Long-awaited real-time strategy game (RTS) StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty has gone on sale after a 12-year wait. The game follows on from the 1998 release of StarCraft, putting the player in command of a group of humans battling for survival against an insect horde and telepathic aliens. StarCraft II now holds the record as the longest time between sequels. The first edition sold over nine million copies and is seen as one of the defining games of the genre, along with EA’s Command & Conquer.
It took the classic RTS game play and refined it to become a benchmark for how micro and macro-management RTS games would evolve.
The recipe was an instant hit with gamers, spawning three major add-on packs and having a knock-on effect in the real world. In 2005, South Korean fans watched the final of a proleague event while University of California, Berkeley, offered a course on the game, that explored “various aspects of the game, from the viewpoint of pure theory to the more computational aspects of how exactly battles are conducted”.
The new game, which went on sale at midnight on 27 July 2010, stays close to the original.
Throughout the seven year development period, designers have stuck with the three races – the powerful Protoss equiped with telepathic powers, the insectoid Zerg who can swarm defenders by sheer weight of numbers, and adaptable Terrans who can steal technology from the other two races and modify it to their own ends. However, Blizzard has made changes in the way units are upgraded and altered and improved the way they interact with the in game environments, tested in a long public beta process.
There have been no reviews before it went on sale – Blizzard stated that Battle.net (the mandatory online service) was so integrated into the game requirements, it would not be possible to make review copies work without the servers also being live.
There is some controversy over the region locking of Batttle.net – european players will not be able to play US or asian gamers, though some countries in SE asia will have access to some US servers. There will also be no LAN play option, with internet access required even for local matches. Blizzard also courted controversy over the requirement to use real names as part of their RealID relaunch of the forums, though they have since withdrawn from that position.