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July 19, 2016

(QuickReview) StarCraft II Wings of Liberty


Everything you need to know about StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty in three minutes, or less. Have a quick read-through, and see if this game is for you.

Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg

Developer: Blizzard

Publisher: Activision Blizzard

Platforms: Windows, OS X.

Genre: Real Time Strategy
Review of Game:

Well, it took me long enough didn't it? I had a bit of a rough patch this year (and the last), to say the least. The blog was dragged through the mud with me due to my inability to confront the harsh truth that I'd changed as a person and my blog in it's current state, would eventually fall by the wayside if I didn't change it soon.

Well, here I am. No more unreasonable deadlines, no more articles about topics I felt I needed to write about but had no interest in, and lastly no...no more promises.

This blog is about gaming and the emotional impact it has on the gamers. The best reviews were about the most life-changing moments in our lives and how gaming lead to them. That was always the heart of the site, and that's how it will remain.

Anyhoo, I think I speak for everyone when I say we've wasted enough time. Let's get to the review...

Overview:

In case you've been living in a cave (like me for half of my teenage life), StarCraft is a Real-Time Strategy game set in a distant future on a distant planet in a distant galaxy. It features three races: The Terrans, a race of humans splintered into several conflicting groups, the Protoss, a highly intelligent race of creatures with psionic abilites, and the Zerg, a parasitic race intent on destruction.

The general story of StarCraft revolves around Jim Raynor, a hard-boiled sheriff with a strong sense of justice, getting involved in a conflict with Arcturus Mengsk, a dictator-like emperor of the Terran Dominion, the lead faction of the Terran race in the Koprulu Sector.

After a heart-wrenching betrayal, Jim Raynor's ally and love interest, Sarah Kerrigan, falls to the Zerg race and is transformed into the Queen of Blades, a terrifying creature with the ability to control the massive Zerg horde and turn them against whichever race she pleases.

Jim Raynor seeks to stop the Queen of Blades, as well as avenge her loss by bringing Arcturus Mengsk to justice. Jim Raynor has fallen upon hard times at the beginning of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, but the return of a former ally forces him back into action into a confrontation between Arcturus Mengsk, sects of the Protoss race, and the Queen of Blades herself.

Gameplay:

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty follows the RTS model of gameplay. The player starts off the majority of missions and all skirmishes with a command center, which is accompanied by a couple of SCVs, the "worker" units of SC2. Players build up a base, followed by defenses and offensive units, whether they be troops, vehicles, tanks, air units, or special units with unique abilities.

Each faction has a similar playstyle, but with individual twists. The Terrans find strength in their adaptability and agility in harsh environments, whereas the Protoss bring in the big guns, brandishing the heaviest hitters of StarCraft II. Last but definitely not least, the Zerg race brings up the rear with their strength in numbers to crush the opposition.

Since the Terrans are the focus of Wings of Liberty, we will mainly be talking about their gameplay in the campaign. The missions of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty are designed with precision, featuring a wide array of unique twists and turns whenever the player starts a new level.

The campaign spikes in difficulty as soon as the second act starts, with crushing levels made for gamers with nerves of steel. You may find yourself restarting a level several times or loading an earlier save state once you've gotten yourself cornered in an unescapable situation.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is about solving difficult situations, end of story. If you can't solve it, you will lose miserably. The game isn't shy to throw incredible challenges at the player when the time comes. You may find yourself wiping copious amounts of sweat from your brown during a mission once the game decides to throw a curveball you really didn't see coming.

Story:

Evoking strong 80s vibes, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty features a cast of borderline-cheeseball characters who smoke big cigars and wield even bigger guns whilst spouting corny one-liners and having cornier bar fights.

Not exactly nuanced writing, but SC2 more than makes up for it with thrills. Jam-packed with reveals about characters old and new, Wings of Liberty keeps itself from plummeting by throwing reveals at you as the missions fly by.

Audiovisual:

While not the greatest of graphics, SC2 definitely has a very high visual quality due to its creative art style and flashy unit design. The environments of SC2 sell the game, ranging from volcanic, to desert, and to woodlands.

The graphics falters a bit in smoothness in some departments, due to StarCraft II's strange model of downloading the game while you play it. It's not uncommon to find a fully pixellated character staring at you in the middle of an important cutscene, which becomes more than a tad bit distracting after a while.

Conclusion:

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty reinvents itself with each mission, so as to not become stale. And it works. SC2 is enjoyable from beginning to end, throwing challenge after challenge at the player with each passing tide of Zerglings.

It's just a shame that the installation process is so drawn out, with the pauses while we wait for content to load dragging down what's an otherwise fast-paced game.   

Verdict: Great (B+)

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty gives players an excellent challenge from beginning to end, with memorable set pieces, creative levels, and superb replayability. The story is average, but Wings of Liberty more than makes up for it in sheer fun.

May 11, 2016

Safe-Zone Gamers


I'll be the first to say it: At this moment in time, I'm pretty much a safe-zone gamer.

"A gamer that avoids all form of objectionable content?"

