Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Walkthrough, Difficulty Guide

StarCraft II

Format:

Mission Name

Difficulty: A/B/C/D (out of a 1-5 scale, 1 being the easiest, 5 being the hardest; A on casual, B on normal, C on hard, and D on brutal)

Achievements: E/F (also a difficulty on a 1-5 scale; E for the achievement on normal mode, F for the achievement on hard mode)

Then tips, advice, and other info about the mission.

I. Mar Sara Missions

1. Liberation Day

Difficulty: 1/1/1/2

Achivements: 1/1

As the first mission, this is very easy: you control Raynor and a few marines, and you need to destroy the Dominion headquarters, killing Dominion units and Mengsk statues along the way. Brutal is somewhat difficult because you lose marines pretty fast if you don’t control them well. Even so, you can win the mission with just attack-moving: both times I tried it, I lost all my marines by the time I got to the end, winning with only Raynor + the rebels with molotov cocktails.

2. The Outlaws

Difficulty: 1/1/1/3

Achievements: 1/3

This mission is also not very hard—on the first three modes I just build a tech lab, a medic, and then push out right away. But on brutal, this will not work. I would suggest massing a large clump of marines and medics before moving out. Why? The Dominion units are upgraded +1/+1, and you have no engineering bay and so cannot upgrade your units. Thus, you must outnumber the enemy significantly to do a sustained push. Once you reach about 30-40 marines you’ll be unstoppable.

The normal achievement, picking up mineral/gas pellets, is easy, but beating the mission on hard in under 10 minutes is a bit more intense. After getting a medic and a second barracks, you should push right away, rescuing the other rebel base as quickly as possible. This adds another barracks so you’ll have 3 in total. Just keep pumping marines from all three of them, and push. Against the Hellions, just take them out quickly so they don’t get many attacks on you, and the rest is easy.

3. Zero Hour

Difficulty: 1/1/2/4

Achievements: 1/5

This one is a throwback to mission 3 in the original Starcraft game, where you had to defend a base with bunkers for 25 minutes. In SC2, it’s again pretty easy on the casual and normal settings. Hard mode is a bit more tough because the Zerg start out with more upgrades, and thus can sustain longer attacks and do more damage to your bunkers. In brutal, the Zerg get more numerous and more dangerous attack waves, with more upgrades, and they can also take over your outside bunker zone easily. I had to keep a mass of marines and medics in my inner base for this one.

The normal achievement is a piece of cake–just make sure you have SCV’s repairing those bunkers, and a sufficient number of marines to defend. But the hard achievement is very difficult: you must kill 4 Zerg hatcheries, which requires offense. It took me at least 5 tries to do it, and it was by far the hardest achievement to get in all of the first few missions. The key is just building a large clump of marines and medics—about 50 marines and 10 medics is what I had, and just attack with the entire force sticking together.

II. Colonist Missions

1. The Evacuation

Difficulty: 1/1/1/2

Achivements: 1/2

A very easy mission, especially if you have reapers. Speaking of which, my preferred order after the Zero Hour mission is Smash and Grab, which unlocks the marauder, and then The Devil’s Playground, which unlocks the reaper. I also get the U-238 weapon upgrade on the reaper immediately after unlocking it—this single upgrade alone makes some of the early missions much easier.

You basically just escort the colonists to the spaceport. On hard and brutal the Zerg occasionally send attacks from multiple directions immediately following each other, so that your army might be preoccupied with one Zerg wave and not the other which is attacking the convoy. Even so, it’s not too bad, and reapers again make moving from place to place very easy, as they’re very fast units. A mass of marines, marauders, and reapers should make this mission easy.

For the achievements, just defend the convoy well, and defend the bunkers well, and you’ve got them. The hard achievement for this mission seemed to be one of the easiest hard achievements to get.

2. Outbreak

Difficulty: 1/1/2/2

Achievements: 2/2

Survive zombie attacks by night, and kill as many infested structures as you can by day. Again, reapers are perfect for this mission—I found them more effective at clearing infested units and structures than hellions, which are introduced here. Case in point: reapers do 30 damage to buildings, hellions 8. Also, the hellion takes some time between acquiring a target and actually firing, whereas the reaper attacks instantly. Strategy: Fill one bunker with marines at each of the three entrances, place a couple of firebats and medics in front of each bunker (and hold position on them), and then just mass an army of reapers and hellions. (You would optimally go all reapers, but you’ll have bonus minerals which you should use on hellions anyway.) At night, you can use this reaper/hellion army to jump from bunker to bunker to defend, and at day, you just attack like heck.

