Starcraft II Updated Hands-On

We break down some of the key differences among the three races in Starcraft II and offer a few examples of how less-hardcore players can brush up their skills.

Starcraft II is serious business. As the sequel to arguably the greatest strategy game of all time, it has a way of bringing out an intensely competitive spirit in most who've had a chance to play it, spurring even mild-mannered players into becoming mineral-harvesting machines. But maybe you're not one of those people. Maybe it's been awhile since you've played, you don't really have a favorite race to call your own, or you just plain think you'll be in over your head when the game is finally released. During a recent trip to Blizzard, we were pleased to find out that none of those things are cause for concern. Blizzard's clearly working on a game that should appeal to all levels of Starcraft fandom.

If you haven't been following every last bit of Starcraft II news, it helps to have a good idea of what Blizzard's done with the game's three races. It's true that Blizzard is sticking relatively close to the original--which means those who were great at the first game will have a good advantage going into the sequel--but there are still plenty of alterations and enhancements that are going to force everyone into rethinking their age-old strategies. Here's a few that grabbed our attention the most, accompanied by some insight from lead designer Dustin Browder.

Zerg: Everything you read about the Zerg in Starcraft II should come with one important caveat: Blizzard is tweaking the Zerg race the most at this point. According to Dustin Browder, "They're the last race to be developed, so it doesn't surprise me too much that they're still playing catch-up." All that is left is to make them more powerful: "Zerg in general are still a little bit weak, especially in Tier 2."

However, the Zerg are hardly pushovers. The Baneling, which morphs from the Zergling, is a new unit that will help defend against the onslaught of other races. The Baneling is one of Blizzard's many examples of putting specific counters in the game, as the Baneling unit is great against low-level rushes of Protoss Zealots and Terran Marines. You can also exploit the newly revamped Queen unit, which is now capable of an ability that lets your hatchery spawn four extra larvae. When you use that ability to amass a huge army and throw in some Roach units to absorb damage, you've got yourself a pretty impressive force.

Protoss: The Protoss race features the warp-in technology, which is an ability that makes your run-of-the-mill gateways much more interesting. Rather than spawning new units right in front of the gateway or at a nearby rally point, you can elect to warp any units that gateway has created to far-off corners of the map as long as you've got a pylon there. Basically, the warp-in ability allows you to use a gateway to create troops in one of your bases and shoot them over to any expansion you've made down the line. Think that gives the Protoss too much of an edge? A lot of Blizzard folks thought so too. "We had a lot of controversial discussion on the team, and now that it's been implemented, people can't live without it," says Browder.

One of the other new boosts to the Protoss race is the ability to build an obelisk at your base. The Protoss have always been more about taking the time to make powerful, durable units rather than quickly putting together a flood of dispensable grunts. With the obelisk, though, you can cast a proton charge spell on your probes to have them gather crystals at a much faster rate. Pulling in more crystals means you can pump out more Zealots to help overwhelm your Zerg enemies with a taste of their own medicine.

The Zerg Queen is one of the units Blizzard has given a massive overhaul.

Terran: One of the most dramatic unit changes in Starcraft II comes in the form of the Ghost. We asked Browder if there were any units in SCII that have been overhauled so much that players might not even recognize them, to which he replied, "The Ghost is kind of like that. The Ghost was much cheaper in SCI...Right now with his snipe and his cost and his speed, he's so effective." On the other side of the coin are the Terran Siege Tanks, which Browder cited as an example of something the team was reluctant to mess with despite initial ideas of cutting it. "The Siege Tank is probably the biggest albatross; the biggest, scariest one that would have made a huge difference to cut."

Like the other races, the Terran have also been given a few new tricks to boost their production and effectiveness. You can add a modular reactor upgrade to your barracks to create two infantry units at once to really pump out the marines, medivacs, and vikings. You can also upgrade your command center to an orbital command, allowing you to bring in mule units. These little guys are temporary harvesters that let you harvest far more minerals during a short period of time.

Study, Study, Study: There are a few new features that will help improve your game but don't even come into play until the match is over. One is a postmatch stats screen that gives you a bevy of information related to you and your opponent's performance during the game. A few examples are a graph of your army size over time in relation to your opponents; your average unspent resources; and an itemized list of everything you built at precisely what time during the match. If you take the time to study this information, it should help you isolate problem areas in your production and upgrading strategies.