Nope. I wish. Rather, I'm just a gamer outside the chaotic circle, otherwise known in modern culture as "The Gaming Community".

It's a topic I've spoken about a thousand times. I just "fell out" of the gameosphere and haven't managed to fully reintegrate myself. It's not for lack of trying, it's just for lack of a solid purpose. Like, when I'm standing in the middle of all the chaos, all the video games being announced and published and played and raved on about, what am I supposed to do?

Gaming has always been about the experience for me. Whether it be old or new, long or short, classic or modern, round or square, hot or cold (okay my comparative metaphors fall apart rapidly these days), none of it matters unless I have a genuine emotional connection with the game.

So while others might choose to run head-first into a speeding tornado, getting swept up into the chaos without so much thought as to where they're eventually going to land, I've decided to simply sit outside the rim and watch. When the storm clears, I'll take a long walk through the now barren wasteland.

And if there's something shiny amidst all the wreckage, I'll take it. But only once the storm's passed.

April 28, 2016

Thoughts of the Thinking Gamer: Emotional Attachment


It's strange how memories are formed. The most mundane of events can be remembered for years to come, but the most monumental of family gatherings is pushed to the outer rims of one's daily recollections. 

Once a memory has left a person's conscious mind, it lies there in your subconscious, waiting for the right moment, where it is brought to the forefront again. Sometimes, nothing except the emotions of a memory are left, leading to an object such an article of clothing evoking a strong feeling of sadness or joy for no discernible reason.

For some, this same feeling extends to entertainment. Movies can remind you of a time in your life, such as the grief from the death of a loved one, or the birth of a child, or the beginning of a relationship.

Television series' can evoke such memories as well. Music, especially, is good at provoking emotions, as is the nature of the medium itself. Ditto for books, comics, and the list goes on.

But does the same principle apply to video games? Yes, it does, for two primary reasons.

1. They're works of art.

2. They're time capsules.

Works of art naturally provoke emotions. Whether it be happiness, or horror, or excitement or curiosity, video games are just as emotionally compelling as other mediums of entertainment.

Take The Walking Dead for instance. (The video game version, obviously.) What started out as a simple adventure game set in the apocalypse evolved into so much more in its two season run, with the first season ending on a tremendously heartbreaking note bringing gamers far and wide to tears.

The oft-spoken about death of Aeries in Final Fantasy 7 comes to mind as well, shocking young and old gamers with its surprisingly brutality. The plot twist at the end of Shadow of the Colossus subverts all traditional video game endings and aims for a much more artistic one, proving to be highly effective and haunting.

And who can forget the insanely unsettling world of Silent Hill 2, a deeply psychological look at the mind of a man going through severe grief, manifesting itself in the many, many gruesome sights the titular town presents.

As you can see, video games are works of art capable of provoking strong emotion. Sometimes the emotions last upon multiple playthroughs, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they even deepen on more expeditions through their landscapes, due to changes in one's life prompting for a deeper connection with the material.

Which leads me to the second big emotional attachment one may form to video games; the time in which you played it. Speaking from a purely anecdotal viewpoint, there are certain games which, no matter what their quality may be, will always be of importance to me. Not because of their lasting value, but because of the emotions they bring back.

The crazy levels of MDK2 are compelling, sure, and the unique gameplay of Giants: Citizen Kabuto hold up pretty well considering its age. But that's not why I play them. I play them because of the nostalgic feeling I get from them.

Some more recent games evoke certain emotions which made me connect more deeply with them. Hitman: Blood Money is an interesting example. I first started up the game in 2014, whilst going through severe depression, so severe that I couldn't bring myself to play a game as intricate as a Hitman title.

Fast forward one year, and after making a commitment to getting over my depression and moving forward, I decided to try out all the things I previously abandoned and see if I could regain my passion for gaming. Hitman: Blood Money was challenging, but the feeling of finishing it was amplified by my feeling of personal triumph at overcoming a roadblock in my life. (For the time being.)

Video games are many things. They are fun, they are frustrating, and they are highly, highly entertaining. But some experiences can't be carried over from one player to the other. Sometimes, the emotions they evoke are as unique as the players behind them.

It's not something you can explain. Like the feeling of peace when one stares out the window, or the warmth you feel from a sweater you got last year, some things aren't physical.

Some things are just pure emotion.

April 21, 2016

Land of The Living

When Friday finally comes around...

Hello everyone! After three months of procrastination, I've decided that I'm absolutely still game to go on with the blog (pun fully intended), and will do so without any hesitation.

However, there will be a few limitations. The first of which is that I'm not, what you might call, able to do a lot of reviews right now. (It's a new condition hence the awkward name.) The reason for this is twofold.

Eins: I recently moved (AGAIN) and had to leave my gaming PC behind, due to my parents needing it for work purposes.

Zwei: I have too little internet to download videos of newer games. Yep. #BudgetCuts

As you can see, this is a bit of a challenge. BUT, I do plan on taking the website back to it's Christian roots, content guides and in-depth analyses included. 

When we'll start again...I don't know. But we'll get there. Eventually..