The normal achievement requires winning the mission in 28 minutes (reference to zombie movies 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later), and this is super easy with reapers. I haven’t tried it with just hellions though. The hard achievement is to kill 15 structures at night. Well, infested structures spawn infested units upon being attacked during night, so this is really stirring up the hornet’s nest, as Tychus says. With a large number of reapers though, this should be easy since their instant attacks will kill the spawned units almost immediately.

3a. Safe Haven

Difficulty: 1/2/2/3

Achievements: 2/2

You have to kill 3 nexuses and then a very powerful Mothership. Strategy: build SCV’s and a bunker in the beginning, and fill that bunker with marines. That’s about all the static defense you’ll need. Concentrate the rest of you resources on building vikings and getting air upgrades. All 3 nexuses are killable (even on brutal) with vikings alone.

The achievements are basically time runs. Both are easy if you just mass vikings. To kill the first protoss nexus (top-right of the map), keep the vikings in air mode and snipe the warp prisms powering the photon cannons. Once that happens, land your vikings on the high ground and hit the nexus from there. For the second nexus you can also just snipe warp prisms and kill it from the high ground. But for the third nexus, it is surrounded by water and the edge of the map, and has archons/sentries/high templar. To beat this, I would again snipe the warp prisms powering the cannons, and then land a mass of vikings outside of the base, and march in. You should be able to take out archons and sentries without sustaining too much damage. For the high templar, just send one viking to attack it, and it will be chased away. Finally, for the mothership, just send all your vikings at it, and try to keep at max range. It goes down pretty easily if you have enough vikings.

3b. Haven’s Fall*

Difficulty: 1/2/3/3

Achievements: 2/2

This mission is ridiculously easy if you just mass vikings. the very first thing you should do is build a reactor on the starport. I was able to beat the mission on brutal by building only 1 bunker of marines and 2 siege tanks for defense, and about 20+ vikings for offense. To take out the new infestations, use the vikings in air mode to take out mutalisk and brood lords, and then transform them into ground mode to kill the virophage and other units around it. To kill the main Zerg bases, again use air mode to kill the mutalisks and brood lords, then switch to ground for a frontal assault. If you have a mass of vikings it will be easy to attack. For the bottom-most base I had to keep about 5 vikings in air mode to deal with newly spawned mutalisks.

The achievements are also super easy if you mass vikings. Again, kill the mutalisks and brood lords, switch to ground, and take out the ground forces and the virophage. This mission, however, is overall harder than Safe Haven because you constantly have to worry about Zerg infestations.

*On the choice missions, I will mark the path I choose with an asterisk (*).

III. Artifact Missions

1. Smash and Grab

Difficulty: 1/1/2/4

Achivements: 2/3

This mission is pretty easy on the first three difficulties as all you need to win are a mass of marauders and medics (in addition to a bunker of marines in you main base). But in brutal, the Protoss get void rays! I didn’t know about this, so the first time I tried brutal, I led with a mass of marauders and medics, and pretty much quit the mission once I saw a void ray.

The first achievement is to kill the stone zealots without losing a unit—this is easy if you have all marauders and medics in your army. If you have marines you should move them off to the side. The second is to beat hard in less than 15 minutes, and this is not too bad if you maintain a constant push into the Protoss base.

2. The Dig

Difficulty: 1/2/3/4

Achievements: 1/5

This mission scales in difficulty quite well—it gets genuinely tough on higher difficulties, where swarms of Protoss units attack. The “aerial assaults” become especially dreadful. My strategy is to maintain a force of siege tanks in siege mode (most important unit), bunkers, and goliaths. A backup army of marines, marauders, and medics is helpful.

The normal achievement is to kill 20 units with the laser, which is pretty easy. But the hard achievement, to kill 50 structures with it, was impossibly hard. The problem was that every time I tried pushing into the Protoss base, they would just pump replacement units and structures so that I was always pushed back. You really just have to be patient for this one.

