BlizzCon 07: Starcraft II Hands-On -- The Terrans

Humanity is on the offensive in Blizzard's RTS mega-sequel. Find out what's new with the terran faction right here.

ANAHEIM, Calif.--After quickly blazing through a couple of matches of Starcraft II today right after BlizzCon's opening--because we're just that excited about the game--we hunkered down to spend some more quality time with the terrans, one of the three factions returning from 1998's original real-time strategy classic. The terrans always seemed like the most well-rounded of Starcraft's races to us, next to the zerg's swarm-like tendencies and the protoss' weird psionic abilities. It's important to note that Blizzard is simply trying out new ideas with Starcraft II's design, so anything that we played in today's demo may have gone straight out the window by the time the final game hits shelves. But so far, we're intrigued by the many new units and abilities that Blizzard has added to the terrans' repertoire.

This is Starcraft II's terran tech tree, as it currently stands.

Of course, basic units like the marine and the medic are back, though you'll immediately notice the firebat is missing. Other units haven't been completely removed so much as replaced by new, improved versions. The old goliath mech has given way to the new viking, which acts just like a goliath--until you research and enable its transformation ability, which turns it into a jet that can get it across otherwise impassable barriers. Another unit which has no respect for variable elevation is the reaper, which you hire from a bar with a female night elf dancing on top of it. These mercenaries build almost instantly, since you're just hiring them instead of training them, and in addition to being able to jump up and down to higher and lower terrain, it can now throw a timed bomb and escape the area before it explodes. We saw a large group of these reapers all throw out bombs at the same time to do massive damage to an enemy base before beating a hasty retreat.

The terrans have quite a bit of air support in Starcraft II, at least as it stands right now. The predator is a new flyer that can only attack other aerial units, but it can also take on an intercept mode where it will attempt to shoot down incoming enemy fire (presumably things like missiles). Everyone's favorite the battlecruiser is here again, but this time it won't simply default to the incredibly powerful, single-shot Yamato cannon like it did in the first game. Sure, the Yamato is still here, but this time you'll get to choose how to specialize each individual cruiser, between the Yamato and the new plasma turrets. The latter will produce a flurried cluster of beams that can decimate ground units, from what we saw of them.

The banshee is a basic fighter that can attack both air and ground units, and it can cloak as well. Then there's the nomad, which can't attack directly but has a lot of support abilities. It can instantly repair a mechanical unit for a large amount of hit points, primarily, and it also has an electromagnetic pulse weapon that damages the energy of any enemy units nearby. Lastly, the nomad can lay down a damage suppression field at a target location that significantly cuts down the amount of damage dealt by enemies within the field.

The terrans will have a wealth of new defensive capabilities, though it won't help these guys much.

But the Thor is probably our favorite unit on the terran side so far. This absolute bruiser of a mech is so enormous, it currently must be built by an SCV rather than being produced at the factory. The Thor stomps around like an oversized viking, trashing air and ground units with its main guns. You can also research an upgrade for the Thor which gives it long-range artillery strike capability, and though the mech must become stationary to deliver this attack, you'll get an attack similar to a siege tank's siege mode in terms of destructive force. Currently, the Thor does have one nearly crippling weakness: It has to stop and turn on an axis, and rather slowly at that, in order to change direction. Skilled micromanagers will be able to dance quicker units around the Thor and hit it from behind without fear of counterattack, so if the Thor's movement remains like this for the final game, you'll want to bring along a defensive contingent of smaller units when you trot out this big daddy.

The Thor and the improved battlecruiser may be the most visually impressive new terran units, but terran structures have actually received a surprising number of upgrades and new abilities. You'll now be able to salvage most buildings and recover their full resource cost (which results in the destruction of the building, natch), but once you've issued the salvage command, you can't cancel it. Supply depots--the terran equivalent of the farm--have also taken on an important new defensive role. These buildings can be lowered below ground level, which is represented visually with a trap door of sorts opening up, and the entire structure literally lowering itself into the ground. This will allow you to build a solid barrier of adjacent depots and use them as a blockade around your base, while still allowing you to lower them and allow your own units through. This won't be a catch-all defense against rushes, though, since the smallest units, like zealots, marines, and zerglings, will now be able to squeeze through the cracks between even fully adjacent depots.

