When December 1998 finally came around, gamers were pretty enthusiastic. Brood
War was easily the most anticipated Expansion Pack ever released for game. Initial
shipments fell well short of expectations, and only now are there copies on shelves.
Is the game worth your money? Absolutely.
75% - Mostly Harmless
Theoretically, any expansion software should be easy to
install. Games like X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter and Mechwarrior 2: Ghost Bear's Legacy
have mostly disproved that. Brood War proved to be a much better experience, with
the exception of Murphy's law.
Since the CD doesn't use a CD-Key (it relies on Starcraft's instead) you
basically have to point to a directory and hit the install button. Blizzard made a
big mistake in writing in the installation program, however. The first time you run
the install (the CD is setup for auto run), it asks you to choose a directory for
the game. What Blizzard should have asked, however, is where your current StarCraft's installation is. Choosing a different directory will result in a
failed installation and a claim that you do not have StarCraft installed. If you
choose the wrong directory, you will have to restart your computer to reselect a different
directory, as the CD pretends your installation attempt was merely halted.
If you can get past that sticking point, you should be fine. The game overwrites
some StarCraft files (you can still play the original though), and is fairly easy on your
hard drive (no more than 80MB). The sneak preview movies on the auto run
menu are misleading - they refer (vaguely) to other upcoming titles from Blizzard.
90% - Impressive
No, there are no real-time 3D Graphics in Brood War, but
frankly there is no need for it. Blizzard impressed the hell out of me with StarCraft because of the complex isometric diagonal system and high quality tiles.
I've done enough tile-art to know this is the most impressive implementation of a diagonal
scrolling system ever.
Brood War doesn't mess with the formula - it includes 3 new tile sets and the new
character graphics. The tile sets range from okay (Snow Field) to awesome (the
other two!). The new critters are impressive, and most of the character designs
are well done (the dark archon is probably the only real disappointment).
The only things that really stand out to me, though, is the new pre-game artwork.
The box-art is a wonder to behold (a fair bit better than the version on the loading screen), and the campaign choice screen showcases some wonderful 3D models.
Sound & Music
70% - Been There... Done That
Blizzard really followed the proven formula in this case.
There is a new music theme for each race, although only the Terran track can be
distinguished from the ones in StarCraft. Unfortunately, none of them stand out like
the original Terran track did. There is also a modified track you can listen to with
a secret code, but again, its nothing terribly original.
The game sounds have faired much better this time around. The new units and
critters provide voice quips that range from the believable to the hilarious (especially
the Medic). Voice acting is well done once again, but there has been no
implementation of 3D Sound, which should irritate gamers with high powered PCI sound
AI / Difficulty
69% - Smart but Vicious
In order to keep the game balanced, Blizzard is constantly looking for bugs and quirks
in the program. This has made StarCraft:Brood War an extremely stable piece of work.
The artificial intelligence tends to play a smart game - not as evil as on Battle.net, but close. Expect constant scouting and attacks (frequently air-based)
on your weakest position.
Unlike the original StarCraft, however, the difficulty does not start out easy and
slowly build up. Instead, it starts out as vicious as the last Zerg campaign in the
original. Some missions turn out to be easier, but there is definitely no clean curve.
Expect the vast majority of missions to be tougher than any original StarCraft
95% - Just as Lovely as the Original
Don't expect radical game play changes this time around.
Each new unit behaves basically like other established unit types (dark archons
are the biggest example). There are some substantial differences in later
campaigns though (mind control makes for quite a difference in tactics).
What you can expect is game play changes due to the way the computer plays. Each
mission has a variety of high and low terrains, which makes air defense/offense a must
against the more frequent attacks.
The new units do provide some changes to battle strategy. Terran marine stimpack
rushes prove a lot more successful with accompanying medics, the Zerg can defend easier
thanks to the Lurkers, and the Protoss can both hit fast and hard with the Dark
Templar. The new air units have little or no effect on overall strategy - they
basically prove to be low cost air defense.
90% - Smooth and Satisfying
Starcraft: Brood War is not a flashy title, nor is it
meant to be.
What it does do is provide additional campaigns to continue the StarCraft story and
nearly double the playing time you will get out of the game. The new units make the Battle.net experience that bit more interesting. And the updated map editor makes
campaign creation easy. The entire game improves incrementally - but that small bit
makes StarCraft better than itself, which is not an easy thing to do.
What more could you want for $30 US?
StarCraft Expansion Set: Brood War
MSRP: $29.95 US / $39.95 CAN
StarCraft Battle Chest
(contains StarCraft, Brood War and strategy guides)
MSRP: $69.95 US / $89.95 CAN