Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Updated Hands-On - More Campaign, Beta Updates

We get some updates on the ongoing Starcraft II beta and delve into a bit more of the single-player campaign.

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If you're reading this, you have some idea of what Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is. It's the first of three chapters of Starcraft II--the sequel to one of the most popular and influential real-time strategy games ever, Starcraft. Starcraft II is currently in a multiplayer beta specifically built for testing balance between the game's three famous factions: Terrans (human marines), Protoss (ancient alien lorekeepers), and Zerg (a genocidal swarm of insectlike aliens). During a recent press event, we received an update on the game's beta status and also played through three additional missions in the game's single-player campaign--and we have much to report. Please be aware that this story may contain minor story spoilers.

The beta itself, for those who aren't keeping track, currently offers only one-on-one or two-on-two head-to-head multiplayer matches online. Blizzard lead designer Dustin Browder was quick to point out that this is because the beta isn't intended to be a full-on playable demo for the purpose of giving players a sense of how fun the entire Starcraft II experience will be, but rather, it's for balance testing only. Browder did suggest that the beta team is making much better progress than he'd originally hoped for and is now focusing on nitty-gritty details that will make each individual matchup great, such as making Zerg vs. Zerg matches more interesting.

While the beta is still very much being worked on, so is the campaign, which features exclusive units like the Terran firebat.

However, the designer did point out that because Starcraft is an internationally well-known product with beta testers all over the world, there still seem to be gray areas in which it isn't quite clear whether certain factions or units are overpowered, or one group of players knows the game better than another. As an example, Browder cited the current state of the beta in Asia, where the Zerg are the most popular race by far and are considered to be somewhat overpowered, while in North America, the Zerg are far less popular and are considered to be underpowered. According to the designer, ironing out those details will make all the difference to the final game's balance and gameplay. Browder also gave an update on the next rumored beta content patch, which should have the map editor and possibly stronger computer AI--the patch should ideally be out by the end of the month but "may slip to a bit later."

After being briefed on the beta, we hunkered down in front of a fairly early part of the single-player campaign to play through a few more missions. As we've related in our previous coverage, the single-player campaign in Wings of Liberty tells the continuing story of the original Starcraft Terran hero, Jim Raynor, who is now considered to be an intergalactic outlaw with a bounty on his head placed by the evil Terran Dominion. Raynor continues his fight against the Dominion, rejoined by his contemporaries Matt Horner and Tychus Findlay on his ship, the Hyperion.

The ship works as a hub area in the game from which Raynor can commission mercenaries at the cantina. He can also purchase single-player-only upgrades for his units at the armory, which come in the form of two different upgrades for infantry, vehicles, and structures--a cheaper, lower-level addition and a more-expensive (and more-powerful) addition. For example, the Terran bunker structure that can be garrisoned by up to four low-level marines to take cover while unloading their combined fire can be upgraded with a relatively cheap armor bonus, as well as a much more expensive, but very worthwhile, ability to garrison up to six marines instead of four.

Research will let you unlock powerful bonuses that are available in the campaign only--not in multiplayer.

In addition, the Hyperion lets Raynor conduct either Protoss or Zerg "research" in the ship's lab. Research is powered by research points--which come from either Protoss artifacts or Zerg DNA that appear in certain missions as optional goals. Each line of research (Protoss or Zerg) is tiered from five points up to 25 points and offers two-sided choices at each tier. For instance, the first tier of Protoss research, once you've recovered five points' worth of artifacts, will let you add either a permanent, single-player-only bonus of 5 percent damage to infantry upgrades purchased at the engineering bay structure or a permanent, single-player-only bonus of 5 percent protection to any infantry armor bonuses purchased at the engineering bay. At each tier of research, you can pick only one of the two choices available, at which point the second becomes locked out. Browder suggests that by the time players get through the single-player campaign for the first time, they should be able to unlock at least 50 percent of the game's research upgrades and about 80 percent of the game's credit-costly unit upgrades.

At the opening of the campaign, Raynor makes the shocking discovery that not only have the Zerg returned to mount a new invasion, but they also appear to be led by Raynor's former comrade, Sarah Kerrigan (now known as Queen of Blades after her body and mind became infested by the Zerg). In our previous time with the campaign, we had just run a mission for Gabriel Tosh, a disgraced former Ghost (the infamous Terran stealth corps). At the start of our second session, we found that Tosh had made his way onto Raynor's ship, the Hyperion, and was offering bounties for another mission.

