On April 19th, 2010 Blizzard held a small, exclusive press event for American websites and publications at their headquarters in Irvine, CA. The main purpose of the event was to reveal three additional missions from Wings of Liberty, introduce the Research and Mercenary mechanics found in the single player campaign, and showcase two Challenge Mode missions. Even though the three new missions were fairly early within the campaign, each mission felt unique and stood apart from the multiplayer game.
Mission One – Welcome to the Jungle
Before embarking on this mission Swann briefs you on your objective. Tosh is willing to pay handsomely for a rare gas found on the planet called Terrazine. The problem is a rogue faction of the Protoss believes this gas to be sacred and will stop at nothing to ensure it does not fall into enemy hands. Your mission is to harvest seven canisters of gas from various geysers throughout the map. Shortly after recovering your first canister, the Protoss will attempt to make first contact with you, warning you of your trespass and demanding that you leave immediately. Raynor, never turning down easy money, politely refuses to the frustration of the Protoss tribe. The remainder of the mission has SCVs venturing forth gathering gas under the protection of the Terran army with an ever increasing Protoss ground and air force.
Those daring enough may try to destroy every Protoss force found on the map in order to unlock an achievement. This may be rather difficult the first time around as you have not unlocked the tech to build Siege Tanks or a Starport. Those looking to unlock all the achievements and recover all the Research Points will want to revisit previously played missions, but more on that later.
Mission Two – The Dig
In this mission you must recover a Xel’Naga artifact hidden deep within a temple. Previous attempts at retrieving it by a previous team resulted in failure. Luckily for you, they have left behind the materials needed to complete the operation. You are initially deployed to the planet with a rag-tag team of Marines and Marauders sent to gain control of the excavation site. Along the way a Dropship delivers some Siege Tanks in order to deal with some Protoss Canons. After a short tutorial on how to use Siege Tanks, the small excursion force comes across an abandoned Terran outpost with a Command Center, Barracks, Mercenary Compound, (more on the Mercenary Compound later,) Factory and finally a Laser Drill which you now control. The Laser Drill is used to melt your way through the doors of the temple in order to retrieve the artifact and a countdown bar on the top of the screen keeps you updated on your progress.
Standing in your way is a Protoss army sending wave after wave of units attempting to destroy your outpost and keep the artifact safely protected within the confines of the temple. There is one weapon added to your arsenal this time around in addition to the Siege Tank: the Laser Drill. That’s right; the giant Laser you are using to melt your way through the front door can also be used on the Protoss. Its targeting is slow but its fire power makes short work of Archons and Colossus.
Once again, you can attempt to venture out to earn the “Dug Out” achievement by destroying all the Protoss on the map but that is definitely easier said than done the first time around. Colossus will attack you plenty and the lack of a Starport makes it all the more difficult to gain sight on high ground or deal with a Colossus with only ground forces.
Mission Three - Zeratul Flashback
During the above cutscene, Zeratul visits Jim Raynor with a message. So that Jim may better understand what Zeratul has seen, he gives Jim a Xeon crystal. This crystal allows one to relive the memories of another and triggers the with the cinematic teased at BlizzCon 2009, which depicts Zeratul fighting Kerrigan in the Xel'Naga temple. It opens with a brief exchange of dialogue regarding the fate of the universe and tidings of impending doom. Zeratul, in a display of his power, envelopes himself in psi mist, disappearing and reappearing amid falling shards of the cavern’s ceiling. Following another brief exchange of words, Zeratul lunges at Kerrigan. She retaliates with a haduken-like attack, freezing Zeratul mid-leap as he pushes back with his own psi power. He throws a quick slash with his right arm but is quickly thrown back by Kerrigan's attack. Zeratul lands a powerful blow and her wing is shorn off; yet, she is unperturbed. As a new wing rapidly regenerates, she utters a short soliloquy regarding fate and her desire to embrace it. Zeratul is left to pick himself up, climb up through the caverns, and wonder how he can influence destiny.
As it concludes, the Protoss mini-campaign begins with a mission with the player controlling Zeratul in an underground cave, attempting to recover lost artifacts. Zeratul is not your ordinary Dark Templar by any means. In order to navigate the treacherous Zerg infested cave, Zeratul is granted additional abilities beyond the average Dark Templar. Those who have seen the Protoss Stalker in action can immediately appreciate the power of Zeratul’s Blink ability. In order to navigate the treacherous cave and its many pitfalls and impasses, Zeratul is able to teleport a short distant to bypass fallen bridges or move down cliffs. In addition to Blink, Zeratul can trap a unit or building in a Void Prison. The Void Prison resembles a more powerful version of Lockdown with a similar animation as the Phoenix's Graviton beam. Void Prison temporarily disables any unit or building while keeping it frozen in place. While a unit is trapped in the Void Prison, the unit is unable to attack, move, use special abilities or detect cloaked units such as Zeratul. Zeratul gains some additional unit support through some Stalkers at first and finally some Zealots and a High Templar. However, the Queen of Blades makes an appearance and attempts to make the cave Zeratul’s final resting place. It is up to Zeratul and a small band of Stalkers to navigate through the cave in order to escape with the retrieved artifacts in less than two minutes as a swarm of Zerg pursues them.
