Company: Blizzard Entertainment
Estimated Price: $49.95
Well, this review is a long time coming. Twice I have posted “first look” articles online, showcasing some of the neat features in the soon-to-be released StarCraft from Blizzard Entertainment. After eight months playing the beta, it was to great fanfare that Blizzard finally sent me the full retail version for review.
StarCraft is a strategy game in the same genre as WarCraft. Like that other Blizzard title, you mine resources to build up your army and destroy your enemies. Again like WarCraft, you build up your forces by creating buildings, which will permit you to upgrade your troops and weaponry. If you know how to play WarCraft, it won’t take you long to figure out StarCraft, though StarCraft is not simply WarCraft in space. True, the similarities are there: Gold (money) is now Crystals Ore; Lumber is now Gas. And like WarCraft, you must have “X” amount of crystals and gas to build more troops and more powerful forces.
For those who have yet to beat WarCraft, here is the key to winning: have more resources. WarCraft is a resource game, if you have more gold and lumber, you will win. This is not true of StarCraft, however. This is a strategy game through and through, not a resource management game, although that does play a significant role in the game. I’ve beaten many players online who went all out expanding bases and hogging all the resources, while I stayed in one base and kicked their butt!
StarCraft is both an online multiplayer and single player game. You can play against other online players using Blizzard’s own online gaming forum, battle.net. (You do need an ISP or AOL Internet connection, however.) You can also play modem to modem, which is convenient if you and a friend both have the game and want to fight it out without using the often overloaded battle.net server. AppleTalk network play is also available, as is IPX networking. While multiplayer network games are the best way to truly appreciate the full action and excitement of StarCraft, many people prefer to play by themselves, and the single-player scenarios will not disappoint.
In StarCraft, you have three races of characters to play with. With three different races to play and three different single-player scenarios, the time it will take you to beat this game is not measured in hours or days, but weeks. The first and most easily learned are the Terrans, or human race. The Terrans single player game starts you off with a small force, and the game teaches you what to do as you progress level to level. After playing the beta release for so long, I burned through these campaigns in no time. For the new user, however, you will find yourself spending hours on end completing each of the race’s single player scenarios.
The Terrans build everything. Want a new barracks? You have to build it. A huge benefit for the Terrans is the ability to move some of your buildings. You simply “fly” them to a new location. Needless to say, this can be very handy when one of your bases in under an attack you’re unable to defend against. Not every building can be moved, but neither of the other two races have this ability. Terrans have a few other advantages, the most important being nuclear weapons. Yes, Terrans can drop low yield thermonuclear weapons on their opponents! While these will inflict some major damage, you will not wipe out an opponent’s whole base with just one nuke.
The Zerg are another race you can play. The Zerg do not use any kind of technology. Rather, everything they create is grown or spawned. Want a new building? You use a Zerg drone to grow himself into that building. (The sound effects are freaky when they do it, too; kind of a “Splat-Plop” sound.) To create new soldiers or drones, you must first select a Larva who will mature into it. Zerg are great for short games. You can create a large (though not powerful) swarm quickly to overwhelm your opponents. They are fast and cheaply made. But this will not work in long drawn out battles, when a decent number of Terrans or Protoss (the third race) are better equipped and upgraded.
The Protoss are by far the most powerful. While Terrans build all their building and the Zerg grow everything, the Protoss warp everything in from their home planet. However, while a single Terrans Marine only costs 50 to make, and for the same price, you get two Zergling warriors, a Protoss warrior will cost you 100. However, unlike Terrans or Zerg, each Protoss has its own shielding, which you must break through before you start to inflict any damage. One Protoss can easily kill three Marines, and at least four Zerglings early in a game.
System 7.5 is the minimum Mac OS StarCraft will play on, and it will eat up more than 100MB of your hard drive space. The advertised system requirements suggest 16MB of memory, but realistically this is simply not enough. It prefers 27MB of memory for efficient playing, which is a steep requirement if your system only has 32MB of RAM, but with the cheap price of memory today, I really don’t see this as a negative. StarCraft has great graphics, and you would never suspect it only runs at 256 colors. It also sports one of the best game soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time, and its many and varied sound effects are top notch.
While I can’t make any excuse for the tardiness of this game, and still feel a little resentment for being made to a wait a year, I cannot give StarCraft a bad review. This game is fantastic, one which will give your months of fresh entertainment. Online play is, IMHO, much more fun than single player action. And while there are a few minor flaws when playing on battle.net (clicking a game to join and waiting three or four minutes until it tells you the game is full, in which time you cannot do anything but sit there and wait), overall the play is fun and challenging.
Looking for a new game to take the place of the aging WarCraft? This is it! And remember if you do buy it and play online, I go by the name MyMacMag, and would be happy to nuke you a few times!
MacMice Rating: 5