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  CM 00/01

Blizzard is no doubt one of the best strategy game designers, what with hits like Warcraft 2, Diablo and my favourite -- Starcraft. It is an extremely well-crafted game and without a doubt, one of the best games to ever adhere to the real-time strategy formula.

Starcraft offers a lengthy single-player campaign where you will be playing 3 diverse races, namely Terran, Zerg and Protoss. The campaign difficulty increases with each mission and is more challenging than the last. The missions all culminate towards the storyline which is quite impressive if I might say so. For further playability, an add-on : Brood War is a must and this extends the saga of the warring Terran, Zerg and Protoss races with some extra units and featuring more single-player campaigns.

The game comes with newer interfaces not seen in other strategy games as yet. One of which allows you to only select 12 units at one go as compared to the unlimited numbers that you can choose previously in games like Command & Conquer. The other innovation was that you can have your production facility queuing up to 5 units at once. Then there's the usual way-point system and the patrolling system.

The storyline is unique in a sense that there's no essential bad guys or good guys in the game. Every race has their own agenda, and you will be the passive onlooker partcipating in the fight under the race that you have chosen. The disputes aren't limited to inter-racial ones, you get a number of factions for each species leading to quarrel between different factions against different races. For example, the Terran conflict is usually between the Dominion, the Confederates and in Brood War, the United Earth Directorate. The conflicts within Protoss is usually between the High Templars and the outcasts, the Dark Templars. And as for the Zerg, it revolves around the main plot for the add-on, hence Brood War, as Kerrigan, Queen of Blades fights to gain control of the Zerg Broods. The story advances through brief cutscenes, mission briefings and actual -in-mission scripted events which enhances the player's feeling of purpose as to why you're playing this game. The complexity of the plot in the original and in the add-on, is undoubtedly up to the quality of other stratery games, if not surpassing them altogether.

Playing any of the 3 races is a notable experience. The Terrans with their moving buildings; the Zergs who can burrow underground; and the noble Protoss who can construct numerous buildings at a time. Each race features totally different units, with no equivalents on any other side, differing in construction options and repair/healing principles. A lot of attention is given to the balance between each race. Each race is very distinctive, requiring different tactics and styles of play but it's the equality between races that led me to play the game.

Despite being in 2D, it makes up for it in style. The unit and building animations are highly detailed and imaginative. The maps are varied and interesting, the unit portraits are expressive and realistic. The voice acting is great, continuing the leagcy of Warcraft 2, each unit has it's on series of scripts which will be activated when you click on a praticular unit, bringing the unit to life.

The Brood War add-on adds 7 new units, 2 for Terran and Zerg, 3 for Protoss.
Terran : Terrans now have Medic, a female unit who heals organic ground units' HP automatically in battle, thus prolonging the lifespan of Marines, Firebats, Ghosts and even SCVs. The rate at which she heals is incredible and a Medic servicing on 4 Marines is as good as 4 Marines in a bunker. She has some other tricks up her sleeve too, including Restoration, a spell that cures ailments such as Plague or Ensnare; and Optic Flare, which blinds the enemy by reducing their sighting range. The other unit is the Valkyrie, an air unit that can only target other air units. It damages via rockets, which is useful as it damages an entire area, especially so if its against a fleet of enemy Carriers or a swarm of Mutalisks.
Protoss : The addition of the Dark Templars (mentioned in the original Starcraft), which are basically more powerful and better shielded than the regular Zealot. Another great advantage it has is the ability to stay cloaked forever. Merging 2 Dark Templars will yield another potent unit, the Dark Archon. Although they cannot attack and are quite fragile, they possess 3 spells, of which the most intersting would be Mind Control. This spell allows you to gain control of one unit permanently! One interesting use for this would be to Mind Control a SCV or a drone, allowing you to add an entire race's worth of units to beef up your Protoss troops. Corsairs is the answer to the Terran's Valkyrie. It's also an air unit that can only attack other air units. It has a fast rate of firing, matching the Mutalisk. But, the strength lies in its ability to cast a Disruption Web, that prevents any ground-based unit or structure underneath the 'cloud' from attacking.
Zerg : The Lurker is the Zerg's best defence after the Spore Colonies and Sunken Colonies. It can also be used as a potent offensive unit. It is the only unit that can attack when burrowed, making it an effective unit for standing up against ground assaults. Furthermore, the Lurker's spines can damage many units at once. Then, we have the Zerg air unit, Devourer. These slow-firing but extremely durable flyers have cumulative effects that decreases their target's rate of attack and defence. The obvious drawback would be, you'd guess it, no defence against ground units.

The appeal of Starcraft probably lies in its multiplayer gaming. As an avid gamer, I have lost count of the number of hours I spent at the local cybercafe playing multiplayer Starcraft. Brood War adds another 132 maps to your hard drive. Every map begins with the usual Command Center, Hive or Nexus and 4 workers, the objective -- annihilate the opponent.

Conclusion, Starcraft and its add-on, Brood War is definitely the best value combination you can get for a lasting strategy game. It offers a superb set of single-player campaigns and adds intrigue to the already interesting storyline. The game would still be one of my best for many years to come, and I just can't wait for the next version to come out.


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