12 years is a long time in anyone's calendar - and the PC gaming landscape is a very different place to what it was in 1998.
Back then, the market was flooded with RTS games, spurred mainly by the success of Westwood's genre defining Command and Conquer: Red Alert.
StarCraft, essentially a sci-fi version of Blizzard's early fantasy-based C&C rival Warcraft 2, could have been written off as yet another in a seemingly endless procession jumping on the bandwagon. But, with an appealing sci-fi setting and the twist of including three factions instead of two, it achieved a legacy which is almost unheard of in gaming.
To this day, it remained one of the most popular multiplayer games. In South Korea - where just last year the final of a professional tournament was televised on the national network - the fanaticism showed now signs of abating. Were it not for the arrival of its sequel StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty this week, it may never have.
OLD SCHOOL HABITS
In StarCraft II, you play as one of three races. The Terrans - humans with customisable, oversized, steam-punk mechanics and guns; the Zerg, hive mind Giger-esque insectoid monstrosities; and the Protoss - telepathic, telekinetic aliens with hyper-advanced weaponry and the smugness to back it up.
As RTS games go, StarCraft II is a very traditional affair. The basic mechanics will be instantly familiar to anyone who's ever played a game in the genre. If you exist in the tiny demographic of PC gamers that haven't, it goes like this...
In almost all scenarios, you start with a command centre and a few worker units with which to mine resources - in this case diamond-like minerals and vespine gas. You use these to construct buildings, which in turn produce military units.
You then use said military units to blow the enemy into its component atoms before tapping out one of many fine 'noob' based insults you've been working on. Happy days.
The mechanics are so familiar that experienced gamers may baulk at how old school the whole thing looks at fist glace. The unit renders themselves are tight enough, but at initial impressions stage, the various planetary environments, while nice looking, are pretty static.
The economy model is totally unchanged from StarCraft, and the whole scale initially hits you as a little petit compared to the vast continent-sized battlefields of the Supreme Commander franchise.
However, these aesthetics are deceptive. While the basics are... well, basic, the sheer wealth of units and their abilities get complicated enough as the game progresses. The complexities are in the gameplay itself, in the strategies you employ - not in the layout or economics. And a dip into the multiplayer arena shows just how much room there is for interpretation. But more on that later.
WHEN IT RAYNORS IT POURS
The plot picks up where the StarCraft add-on Brood War left off. Set around 500 years in the future, you play through the eyes of Jim Raynor - a refugee and with a cowboy's swagger who's been on the run causing terrorist/freedom-fighting shenanigans since the events in the first game, where he fell out with the tyrannical emperor of the human race.
Raynor has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. In the last game the love of his life, special ops assassin-type Kerrigan, got captured by the Zerg. She was brainwashed and then physically mutated into a super-strong villainess, who then took over as ruler of the insectoid race and stopped just short of wiping out all human life in the galaxy. Tsk, women, hey?