The Shokz Guide, Starcraft 2 Guide

StarCraft 2 Single Player Press Event Coverage

On April 19th, we visited Blizzard’s Headquarters for an exclusive press event focusing on the StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty single player campaign, exhibiting new single player missions, new campaign features, and fully clarifying key single player mechanics: mercenaries, research and challenges.

Mission Progress and Campaign Management

Players will manage their mission progress, research for upgrades, interact with NPCs and hire special in-game units from four different locations in Jim Raynor’s massive Battlecruiser, the Hyperion. Navigation is done by simply selecting the desired destination on the Hyperion navigation bar at the bottom of the screen.

BridgeCantinaLaboratory

These areas have actually been revealed after the press event in July, 2009 – an interesting complimentary read to the current post, which is the result of hands-on experience with the most recent version of Wings of Liberty.

The Bridge

This is where you choose your campaign missions. Key characters will appear on the Hyperion bridge during the campaign, allowing Raynor to interact with them.

Players can also access all of the previously completed missions and unlocked cinematics here. It is possible to go back and replay a mission once you have unlocked more units and upgrades, and it is sometimes the only way to get to some previously inaccessible areas and unlock some extra rewards and achievements.

The Armory

Here players can inspect, in great detail, various units that can be deployed to the battlefield, as well as access the unit upgrade console which allows purchasing upgrades for each unit in the game.  Unit screens include cool bits of information and awesome, highly detailed models of the units. You’ll  find quotes by “Franko Tildon, widely credited as the first fighting firebat, reformed mass murderer” along with other profiles for the people behind the units we know and love.

Unlike in multiplayer StarCraft matches, during the campaign, players do not research things like Stim Packs or Neosteel Plating in each mission. These are instead purchased while staying on the Hyperion with the credits you earn by completing missions.

Once you buy an upgrade, your units will have it for the rest of the game; no research required in-battle. Every unit in the game has two such upgrades: for example, Firebats gain +40% splash damage area for the first upgrade and +2 armor for the second one. The second upgrade is usually more expensive and powerful than the first.

The Cantina

There are many interactive objects spread across the room, like a television that plays news reports based on Raynor’s recent activities. A retro arcade machine featuring The Lost Vikings is on the scene as well – a classic Blizzard puzzle/platform game. The game was not functional during the press event, but the development team was pretty excited that they were able to integrate this classic into StarCraft 2, meaning it will likely be available when the game ships.

The fellow Cantina patrons will speak shortly when you click on them (but offer no real conversation options), but the Cantina is mainly the place to go when you wish to speak to the mercenary vendor. Once you unlock certain units in the campaign, these will be available through the mercenary, who you’ll pay with your credits.

The Laboratory

In the lab, players can research special upgrades that enhance existing units and buildings, as well as introduce completely new units to the campaign. There are two distinct tech trees: one for Protoss technology and one for Zerg technology. During missions, depending on which race you are facing, research points can be gained that can later be spent in the lab. Sometimes, this is as simple as thoroughly searching the map for pickups, and at other times specific enemies must be killed.

When starting a mission, players are informed about the total amount of research points that can be gathered, and you can go back and replay the scenario in case you missed some.

Originally called “Merc Haven”, the Merc Compound was a Terran building that Blizzard created to be a part of the StarCraft 2 multiplayer game, producing Terran Reapers and Marine upgrades. In 2008, it was removed, and during the press event in August 2009, its current function was established.

The Merc Compound is similar to WarCraft 3’s Mercenary Camps, where special units can be recruited based on a unit production cooldown. The units are available during gameplay, however, unlocking the units for production is done by visiting the Hyperion Cantina in between missions.

Like StarCraft 1, the missions are sometimes interrupted with transmissions from units on the ground or NPCs who broadcast messages to you, the player. Unlike StarCraft 1, where the majority of information and commutation occurred in the pre-game briefing, StarCraft 2 transmissions are often interspersed with the game, greatly enhancing the immersive experience, keeping the player focused on the objective, and setting the mood for the mission. A portrait is shown on the side of the battlefield screen with the relevant unit or character until the transmission ends.

