Starcraft II : Legacy of the Void

StarCraft_II_-_Legacy_of_the_Void_coverDate Completed : November 21st, 2015

Spoiler warning!  Don’t read if you care!

Having already reviewed SC2 : WoL and SC2: HotS I don’t think there’s much new to say about how the game is played.  I’ll try and focus on what sets this game apart from the previous SC2 titles.

Legacy mixes things up a little bit by including prologue and epilogue missions in addition to a main campaign.  The main campaign this time around really didn’t resonate with me very much.  I think it has to do with the story – in the Terran missions there were a lot more subplots and only hints of the overarching story for the trilogy.  In Legacy the overarching story is right in your face, and all of the subplots are related to the resolution of the story.  Many of the missions reiterated on plot points that previous missions had already touched upon.  I felt to me that they were stretching things out pretty thin so they could include a full 19 missions.

The game starts with an attempt by the Protoss to retake their homeworld of Aiur.  You land on Aiur with an invincle army, and I suspect that the mission was designed with the intention of making you feel invincible.  You command a massive army and you steamroll your way easily through an army of entrenched Zerg.  The invasion seems destined for success until suddenly every Protoss is mind controlled by Amon, the dark voice from the void.  Only the Dark Templar Zeratul is unaffected and he gives his life to free a remnant Protoss forces from Amon so that they could escape.  Zeratul has been one of my favorite characters in all of gaming since my college days (I own his action figure).  I told a colleague at work that I’d rather see him die than lose Zeratul.  I think he thought I was kidding.  I’m not sure I was.

The remainder of the missions involved freeing / finding more Protoss forces so that you can make a second attempt at liberating Aiur.  The cut-scenes seem to have been taken up a notch – every single one of them is fantastic.   The story however seems to fizzle out at this point.  You know the campaign is going to end with the successful retaking of Aiur and everything else in between is just filler.  Awesome filler, but filler nonetheless.  The sentiment that seemed to shared by my friends was that Legacy offered the weakest campaign of the three games.

When I finished the final main campaign mission I decided to take a short break before starting up the epilogue.  BIG MISTAKE.  The epilogue is only three missions long (1 Protoss, 1 Terran, 1 Zerg) but it concludes the Starcraft II trilogy in the most satisfying way possible.   The ending is the most shamefully awesome fan-service of all time and I loved every second of it.  It more than makes up for any perceived shortcomings of the main campaign.

I’m sorry to see the end of the trilogy but with the upcoming mission packs I’m sure I’ll continue to play Starcraft for years to come.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  10 hours
System: PC / Mac
Genre: Real Time Strategy
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Pikmin 3

Date Completed: 8/17/2013

Pikmin3Boxart

After multiple delays Pikmin 3 was finally released 9 months after the Wii U’s launch. Launch window my butt!! While a bit disappointing, the delay did not come as a big surprise. I happened to play Pikmin 3 at the Wii U Experience event that I attended last year and it was quite obviously not close to being ready. They didn’t let me touch the Wii U Gamepad at all and instead handed me a Wii remote + Nun-chuck. While game delays are a fact of life this one was particularly frustrating due to the long software drought on the Wii U. Prior to purchasing Pikmin 3 I had never actually bought a boxed Wii U title (all of my games were Christmas presents last year).

Pikmin 3 follows the exploits of three intrepid explorers who are searching the universe for food to take back to their starving planet. After crash landing on planet PNF-404 Captain Charlie, Alph and Brittany encounter the Pikmin. Like most conquering warlords our Heroes quickly realize that Pikmin can be used for cheap slave labor. Pikmin mindlessly obey your every command and can be used to collect the various fruit products located all over the planet. They can also be militarized and be sent into battle against the Bulborbs and other indigenous creatures.

Bulborb.

A Bulborb Photographed with the in-game Camera.

When a Pikmin dies it lets out a heart wrenching gasp and its spirit lifts from its body and slowly floats away. My wife (who had never seen a Pikmin game before) was completely horrified. Anyone with a heart will want to avoid this graphic death animation and will attempt to keep as many Pikmin alive as possible. Unfortunately Pikmin are ridiculously fragile. Bulborbs scoop Pikmin up and eat mouthfuls of them like skittles. The environment is overflowing with other perils such as electrified walls, jets of fire and numerous foes. Once I accidentally detonated an entire Battalion of Pikmin with a chain reaction of bomb rocks and 100 spirits gasped simultaneously in horrifying agony. There was nothing else to do but turn off the Wii U and quit for the day.

Pikmin 3 is part exploration, part puzzle solving, part resource management and part combat. There are five different colors of Pikmin that each have different abilities that help to traverse the mazes. Yellow Pikmin can be tossed higher and conduct electricity, blue Pikmin can swim and red Pikmin are fireproof and are good fighters. The Purple and White Pikmin from Pikmin 2 have been replaced with Rock and Winged Pikmin. Rock Pikmin can be used to shatter glass or bean enemies in the head and Winged Pikmin can fly over obstacles. The new additions were a lot of fun and I think Rock Pikmin are my new favorites in the entire series (although I was happy to see Purples and Whites are still available in Mission mode).

