Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Updated Hands-On - Single-Player Campaign

We get our hands on an early version of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty's single-player campaign.

Now that Blizzard has split the sequel to Starcraft into three chapters, the studio is starting to take the wraps off the sequel's story, which Blizzard's Andy Chambers says is big enough to fill three entire chapters. In fact, the creative director says that the sequel's story is so big that the three different games will let the studio properly tell the story of each of the three factions (Terrans, Protoss, and Zerg), rather than having to cut corners here and there to make everything fit in a single box. In any case, the single-player game of Wings of Liberty, the first of Starcraft II's three chapters, is finally coming together, and we had a chance to try out the first few missions of an early version.

Starcraft II's story picks up some years after the events of the Brood War expansion pack for the original Starcraft, after the vicious, three-sided conflict between Starcraft's three iconic factions: the macho Terran space marines, the noble-yet-inscrutable Protoss aliens, and the swarming, homicidal Zerg aliens. At the end of that story, the rebellious human officer Jim Raynor is set at odds against both his former ally, the treacherous human leader Arcturus Mengsk, and his former ladylove, the stealth-specialist-turned-Zerg-hive-queen Kerrigan.

The story of Starcraft II begins with Raynor dealing with these new and old threats. Though he's now considered a dangerous outlaw in the eyes of Emperor Mengsk, he remains a freedom fighter who leads his ragtag band of misfits into battle against Mengsk's oppressive regime--until a newscast on Jimmy's TV monitor reveals that the Zerg, which have remained dormant for years, have suddenly reappeared and have launched a broadening, full-scale assault on various sectors in the universe, and to make matters worse, Kerrigan herself has also resurfaced and been captured on film.

Starcraft II will offer an in-depth single-player campaign with an epic story told in three chapters.

In fact, Kerrigan and Raynor even share a "moment" in the early part of the campaign, and though he still can't quite understand why Kerrigan has finally come out of hiding, and why the Zerg now seem so obsessed with collecting Protoss artifacts, he renews his vow to put her out of her misery and stop her mission of intergalactic conquest. About the only good news in sight is that Tychus Findlay, the hard-nosed commando and war criminal Raynor served with in earlier games, has escaped his sentence and proposed a new revenue stream to fund Raynor's army--selling Protoss artifacts to a collective of scientists.

This in-depth story is told not only by way of elaborate in-engine cinematics with plenty of fancy camera work on the game's highly detailed character models that cuts to and zooms in on different characters, but also through between-mission sequences that, surprisingly enough, resemble the point-and-click gameplay of classic adventure games such as Myst and Grim Fandango. These sequences take place in peaceful hub areas where key characters sit or stand around items and fixtures of interest--and you can click on these characters or items to examine or interact with them to get Raynor's take on them. For Wings of Liberty, it's clear that Blizzard has looked to a variety of different media sources for inspiration, such as Western motion pictures--at the very outset of the game, the between-mission sequences take place in an interstellar saloon with a burned-out Raynor sitting at a bar with a drink in one hand and a pistol in another.

However, there are also references to influences like the gritty, alien-killing military action of Starship Troopers and ripped-from-the-headlines news broadcasts on the Zerg swarm that appear periodically on TV screens in the game, reminiscent of modern-day news coverage of international conflicts. Clicking around on the items and characters in these areas will pull up little bits of information and lore for players who really want to delve into the story, but it's not at all necessary, and you can skip through them if you're the sort of player who prefers to focus on gameplay and achievements.

There will be plenty of incentives for players who prefer to focus on gameplay. The campaign will have a semi-branching structure based around a starmap of planets that will send out distress calls and offers for other sorts of missions, and completing any individual mission will unlock a new unit for use in the single-player game. (However, not all units that appear in the single-player campaign will appear in multiplayer--the Terran flamethrowing firebat unit, for instance, will be available only in single-player.) In addition, finishing any mission will also net you a wad of credits (cash) you can use to purchase powerful upgrades for your armies or to hire expensive mercenary units from mercs you'll meet in your travels.

Jim Raynor and his Terran forces face an uphill battle in Wings of Liberty--they must face the corrupt Emperor Mengsk, the mysterious Protoss, and the menacing Zerg threat.

