It's been more than a decade since the original StarCraft was released, but unlike a wide majority of the titles released in this time frame, the game never really faded away and throughout the years remained the benchmark of what a well-conceived real-time strategy game should be.

For that reason StarCraft II needs no introduction. This sequel has been in the making for what seems like forever, although it was only officially announced in 2007. One way or another, the delays do not seem to have discouraged anyone from wanting to play the game, and if anything, it has made us more desperate to get a taste of it.

On usual TechSpot fashion, now with the game out in stores we are taking an in-depth look at how your gaming system will handle StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. We have tested a huge range of graphics cards using three different resolutions and an equal number of visual quality presets. In addition, we have evaluated CPU scaling testing AMD and Intel CPUs of current and previous generations.

Devoted RTS gamers got their first taste of StarCraft II earlier this year when the closed beta took off. Those that missed the boat had to fight for access keys on eBay with many selling for as much as $400 each even though the beta was only meant to last three months, which later turned into five. In that interval Blizzard cranked out a whopping 18 patches while also providing access to the Galaxy map editor.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty has now been available for two days, overwhelming digital distribution servers. In fact, by now we've heard numerous stories of people feeling more comfortable driving to the nearest store to pick up a copy than waiting for the 7+ gigabyte download to complete and activate. Meanwhile, we don't doubt true StarCraft fanatics have had their copy pre-ordered years in advance, in certain cases forking over a hundred bucks for the Collector's Edition.

StarCraft II marks the return of the three races from the original game: Protoss, Terran, and Zerg. This first installment only features the Terran campaign, with two planned expansion packs “Heart of the Swarm” and “Legacy of the Void” which will allow gamers to play the Zerg and Protoss campaigns.

However, most will purchase StarCraft II for its multiplayer aspect. The new competitive ladder system for ranked games works very well and does a pretty good job of matching players with similar skill levels together. Furthermore, it also makes jumping into a game extremely quick and easy whether you prefer a 1v1 or 4v4 game, the system works very well.

Looking at the performance aspect of the game, you can expect it to vary greatly from 1v1 matches to 3v3 and 4v4 as the maps are larger, there are more players, and therefore many more units. We favored the more demanding scenario on multiplayer just to be on the safe side when choosing the right hardware to run StarCraft II. On the next page we have detailed our testing methodology for putting this article together, and right after that we have posted a couple sample images for comparing the three tested visual quality presets.