StarCraft II's Cool, Sometimes Crazy Single Player Liberties

Blizzard is creating a wildly different experience for those who choose to play StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty's single-player campaign, adding units, vehicles and upgrades that you just won't see in multiplayer, from the familiar Firebat to the bizarre Predator.

The last time we played StarCraft II's single-player game, we laid out the unit, base and ship upgrades that will trick out units with special abilities you won't see in multiplayer games. At the time, that included the return of units from the original StarCraft, like the Goliath and Firebat. It also included units that Blizzard opted to cut from the multiplayer side.

Our most recent hands-on time with StarCraft II illustrates how Blizzard is splitting the upgrade path. Previously, all unit upgrades were purchased with in-game credits acquired by completing successful missions. Now, in the research Laboratory, players will need to spend the Protoss relics and Zerg genetic material they find scattered throughout maps on a set of race-specific upgrades.

The new research upgrades follow a skill tree-like path. There are a total of 20 upgrades, 10 for the Zerg and 10 for the Protoss. As shown in the screen shot above, each race research path is split into two columns. As you acquire the necessary research materials, you'll have to make a choice as to which upgrade you'll commit to.

Some of these research upgrades are very rewarding, like the automated Vespene gas Refinery for the Terrans and the Orbital Depots, which drop in pre-fab Supply Depots wherever an SCV worker points. Some are classic units, like the Science Vessel, unavailable otherwise. Some, like the Predator, a mechanized battle cat that attacks infantry, are just weird.

Here's the list of Research upgrades from the latest build of StarCraft II.

Protoss Research

  • Ultra-capacitors (5) - Weapon upgrades in armory and engineering boost attack speed by +5% in addition to damage.
  • Vanadium Plating (5) - Upgrades in armory and engineering boost health by +5% in addition to armor.
  • Microfiltering (10) - Harvest Vespene gas 25% faster.
  • Orbital Depots (10) - Supply depots build instantaneously.
  • Command Center Reactor (15) - Build two SCVs simultaneously.
  • Automated Refinery (15) - No longer requires SCVs to harvest Vespene gas.
  • Science Vessel (20) - Unit that detects cloaked and buried units, irradiates enemies and repairs mechanical units nearby.
  • Raven (20) - Unit that detects cloaked and buried units, drops auto turrets, fires seeker missiles and deploys point defense drones.
  • Tech Reactor (25) - Combination tech lab and reactor add-on.
  • Orbital Strike (25) - Units built at Barracks now arrive by drop pod and land at rally point.

Zerg Research

  • Shrike Turret (5) - Adds attack turret to Bunkers.
  • Fortified Bunker (5) - Adds 150% health to Bunkers.
  • Planetary Fortress (10) - Twin Ibiks cannon defense for Command Center.
  • Perdition Turret (10) - Burrowed flame turret.
  • Predator (15) - This mechanical cat-like units is an anti infantry specialist, doing intermittent area damage.
  • Hercules (15) - Massive transport ship that drops units near instantaneously. Cargo survives, even if the Hercules is destroyed.
  • Cellular Reactor (20) - Specialist units like the Medic, Ghost and Wraith start with +100 energy and gain +100 extra energy.
  • Hive Mind Emulator (25) - Permanently mind-control Zerg units.
  • Psi Disruptor (25) - Slows Zerg movement.

StarCraft II's Cool, Sometimes Crazy Single Player Liberties

Unit specific Upgrades, which you'll acquire in the Armory by spending in-game credits, include unit perks like Stimpacks for Marines, which speed up their rate of movement and rate of fire for a short burst, but do a little damage (as in the original Starcraft) and an always-on Combat Shield armor upgrade for that infantry unit.

Those upgrades extend to vehicles like the Hellion and Diamondback, as well as base structures, like the Bunker and Missile Turret.

Many of the upgrades for units like the Medic, Firebat, Marauder and Reaper don't appear to have changed much since our last hands on time with StarCraft II. Some upgrades have been redistributed, renamed or replaced altogether, so we'll wait until Blizzard gets closer to release before getting attached to too many of them.