These upgrades will make your single-player units more damaging and tougher than their base abilities to deal with the massively powerful boss characters that lie in wait, but they won't be available in multiplayer for gameplay balance reasons. Blizzard is also toying with an open-ended alien research system that will let Raynor's lab cook up anti-alien tech if you successfully collect enough Protoss alien relics or Zerg DNA samples, though this research system is still being worked on and may not even appear in the final game. Real completionists will also find reason to replay each mission, since Wings of Liberty will offer in-game achievements for completing each mission under certain specific conditions, such as quickly finishing a mission within a certain time limit, finishing a mission without losing a unit, or completing a specific side unit.

We played through a handful of early single-player missions to find that the experience will be challenging and closely tied in to the ongoing story. Like the missions in Warcraft III, Starcraft II's missions will have multiple objectives that may change over time and will have picture-in-picture briefings from various characters egging you on to your goal or giving you hints on what to do next. The very first mission in the game acts as a tutorial and puts Raynor in command of a small squad of basic marines as they liberate a mining colony oppressed by Mengsk's forces, and though the mechanics of the mission focus primarily on teaching you how to select, move, and attack with your units, the mission is also an introduction to the new universe Raynor is up against. His forces must fight against other Terran troopers in Mengsk's employ while avoiding any casualties of the cowed civilians who mill around giant holographic statues of their new emperor. However, by the end of the mission, the miners were incited to rebel.

Wings of Liberty will tell the story of Jim Raynor's Terran forces...but it won't tell the whole story of Starcraft II.

We went on to play three additional missions in the early game against both the Zerg and the Protoss, and in the interest of not spoiling too much, we'll just provide a brief description rather than an in-depth breakdown. The first mission we played was a benevolent evacuation of a small medical colony overrun by Zerg. It required us to fight our way to the survivors' outpost, then periodically guard a few caravans of survivors along a winding road to an evacuation site, defending each from progressively more-ferocious Zerg attacks as the colony's medical officer offered horrified commentary on the viciousness of the invaders.

That particular mission didn't pay much in terms of reward credits, so we took on a higher-paying mission--collecting a large batch of resource crystals from an igneous planet infested with Zerg. The mission required us to collect several thousand crystals from patches of land that were periodically submerged under lava (which instantly killed any units caught in the molten rock), while fending off any Zerg encroachments, though the map also contained a powerful boss creature known as a "brutalisk"--a gigantic Zerg monster that won't appear in multiplayer. The last mission we tried out was a Protoss artifact retrieval mission for Tychus' contact. It took place on a mostly abandoned colony populated by Protoss fanatics, though when we arrived, the Zerg were also swarming the Protoss, and had we not been able to liberate the artifact from its tightly guarded resting place, the Zerg would have overrun the Protoss as well and attacked us. These missions illustrate how Starcraft II's campaign will have lots of variety and plenty of side objectives.

In terms of gameplay basics, Starcraft II's pacing seems very similar to that of the original Starcraft and is often just as fast and just as frantic as in the first game, and the Terran infantry, as ever, is about combined-arms forces of soldiers with varying abilities backed up by combat healing. Unfortunately, we were able to command only a few types of units: marines, which are basic ranged soldiers; firebats, which are flamethrowing infantry good at subduing groups; medics, which continuously heal allied units; marauders, which are heavy-duty infantry with rocket launchers; and reapers, which are infantry units with jumpjet packs that let them take quick flying leaps to quickly close gaps.

Much of the classic Terran tech tree returns in Starcraft II, including infantry bunkers to garrison four marines at once to provide defensive stockades or forward emplacements, as well as mobile command centers (effectively, the Terran's "town hall" structure that lets them create SCV resource harvesters) that can uproot themselves and slowly fly to different areas of the map--a useful tactic in longer missions after you've exhausted nearby resource veins. So far, the Starcraft II experience seems to remain very true to the Starcraft experience and seems just as challenging and action-packed. And the new 3D graphics look quite good, and the artwork for various units and structures, from the intricate and advanced-looking armor of the Protoss units to the disturbingly slimy way that Zerg structures "birth" their units, displays Blizzard's signature combination of hand-drawn art and judicious use of polygons and shading to create 3D art that looks distinctive without being too taxing on your computer.

News flash! You can expect to play Wings of Liberty...when it's done.

There will clearly be much more to Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty than just its single-player campaign, but playing through some early missions as the Terrans and experiencing the intriguing new adventure-game-style hub areas offered a glimpse into a game that everyone will want to know more about. We'll have more coverage of Starcraft II as soon as we can bring it to you. Keep your eyes peeled.

