BY JAMES BOTTORFF
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Expansion pack. The words alone conjure up thoughts of cigar-smoking game executives laughing as they tally the sales figures of a pseudo-sequel. Usually made out of hard drive droppings, these packs attempt to squeeze more financial life out of a successful original, all the while keeping production time to a minimum. The result is often a promotional masterpiece and a dud of a game.
Then along comes Brood War, the expansion pack to last year’s amazingly successful StarCraft, and all my fat-cat ramblings are blown away like a lone Terran soldier in a field of Zergs.
Giving credibility to the true meaning of expansion pack, Brood War has three new campaigns encompassing 26 missions. Picking up where the original left off, Brood War finds the Terran continuing their goal of controlling the universe, the Zerg regrouping from infighting and the Protoss attempting to rebuild their home planet, Aiur.
Seven new units assist you in each species’ struggle for galactic control. The Terran defense now includes the valkyrie, a flying ship armed with dispersing missiles, and medics who you’ll find alongside your infantry. The new medical companions heal the wounded in the midst of battle.
Protoss defenses are increased with the addition of the dark templar, a stealth group of powerful warriors; the corsair, a fast warship; and dark archon, warriors who use the power of their enemies to unleash mind-bending attacks.
Finally, the Zerg are now equipped with lurkers, underground dwelling creatures, and devourers, large, flying organisms who spew deadly acid.
The game starts at the same difficulty level at which StarCraft ended. If you’ve worn off the label on the original CD you’ll have no trouble jumping into the fracas, though you’ll find later missions to be more formidable than the first go-around.
On the other hand, newcomers or novice StarCrafters should polish their skills with the original before taking on the expansion’s missions.
Brood War includes more than 100 multiplayer maps that can be played with up to eight people. The success of Blizzard’s gaming site, http://Battle.Net, ensures that you’ll always find willing participants to go a few rounds on the galactic front. A recent weekend saw more than 675,000 games of Brood War on Battle.Net, further evidence of the expansion pack's strength.
While it’s rare that an expansion pack reawakens the joy birthed from the original, Brood War proves it’s not impossible. The game's new features and increasing difficulty make it a worthwhile choice for anyone who feels an urge to unleash more StarCraft mayhem.