As previously described, the mission progression/selection screen has also been enhanced greatly, and is now a part of the story itself. You enter missions by clicking planets from the galaxy map, where available mission-planets are clearly shown. When you click on a planet, a relevant NPC explains what he wants to hire you for, and you can view the research point opportunities and credit reward before deciding whether or not to commit to it. Some missions, however, are mysterious. Questions marks cover the details, and there’s no telling what reward the mission might yield!

Once the player chooses a mission, the game returns to the bridge in a special zoomed in view where the computer terminal is seen. It displays videos, overviews of the mission, and dialogue between Raynor and NPCs prior to launching the actual mission. Overall, all these sequences are highly engaging and work very well for setting the tone for the following mission.

We were also given a chance to see a part of the Protoss “mini-campaign”, centered around Zeratul and his few Protoss allies. You get to relive the memories of Zeratul as he goes to a planet with archives of Xel’Naga-related information. There, he meets Kerrigan, and hears a disconcerting message about the future…

Zeratul must then fight his way through a map full of narrow canyons that is infested with Zerg. The StarCraft 2 Zeratul is very powerful, dealing 100 damage per psi-slice. Zeratul also possesses Blink – a short teleport ability -  along with “Suppression”, an ability that stuns units and is used by Zeratul to sneak pass the Overseers which can detect him and Brood Lords which are out of his reach. Later, a few Stalkers join Zeratul as he continues his quest, complicating matters and keeping the gameplay intense. It’s clear that the designers put a lot of thought into starting out simple while constantly adding more obstacles and variables for the players to watch out for, never letting the mission go stale!

The unit attributes, or “balance” in the single player game is very different from that of the multiplayer game. Units have different stats, abilities, and upgrades. With quite a few units that are not present at all in the multiplayer game, the single player gameplay is going to be quite different from what StarCraft 2 beta players are now used to.

Challenge Mode:

Blizzard is aware of the cold-water-dip sort of shock that players go through when they decide to dabble in multiplayer StarCraft. Most get completely crushed by even the lowest ranked players due to the difference in gameplay mentality.

Challenge modes will hopefully lessen that initial shock by presenting players with scenarios that are challenging  enough to force players into using the game’s more advanced mechanics. Currently, There are a total of nine challenges, which are divided into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced mission groups. We got to play in two such challenges, one focusing on Protoss caster control and one focusing on multi-front army management. Both challenges were graded Bronze, Silver and Gold according to the amount of enemy kills attained – 75, 150 and 225 kills respectively.

The first challenge was of the intermediate level, and it involved controlling some High Templar and Sentries. This is a very challenging mission as you are positioned on a platform and required to use force fields and hallucinations to keep the enemy from attacking your fragile units while using Psi-Storms to deal AoE damage to masses of incoming enemies. One cool feature is printed messages in red text , saying “9 kills… Terrible Damage” when killing that amount of units. The challenge is not random, so players will eventually learn how to beat it by correctly saving energy and using the units’ abilities with maximum efficiency – an excellent preparation for online battles!

Another challenge puts you in command of a large Protoss army of a dozen Stalkers, six Carriers, some Zealots, High Templar, and a group of Phoenixes. You also get three Warp Prisms and six Warp Gates as well as full tech for ground units. Each group of units is positioned to attack one segment of the map with units that are easy to kill. For example, the Phoenixes fight against groups of Mutalisks with one Hydralisk that players are expected to target with the Gaviton Beam. Carriers fight against Marines and Missile Turrets, while Stalkers fight Terran Reapers on cliffs. To succeed, one must maintain control of everything that’s going on. Interestingly, one part of the challenge in this mission is that button clicking is completely disabled! In order to build units, issue orders, or use abilities players must press the correct hotkey on the keyboard. This is a great way to familiarize new players with hotkeys, which are absolutely required in competitive games but are often overlooked by beginners.

Overall, the single player component of StarCraft 2 is shaping up to be an epic experience. A lot of effort has gone into making it a unique experience among the somewhat generic gameplay normally found in the RTS genre, and it looks like it won’t be for naught!

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Discussion 1 Comment

  1. great post as usual!

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