One of the two missions we were able to play was Bel'Shir, an ancient Protoss holy planet with deposits of "terrazine gas," a mysterious substance that Tosh is desperate to get his hands on for reasons that aren't immediately clear. Bel'Shir is a lush, green jungle world dotted with gas deposits. In this mission, Raynor starts off with an established base camp that includes most major structures (though this could be subject to change). This base camp is located near another expansion of the game's two primary resources (crystals and vespene gas) controlled by the Protoss.

On Bel'Shir, you must recover rare gas deposits before the Protoss head you off at the pass.

Your mission is to order some defenseless space construction vehicle (SCV) building units to each gas node to slowly collect up to seven gas deposits (or, alternately, to completely eliminate all Protoss from the map). However, over the course of the mission, zealous Protoss forces who insist that their sacred homeworld must be defended will send out small recon parties to seal up each node, and if they seal up enough of them, your mission will automatically fail. Each of Starcraft II's campaign missions unlocks a new unit you can begin using from there on out; in this case, the missile-launching goliath walker was our new unit, and we put it through its paces.

While Raynor and his Terran forces start off on one end of the map, and the main Protoss encampment is on the other end, you must keep an eye on multiple fronts, guarding your vulnerable SCVs as you send them out to collect gas while also keeping an eye out on the homestead for any Protoss raiding parties that try to attack your base. You're also required to constantly scout and leapfrog your escort by pushing further into the fog of war that conceals the next gas nodes (which are often guarded by Protoss forces of varying size).

For aggressive players who want to push through into the Protoss installation, the heavy-duty punch provided by the goliath (with backup from the marauder heavy infantry) does a great job of breaking through Protoss defenses so the rest of your forces can swarm in. Bel'Shir seems like a fairly challenging mission that becomes much tougher on the higher difficulty levels. At the end of the mission, a quick visit to Tosh on the bridge reveals that terrazine gas, along with a mineral substance Raynor sought out in a previous mission for Tosh, was used in his experiments in the ghost program to create a new kind of ghost unit--a more-powerful, psychic-powered stealth operative known as the "spectre." Raynor expresses displeasure at how Tosh kept this a secret, but Tosh assures Raynor that there isn't any threat to the vigilante marshal.

Siege tanks, I presume.

The second mission we played was on the planet of Xil, the site of a Protoss reliquary and an accompanying Terran dig site from which all contact was mysteriously lost. According to Findlay, Xil houses an extremely important artifact for which the mysterious Moebius Corporation--a group that offers big credits for Protoss artifacts--will pay exceptionally well. Raynor desperately needs to finance his own efforts, so this mission is primarily motivated by money. As he touches down on the planet, Raynor is once again accosted by hostile Protoss who fanatically believe their holy site should remain untouched (and presumably took out the previous Terran operation). Our new unit in this mission was the siege tank, which, like in the original Starcraft, can be deployed as a stationary artillery unit and performs exceptionally well when you have both line of sight to your enemy and the high ground.

Over the course of this mission, Raynor scouts out the abandoned dig site and hacks its abandoned facilities to start working for him, at which point he can start harvesting resources and pumping out units regularly. The dig site also houses a gigantic mining laser that continually pounds away at the heavily sealed doors protecting the artifact (though there are actually three other hidden artifacts on the map that you can convert into Protoss research points as well). The mining laser slowly but surely chews away at the seals on the artifact while the Protoss send wave after wave of land and air enemies at you.

The Protoss are everywhere! If only we had some kind of gigantic mining laser we could use to zap them!

Fortunately, Horner gives you manual control of the mining laser. This changes the dynamic of the map considerably, since you can focus the powerful weapon on any enemy unit or structure with which you have line of sight and then more or less instantly destroy it. By switching regularly between the laser and our standing forces, we were able to hold off all Protoss encroachments while pushing outward to the artifacts and eventually to the Protoss installment on the other side of the map. Like with the Bel'Shir mission, you can complete this mission simply by eradicating all the Protoss on the map.