Another option is the postmatch replay system, which lets you watch and save replays of your match--sort of the equivalent of a football player studying game film. A novel move for real-time strategy games, this replay feature lets you actually skip around forward and backward instead of just letting the video play out as it happened.

For units like the Protoss colossus, cliffs are no obstacle.

The new Battle.net matchmaking system will also feature a heavy focus on matching players of even skill levels, taking measure to make sure players aren't hiding their skill levels with a low-level account for the sake of easily demolishing opponents. There will also be a casual-focused online league that offers normal game speed matches--instead of the usual advanced speed--and maps that are designed to prevent early-match rushes.

Altogether, it looks like Starcraft II should have something to offer everyone. We already knew hardcore fans were going to love it, but now it seems that those who were a bit more on the fence don't have anything to worry about if they want to enjoy some online matches, as well. Stay tuned for more Starcraft II coverage in the near future, including a long-awaited look at the single-player campaign.

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Discussion

335 comments
vadagar1
vadagar1

omg I'm almost diamond in zerg XD gonna be IMBA when they buff them :P

doughboy93
doughboy93

That video probably shouldn't be at the launch center as a lot of the information is outdated, for example there are no longer "obelisks" that make your probes gather faster. Your nexus can chrono boost itself and other buildings to speed up unit production and upgrades.

grim0187
grim0187

@LeroyPeterson We all become casual at some point in our lives. You'll eventually meet a girl and have a kid, hopefully.

LeroyPeterson
LeroyPeterson

i guess its appropriate to call anyone who isnt going to take this game too seriously as a casual gamer. i like the idea of forced normal speed matches. maybe i should go buy a wii while im at it...

Cleave83
Cleave83

@deadambition there's a training mode you can select when you first play multiplayer that lets you play 50 normal speed 1 on 1 matches on small maps with other noobs to get you into it.

ardent163
ardent163

I was looking forward to using the obelisk with the protoss. Unfortunate that it's not there anymore

Trollbane
Trollbane

@Binzen and Dragon 5-1 Interesting you guys had noticed that sort of thing too, I find that there are a lot of Warhammer ideas in Blizzard games :)

MacenKrace
MacenKrace

@ImaChilean13 Nvdia 6600, 2600+, 1Gb RAM and about 12 Gb of space of the HDD. That's what I read.

ImaChilean13
ImaChilean13

man this game is going to be awesome, too bad my computer isnt good enought to run it. Does anybody knows what PC could run well this game? That isnt too expensive XD

Binzen
Binzen

@Dragon5-1 It IS what Blizzard does best. (With the exception of the Diablo series.) "Borrow" ideas from Games Workshop. =^)

Binzen
Binzen

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

mahta-ruler
mahta-ruler

cant wait for 27th july...too bad i cant afford a ticket to go to the midnight openings :(

thisisreallybor
thisisreallybor

100 million and 10 years later, this game was worth the money and worth the wait. I have the beta, and it's smooth and flawless. BNET 2.0 is so smooth and easy to use. Excited for the true release

Dragon5-1
Dragon5-1

Is it just me, or does the Warp-In mechanic sound like the Eldar and Imperial Guard's ability to move garrisoned units to other buildings in the original Dawn of War?

deadambition
deadambition

How does the matchmaking work? Like, say, my first few matches online, will i simply be set up with people that are also don't have any play history?

Link2666
Link2666

The Koreans practically chose this game as their national sport. There's no arguing with a stereotypical smartass bunch like that, this game is, and will continue to be, super f'ing awesome.

kenjinsakura
kenjinsakura

If RA2 taught us anything, its Gameplay >>>> Graphics

OverLord1228
OverLord1228

@Vasot if u perfer more action in a rts play DOW2 its awesome but this game will be too its just a liitle more realistic the economy since ur fighting a war but trust me this game will not dissapoint

chzchzchzwiz
chzchzchzwiz

I feel that SC2 is basically a better graphics remake of the first. no new race, no inclusion of heroes like wc3... i got back into playing wc3 recently and i am not sure i will switch to get sc2, they basically said it will be mindless massing, to avoid the high level microing required in wc3... wow that sounds fun..

