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  StarCraft: Brood War Expansion Set - Review

Kerrigan Broodwar Expansion Set
Review:
StarCraft:Brood War
Publisher:
Blizzard Entertainment
Review by:
Richard Knight
Published:
May 6, 1999

"The best fix for gamers who can never have enough of a good thing."


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.

 

Installation

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.

 

Graphics

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 cards.

 

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 campaign.

 

Game Play

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.

 

Final Analysis

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
Blizzard Entertainment
MSRP: $29.95 US / $39.95 CAN

StarCraft Battle Chest
(contains StarCraft, Brood War and strategy guides)
MSRP: $69.95 US / $89.95 CAN

Game Reviews ] [ Game Previews ] [ Game Guides ]

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Recommended Specs

Windows 95/98/NT 4.0
Pentium 200
32mb RAM
DirectX-compatible SVGA Video Card
Microsoft-compatible Mouse
8x speed CD-ROM
Full version of Starcraft


A Dark Templar rushes towards an enemy base.  Permanent cloaking makes him a great weapon.

Best Downloads

The game may run fine out of the box, but you are going to need these for full enjoyment of it.

1. Brood War 1.05 Patch will fix several bugs that affect Battle.net competition.

2. Enslavers Campaign Blizzard's downloadable campaign continues the hidden campaign from the original StarCraft.

3. Blizzard's Maps of the Week have been an ongoing tradition since StarCraft was released.  Check it out.

Recommended Sites

If you like this game like I do, you will thirst for even more after beating it.  The best way to do that is to look for user-made campaigns.  The most popular websites for StarCraft prove to be great resources for just that.

1. StarCraft.org

2. StarCraft Infoceptor


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