After completing this mission, we headed back to the Hyperion, where, in a cinematic sequence, Raynor wanders the halls and takes a few pulls of liquid courage from his trusty flask before being confronted by none other than Zeratul, the Protoss dark templar he aided in the previous game. Zeratul, who appears to be injured (the Protoss warrior clutches his own arm while speaking), suggests to Raynor that the end of the universe is coming and that the key to salvation is none other than the evil Kerrigan. Before the incredulous space marshal can even protest, Zeratul presses an "eon crystal," a small Protoss device, into Raynor's hands. The crystal apparently lets its user relive the recorded memories of the Protoss that originally used it--Zeratul entreats Raynor to use the crystal, which will help him understand the real threat.

The crystal, when used in the ship's laboratory, opens up one of the game's optional "challenge maps," which offers research points as rewards, as well as several of the high-quality prerendered cutscenes for which Blizzard has become famous. In this mission, you play as Zeratul as he reminisces about his journeys investigating the troubling visions he has seen of the end of the universe, culminating with his arrival on a sacred Protoss world that has been overrun by Zerg. He begins his journey alone but possesses powerful innate abilities, such as the ability to be permanently cloaked in psionic invisibility, the ability to telekinetically "blink" himself to a different location, and the ability to use telekinetic "void" power to briefly stun opponents. He easily makes his way past the first few spawns of Zerg in search of the ancient Protoss texts that are housed on the planet, only to encounter Kerrigan, who makes a vaguely threatening speech about how the end of the universe is coming and how neither of them can stop it.

Puzzlingly, Kerrigan lets Zeratul walk away, and over the course of his journeys, the dark templar uncovers a few texts guarded more closely by larger clusters of Zerg with scouting units that can pierce his invisibility. He's joined by a group of Protoss stalkers for backup, and later, by a small army of Protoss archon infantry whom he cannot control, but for which he provides backup against increasingly vicious waves of Zerg. Eventually, Zeratul's newfound comrades vow to slow the Zerg while he escapes, at which point we took him and his few remaining stalkers and made a frantic dash toward the exit.

Just as Zeratul is about to escape, he is again challenged by Kerrigan. Zeratul bravely attacks the Queen of Blades in a spectacular prerendered cutscene that involves the dark templar blinking to and fro in wispy clouds of smoke and Kerrigan repulsing a lunging Zeratul with a telekinetic "push." Both characters trade blows--Kerrigan scores a hit on Zeratul, causing him to hold his arm (just as he does when he meets Raynor), while the Protoss manages to slice off one of her wings. Rather than retaliate, Kerrigan casually regrows her severed wing and calmly explains that the unavoidable end of the universe is coming. She then departs. Zeratul vows to find some way to avoid the culmination of the prophecy and climbs to safety. This ended our single-player experience with the game but also introduced many new questions, such as exactly what sort of prophesied end of the universe is coming, and how, as Zeratul suggests, Kerrigan represents the only hope of avoiding that terrible fate.

And a warm welcome back for the dark templar Zeratul.

Blizzard hopes that optional challenge missions like these, along with the game's achievement system (which offers additional challenges with each single-player campaign mission, such as finishing the mission with no casualties or destroying all enemies on the map), will not only extend the single-player campaign's replay value, but will also help lead newer players along the path to trying the game's online multiplayer, perhaps first in cooperative play against computer-controlled opponents and eventually in head-to-head matches with other players. In any case, Wings of Liberty's single-player game remains intriguing. Stay tuned to GameSpot for future updates.

Discussion

207 comments
SwordmasterXIII
SwordmasterXIII

Never played starcraft....however I like sci-fis and RTS,plus this is a blizzard game so Im getting this one.

hossok
hossok

I love Blizzard .. this game is perfect .. I played it hours and hours with out getting tired .. Thanks blizzard ..

DarpSyX
DarpSyX

@mohsenezio this is the best RTS game ever... if you dont like these gnre then you can't say this is crap, because this Sh!t is the best

mohsenezio
mohsenezio

Crap Craft!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! wooooooooooooooooooo

Knutte79
Knutte79

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Lockedge
Lockedge

I think a wait and see approach is best for this. It would be unfortunate to get caught up in the hype and wind up spending full price for an outdated RTS. I'll wait for my friends to get and and get their feedback before I consider jumping in. Right now it seems like a slightly beefed up Starcraft, gameplay-wise, and that's not nearly enough for me.

vadagar1
vadagar1

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

DaveA6489
DaveA6489

This is looking pretty good to me :)

RobbySpry
RobbySpry

Damn. I can't believe how boring this looks. oO After CNC3 and 4 and RA3, this actually doesn't look so interesting anymore. I thought the campaign might not suck this time around since they've actually worked on it this time, but this looks really dull so far and i don't think excellent cinematics will help. SC2 feels like a very ambitious expansion pack. It will of course interest SC fans and hard-core RTS fans, but i doubt this game will be fun for people who don't take RTS seriously. Too little too late. This should have been released five years ago. The classic RTS genre is only good for esports nowadays, i'd say.