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240 comments
Frosty3223
Frosty3223

I have yet to be Disappointed with a Blizzard game, always pay attention to details and storyline while keeping their games well balanced. WoW is the exception because it changes with every patch and expansion ( just stopped cold turkey from wow). Cant wait to give this game a go. Starcraft is a legend and i expect great things from this game, and Diablo 3. KEEP IT UP BLIZZ!

minty_cbo
minty_cbo

it's blizzard..perfectionists at work..they dont put out garbage.. but you do pay a premium.. now..for diablo 3 ...and im a happy camper ;) not a big starcraft fan..infact..i have diablo 2 running in the background as i type this. lol however..i like the fact that it's in-depth on the story with this game.you would end up paying $40 - $60 for each expansion anyway..atleast (hopefully) you get what you pay for,and they dont take forever to release the rest of the storied games. (unfortunately blizzard being perfectionists..it could be a bit...and i forgot to mention..since WoW blizzard has gotten money hungry..ftl) now..to see what they have planned for diablo 3...honestly ..i was not expecting 3 dedicated games for this release on this franchise..so they better not shortchange diablo 3!

Zanmato7
Zanmato7

BElive me...this game deserves all the titles you can imagine. Flawless game by Blizzard! Thas how you make the game. F..k EA!

payne6705
payne6705

I really am interested in this game series. I bought the battle chest, but my computer can barely run it since it so old. The only thing that is bothering me is how the game is split up into 3 $60 dollar games. They couldn't make it one $60 dollar game and the rest cheaper expansions like normal computer devs?

xJesusChristx
xJesusChristx

3 full price games WTF, only an idiot would get wrangled into buying all 3. Nice marketing releasing the terrain story first as they know the other two races are more popular.Its a MONEY RACKET. Solution buy one and pirate other two.

7Vightfall
7Vightfall

I dont understtand why you people complain so much the split the game and are adding more to each individual game rather than cutting it down into one. therefore game will be LONGER and BETTER

k_oldsoul
k_oldsoul

@Vryden i won't be surprised if the game get cracked ! call of duty 6 got cracked(require steam)....assassins creed 2 got cracked(require permanent connection with Internet) ....HELL... ALL GAMES GOT CRACKED graphics looks good enough..they looks better than C&C 3...u might notice the similarities in color

paradamed
paradamed

Im not impressed by the graphics nor by the effects. They kind of look outdated.

Entissmiss
Entissmiss

@ Vryden Its just that with the 2-year delay blizzard has chosen, this game is beginning to look outdated graphically. Yes, i do care about graphics, if i only care about gameplay i would probably play the first starcraft, which i believe to be overrated.

NOOBEATER2000
NOOBEATER2000

Sure it looks awesome blizzard, but at least put a realease date on it, and tell people your making it at most a year before. I pre ordered it two f-ing years ago.

Vryden
Vryden

For those of you whining about when the game will be released and its cost need to remember a few things. You are not the game creator, so you hold no say or influance on the game's release date. If it takes longer to make a game to the standard they want, they can do so! As for pirates out there like vadagar1 has said, I wish you the best of luck doing so. The game requires you to be signed into battle.net to play both online and singleplayer as of right now (I'm in the beta testing and yes it does need more work before its balanced) and I haven't seen that changed. So go ahead and download it, if you get a "fake server" good luck finding anyone to play with as you will be spending your time all alone like you deserve. I wouldn't want you playing my game and I'm sure Blizzard is saying the same. Now for its 3 different releases, so what if there is three that are "FULL COST!? (ZOMG RIPOFF WTF WHY!?)" All Blizzard did was say there would be 2 expansions to this game. Just like in Starcraft I there was 1 expansion and it costed, "OH WHAT? SAME PRICE!?", wow... So get off your stool and stand on the ground with the rest of the people because you arn't going to change it, nor is Blizz gonna change it either. Sorry but thats life, go play with your dolls again where you can control your "world".

vadagar1
vadagar1

oh well now u pissed me off, wth u waiting for now???? the CDs are collecting dust now, and like the last guy said this was supposed to be realesed 2 YEARS AGO. bah ******* it, gona pirate the game when it gets released, Bliz u suck.

