Saturday, 7 August 2010

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Collector's Edition

I already wrote a detailed review of the actual gameplay in the war zone known as the Standard Edition (SE) - which was a mistake I can't take back. But I wanted to separate the two because someone looking to buy the Collector's Edition (CE) wants to know if it is worth it to spend the extra $40. Ultimately that depends on each person, but I can at least share my views of what I think of the CE.

..:::USB Dog Tag:::..
This is one good looking custom USB thumb drive and solidly constructed. It is 2GB and over 700MB is used by the original StarCraft (SC) and Brood War (BW) installs. I was kind of praying the games were pre-installed on the thumb drive and I could just plug it in and play off the thumb drive ...but oh well. :) When you plug the thumb drive into your machine the install window pops up. It will auto-populate its CD Key into the install screen, but if you already have SC1 and have the CD Key handy you can use your old SC1 key instead and save the CD Key on the thumb drive for a friend/family member.

The orange portion of the USB Dog Tag lights up with a very cool, calm orange glow. LEDs use very little power so don't worry about that. Some people are sensitive to lights so that might not be a plus to them. I find it very cool and if I was able to use thumb drives at work I would use it for sure. There is also a small blue activity light near neck ring that shows when it is in use or transferring data. When you use your operating system to safely disconnect the usb thumb drive all LEDs turn off letting you know it is no longer in use and safe to disconnect. You can wear it around your neck with same metal beads you'd expect with a real dog tag. The USB connector plug pushes in and out, so there is no need for a cap to it.

..:::Art Book:::..
Very well constructed - coffee table quality. It is binded well and presented quite professionally. Honestly you can find many of the same pictures on the SC2 website as the website has over 500 artwork images you can download. There are some unique to the book as I didn't see every picture in the book on the website. This can be both a pro and con depending on how you look at it. Part of me would like to have completely unique images in the book, but it is also nice having a digital copy of some of these great images. Also having the artwork hardbound into a nice book is still unique in of itself to the CE. This is something you can show to your friends who are curious what SC2 is and why you spend so much time on it.

The artwork is mostly a mix of artist renditions of the most popular units (not all), some buildings and some planet landscapes. The book showcases all 3 races but has more pages dedicated to the Terran, which makes sense.

..:::Soundtrack CD:::..
There are 14 Tracks of in-game music. Doesn't beat a real music CD but at the same time my office mates didn't complain. In fact, they asked me what movie it was from. It's decent background music to break up silence while working. About four tracks are 2min long, couple 4min, one 9min, but most are around 5-7min long. In the end, you probably still have to be a SC gear head to enjoy and appreciate it. I like it, as it will be nice to mix in when need a break from standard music. Though I will say 8 - Firstborn - is probably my favorite as it seems more like the iconic SC music I've come to love all these years.

...:::Comic Book:::...
Here is where you will hate my review. I did not look at it as I'm not much of a comic book fan so figured I'd keep it in the cellophane in case it becomes a collectible later on that someone might want. It is issue #0 so I'm guessing at some point Blizzard will decide to turn it into a real comic book. Heard mix reviews on it, most the negative ones came from people who already were negative toward the game so was kind of hard to really gauge from other reviews. Though even if I looked at it, I really couldn't offer a good review for it since I don't read comics.

..:::SC2 In-Game Content:::..
- BNet portraits (Night Elf Banshee, Tauren Marine, Diablo Marine, Raynor Marine)
- Three decals (Alliance symbol, Horde symbol, Diablo skull)
- Unique skin for the Thor unit

When you edit your profile in Battlenet (Bnet) you have a portrait that shows next to your name whenever you join a game. You unlock different portraits by earnings achievements within the game. This is a way to show off what you have accomplished and also a way to distinquish yourself. The CE comes with 4 portraits (listed above) and they all look good. My favorite is the Diablo Marine. Even though I don't play WoW the female Night Elf Banshee would be second favorite.

Every time you select a race in Battlenet you can also have a separate picture representing that race. If you're military, think of it like a patch for your Regiment/Unit/Wing/etc. Keeping with SC terminology, it would like how there different Broods and having a patch for that. This image displays next to the race name when it shows what race you selected in the game. Just like with portraits you unlock these by completing achievements. For the CE you get 3. They look nice - they could look nicer, though I do prefer them over the default.

