StarCraft 2 Hands-On Preview

By Lauren Alessandra on May 28, 2010, 8:32PM EDT

It's been almost 12 years since the release of StarCraft and since then there's only been one expansion pack. Finally StarCraft fans are getting the real sequel they've been waiting for all this time in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, although this in itself is only the first of three planned sequels.

Before now, there was only a short trailer for the game featuring a Terran getting suited up. With the Beta up and running, players have a much better idea about the gameplay advancements that Blizzard have made in order to please those of us holding our breath.

StarCraft II's story takes place nearly four years after the expansion, Brood War. Wings of Liberty will focus on the Terran campaign alone with Jim Raynor as the lead character while Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, and Arcturus Mengsk take center stage as the story's villains. For those who prefer the Zerg or the Protoss campaigns, two expansion packs will be released in the near future, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void, which will most likely center around the two remaining campaigns. In Wings of Libery alone there will be around 29 missions in single player mode with rewards upon completion such as in-game cash and new units. Players are able to use their cash earned to hire new mercs for future missions. By hiring these new units, players will be able to use them in game without having to wait for build time. They can also spend their money on buying upgrades for their existing units.

Although most of the gameplay may feel familiar, the Single Player mode has been updated quite a bit. Whereas in the original game objectives were pretty linear and simplistic, StarCraft II provides players with a few added challenges and some secondary objectives. There's one level where the main objective is to use a laser to break down the walls of a Protoss temple. While doing this, the player must protect their base from "high threat" Protoss (Archons mostly) and are invited to seek out Protoss ruins and collect research data as a secondary objective. The player is advised to use the laser to accomplish both of these tasks. These added objectives make each level a bit more interesting and difficult which is an upgrade from StarCraft's very linear gameplay. Aside from the laser, there was also mention of many other missions much like this one throughout the game so those who are looking for a more exciting StarCraft experience such as saving an entire Terran army from a raging volcano, should be more than happy.

Players can also obtain research points by completing secondary objectives. However, while these research points can be used to unlock new units, players must choose between one of two units at each stage in the tree. Also, to keep things on an even keel, players will not be able to use all of these units in multiplayer mode - as some are ridiculously overpowered. Instead they can unlock customizations for their profile, such as unique decals on their army units or a new profile picture. The developers have hopes that the single player experience will be much different to the multiplayer one and will likely stay separate aside from some decals.

StarCraft II will also use just like its predecessors. It will implement RealID which will allow players to connect with friends from other Blizzard titles (like Diablo and World of Warcraft) and their fellow StarCraft playing Facebook friends. Through this they will also be able to post bulletins, have cross-game chats, and so on. Depending on a player's performance, will place online gamers into different leagues (copper, bronze, silver, gold and platinum). Along with that, online players are put through a skill matching system so as to be placed amongst players of a similar competitive level.

Fans of the previous games should not have any trouble transferring over to StarCraft II since much of it has stayed the same with the exception of a few new features. There is a new expansion of the barracks and other unit creation facilities which allows players to create two units at once so as to divide the building time in half. This is a very helpful tool for those wanting to make huge armies fast although bare in mind that it depletes resources a lot faster. There is also a feature that will tell you when there are SVU units that are idle so as to keep them working. There are also quite a few additional units for players to get to know. The units seem to move and attack a lot faster than original. Where going against the zerg in the original included a nice huge ambush here and there, the sequel seems to have expanded on this and made these zerg attacks occur pretty much every 10 seconds. It is all a lot faster than before which may please some players who had grown bored of the difficulty in the first installment. Along with that, depending on the difficulty a player chooses in multiplayer, the games will progress much faster than normal speed making games much more fun and competitive.

StarCraft II is shaping up to be a well fleshed out sequel to its beloved predecessor. Fans can only hope that its July 27, 2010 release date would come sooner.

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