kyletm2003
kyletm2003

This game will more then likely sell well regardless of how long Blizz holds its cards. Here is what turned me away from buying this game. 1. It was supposed to release 2 years ago. 2. They divided it into 3 FULL PRICE games. 3. Blizz Baits all its fans with little tid-bits to the point of excess. 4. they used the "its not polished enough" excuse. 5. Korean Sales figures are influencing the games development. 6. Blizz tells us about its games half a year in dev. Refer to point 3. 7. They divided it into 3 FULL PRICE games. Did i say that already? no? im sure i didnt so here! They divided it into 3 FULL PRICE games!!! I will only buy this game about 5 years after it releases when i can get the "War-chest edition" with all the games together for 15 bucks. Bliz needs to stop kissing its wallet and start actually working on the game. Also i request a "sorry for baiting you so long" edition available to people who own Warcraft 1 2 3 and starcraft (me) that includes all 3 games for the cost of 20 bucks. REPENT BLIZZARD!!!

vadagar1
vadagar1

Hmmmm I have some sad news to all gamers SC 2 will come out in 2011 and it will be a shadow of its former self (SC1) And diablo3 is gona get ... canceled Yep all I have to say bliz is that u made me a little sad but not as sad as ur gona be soon. Glad hunter liked my comment :P nice avatar pic :) btw and my sources are... classified but they did say Diablo 3 might get "rebooted" and released with a new engine after 2012 but they are not sure, a few more hacks and a little bit of spy work will be required but I'm not gona put anymore resources to this operation and instead I'm gona play the other amazing games out there, and like some guy said in a comment can't recall his name, it's our prerogative to buy or not buy the game and its bliz prerogative to make it, but he forgot about ethics, which in this case are: I won't pirate the game when it comes out, and bliz will respect me and not dangle a carrot in my face.

Link_is_coolest
Link_is_coolest

if this isn't the best game of the decade i'm suing Blizzard for making us wait, it's bad enough to have to wait for your food at a restaurant, but if the food is good it's all cool, if it's not... well i hope you get the idea Blizzard.

trishu27
trishu27

they should increase pop size from 200 to atleast 1000... more units, more action and more fun...

elancion
elancion

Dam still harvesting crystals huh, lol with all the technology the sc2 universe supposedly has, it still requires a large group of units to gather resources;am i the only who sees this as being a bit outdated or what.

vito_128
vito_128

I sense it coming out in... 2011

hunter1012
hunter1012

You just gotta LOVE the last statement that was made by the guy.. I loled...

vadagar1
vadagar1

well well well, if you have a problem always follow the money. Bliz, its not bad to make trillions of dollars, and make every item in u house solid gold, after all its your immortal souls on the line, not mine, but making us w8 for years and years for a game u told us about years and years back is very rude, and not to mention, Condescending... I'm not sure its a good money making plan to make ur fans get angry and feel ignored and .... bored, so hope u make SC2 and D3 this year, while the graphics are still... OK. and plz don't give me that games take time crap, they do take time but not this much time, bliz are waitting for a "market" opportunity, and selling us the we need to balance and fix crap, and it is just BS, I'm too old to fall for it, I know how the world works, and this OVER greed is getting on my nerves, don't get to greedy bliz or u might just... fall victims to ur greed just like all the greedy peeps out there, just ask urself, how much money is enough money, ur answer will determine u fate. make ur choice.

exray
exray

Everything about this game smacks of fail. The excessively long development time, continuous delays, and the splitting of the game into three full priced titles. We were all watching gameplay videos from this game 3 years ago...

goodbye77
goodbye77

No monthly fees, include LAN, further improve B.Net, add more stuff to the game = GG!

tyrosxps
tyrosxps

Blizzard adds too much role-playing elements to their RTS games. I'd prefer a clear RTS game, than a mix, like they did with Warcraft 3 and looks like they are gonna do this in Starcraft 2. If I wanted to play RPG I'd play Diablo

VMaven
VMaven

It's probably been mentioned but in the past 2 players have been able to play from 1-set of disks. If they force this to go over battlenet it seems like that's the first thing to go. A trilogy idea is great, if you can really pull it off exceptionally, if you can't you'll sell a lot of the first game and then the rest will probably just fall off into oblivion. Overall it just seems Blizz wants more money, but honestly if it's too much of a hassle I'm not going to bother. ps throw in some of the ol' Blizzard notepads, or is that too expensive for you now?

JadenakaJay
JadenakaJay

@Vasot How do you even have a feeling this will be Starcraft 1.5? What makes you say that?