The biggest change from previous titles (besides HD graphics) is that you have three characters who can be controlled simultaneously. Using the map on the Wii U Gamepad you can assign a character a destination and then switch to another character while the first character works his way towards the selected location. I would often have all three characters working autonomously in different areas of the map on separate objectives but some puzzles require collaboration from all three characters. Effectively multitasking between the three different and managing the different varieties of Pikmin is essential for success.

I played the entire game with my two young sons (who are 4 and 2) and they absolutely loved it. Each of them has their favorite Pikmin color (red for my older boy and blue for my younger) and they have been drawing pictures of Pikmin when we’re not playing the game (We even built a Lego Pikmin). They’ve started pretending that our family cats are Bulborbs and they seem to believe that Pikmin are living in the woods outside our house. The boys have enjoyed watching many of the games that I’ve played but never to the degree that they enjoy Pikmin. After beating the game I had to start it over because they won’t let me play anything else. My oldest son has been asking when Pikmin 4 will be coming out (Are you working on that Nintendo?).

My son with a Lego Pikmin.

My son with a Lego Pikmin.

I finished the game in 30 game days, so the length is comparable with the previous titles. When the game was over my wife asked ‘Is it over already?’ even though the in-game clock indicated I’d played for over 12 hours. The game seemed to go by very quickly, but you know what they say about time flying. After beating the game your score is saved and your world-wide rankings are displayed. I’m happy to say I was up towards the top of the bell curve for performance (although to be fair I did restart a few days that had gone poorly). High scores are saved so if you’re not satisfied with your score you can play through multiple times. There is also a Mission Mode and Bingo Battle mode so more content is available for anyone who wants to continue playing.

In spite of it being primarily a single player experience the entire family enjoyed Pikmin 3. I have other games left to play but I haven’t been able to talk the boys into letting me play any of them yet. Pikmin 3 is a fantastic game and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Pros

  • Play as three characters simultaneously.

Cons

  • Short levels.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length: 12 hours
System: Nintendo Wii U
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Starcraft II : Heart of the Swarm

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

Date Completed : 3/18/2013

There are only a few things more exciting in life than the release of a new Blizzard game.  I’ve been playing Starcraft ( and Diablo ) on and off for 15 years now.  No other game in my collection has been played so consistently for so long.  My former roommates and I played the original Starcraft game regularly for over a decade until finally, Starcraft II : Wings of Liberty was released.  My oldest boy was a bit over a year old at launch and he was able to participate in his first great video game unboxing.  He even helped to christen the box by peeing on it during a potty training incident.

I have two boys now (almost 4 and 2 years old) and they both helped me to unbox StarCraft II : Heart of the Swarm.  I’ve tried to explain the plot of the game to them but the older boy thinks that Sarah Kerrigan is a bit scary and the younger boy thinks she’s some sort of spider.  Their lack of enthusiasm didn’t slow me down much.  I was able to play through quite a bit of the game by distracting them with classic ’80s cartoons.

HOTS Unboxing

Unboxing HotS with the boys.

The game hasn’t changed a whole lot from previous incarnations of StarCraft.  If you’ve ever played a real-time strategy game you’ll know what to expect.  The big difference between StarCraft and other lesser RTS titles is the story.  I had to rush through the game because co-workers have been discussing the plot for the last week.  After playing through the game my wife actually feigned interest in the story and asked me how it ended.  After completing the game I can say that the story is excellent and it clears up most of the loose ends from the previous title quite nicely.  The between chapter videos were all as high quality as you’d expect Blizzard produced videos to be and all had jaw-dropping plot developments.  I sent (and received) many text messages after finishing a chapter that consisted only of the text “OMG!!!”.  StarCraft truly is the greatest space Opera of our time.

Most of the missions are variations on missions from the previous title.  The big difference is that this game has a lot more hero missions where you control only Kerrigan and a small attack force.  Kerrigan levels up as missions progress and gains new abilities.  Some of her abilities are ridiculously powerful and I found myself trying to beat a lot of the missions without using any of the other units that were available.  In another big twist Kerrigan is also available in most of the traditional missions.  Effectively micro-managing Kerrigan’s abilities can completely changes the tides of war.

The game is a big buggy.  There are achievements that weren’t properly awarded, sound that didn’t work right and random crashes.  I plan on playing through the game again at some point but I think I’ll wait for a patch or two.  If Diablo III is any model it’ll take about a year for the code base to stabilize.  It’s probably best to avoid the game for awhile anyway.  My kids stopped calling me ‘Daddy’ and instead refer to me as ‘That man in the back who plays StarCraft’.  Plus my wife keeps giving me the evil eye (but to be honest, that could be for all sorts of things).

I think in many ways StarCraft II : Heart of the Swarm surpasses Wings of Liberty.  The story was more enjoyable, the missions were super fun, and the Kerrigan hero unit was totally badass.  I whole heartedly endorse this game.

.Pros

  • New Missions
  • New Units
  • More Story
  • Awesome Cut-Scenes

Cons

  • My younger boy forgot my name.
  • My wife loves me a little less.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 10/10
Length:  10 hours
System: PC / Mac
Genre: Real Time Strategy