Review by Adori

"Cultural influence, economic influence, RTS-defining quality, all wrapped up in one little ball..."

With video games being released almost on a daily basis, it's hard to keep up in the competition. If you want to make a bang, you have to do it NOW, and never look back. Unfortunately, the suicide bomb explosion is naturally stronger on a console; PC games are rarely talked about frequently ages after they're released. Sure, there's the occasional Half-Life, but come now; how often do you talk about games such as Neverwinter Nights or Doom, or even well-known titles including Age of Empires II, Diablo II, and Warcraft III?

Another problem behind this is that many games easily doable on a console or handheld will usually be ignored; as such, this usually leaves only point-and-click games, certain styles of FPSs, MMORPGs, and RTSs able to make a scene. On top of that, it had to be revolutionary to really make it into the hearts of PC gamers. There goes most of the remaining qualifying library; point-and-clickers don't exactly have the ability to stray far from their usual ground, it's nigh upon impossible to make a new take in an FPS, and for an RTS, warring factions are too similar to one another. MMORPGs also follow the same fate – although big names such as Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft, and Runescape are thrown around, consider the large number of MMORPGs you've probably never heard of.

Thus the stage was set for Starcraft to take the entire gaming world by storm.

Granted, it didn't look that way at first. Many described the Starcraft prototype as “Warcraft in space”. While for many, that was hardly a bad thing, there was one fatal flaw to that comparison; Warcraft II, while praised by many, felt too sameish. The Orcs and the Humans of Warcraft II were basically the same race with different graphics and only a few tweaks. It was time for something new, and Blizzard Entertainment, realizing this, completely scrapped the game engine and started from scratch. What came out would set the bar for RTSs after that.

The Confederate forces have as of late encountered a new race whom call themselves the “Protoss”. Security has been tightened to the point that several colonial planets must undergo quarantine. The backwater world of Mar Sara is one of these worlds, but when things go wrong and a force of new unidentified extraterrestrials invade, the locals break Confederate orders and push back their new enemies. After their arrest, you call on the underground terrorist group known as the Sons of Korhal to help you out. A campaign consisting of ten scenarios each will be done from the viewpoint of a member of each race, as you duke it out as the Terrans (humans), Protoss, and Zerg against former allies and enemies.

Several distinct landforms mark out your scenarios, from the twilight world of Mar Sara, to the ashes of Char, to the jungle world of Aiur, the desert world of Korhal, and even platforms in space and the insides of ships. Although the varying terrains make up a strong portion of tactics, the real meat of the game comes from the three different races. The Terrans can generate a near-infinite stream of standard pistol-bearing Marines in complement with fire-blowing Firebats to take on minor forces. Backed up by Medics, able to heal at fast paces, a mixed squadron can cause havocs. The Terran Vultures can cover a large amount of ground in a short amount of time, while leaving mines around for enemies to walk over and cause to explode. A strong anti-air defence is backed up by Missile Turrets and Goliaths, each of which shoot missiles at air-faring units, hitting them hard. Tanks have the longest shooting range of any unit in the game, perfect when placed up on a cliff and guarded by Wraiths, spaceships capable of decimating air forces and able to put a dent in ground forces, all the while able to cloak themselves and hide away from enemy eyes.

On the other hand, the Protoss have a highly offensive-based task-force weighted down by large expenses. The Zealot is the perfect one-on-one unit and a platoon can destroy almost any building in less than a minute, while the Dragoons are excellent for taking out fleets and picking off ground units far away. The High Templar's psionic abilites (measured by psi, a variation of MP) can crush a force within seconds with Psionic Storm dealing heavy damage, while the Dark Templar take the way of the sword, dealing major damage with each blow, all the time being permanently cloaked. The Arbiter will cloak every friendly unit within a certain radius, and can use Recall to instantly teleport forces from elsewhere to the Arbiter's location. The infamous Carriers send out Interceptors, smaller ships that come out of the hull to shoot fast lasers at their targets. Every Protoss unit have shields which automatically regenerate; thus, quick hit-and-runs will result in damage done only to the shields. This isn't to mention how the Protoss construct their buildings; instead of actually creating the structures, you teleport in buildings, without having to do the actual effort yourself. On a negative side, you have to wrap in Pylons, which create a circle of communication around it so that you can warp buildings in.

Lastly, the Zerg will make any person used to striking fast and finishing fast feel at home. It's central building, the Hatchery/Lair/Hive can produce up to three units at a time, and the basic unit, the Zerglings, are fast, possess decent strength, and each egg that hatches contains two Zerglings. The Hydralisks are stronger ground units that won't go down without a fight, can be lethal towards air units, and can transform into the Lurker, capable of hiding underground and attacking enemies without fear of reprisal. The Mutalisks are air units who can hit two units with one shot, and can morph to become focused towards ground or air attacks. The Ultralisks are some of the most powerful ground units in the game, and can lay waste to buildings in a matter of seconds. An interesting note with the Zerg is that they don't build things; rather, they go on the Creep (ground changed by Zerg influence) and metamorph into a building.

What makes Starcraft really fun is how there are so many possible tactics to use. Zerg rush (create a bunch of Zerglings ASAP and attack your opponents), mass Carriers (build twelve Carriers and upgrade them to have as many Interceptors as possible), and Dark Archon + Light Archon + Dark Templar + Light Templar (a combination of four of the most brutally efficient units in the Protoss arsenal) are only three of many dozens of tactics to be used. Over the course of many years, Blizzard Entertainment has released many patches until all three races are perfectly balanced. Online playing gets to be addicting, as each game refines your skills and opens new strategies.

Most companies would've been happy to have a genre-defining release alone; after all, Starcraft brought in three diverse races, instead of the usual “two to a dozen civilizations with like one difference between them” treatment. But no, Blizzard Entertainment and Starcraft didn't stop there.

Enter South Korea.

1997 was the year of the Asian financial crisis where many Asian businesses were hit hard in the economic sector. South Korea tried to recover, and the government went so far as to open internet cafes for profit. With an opportunity in the window, Blizzard advertised Starcraft on everything from TV to potato chips, until South Korea became a Starcraft-hungry country. Fan devotion became so strong there, that besides there being a copy of Starcraft sold for every 10th person in Korea, it is very lightly exaggerated as Starcraft being their national sport! Certainly, one would not think otherwise, with two channels being dedicated to 24/7 coverage of games between top players. Ability to play Starcraft is closely linked with scores in South Korea – your grades would be posted next to your Starcraft record.

Within only a short while, South Korea profited as they quickly industrialized and revenue went up and up and up. Some say that Starcraft even went so far as to be indirectly responsible for many South Korean inventions after 1998; without the intervention of Blizzard's masterpiece, many tech-mongers may have never become interested in a computer.

Many games can take home bragging rights, but none can take home the right to say they turned the fate of a country around…except Starcraft. It's a good game, and it has aged incredibly well. While current-generation games decay quickly, the tight gameplay, reasonably acceptable atmosphere, the cutting-edge space story, and a ton of cultural influence put Starcraft in the spotlight, even seven years after it's release.

Now if only they would get around to releasing Starcraft 2.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/06/05


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