Battleraven
Battleraven

I can't wait for this game. I want it this year!

oopomop
oopomop

@Vasot I dont Vasot. Have you even watched the Battle Reports? It looks like Starcraft 2.0. I dont even see any resembalance to warcraft 3.

Vasot
Vasot

I have a feeling this is going to be Stacraft 1.5 with many Warcraft 3 similarities :(....which may or may not be a bad thing, depending on how much they improve. I still expect Diablo 3 to be more thrilling from this

oopomop
oopomop

@Hector_01 Blizzard said that there will be no monthly charge for people who buy Starcraft. Diablo 3 is yet undetermined. . Andrex, i agree with you. However, i think you are overestimating the lag. Playing B.Net, i get virtually no lag just like in the single player campaign. Not to mention blizzard is improving B.Net due to the specific point that you stated.

Andrex1212
Andrex1212

well... some people might not see the use of LAN, but the real use is private tournaments and championships. If you have to go through Battle.net you are reducing your connection speed EXPONENTIALLY due to the amount of time it takes to send the connection to Battle.net, and then to a hosted server and then back to your computer. Whereas people with a LAN connection such as mine, with a 1 gbps connection, you get the highest possible connection, no lag whatsoever. Just something to think about.

Hector_01
Hector_01

I hear alot of people on here saying how its not a big deal that SC 2 doesnt have any lan support and yes i agree, it isnt that big of a deal, but i thought that blizzard were gonna charge a monthly fee for battle.net and if this is the case than yes having no lan is a big deal, cause if they expect people to pay a monthly fee just to play online as well as the full priced game well i dont think there will be alot of happy customers out there lol

oopomop
oopomop

@bochap76 Dude, Blizzard doesn't do downloadable content. Nor is it charging B.Net fees for people who buy SC2 (D3 is unknown.) . I honestly dont get why people QQ about no lan. Only thing is no more LaN parties, but other than that i have used lan ONE time out of the total 4 years of playing Starcraft. Just hop on B.Net, you get to play with hundreds of thousands of other players. Or, you could keep playing against your bro.

_Rye_
_Rye_

@ bochap76 and everyone else crying.. Who cares if they want you to play on Battle.Net booo freaking hooo its free anyway instead of LAN you can do the exact samething on Battle.Net the world is coming to a end isnt it..yeah am totally not going to buy the best game to ever be relased cuz i have to take 10 seconds to log into battle net....good one

Smackerlacker
Smackerlacker

The game isn't done yet. Why is everyone always complaining about the fact that it's not done? It's done when it's done, and that's it. Blizzard doesn't go by anyone's schedule but their own. It takes a lot of time to create a game that's actually fun to play. Considering how many games are shoved out the door half-baked and boring, you'd think people would learn that good things take time. Blizzard has a flawless track record. They've released blockbusters one after another that all raise the bar for games in general. They've never made a bad game, and every game they've made has been released "When it's done." So sit back, relax, and rest assured that Starcraft 2 will most definitely be worth the wait.

Doinel
Doinel

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

bochap76
bochap76

I'll not buy this game until LAN play is added. Blizzard is forcing everyone to play on battlenet so they can continually bleed money out of people with DLC. I wish all the gaming sites would listen to their viewers and subscribers and boycott Blizzard until they actually listened to their supporters and reinstate LAN.

Doinel
Doinel

hehe... like my little Joke with the thumbs down huh? lol The truth is, a game this good can never be put down by voting it off. It wont even put a scratch in it. In fact this game does not even need to be rated.

thechamp69
thechamp69

Isense a release date in the midst

oopomop
oopomop

Who is the one giving every single person a thumbs down? Srsly dude. If this is what you are doing on a daily basis, you need to get a life. . Woot SC2!

Doinel
Doinel

To Drumtasticnick: I'd say that they are more like god of time. An eternity to us is like several seconds to them. considering the time its taking to launch this freaking game!!!!!!

Psycold
Psycold

@giant11 - that didn't work too well for Duke Nukem Forever, but thats a different story I guess haha

oopomop
oopomop

PS guys, they said they are considering selling the SC series as one main game, and 2 expansion packs. Hopefully they do it, I doubt people will spend $180 bucks on SC 2. (But will certainly pay at least 60! :D)

2w-sephiroth
2w-sephiroth

I want to get a fresh new geared computer when this game gets released.... droolsss. When its done! Only blizzard would make a game like that... and Squaresoft :)