The Koprulu Sector is more dangerous since the events of The Brood War. In order to better survive, Raynor has the option of unlocking research for specific units. Every unit has two unlockable research items ranging from increased damage or improved durability to no longer requiring an attached Tech Lab in order to be produced. Although it is not possible to unlock every research item for every unit as there are only so many credits and missions found in Wings of Liberty, it will be possible to unlock about 80% of said upgrades as the mission credits are the only limiting factor.
Found throughout the single player campaign are racial research points used to unlock a tech tree. These research points are awarded through completing secondary objectives such as collecting Zerg cocoons and Protoss artifacts, or hunting down and destroying a particularly deadly strain of Zerg. For every 5 Racial Research Points you recover, you are allowed one of two upgrades. However once you make your selection, you cannot research the other item. Here is an example of the Protoss and Zerg Research Tree for Terran.
Protoss Research Points
Your Tech Labs also work as Reactors
Units from Barracks are deployed through Drop Pod
Refineries do not need SCVs to operate
Reactor Command Center
Your Command Center can train two SCVs at once
Orbital Depots Supply Depots build instantly
Increase gas harvesting by 25%
Weapon upgrades at the Armory and Engineering Bay increase weapon speed by 5%
Vanadium Plating Armor upgrades at the Armory and Engineering Bay increase health by 5%
Zerg Research Points
Hive Mind Emulator Create a building that can Mind Control any Zerg Unit
Decrease the movement speed of all Zerg units
Increase starting energy of all units by 100. Increase maximum energy of all units by 100.
Damaged ships and vehicles recover hit points over time.
Unlock an anti infantry unit
Hercules Unlock a massive transport with instant deployment of all units.
Perdition Turrets Unlock flame turrets that hide underground when not in use.
Strike Turret All bunkers are equipped with a Strike Turret. (Similar to an auto turret on a bunker)
Bunkers gain 150 Health
A new addition to the single-player campaign is the introduction of the Merc Compound. The Merc Compound is an advanced building built by the SCV. From the Hyperion, you can spend hard earned credits to unlock a stronger version of an existing unit. The Merc Compound is similar to the Mercenary Camp of WarCraft III Frozen Throne. The Merc Compound allows you to instantly hire any unit that you have unlocked between missions. Each Mercenary is on a separate cooldown timer limiting how often you can hire them. The Marine counterpart to the Mercenary is available after five minutes while the Siege Tank is available after six or so minutes. Once you hire the Mercenary, the cool down is reinitiated and will not be available to be rehired until the cool down expires. In addition to requiring minerals and gas, each Mercenary also has a limit per mission. For example, the Marine Mercenary can be hired up to four times while the Siege Tank Mercenary can only be hired two times.
Although the single player campaign of the original StarCraft was fun and robust, playing through missions did very little to prepare players to the wonder of Battle.Net and online competitive play. In order to fill that void and offer users a more fitting stepping stone into the online and cut throat world of competitive gaming, Blizzard created a number of mini games designed to build up the necessary skills to play online. Those familiar with the Spec Op Missions found in Activision’s Modern Warfare 2 will find these mini games to be challenging and fun. From each of the nine missions, it is possible to earn three stars depending on how well you perform during the mission for a total of 27 stars. Of the nine missions listed, only two were available to test.
In one mission you start with about six Sentries and six High Templars on a raised center platform. The point of the mission is to use the Sentries and Templars to destroy as many as possible. In order to earn one star for the bronze level, 75 units must be destroyed with silver and gold levels being achieved at 150 and 225 units each level earning an additional star. The bronze level is easily attainable by any player who uses both their left and right hand at the same time while playing StarCraft II. The difficulty arises during the later waves as your Templars and Sentries are slowly running out of energy and units such as Repears start joining the wave of attackers and start attacking the high ground. Only a careful balance of energy conservation, Hallunication, Forcefield, Psi Storm, Feedback and merging of Archons will net you three stars.
The other mission puts you at the helm of a large Protoss army. Instead of simply trying to see how many units a player can destroy in an ever-increasing uphill battle, the player simply has a time limit to see how many units you can destroy with a large Protoss army. To complicate the matters however, the Protoss army is fighting on no less than five separate fronts with basic units ranging from Stalkers and Zealots to the micro intensive High Templar and a powerful fleet of Protoss Carriers. Earning stars is once again similar to the previous mission with 75 kills granting you one star while 150 and 225 kills earns you two and three stars respectively.
With the StarCraft II multiplayer Beta well along its way with the ninth patch, it is often easy to forget the lore and single player aspect of StarCraft II Wings of Liberty. Although the multiplayer community may often be the most voiceterous, there are some players who simply want to play through the campaign and delve depper into the StarCraft universe. The single player campaign of Wings of Liberty promises to do just that with a variety of missions across a number of backdrops. From the pre-rendered cinematics to the interactions with characters in between each mission on the Hyperion, there seems to be enough in StarCraft II to keep an avid gamer occupied long before they play their first game on the new Battle.Net. Blizzard has a reputation for delivering high quality games that are fun to play and Wings of Liberty looks to continue that tradition.