strategy (RTS)
ESRB Rating: T
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Starcraft II is the long-awaited sequel to Blizzard’s original installment of Starcraft, which last saw an expansion in 1998. The original game practically defined the real-time strategy genre of games, setting a standard for balanced play and online competition. Starcraft has a large worldwide following with tournaments and leagues hosted for free by Blizzard’s online game service, Battle.net. The story of the game revolves around three distinct races. The Terrans, or humans, are a branch of humanity that was banished from Earth and resettled light years away in another sector of space. The other two races, the Protoss and the Zerg, are beings whose development is guided by a powerful species known as the Xel’Naga. The Protoss, a race with powerful psionic abilities, were given purity of form. Their counterparts, the Zerg, are a race of creatures that were given purity of essence. The Zerg incorporate the traits of other races into their own making them powerful enough to rival their Xel’Naga benefactors.
Starcraft II picks up the story of these three races a few years after where the last expansion of the first StarCraft left off. In the Terran worlds, Arcturus Mengsk, a former revolutionary who used the Zerg to destroy the former government, rules as a dictator. Jim Raynor, a former ally of Mengsk, has established a rebel group known as Raynor’s Raiders to try and overthrow Mengsk. He desires this not only because Mengsk is an oppressive dictator, but also because Mengsk abandoned Raynor’s lover, Kerrigan, to the Zerg, who transformed Kerrigan into a fearsome Zerg-human known as the Queen of Blades. Kerrigan has been rebuilding the Zerg swarm, and has been fairly quiet since the events of the last game. The Protoss were forced to abandon their homeworld of Aiur when the Zerg invaded, and since have experienced much struggle trying to survive as a species. Most of the game revolves around the Terrans and Raynor’s Raiders as they fight against Mengsk and try to build up a resistance that will overthrow Mengsk and either return Kerrigan to her human form or kill her. (This is actually a brief synopsis of the story. To find out more, you can check out Blizzard’s website.)
Most single and multiplayer games in Starcraft work the same way. You use your units to build up resources, construct an army, and demolish your enemies. Each race has unique traits that cater to different styles of play, but remain balanced so that all of the races are equally capable of winning. In the campaign, mission objectives range from destroying specific targets to surviving for as long as possible. A few missions give you a select group of units to achieve a goal. One mission threatens your units with rising lava. Another forces you to advance with a solar flare that is burning up the planet. Multiplayer games range from casual matches with opponents to highly competitive games between players trying to improve their overall ranking among other players.
What Parents Need to Know
Combat is seen from an overhead bird’s eye view. During combat, most biological units have some sort of cry they make when they die. Some Terran units burst into a cloud of blood when killed, leaving a puddle of blood behind. A majority of the gore in the game is found with the Zerg. Just about every Zerg unit bursts or falls apart into bloody pieces, sometimes still twitching. Zerg buildings are actually biological, so they make bloody explosions when destroyed with pieces falling everywhere. In a few missions, Zerg lab specimens are shown sliced up in pieces. Some humans are infested by the Zerg and become zombie-like creatures that try to kill your troops. In cinematic sequences, the results of epic battles are evident with bloody corpses lying around, often in pieces. Blood and gore are prominent in many of these sequences, particularly as Zerg are blasted into pieces. One human is assassinated by being stabbed in the head during a cinematic sequence. The character’s surprised look and lots of blood running down their head are shown, along with the assassin cleaning the blade after the kill. One human, an acquaintance of Raynor, is infested by the Zerg during the campaign and is shown as a half-human, half zerg monstrosity.
Foul language is prominent in Starcraft II. A--, h---, b---h, and d--n are all used frequently. There are three or four blanked out uses of s—t. Multiplayer matches can include plenty of language from other players, although the chat does feature a filter that blocks most profanities.
The Cantina on Raynor’s flagship has a holographic dancing girl wearing a bikini and dancing seductively. Tychus Findlay’s armor sports a portrait of a girl posed in lingerie. Two female characters wear form-fitting body suits. Another female character has a low neckline showing cleavage. A few conversations in the game include sexual innuendo, such as Tychus talking about trying to get the female doctor to give him “a complete physical.” Terran medic units have several lines of innuendo.
The universe of Starcraft is generally devoid of anything spiritual. The Protoss acknowledge their creators, the Xel’Naga, as some sort of gods, but do not appear to worship them. Any “magical” abilities are credited as being psionic, meaning having to do with advanced brain functions. You encounter a character named Tosh, a renegade from a government program that produced psionic warriors known as specters. Tosh wears a voo-doo doll on his neck and has a knife decorated to look like a skeleton. On one occasion, Tosh uses his voo-doo doll. Tosh also speaks about the “spirit world” on a few occasions.
Smoking and alcohol are prominent throughout the game. Tychus is seen on a few occasions with a cigar. Raynor and Matt have victory cigars after a vital mission is successful. Other characters are seen smoking. Raynor turns to booze consistently since the events of the last Starcraft game, a fact that his men acknowledge frequently. For example, after seeing his Protoss friend Zeratul mysteriously appear on the ship, several of Raynor’s friends assume he has had too much to drink. Raynor’s flagship has a cantina stocked with alcohol.
My opinions on Starcraft II are split. As far as gameplay is concerned, Starcraft II is one of the best PC games to ever be released. Rather than change the formula of Starcraft to make a different game, the team at Blizzard took the proven formula of the first Starcraft game and refined this sequel into a visually stunning version of the original that is fun to play and will probably be played for another 12 years just like the original. Content-wise, however, I am personally not sure how Starcraft II managed to squeak by with a T-rating. A lot of the game’s stunning visuals are used for some blood and gore that goes beyond what I have normally seen in T rated games.