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Review by: Pete Hines
Published: April 9, 1998
Take three very different races with three very different philosophies and bring them together and what have you got? How about total chaos? How about a bloody war for survival and supremacy where everyone is fighting multiple enemies, shooting first, and asking questions never? The Terrans (humans), Zerg (mutant creatures), and Protoss (highly evolved, intelligent beings) have all come together through chance and circumstance and have begun what very well may be the biggest battle in the history of the universe in Blizzard’s Starcraft.
In the most basic of terms, Starcraft is not really a trailblazing title. From a gameplay standpoint it is not that far removed from other real-time strategy (RTS) games like Total Annihilation, Dark Reign, and, of course, Warcraft 2. You can choose to play as one of the three armies in either single or multiplayer games. Each race has a ten mission campaign during which the storyline unfolds from that race’s perspective. The manual does a nice job of giving detailed background information about each of the races so that the missions and campaigns are relevant within the overall story. Blizzard has the campaigns set up so that you first complete the Terran campaign, then the Zerg campaign, and finally the Protoss campaign, although you can play them in any order you like if you really want to.
The basic premise for all three races is the same. Collect minerals (crystals) and vespene gas and use these to create structures and units. Everything that can be created in the game, by any race, really only has one purpose: helping its side eliminate all enemies. The storyline for each campaign is played out in between as well as during missions. You will regularly find that completing the objectives set forth at the beginning of a mission leads to a whole new objective that must be completed before the mission is a success. During various points of missions, the game will pause as information or an action that pertains to the storyline is uncovered and discussed before the mission continues.
The game is a completely different experience depending on which race you choose. The Terrans are essentially really lost Earthlings who are far from home and have no memory of Earth or their roots. However, in true Earthling fashion one government group is trying to seize control of the planets inhabited by the different Terran groups. And, also in true Earthling fashion, many of the Terrans don’t like being told what to do by pushy people and an internal struggle breaks out between the oppressive government and different factions of resistance. Plus, the Terrans now have to deal with the bloodthirsty Zerg and the powerful Protoss in addition to their own problems. Timing, as they say, is everything.
The Terran units and structures are not much different than those in other RTS games. Without superior technology, the Terrans use a combination of smarts, will, and strategy to eliminate their opponents. A handful of structures allow you to produce different types of units, research advances in technology for those units, gather and use resources, and protect your own base. Units range from marines and flamethrower units, to siege tanks, to aerial units like the fearsome battlecruiser. SCV units are small robotic units used to construct and repair structures and gather resources. They also bear a striking resemblance to the commander unit in Total Annihilation. Up to five units can be queued in production in each structure. If you want, you can decide where you want those units to go on the map once they have been constructed. Also, another advantage to playing as the Terrans is their flexibility, as many of the structures you build can lift off and move to other locations on the map.
The Zerg is a race that has essentially evolved by ravaging planets and selecting the strongest creatures they come across and bringing them into their race. They move almost like locusts as they swarm their enemies and use their sheer numbers, as well as the vicious nature of their attacks, to eliminate their enemies. From a technology standpoint the Zerg are probably the least advanced, but they make up for this in a number of ways. Besides the volume of attackers they send at you, they can also do things like build a tunnel between two points which allows for the rapid transport of units underneath the surface of the planet. They also gain the ability to burrow underground, hiding from any enemy units until they come into range. It’s pretty unsettling to be walking along and suddenly have 20 Zerglings pop up out of the ground.
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