[[10 YEARS LATER]]
It's been ten years since we last got our hands on a new StarCraft title, and the 11 million people who played the original are more than ready for a true sequel after being teased with the cancelled StarCraft: Ghost. Enter StarCraft II, which has the potential to be the greatest real-time strategy title of all time.
StarCraft II will consist of three separate titles for PC and Mac, as announced by developer Blizzard. The first entry, Wings of Liberty, will be the base game. It will be followed by two expansion packs, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void.
Three completely different and balanced races are in the mix for SC2: the Protoss, Terran, and Zerg. To make things easier for you, especially if you are a gamer born after 1995, let's put this in Halo terms: Terran = UNSC, Protoss = Covenant, and Zerg = Flood.
Blizzard announced this week that they expect the game, formerly slated for a Holiday '09 release, to debut in 2010. With Blizzard's notorious perfectionism, expect the team to be hard at work well into 2010 before we see a final build-keep in mind, too, that there's still a lengthy beta period in the future that needs to be finished before the game releases to the general public. If you want to learn how to sign up for the beta, check out http://www.starcraft2.com/beta-faq.xml .
After reading our preview here at MegaGames, you'll be holding your breath until then.*
*MegaGames does not recommend actually holding your breath until then.
Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm, and Legacy of the Void will have 26-30 single-player missions centered around a specific race. Wings of Liberty will focus on the Terrans, with the Protoss and the Zerg as the focus of each of the expansion packs.
Captain Jim Raynor, now a grizzly alcoholic, will be Wings of Liberty's main character. Terrans, such as Raynor, are descendents of Earth's last fleeing colony. They don't have the brute strength of the Protoss or the genius of the Zerg, but they bring a strong mix of both to the table, and sometimes being a Jack of all trades can be a strategic advantage.
Instead of repeating the linear storyline of the original StarCraft, Blizzard will now allow players to perform, at their leisure, odd jobs as Raynor to earn money. That money can be used to purchase additional units and upgrades.
We've got the goods on nine Terran units. There are, of course, the seminal, cigar-chomping Marines who provide general purpose ground support. If we had the armor these guys have, we would have been out of Iraq years ago. Guys that are either convicted violent criminals or too defiant to become Marines are deployed as Reapers. Given a chemical enhancement to become even more homicidal and a full pardon for their crimes, Reapers are raiders, part of the front line that fights hard and dies almost instantly. Ghosts are highly evolved snipers who are chosen from the Terran population at birth, quarantined by the government, and trained to become killing machines (think Master Chief).
The Viking, equipped with a twin gatling cannon and torpedoes, is capable of transitioning from walking mech to flying air support. Battlecruiser is a flying unit with heavy armor and crushing torpedoes, lasers, and cannons. The AH/G-24 Banshee is another flying unit used for tactical strikes that looks straight out of Avatar (read: extremely cool). Thor, the ultimate in heavy assault mechs, brings down the hammer with particle accelerators and a bombardment cannon. Out of all the units Blizzard's given us information about, this looks the straight-up deadliest. The Crucio Siege Tank, an update of the Arclite Siege Tank, offers armored support and mobile artillery.
TF-620 is a unit with no attack capabilities: it's deployed to the battlefield to support and construct units before everyone moves in.
The Command Center, a mining building that can literally pick itself up and walk to a new location, joins the Sensor Tower, a monitor of long-range enemy movement, as one of two unveiled Terran structures.
The Zerg campaign, Heart of the Swarm, will feature RPG elements. Players will spend the campaign leveling up main character Sarah Kerrigan, otherwise known as the Queen of Blades and the SAT proctor in my dreams. The Queen of Blades is a human/Zerg hybrid controlled by the Zerg hive mind. The Zerg are a collection of different species that all have infection in common. They don't use any sort of advanced technology to create their bases and weapons: everything they fight with is based in biology. That's right, their weapons are alive.
[[Zerg and Protoss]]
Blizzard has released information about three Zerg units. The Hydralisk, a medium warrior, are former peaceful herbivores gone violently carnivorous after being infected. Their Fibonacci-from-hell needle spines will put you down before you know what hit you. The Mutalisk, a medium attack flyer, look like vampire bats with spines that extend to a length five times their body. They attack mainly with a glave wurm, a projectile symbiote that rapidly degenerates enemies. Finally, the Baneling is a sapper. Banelings are wobbly, slow-moving, creatures with enormous fluid-filled sacs. They pick up speed by rolling around the battlefield, and unleash massive damage when they release their acid payload all over unsuspecting enemies.
The final expansion, Legacy of the Void, will focus on the Protoss. The Protoss are a powerful alien race whose adherence to tradition must relax if they are to succeed with the changing times. As the dark templar Zeratul, you'll need to employ diplomacy among the different Protoss tribes to gain new units and information for each mission. Protoss are unrivaled as individual warriors, with a deadly combination of technological knowledge and psionic strength.
Twelve Protoss units have been detailed. There are six main ground units. Zealots are assault warriors who attack with psionic blades. Immortals are mechs with powerful range attacks in the form of twin phase disruptors. Stalkers, their swift and mobile counterparts, scout and ambush enemies. Colossus are towering crawlers with heavy attack capacity. The Twilight Archon releases heavy psionic shockwave attacks, an offensive maneuver the Terrans chiefly lack. Dark Templars, the class that the main character of Legacy of the Void is from, are psionic warriors with stealth infiltration capabilities.
Air support includes the Phoenix, an air assault vehicle with twin ion cannons; the Phase Prism, a tactical transport unit; Mothership, a capital ship with disruptor pulse weapons; and Carrier, a heavily shielded fighter able to unleash robotic interceptors on enemy units. Another unit, the Observers, are small drones that are deployed to record battles for later study.
Two Protoss buildings have been unveiled as well, Gateway/Warp Gate and Stargate. Both build different units for combat.
The classic units you know and love will be back with a few new tricks, and a number of brand-new units will populate the playing field. Every unit in this game has been put through a total overhaul.
From the first entry in the trilogy, StarCraft II will be a fully playable multiplayer experience with all three races available.
Each expansion set will add new content for each of the three races to put to use in multiplayer skirmishes. Battle.net will see an update every time a new expansion comes out, and Blizzard will be giving you new goodies like units, structures, and abilities to play with.
Blizzard hasn't released too many details about the Battle.net overhaul, but they've teased features that support online tournaments, eSports, and enhanced communication between players (webcams, anyone?). There will finally be skill-based matchmaking, something we've become accustomed to. Old school players like me, don't worry: you'll still be able to play the original StarCraft on Battle.net.
Cheaters, beware: Blizzard is taking security very seriously. They aren't releasing too many details, which makes sense: why give cheaters a jump on cheating? But Blizzard assures us that Battle.net is getting a robust update and overhaul. Blizzard is not shy about punishing cheaters in all of their games (check anywhere on the internet for some stories of stiff WoW justice), and there's no reason to expect anything different this time around.