..:::WoW In-Game Content:::..
Cannot comment on the quality as I don't play WoW, but just like with the SC2 in-game content they are tied to your account/cd-key.

..:::DVD of Cinematics and Making of Documentary:::..
This is broken up into sections so you should be able to watch the Making of SC2 without worry spoiling the story of the game. I'm not really a fan of watching the "making of ___" videos so I'm holding off till I finish the single player campaign so I can watch the cinematics as well.

You don't need this DVD to watch the cinematics of the game. As you progress into the game (need to beat Mission #3) you can watch all the cinematics from the game using the Mission Archives you find on the ship's Bridge. You can also save your campaign as a whole and restart your whole campaign and just Load your old campaign if you say want to watch some of the later cinematics. So you don't need the DVD to enjoy the cinematics you watched while playing the game. This just makes it convienent if you want to watch it on your TV in your living room or without loading up the game.

The cinematics are gorgeous - already re-watched some. Being a Protoss/Zerg fan I loved the Zeratul ones.

Overall this the only Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Collector's Edition pack I don't regret buying. But $40 is a lot of money, especially for things I won't enjoy on a day-to-day basis like I will with the actual game. But considering the original SC/BW is anywhere from $10-$20, which I've played almost every year since 1998 and I can keep/gift the cd-key to someone is a nice feature. A non-custom designed 2GB flash drive is roughly $8-$13.

I think when Blizzard released a cinematic DVD it was released at $20 ...which I think is way too expensive and never did buy. So between those three things alone, the rest pretty much becomes gravy. But if you're not into bonus stuff just like I don't watch bonus material with movies, than that $40 extra dollars in your bank account might look more appealing. But like I said ...this is the only Collector's Edition I've actually liked.

Far as the game is concerned, my review was posted on 30 July 2010 in the SE copy of the game. I broke it up because I wanted to address the CE material separately. If you don't feel like chasing down my review, to quickly sum it up:

Despite the drawbacks (no LAN, region lock, no unique bnet name, no private channels in bnet, online activation) I not only find the game overall to be so strong that the Pros outweigh the Cons I find the Pros to be so strong I still give the game is a 5 star rating knowing full well those cons are significant ones. So many games these days, some of which are $60 SE, only offer a 6-8hr single player campaign. Even if you are quick enough to beat this game in 14.5hrs (which would be 30min per mission) the amount of replay far exceeds that.

There are decision points in the game that may make you want to play it again with a different choice. There are Tech upgrades you may want to try out that you weren't able to try the first time around. There are multiple difficulty levels. The are achievements to earn, and some are actually very fun to try. Then you include Skirmishes and the Challenge missions, which will actually get you better prepared for the Multiplayer experience then the single player campaign will and you throw even more hours of enjoyment on top of that. Then you have a very balanced multiplayer experience that is extremely fun to play if you decide you want to participate. You can also play CO-OP against the computer with friends if you're not multiplayer fan.

Very few games offer both a very solid Single Player (SP) and Multiplayer (MP) experience. And I find Blizzard games to offer the most hours of enjoyment for both SP and MP. With SC2 you can easily get yours money's worth with just the SP. Some people only play the MP aspect of the game and are satisfied with their purchase.

I still play the original SC and BW to this day, since its one of the few games my parents computer can play and I find SC2 to be better in every way. I think some people just remember the fun they had 12yrs ago and don't remember details too well because Bnet 1.0 was horrible. Yeah it had chat channels but my friends and I had to talk on IRC to setup games because Bnet 1.0 was always lagging and caused too much confusion as sometimes it would lag by 5 minutes.

One thing I didn't mention in my SE review is to make sure you use Replay functionality when you play games online. It records everything but the enemey's conversation. You can even watch from your opponents point of view and see how they build their base, what they saw during the game, what they didn't see, etc.. It's a very powerful tool and far more improved than previous Replay tools. Make use of it. The file space is very minimal too as it records actions via a text file and the replay tool reads those files and translates it into a video for you to watch. It's great for learning where you went wrong, what you did right and learning tricks off your opponents. If you want to learn tricks for multiplayer, search for Day9 TV. He is litterally the SC encyclopedia and goes into better depth than anyone else explaining the mechanics of the game. He uses the replay tool to commentate on games.

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