Like in the original Starcraft, a building's unit production queue still tops out at five. But the terrans have received an interesting new ability that they can apply to barracks, factories, and starports which will let them maximize their production capability--at the expense of some advanced technology, that is. For each of those buildings, you'll be able to build one of two add-on structures, the reactor or the tech lab, to extend their functions. A reactor will essentially give you two production queues on the same building, so you could have two marines building at the same barracks at one time, for instance. There will still be some limits--you can only make one siege tank at a time, since it's so big--but this will still seriously help in situations where you need a lot of units, but building another barracks or factory is cost-prohibitive.

The tech lab, on the other hand, is a more traditional unit enhancer that will enable you to research extra functionality to your units. These aren't just frivolous add-ons, though; the barracks' tech lab will give you the marines' stim pack ability and upgraded armor, while the factory's tech lab will grant access to such necessities as the siege tank's siege mode, and the new viking's flight mode (which lets this bipedal robotic attacker transform into a flyer for aerial assault). Both the tech lab and the reactor are quite cheap to produce; currently, each costs well under 100 minerals and vespene gas. They're also interchangeable; if you build a tech lab on a barracks, you could lift off that barracks, land a factory in its place, and the tech lab will attach itself to the factory automatically.

This command center might not be doomed if it had upgraded to a planetary fortress.

We noted an interesting new feature for the starport which allows you to turn it into a starbase. This basically makes it look like a gigantic starship (much larger than a battlecruiser), and functionally, it becomes a mobile unit producer. You could park your starbase just out of range of an enemy base and pump out aerial units for an assault. Finally, the command center itself is quite a bit more capable this time around. Instead of building a comsat station add-on as in the original game, you can now convert the building directly into a surveillance station to gain the ability to do a satellite sweep, which again lets you reveal a small part of the map for a few seconds. But you can instead upgrade the command center to a planetary fortress, which looks exactly as imposing as it sounds. This upgrade will give a sizeable boost to the building's armor level, and it will add a mean-looking gigantic cannon to the top of the fortress to give it proper defensive capabilities.

On the surface, Starcraft II certainly looks a lot like its predecessor. But our in-depth gameplay time with the terran faction today at BlizzCon indicated just how much the designers are doing to revitalize the gameplay within the three existing factions. We're looking forward to seeing what similar changes are made to the hive-like zerg, which Blizzard says it's just now beginning to work on. We'll bring you any and all coverage on Starcraft II that we can obtain between now and its far-off release date.

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Discussion

155 comments
Earthmonkey0
Earthmonkey0

OMg awesome... i want to see my zerg rock... but i will settle with this being release before i start to forget how to use a computer.

Toxicgrayscale
Toxicgrayscale

it looks like they're really adding very specif paper-scissor-rock elements to each unit type.

SeargantGoat
SeargantGoat

I would imagine that they'll try and include some of the really flexible mapping / modding options that they fleshed out with Warcraft 3. The communities that spawn out of Blizzard's games have been important to them for years so I imagine we'll get some fairly advanced editing tools.

JB2B
JB2B

It sounds awesome. I loved the first Starcraft. Those days I wasn't a real rts fan (still aint), but I played Starcraft a lot. Does anyone know if there will be a map editor to create your own multiplayer maps and (maybe even more fun) your own missions. I loved the one in part one.

vertigopm
vertigopm

i just J I Z Z 33 D myself reading this

wuss17
wuss17

When is the release?!

misteryork
misteryork

Guys, please start running the request for the CHEATS! :D Man, this promises to be grrrreeeat!

ddraig_danio
ddraig_danio

ldavidtw2000 not all young gen players play consols, like me i play PC

rogeer
rogeer

seems like very good 4 me n i cant wait 4 it release

Andrew99989
Andrew99989

Looks awesome!!! My question is why there isn't a demo yet.

travis_y
travis_y

in au? cause ive been w8ing 4eva 4 this game!!!!!

steve-o194
steve-o194

Just got back from my gamestop store Grassfield Va reserved it date it comes out 12/3/08

Hoffy
Hoffy

BloodCero do you any proof about that release date?

idunnoyourdad
idunnoyourdad

its to colorfull... but not bad, not bad at all... better then anything that i could make.... very nice blizzard.... starcraft all the way baby!!!

xzx
xzx

well look at that the bugs are comin and we just got some new anti bug toys :) TERREN FTW can not wait for this game to come out ^^ will be awsome :) lookin 4ward to using the new toys of the terrens ^^

IDont-Give-Damn
IDont-Give-Damn

Damn Dude Ive Been Waittin For This Game To Much.Im Still Playin BroodWar.Im Downloaded All The Trailer Of It(HEHE).Just Can Say BLIZZARD Your Doin SO GOOD.3 Games/3 Awesome Games.StarCraft,WarCraft,Diablo,COOL.

