StarCraft II Single-Player Campaign ImpressionsBy Matt Keil - Posted Apr 23, 2010
On April 19th I had the privilege of visiting Blizzard Entertainment’s HQ in Irvine, California for some hands-on time with three newly revealed single-player missions from StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. The release date for the much-anticipated follow-up to the most popular RTS of all time remains a closely-guarded secret, but if the polish evident on the three levels is any indication, it can’t be too far away.
The campaign is one of the most ambitious storytelling attempts in the genre’s history. You take the role of Jim Raynor, former space sheriff and newly minted leader of a band of renegades hoping to overthrow the oppressive regime of Arcturus Mengsk. Players of the original game and its expansion will remember Mengsk betraying Raynor, and their relationship hasn’t warmed any in the four years since Brood War. You can wander around Raynor’s ship in a manner reminiscent of the old Wing Commander games, although there’s a lot more to do here than in Origin’s classic space sagas.
On the ship you can upgrade your tech and research with campaign-exclusive perks and bonuses, such as boosted Medic healing speed and turrets for your bunkers. Basically things that would utterly break the multiplayer, but are tons of fun to mess with against the CPU. 29 missions comprise the campaign, all of which feature unique goals and gameplay permutations. The idea is to never have the player doing the same thing twice.
The first mission available at the event was Welcome to the Jungle, in which Raynor’s forces attempt to collect canisters of Terrazine gas, a rare substance that can be used to enhance psionic ability in humans. Numerous vents producing the gas are scattered about the map, and each is encircled by a shrine built by the occupying force of fanatic Protoss. As you send SCVs to harvest the Terrazine, said Protoss will blitz your forces in response to their sacrilege. They’ll also begin to seal off the vents one by one, so you’re doubly under the gun. You must acquire enough Terrazine to satisfy your new psionic ally, stop the Protoss from sealing too many vents, and defend your base all at the same time.
The second map is titled The Dig, and is possibly a reference to the excellent LucasArts adventure of the same name. It’s set among ancient ruins. Inside a heavily reinforced chamber is an artifact you require. A handy superpowered mining laser left behind by the last doomed expedition to the planet serves as your skeleton key. As the laser slowly bores through the numerous layers of armor protecting the relic, Protoss defenders repeatedly attack your position. Often they send in units far beyond your current power level, so you’re given the ability to redirect the mining laser to take out the occasional Archon. This of course means it will take even longer to bore through to the relic, so you must decide carefully when to divert the laser and when to use your units to repel the threats sent at you.
Finally, Whispers of Doom revealed for the first time the existence of a Protoss mini-campaign in the first StarCraft II title. Raynor’s old ally Zeratul shows up injured, and gives him a memory crystal you can use to relive the dark prelate’s recent encounter with the Zerg’s Queen of Blades, formerly Raynor’s love interest, Kerrigan. After a typically stunning Blizzard CG sequence in which Zeratul and the Queen face off in hand-to-hand combat, you play a character-driven mission as Zeratul. You work your way through the caverns, battling Zerg and activating Xel’Naga ruins in an attempt to uncover a prophecy that may foretell doom for all three StarCraft races. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Hero-centric missions in WarCraft III, and very different from the other campaign levels shown thus far.
The diversity present in the campaign really can’t be emphasized enough. This is not a mere collection of skirmish map scenarios, this is a fully crafted single-player experience that throws something new at you around almost every corner. All that’s needed is a solid release date, but for now we’ll have to make do with “When it’s done.” Looks like the beta will have to serve as my StarCraft II fix for the time being.