Cyax0k
Cyax0k

I'm playing the beta right now and I will say it is spectacular. The depth and scope of the many builds and strats is just amazing. I cant wait to see more custom maps come out, what some players have made already is just ridiculous.

Spaceweed10
Spaceweed10

Blizzard have made a fortune out of copying others. You'd have thought they'd have enough money to work on something unique. Obviously, they have never heard of 'giving something back'.

ALTAIR360
ALTAIR360

i dont get this kind of games. give DMC or AC to me :P

Incrognito
Incrognito

Anyone who has played Warcraft 3 since the expansion knows exactly why Blizzard can demand such a price for their strategy games. The always-included map editor not only allows the creation of infinitely diverse multiplayer and campaign maps, it also allows the creation of completely new units, buildings, upgrades, and abilities creating unlimited opportunities for unique and interesting play. And the best part is, you don't have to know squat about modding to use their map editor. I would pay sixty dollars for that without a second thought.

xMusHx
xMusHx

I really love the enthusiasm and the pride that blizzard have been showing. They really have been working hard to create a great release title. 10 patches? that is probably 14-15 now. Inspiring work really and I for one cannot wait for the 27th of July to swing round!

tiggerlu
tiggerlu

Love the new looks, makes the SC I, *extra* cartoony looking...no doubt it will bring several asian nations to a halt for a while...;-)

trane2
trane2

laters to the korean economy.

smbius
smbius

Productivity and work will cease the day this debuts.

smbius
smbius

@vortex6666 - There is Command and Conquer 4. Not overhyped. Lots of blood. Bigger explosions. Crazy vehicles. Plus no one waited too long for that. Maybe that's the kind of game you're looking for. Go on! Git!

BLUECRASHER
BLUECRASHER

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

apsalar
apsalar

@xXrebel666Xx: What did you expect? lol. truly stupid thing to do. @vortex6666: Why people are excited? I guess for strategy fans Starcraft is one of the truly spesial games. Its still dominant game online even after 10 years. Had a LAN party last year just to play StarCraft with my friends. Its such a balanced game providing different style of play. There is nothing like it... I agree that its a bit annoying that there will be 3 games to get. But hey you have a choice. All three will have the multiplayer anyway. So its just a personal preference. I agree that Blizzard copy alot of stuff from others *caugh* Warhammer unverse *caugh* but at least they do it well...And everybody gets inspired (ie copy) from something anyway....

vortex6666
vortex6666

I realy dont understand why the masses are so exited over this overhyped piece of crap game. its nothing more then a graphical update nothing more maybe some extra things to do with your army and base but nothing special. But what realy pisses me off is that for blizz with so much money and over 10 years off dev on this game give you this lol. 3 races only 3 races cmon man put some heart into it and then whers the combat movements form the chars you see a little blood and the rest off the things go up in smoke thats fukkin cheap And then again howmuch is ripped from other games and you know what im talkin about its just pathetic.

YodaOfTheEmpire
YodaOfTheEmpire

I doubt this will better than the OG was when it first dropped.

vadagar1
vadagar1

omg come on already I want to see this friggin game I wana see the queen rule the universe MUAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH anyway I have been watching this game's progress for years, and yes bliz the strange water like ripples in the air was me using my cloaking device to spy on u at ur HQs, u have no idea how many times I wanted to paint the building with a lazer dot and .....well we all know what happens after that. but it seems u have done a good job, o well still w8ing.