Retroman47
Retroman47

You know how they said that this was arguably the best strategy game ever? It is! Even though more units have been added to this game (which I thought would make it harder to balance out the races and make the game more complicated), it's a good thing. Also, showing more stats at the postmatch report helps players learn what they did wrong and what they could to better (on the original game, I had 70 losses and only 3 wins, and this feature would have helped me). The replay system appears to be amazingly helpful, considering the fact that you can rewind and fast-forward. I cannot wait for Blizzard to release this game. Anyone with a PC/Mac should buy this game if they like real-time strategy.

Gammet25
Gammet25

i don't get it whats so different with the ghost and the tanks, it just says they couldn't be cut. Other then that, Starcraft 2 looks great so far and it should be as it was decade from the original

SpiderLuke
SpiderLuke

The graphics look fine. Isn't gameplay more important than graphics anyways?

Vasot
Vasot

The graphics already look outdated evaneself.... The SC2 animations are completely cartoony as you can see from the videos... By the way i prefer the Diablo series from this.... Blizzards RTS games tend to focus to much in resource gathering and base expansion and i just dislike that. I prefer my strategy games focus more on battles.

evaneself
evaneself

Q2 2010 !? The graphics will be outdated , if will appear next year. And not only graphics...

surochak
surochak

the replay game option isnt novel its been there for a long time with comand and conquer generals and even with age of mytho....!!!

trane2
trane2

i hope it comes out this yr

sun_rider95
sun_rider95

guys dose any of you now when the game will release?

doomsdaydave11
doomsdaydave11

[QUOTE= KZombie]I really dislike their policy to make all games with one art style, this cartoonish stuff may work on WoW and Warcraft but it will not work on Diablo or Starcraft.[/QUOTE] I totally agree. Although it does seem as the game develops further, it looks much better, and more like the older starcraft. Still not a fan of the "cute" battlecruisers and siege tanks, which happen to be some of the most fearful units in the game. Starcraft, Age of Empires II, and Company of Heroes (or the War40K series...) were and are the big three for me. Blizzard has never disappointed, and they won't here either.

SuccaMC
SuccaMC

i pre-ordered it before they got rid of LAN =[ oh well, it will still be amazing.

KZombie
KZombie

I really dislike their policy to make all games with one art style, this cartoonish stuff may work on WoW and Warcraft but it will not work on Diablo or Starcraft.

omega_vs_wolf
omega_vs_wolf

toadman682000: if you think of it, you will realize your self that cnc has been around long before StarCraft, plus StarCraft 2, sucks big time, i got more of a kick out of cnc3 and warhammer 40000 than from that ridiculous showoff of a game that blizzard compiled in just a few hours.... PS: if you want to see a really great game you should check out Supreme Commander 2 now that's a beautiful combination of the best aspects of a RTS i have seen til today.

lucebuce
lucebuce

One thing u gotta admit about bilzzard is that they take their time , and the games they churn out , really are great :D so starcraft 2 will hopefully continue this legacy

AlfaxD_Centauro
AlfaxD_Centauro

Starcraft>Tom Clancy's EndWar>Warhammer>World in Conflict>Warcraft. Don't get mad, but this is my opinion.

rezpatriot
rezpatriot

its so cool that Blizzard are giving me a free computer anda copy of the game to pawn you all. Thanks Blizzard

JadenakaJay
JadenakaJay

@gijoe24152 You don't know anything about starcraft 2 lol....

Liferipper
Liferipper

You cannot count on a release date from Blizzard. And for them, it's a good thing. Blizzard are the only firm I would dare to buy a game from without watching/reading a review.

gijoe24152
gijoe24152

Did I mention then graphics look toy like?

gijoe24152
gijoe24152

OOoooo...StarCraft 1 with new units and better graphics.

JadenakaJay
JadenakaJay

Starcraft Release Date 11/03/09... That is what it says at the best buy website ^_^ Courtesy of JadenakaJay ^_^

toadman682000
toadman682000

@ icemelt7: A more prudent question to ask, "Why does the Tiberium in CnC 3 look ridiculously like the minerals in SC ??"

Jimi_13
Jimi_13

I think that World in Conflict is probably the best strategy game of all time

Lionoversusking
Lionoversusking

It looks shiny reminds me of warcraft 2....i wish that worked on xp :(

icemelt7
icemelt7

Why do the minerals in SC look ridiculously like the Tiberium in CnC 3 ??

TUNEwon
TUNEwon

If the pros can build units at a pylon that sounds really unbalanced. I hope that's not the case.

InspectorK
InspectorK

when the hell is this game going to come out?? in 2039??? or perhaps 2052, lol