December 21, 2015

Operation: Get Back Into Gaming (Report 4: What is a Real Gamer?)



In an article posted not too long ago on a similar gaming site, it was mentioned that around 90% of gamers never complete most of the games in their library. The reasons for this varies, from too little time for gaming because of preoccupation with work, family matters, or simply not enjoying the game in question.

That begs the question; if one never finishes the majority of your game library, does that still make you a true gamer? Or does it make you more of a casual gamer? 

When I started this article series a while back, I did it with the full intention of getting myself back into gaming. As the article series went along, I realised that it was more about the "why" I gamed, instead of the "how" to game, as I got back in the game (pardon the horrible pun) quite some time ago.

This change in direction occurred due to my lack of proper planning and organisation beforehand, and so we ended up with a bit of a bumpy ride to this last article. Nevertheless, the conclusion I want for us, is to take a look at why we game, and my experience with completing a full-length game I'd been leaving on the backburner for quite some time in order to discover the answer. 

I took on the challenge of completing the game last month, shortly after starting my first real job. It was an extraordinary practice in time management, as I played the game before and after work, all whilst trying to plan my other, more important activities around my work hours.

For long, I'd been trying to organise my otherwise highly unorganised life, and hoped that getting employed would solve that problem. Spoilers: It didn't. Stress ran high at my workplace for the first two months, but it improved shortly before writing the post due to one simple thing: Routine.

Without going into much detail about my current workplace, for obvious reasons, the events of the day would leave me tired, angry, irritated, and most of all, depressed. Everything seemed extremely pointless, due to the chaos I experienced on any given day.

One day, as I sat pondering my existence for the umpteenth time, I had an epiphany: The chaos would continue to depress me unless I made some kind of effort to fight it. It occurred to me that I'd organised an entire day once before, and it ended up being a really pleasant experience once all was said and done.

I took a note on my phone and scheduled the activities I would do outside of work, like when I would watch my favourite TV shows, and when I would work on my blog, when I would study, etc, etc. Unsurprisingly, it worked.

While the work days are still grating in certain departments, I would always feel a great relief once I stepped out, knowing that there was some kind of structure and routine (which I created), which I could return to.

Bringing it back to video games: Before this planning occurred, I played a little strategy game known as StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. As I'm nowhere near the best RTS player in the world, I struggled quite a bit.

Through the difficulties of the game, I learned a very valuable lesson: How to organise yourself when hit with chaos. Several times in any given mission or skirmish, you'd be attacked by a devastating wave of enemies, leaving half of your troops dead in the mud and your base a cindering pile of bricks.

Now, all RTS gamers have gone through the aforementioned attack, and all RTS gamers know that it comes from one source: Being unprepared. You're always going to be attacked by the enemy, period. What stops you from crashing and burning, is being prepared for every scenario.

So even when I was hit with a swarm of Zerg(s?), I was able to stop the wave dead in its tracks, and repair my base, bringing my army back to full strength. The same principle applied to my workplace, and my life as a whole; I wouldn't be prepared for every single event, but I could easily adapt to them.

You see, even with all my scheduling, there were still some things I couldn't ever control. My friends were one of them. I would plan out an entire evening of sitting at home, working on my own blog or studying, and they'd show up at my house, inviting me to join them at their house for a party.

I had two options: Either tell them to buzz off and leave me alone, or make a change in plan and adapt to a new situation. I chose the latter. The party ended up being a little depressing due to the lack of things to do (I'm still working on this aspect of my life), but it was nice at the end of the day, making the change in schedule worth it.

So, after this long, winding post talking about things not really related to video games, why do we game? Well, I've always gamed due to seeking escape from my rather boring life, but that all changed this year, when I discovered what it truly means to be a gamer:

We game, because we want to win. Gaming is all about winning. Think about it: The first games all gave you a challenge, an obstacle, and dared you to overcome them. How did you overcome them? By making a plan, and adapting when needed.

Enemies killing you over and over in the same area? Adapt. Make a new plan. Maybe try a grenade or two. Or try luring them out and slicing their jugulars out around the corner. Or just use that invisibility cloak you forgot you acquired two hours ago. The choice is yours.

We game, because we want to overcome. We game, because we want to meet a challenge head-on, claiming full victory over it, or die trying. Or die trying. Or die trying. Or die trying. Or die try-okay you get the point.

It's something you can take with you wherever you go. If you meet a challenge in real-life, whether it be your boss giving you a tough time, or a family member lying in the hospital with some kind of ailment or life-threatening illness, or even your car refusing to start in the morning, you could view it as a defeat, or you can view it the same way you would view a difficult situation in a video game: Another challenge standing in the way of victory.

If it's the latter, well then you already know what to do: Make a game plan, test it thoroughly, and once cleared, take the plan into action, and charge forward into victory.

Congratulations, you win.

Thank you very much for reading this article, don't forget to leave a comment with your own thoughts and opinions. I love hearing from you guys, and don't forget to check out my Facebook page for KVR Gaming and Twitter account.

This is KVR signing out, wishing you all a blessed week ahead. God bless, and happy gaming!