SipurAhava
SipurAhava

@xXrebel666Xx You're complaining because an illegally obtained copy of a game that isn't even out yet didn't work for you? Let's just hope you were running Windows and not Wine-on-Linux or something, it would really make my day to know that a person like you got some malware. Oh, and try learning how to mask what you're doing from your ISP if you're so concerned about it. Or try waiting for the game to come out, going to the store, purchasing it without your moms' money and then come back and complain. But you're right; Blizzard probably just didn't want an uber-cool player like you with an uber-cool name like "rebel666," getting on their beta and kicking so much ass! Lolzorz! u r teh 133t g4m3r

xXrebel666Xx
xXrebel666Xx

Was really interested in this game, so much so that I tried to join the beta just to have a sneak peak at what I "would have" being purchasing when the product was released. Didn't matter anyway because it didn't even work...so I didn't even get to see anything. A couple of hours later ISP sends e-mail saying Blizzard is considering taking out legal action for a copyright breach. Go to hell Blizzard, I thought this game was all about the money with the three releases and now I know it when they take such an action against a fan eagerly checking it out. It's not like I even got to use the content it doesn't download or patch anyway. There goes my sale.

falloutguy318
falloutguy318

well blizz may give activ. a cut of there money but other that that they have no controll over good old blizz

snes_vs_ps1
snes_vs_ps1

@Whitewizardg from girls you probably get Chlamidya or Cutties or Heart Breaking...anyway, Chlamydia is Fatal-SC2 is not!

snes_vs_ps1
snes_vs_ps1

@tomer_sss no, the thruth is that all these years they've spent theyr time developing those good for nothing WoW games!They killed the Warcraft series & brought those time wasting games.

Freakgrenade
Freakgrenade

More good news for starcraft fans, according to industry analysts mmo's are on the out and casual gamming still strong.Blizzard is actually downsizing their wow division and spending more money and time on starcraft and diablo.

kokkozz
kokkozz

Pre-Order!! Can't wait for the game + the cool engine (e.g. map editor) that these guys has developed for us :D. Thanks Blizzard!

Exia2004
Exia2004

@ IpwnGandalf lol you are right

Bigsteve3570
Bigsteve3570

Blizzard.... so much damn confidence in them. So, excited, and the beta is awesome so far!

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

How insecure is Whitewizardg that he has to come onto these forums and spew garbage like that. I think its pretty obvious who the virgin here is.......not that it matters anyways, it will happen for you one day I'm sure (maybe).

HuSSaR83
HuSSaR83

I just hope they keep creepy atmosphere of the first one...I mean the music for each race, deep creepy voice acting and those crazy "alien" like movies for zerg :D I remember when first Starcraft came out somewhere around when "Alien" movie was famous. Zerg hydralisk somewhat reminded me of Alien hehe :D

IpwnGandalf
IpwnGandalf

@Whitewizardg You have commented on this page several times now. How do you ever talk to girls if you spend all of your pathetic time calling people losers on Gamespot forums?

chrion133
chrion133

Im more of a gaming geek than is good for any person, my child is 11, and most of the girls ive been with have been amazingly beautiful. Back to the point, Starcraft 2 for GOTY!!! easily, ive spent the last 2 weeks buried in the beta, and it has been amazingly addictive!

Sirbobislost
Sirbobislost

@ Whitewizardg geeks? Havnt seen girls? You've joined a gaming site just to call us sad and geeks do you not see how much more pathetic that makes you look then any of us? I think you need to cut down on your fapping and bumbhole fingering it seems to be messing with your brain

aramus555
aramus555

i love how easy it is to start the troll wars XD gotta love it! and cmooon give us a date already!!! teasing douches... i bet they enjoy doing that...

iol1
iol1

Aww...lay off Whitewizardg, guys. He's just jealous that his job as a fry cook (which I'm sure he is quite adequate at) barely pays enough to buy him a second-hand GameCube, much less a $60 video card to play modern PC games. He'll lighten up after I convince his mother to raise his allowance. She's never been able to say "no" to me. I know what she likes.

KingAmeboid
KingAmeboid

@Kishobran I completely Agree with you, Whitewizardg sounded like a complete arrogant idiot.

Kishobran
Kishobran

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Whitewizardg
Whitewizardg

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

skrotzki
skrotzki

I remember staying up and playing the first one online for hours

MehowPwned
MehowPwned

This is awesome both an awesome SP and a perfect multiplayer... also.. CUSTOM maps... god! this is gone be so great! sadly I fear that the dota will kinda be fail:P without heros from war3. Also I think the most most popular race in Europe is either Terran or protoss least here in Norway,Sweden and poland

DDERME
DDERME

i hope they still use the same sound track with better qualitiy cuz its still awesome and so is the game