Starcraft II features the return of the three races from the original game: Protoss, Terran, andZerg; Blizzard states these are the only playable races in the game. StarCraft II is also designed to focus more heavily on the multiplayer aspect, when compared to the originalStarCraft. The changes include overall improvement in Battle.net, a new competitive "ladder" system for ranked games and new matchmaking mechanics—designed to "match-up" players of equal skill levels. In addition, the replay function, which allows players to record and review past games, is being improved. Blizzard has also stated they have made some changes to the game that were suggested by fans.
StarCraft II continues its predecessor's use of pre-rendered cinematic cut scenes to advance the plot while also improving the quality of in-game cut scenes within the levels themselves, which are rendered on-the-fly using the same game engine as the graphics in the game proper. Blizzard states that with the new graphics engine that StarCraft II uses to render the gameplay, they "can actually create in-game cut-scenes of near-cinematic quality". Most Protoss and Terran units, and some Zerg units, have been shown on the StarCraft II official website, and in several video demonstrations held by Blizzard. Improvements include advanced scenery allocation and more detailed space terrain, such as floating space platforms with planets and asteroids in the background. Small cliffs, extensions, and even advertising signs were also shown to have been improved and refined.
The single-player aspect of StarCraft II has also been altered substantially from the original game. The Terran campaign shown atBlizzCon 2007 replaced the original StarCraft briefing room with an interactive version of the battlecruiser Hyperion, with Jim Raynor, now a bitter and hard-drinking mercenary captain, as the central character. In a departure from previous Blizzard games, the campaign is non-linear, with Raynor taking jobs for money and using that money to buy additional units and upgrades. Although each playthrough will vary, the end result will remain consistent keeping the storyline linear. Vice president Rob Pardo has stressed that each campaign will function very differently. The Terran campaign, Wings of Liberty, will place players in a mercenary style campaign, as Terran rebel Jim Raynor performs missions for cash. The second release, the Zerg campaign Heart of the Swarm, will have RPG elements. The player will level up the Queen of Blades, Kerrigan, throughout the missions. In the last expansion, the Protoss campaign Legacy of the Void, the dark templar Zeratul will have to employ diplomacy between Protoss tribes to acquire units and technologies for each mission. Each campaign is expected to span 26-30 missions.
Lead Designer Dustin Browder has discussed with Shacknews some of the unique missions that may be included in the Wings of Libertycampaign. In one level, lava floods the battlefield every five minutes, forcing the player to move their units to high ground or watch them get destroyed. In another mission, enemy units will only attack the player at night. The last mission Browder discussed was one where the player tries to influence the tide of an AI controlled battle with only a single unit, a Ghost. The single player missions will be highly customizable and are featured in the StarCraft II Community Zone. Between missions, players can choose units, buildings and upgrades that are not available in the multiplayer missions.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty features approximately the same number of units as the original game. Some units from the original game are returning, some featuring new upgrades and abilities. For example, the Protoss Zealot, a melee unit from the original game, now has the explorable ability to dash forward and quickly reach nearby enemies as a refinement of their speed upgrade from the original. Other units have been replaced or removed entirely. Other changes to unit design have been inspired by story events in StarCraft and its expansion,Brood War, replacing old units with new or renamed versions which sport different attributes and abilities.
Units in StarCraft II have new abilities, compared to the original, that encourage more complex interaction with the game environment. Among these are the inclusion of units that can traverse varying levels of terrain, or have the ability to teleport short distances. Some Protoss units can be warped in to pylon-powered areas using the Warp Gate, a slight modification of the existing building called the Gateway.StarCraft II's campaign will also have exclusive units which would only be playable in the campaign and not in the regular multiplayer mode (though they are available for map makers to use in custom maps). These mostly consist of units which have been scrapped from development such as the Terran Cobra as well as various returning units from the original StarCraft such as the Terran Wraith and Vulture.
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