StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Review

Before I discuss the purpose of the other three rooms in the battlecruiser, I have to let you know that StarCraft takes a departure from the standard RTS tech tree model of upgrades even though StarCraft was one of the games that pioneered that model. There are no more research structures to be found, and you don't have to "research" unit upgrades such as a weapons enhancement each and every time you play a mission. Instead your accomplishments in a mission will earn you currency that can be directed towards upgrades once you're back at the battlecruiser upgrades that will be permanently applied to your units in future missions. The game still keeps a tight control on the rollout of new unit types they won't be available until you complete the corresponding mission in which they first appear but once they're unlocked you can purchase and upgrade them for use in all future missions. In addition, if you scour the maps during a mission you'll come across alien tech artifacts from the Zerg or Protoss which can be analyzed back at the battlecruiser.

Death from above

This is where the other sections of the battlecruiser come in. The ship's lab analyzes any artifacts that you recover, and when enough data has been gathered it leads to a breakthrough that results in the availability of a new upgrade. There are two research tracks, one for Protoss technology and the other for Zerg, and each yield different technologies. In both cases, though, each new tier forces you to make a selection between two new technologies/upgrades. When you select one of the upgrades the other is lost for the remainder of the campaign, so it's best to be careful to select the one that would be a better fit for your style of play.

The armory is the replacement for the standard tech tree from the first StarCraft and the hundreds of strategy games that mimicked it. In the armory you'll find all of the units that you've unlocked so far in the campaign and you'll have the opportunity to spend credits earned in missions to purchase upgrades for them. Each unit has two possible upgrades, but unlike the alien tech upgrades you can purchase both. There are also structure upgrades available, such as built-in defensive guns or armor plating.

While there are interactive objects and conversations to be had in all sections of the battlecruiser, the true interactive hub of the ship is its cantina. You can catch news broadcasts on the TV, talk to the ship's crew and visitors, and even play a fully functional arcade game. However, the cantina is not just about atmosphere; it's also where you need to go to hire mercenaries. Mercenaries are powerful versions of regular units that can really help you turn the tide of battle in a pinch. To call on their aid, you'll first have to spend credits in the cantina to unlock each type of mercenary unit. When on a mission a specialized merc compound building can then be used to call down a mercenary squad when you need them. You won't be able to spam the game with mercenaries; you can call on each type of squad only a couple of times per mission, there's a cooldown period between calls, and mercenary units are far pricier than other units in terms of resources.

StarCraft II's single player campaign does a good job of maintaining a balance between staying true to its roots and changing the formula enough to keep a twelve year old gaming concept from feeling stale and outdated. As someone who's played the original game, I can say that my disappointment in finding that there is only a Terran campaign in the game was more than compensated for by the variety of missions in the game and immersive nature of the campaign. The achievement system is a good addition to the game, but I wish that the possible achievements for a mission were listed up front before beginning it rather than as an afterthought. I didn't like missing out on an achievement I could have easily earned if I had only known about it beforehand. Overall, though, this StarCraft veteran is quite pleased with the new game's campaign.