After much talk, hype, and anticipation, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is finally here. Wings of Liberty is the first release in the StarCraft II trilogy. Shipping with an all-new, never before seen Campaign mode (the Beta only included the multiplayer and custom map modes), StarCraft II is worthy of its 12-year-old predecessor and any real-time strategy (RTS) game on the market.

As the StarCraft II Beta progressed, at least hundreds of Custom Maps created by fellow players have been added to Battle.Net’s massive database of maps, which can be browsed, searched, and downloaded within the game client. These maps should be available in the retail version as well. (I can’t imagine they would wipe them all out, but even if Blizzard does, the players will put them back quickly.) Although some of the maps are impossible or contain a lot of bugs, most of the maps are very playable, highly involved scenarios that are challenging yet fun.

Early praise for StarCraft II

Fan sites have already cropped up, including Starcraft 2 Armory, Starcraft 2, StarcraftZine, and Dugi at Ultimate WoW Guide has written a post about it in his blog, which is usually dedicated to World of Warcraft.

Where to purchase StarCraft II

StarCraft II will launch with a first-ever (for Blizzard, at least) simultaneous retail and digital license option. This means you can go to the store and buy a copy of the game on disc, or you can go to Blizzard’s Battle.Net site and purchase the game using your Battle.Net ID (the same one you use to play World of Warcraft). (The StarCraft II installation files have been available for pre-download for about a week now, and those of us who are serious about purchasing it have already downloaded the installer files and have been waiting launch day to run the installation.)

Gameplay and Battle.Net connection requirements

From my Geekend post about the Beta version, here’s a quick overview of the gameplay:

“Like all RTS games that I’ve ever played, the objective is to kill the other players. In order to accomplish this, you have to gather Minerals and Vespene Gas. Gathering Minerals is done directly by units in the Mineral Fields, but gathering Vespene Gas requires a building over top of the Vespene Geyser (I use the term ‘buildings’ loosely depending on race) as well as units.”

The game requires a Battle.Net account and connection during installation and first run; however, players will have the option of playing the campaign (and probably offline multiplayer) games without first connecting to Battle.Net.

When you are connected to Battle.Net, your Real ID (which was launched in World of Warcraft a few weeks ago) friends will appear in your in-game friends list, where you can chat with them whether they are playing StarCraft II or World of Warcraft. I suspect Diablo III will have this feature too.

To see more screenshots of the game, take a look at the StarCraft II gallery and the StarCraft II Collector’s Edition gallery.

Take the poll

If you’ve already purchased StarCraft II, what are your first impressions? If you’re undecided about whether you’ll get StarCraft II, check out the following video. If you’re passing on StarCraft II, share your reasons why.

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