bagpipehero94
bagpipehero94

THIS GAME IS GOING TO BE AWSOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! o and it's coming out october 1st this year :D

darksamurai3000
darksamurai3000

this game is going to rock when it comes out. just how long is it gonna be till it comes out?

mxpxrawks802
mxpxrawks802

Everyone has to know that this game is an RTS of course the grafx on an rts wont be as good as crysis they look amazing for an rts game gosh man it will be like command and conquer 3 requirements maybe a little higher not much tho

Vikthorious
Vikthorious

a miserable and a common question..: WHY ARE THESE GUYS TAKING TO MUCH TIME?!!?!??!

Ultralastik
Ultralastik

The reason they didn't make the grafics good is because so all people can play it. Who likes a fast paced rts lagging.

stubbies1
stubbies1

warcraft is wayyyyyy more overated then starcraft

drgbld9
drgbld9

yea i agree graphics like kiddish, but hopefully the story line is just as good as the first, send it out soon looking forward to it

weaselciuy
weaselciuy

release the goddamn game already .... i cant take it anymore, TBA sucks . Atleast a demo :p ...

mgrbgr
mgrbgr

how much more do we have to wait??...it's been TBA for like a year now. i even bought a new pc for this game , hurry up!!!!

anypti
anypti

starcraft is over rated..? Good one

kwax
kwax

Ech, Starcraft was one of the most over rated games I've ever played, even more than Warcraft 3. Looks like another blizzard rehash

Vasot
Vasot

The Graphics look like cartoons Do they use the Warcraft 3 engine?? Disappointed :( At least i hope the gameplay to be better

DerekLee688
DerekLee688

How about backing the Thor to a wall or something or just have multiples back to back?

Pixiecrap
Pixiecrap

i agree im all about the zerg i just want it to b out a lot sooner!

menthols
menthols

the zerg is still a mystery..

alejo_chan
alejo_chan

Simplemente el mejor juego de la historia! no he podido dormir tranquilo desde que me enteré y muero de ganas por tenerlo. Ojalá hubiera una versión en españól latinoamericano porque los nombres que les pusieron a las unidades en la versión española apestan!!! Templario Tétrico? jajajajajaja no deberían intentar traducir todo lo que se les cruce! ----------------------------------------------------------- Simply the best game ever! can't wait to play it! I wonder if there will be a latin-american spanish version for some friends that can't stop laughin' with some unit names like the "Templario Tétrico" (a.k.a. Dark Templar)... hahaha it sucks... Hey Blizzard here in Colombia, Mexico o Argentina you can find excelent companies for a translation!

Stonewal81
Stonewal81

Amazon claims it is available October 1, not sure of their reliability though.

dr4ko
dr4ko

As far as i know, the game will be launched in March. That is not an official announcement.

ATA_sa
ATA_sa

when when when??? when i can play it???

Mothkin
Mothkin

Im a bit worried about Starcraft II. I played diablo, diablo 2, warcraft 2, wc 3, and starcraft, and LOVED them all. its true that blizzard isnt like ubisoft and makes a whooole lot of games. they only make a few games, but when they make them, they make them EXCELLENT. So far, starcraft II looks fabulous. graphics look fine (maybe not crysis, but fine) and the gameplay looks great. but will blizzard be able to fill the huge tracks of the game's predecessors? i reaaally hope so, and im psyched for this game, but its hard to believe that it will be able to meet the hype for it.... its huge. I remember the day when they announced that they were going to do starcraft II, as i remember, it was like an RTS player's once in a life time experience, blizzard is awesome, and let us all hope that they continue to be awesome for SC2

EE2lemmonhead
EE2lemmonhead

idc about gfx, tf2 isnt realistic and its loads of fun

Noodle001
Noodle001

i have no complains about starcraft II, in fact i can't wait to play it !! i could kill someone to get it !!! (in fact maybe i should kill that iritating guy from school... hmm...)

gam3r3OOO
gam3r3OOO

True, this game does look like Warcraft III graphically, but traditionally Blizzard games have been accessible to everyone with a decent PC.

Vasot
Vasot

The only complain that i have from what i see in the screenshots is the GRAPHICS.... Graphics look kind of OLD and way to colorful (like with some kids games) :( Come on Blizzard Can't you create a game with realistic graphics ?? We live in 2007-2008 and not in 1999-2000