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volume 1, issue 33

Today in loonygames:

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Off the Shelf:
StarCraft Battle Chest

By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

Title: StarCraft Battle Chest
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment

Average Price: $60


ike many die-hard WarCraft fans, I eagerly awaited the release of StarCraft. I looked at all the screenshots, I drooled at the concept of having three different races, the built-in Battle.net action sounded like heaven to me…the whole package just sounded spectacular to me. And yet, for some reason, when the game was actually released, I didn’t run out and go buy it. I’m not entirely sure why, really…I can’t remember exactly what I was playing at the time (I’m guessing it was Final Fantasy VII) but whatever it was, it was enough to distract me from running out and purchasing StarCraft. Recently, you may recall, Blizzard released Brood War, an add-on pack. This was pretty much a no-brainer, after the smashing success that WarCraft II’s add on, Beyond the Dark Portal was. And yet, I still didn’t run out and buy StarCraft. Go fig.

Maybe it was the fact that I had read a number of "ho-hum" reviews about StarCraft, or maybe it was the fact that after playing 3D strategy games I wasn’t willing to go back to 2D…although that does seem unlikely, since I was still playing WarCraft! I suppose it’s just my natural aversion to change, really…after getting so used to hearing "zug zug" and "yes m’lord" I wasn’t really excited to have to switch over to a whole new sound scheme. (Hey, I’m anal, what do you want from me?)

But, Blizzard, being the smart folk that they are, took StarCraft, Brood War, and a couple of strategy guides, and threw them together into a single box, forming…the StarCraft Battle Chest. Woo…sounds impressive. This is pretty much a follow-up to the WarCraft Battle Chest which contained not just WarCraft II and Beyond the Dark Portal, but also the original WarCraft game. They didn’t throw in any extras into the box, which was pretty disappointing…while the box is certainly jam-packed with goodness, I was still kind of hoping for something extra. Oh well…I can live with that.

The set is priced at a fairly expensive one for a collection of this sort, although when you tally up the costs of each piece, it actually comes out to be quite a bargain. There’s StarCraft, which goes for about $40, Brood War, which goes for roughly $25, and two strategy guides, which are about $15 a pop. The set goes for about $60, so just Brood War and StarCraft alone cost more. Personally, I wouldn’t have actually bought the strategy guides, but hey…they’re a bonus. And you know, they’re not half bad, either. I’m not into strategy guides, since they tend to ruin games, but this is StarCraft we’re talking about here. There’s not really any way for it to spoil the game, except for the map pages, and you can flat out skip those entirely. What they do fairly well, on the other hand, is provide some good tactics for certain situations. And while the multiplayer section isn’t exactly fantastic or anything, it’s very capable.

So how’s the game? Well, let’s face it…it’s really not that different from WarCraft at heart. It feels more like a space-themed WarCraft III than a whole new game, but you know what? That’s fine with me. I loved WarCraft. And, as a result, I love StarCraft. The basic premise of WarCraft is here, and if you played it, you’ll be able to pick up StarCraft in no time.

Where StarCraft does differ, and this is its best feature, by the way, is when it comes to storytelling. Where WarCraft had some great cut-scenes, and some clever missions, it didn’t really have much in the way of an involved plot. StarCraft does, and it’s actually a pretty good plot, to boot. It’s filled with lots of twists and turns, and all the stuff that makes sci-fi so much fun. The three races (the Terran, Zerg, and Protoss peoples) are well fleshed out, and as the game goes on, you’ll get some cool revelations about each of them. The best part of the storytelling is the fact that during the missions the plot moves forward. In WarCraft, after the initial cut-scene and briefing, the mission runs its course with no mention of the actual plot. In StarCraft, the cut-scene and briefing are just the beginning. Every now and then the game will pause, and characters will start to speak to one-another. During these conversations, you’re likely to learn some stuff about the plot, but also, more often than not, in fact, you’ll be given a new mission objective.

The missions themselves are really exceptional. I love WarCraft to death, but let’s face it…many of the missions were similar. There were some good guys, and some bad guys, and your job as one of them was to kill the other. And in some cases, you wanted to keep one guy alive while killing the other guy. This was fun, but repetitive. In StarCraft, these missions are here, but they’ve also added some entirely new scenarios. In fact, there are very few missions that come down to a simple two-team fight.

And hey! That’s just StarCraft proper! This box has Brood War as well! Like WarCraft: Beyond the Dark Portal, Brood War is exceptional. It adds 26 new single player missions (in three separate campaigns) along with well…100 multiplayer maps. If that sounds a bit extreme, think about how StarCraft works. You don’t really have to "learn" maps in StarCraft to be any good at multiplayer. If anything, it’s more fun when you don’t know the maps. If Quake shipped with 100 deathmatch maps, people would probably go crazy…in order to be good at Quake style deathmatch, you need to know the maps backwards and forwards. In StarCraft, that’s just not the case.

The whole multiplayer system is hooked up through Blizzard.net, Blizzard’s free online service. The whole thing works seamlessly with the game, and it’s a very simple process to start up or find a game. There are plenty of chat rooms if you need help or tactics, and the whole setup is a total class act.

I’ll admit it…I’m a StarCraft junkie. I can’t help it…it’s horribly addicted. Once you’ve played through the regular game (no small feat, as it has 30 single player missions) you’ll just be itching to crack open Brood War. The fact that you get both in the same box is reason alone to run out and get the StarCraft Battle Chest…especially if you’ve been looking for an excuse to check out StarCraft. If nothing else, it’ll tide you over until the WarCraft special edition ships later this year.


- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief here at loonygames. He's forsaken caffeine. This is probably cause for concern.


Credits: Bargain Bin logo illustrated and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Bargain Bin is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited and like, in poor taste, dude.