3. The Moebius Factor

Difficulty: 2/2/3/4

Achievements: 2/2

A fairly fast-paced and mobile mission, and quite fun. I found that having the Hercules research helps here, because it is much more sturdy than a medivac. Basically, just follow where Dr. Narud tells you to go, and build marines and War Pig mercenaries, and the infantry weapon upgrade definitely helps. The mission is beatable by building only a relatively small number of units—if you locate the Moebius survivors, it becomes much easier.

That is the first achievement, and the second achievement, to win before Kerrigan accesses 6 data cores, is also easy: she had only accessed 3 data cores on my first attempt at the achievement. Just move around a lot, and you’ll beat the mission quickly.

4. Supernova

Difficulty: 2/3/4/5

Achievements: 1/2

This is one of the hardest missions in the game, especially on higher levels. On brutal the wall of fire advances so quickly that by the time you’ve settled into one base, you need to clear the next one so that you have a place to where you can relocate. While there is a cheesy way to win (hide banshees/vikings in the bottom-right corner, wait for the fire to kill most of the Protoss defense, and then attack the artifact vault), the conventional attack becomes progressively more difficult with each difficulty level. You’ll be fighting virtually everything in the Protoss army. This is also the only mission where I had to restart on casual mode (I underestimated the last Protoss base and my army got slaughtered in the final push).

Achievements for this mission, however, are easy. It is nearly impossible to lose a unit to the wall of fire, and killing 75 units with banshees is also easy, because there are so many ground units on the map.

5. Maw of the Void

Difficulty: 2/2/3/4

Achievements: 1/4

One of the funner missions in the game, as it basically prompts you to mass battlecruisers. It’s really not that hard of a mission, but perhaps time-consuming.

To get the first achievement you need to destroy all of the rip-field generators, and you’ll already have the vast majority destroyed anyways to win. The second achievement requires patience and some saving/loading of the game.

IV. Covert Missions

1. The Devil’s Playground

Difficulty: 1/1/2/4

Achievements: 2/3

Lava floods the map every few minutes, and to make it worse, the Zerg send in consistent attack waves. On brutal I found myself spending as much on defense as I was mining, so I just launched an all-out attack on the Zerg bases and wiped out most of them. It is a very fun mission with reapers. You’ll want to beat this mission as early in the campaign as possible to unlock reapers, which really help in the first two Colonist missions.

This is the first mission with a Brutalisk, and a fun way to kill it is to lure it to the low ground when it becomes flooded with lava. I personally prefer reaper kiting, but the lava is necessary for the achievement. The second achievement is to locate all of Tosh’s miners, and this will simply take a while to do.

2. Welcome to the Jungle

Difficulty: 2/3/4/5

Achievements: 1/3

I found this to be a fairly hard mission, just because the Protoss have strong units and lots of air units, especially void rays. (Though on my hard-mode run through the campaign, I did an order in which I had vikings available for this mission; they made it a lot easier.) Just create a large army of marines, marauders, medics, and goliaths. On brutal, try to prevent the Protoss from sealing the first two or three terrazine altars, but don’t worry about the rest—just try to collect the gas faster than the Protoss can seal them.

To not lose an SCV, just be careful with your SCVs. Stopping the Protoss from capping a single terrazine altar is a bit more tricky. My advice is to create a backup group of 4-5 hellions. If you can’t beat the defensive force guarding the probe, just send the hellions to snipe the probe and then rub back. Hellions have more hp than reapers, and so, are more suited for this task.

3a. Breakout

Difficulty: 1/1/2/2

Achievements: 1/3

A very fun mission where you control only Tosh and engage in an AoS-type gameplay. Anyone who has played Warcraft III custom maps (*cough*, DotA), should love this mission. It’s also very easy because you can focus all your attention on one unit.

The first achievement requires that Tosh not go below 100 health; this is easy because there are plenty of allied medics around. The second achievement is a time run and is more difficult, but still not too hard—just advance as quickly as possible and use your nukes when they become available.

3b. Ghost of a Chance*

Difficulty: 1/1/2/2

Achievements: 1/3

The most fun mission in the game, in my opinion. It’s a stealth mission with Nova and a handful of other units. You also don’t start out with a base, so you can focus all your effort on infiltration. It is not too hard.

Killing 15 units with dominated units is the first achievements, and this is incredibly easy: the siege tanks alone should have 15 kills. The Maelstrom Rounds upgrade on the siege tank (the one that adds +40 damage to the primary target) is very useful: it allows you to wipe out the units on the middle bridge of the third part of the mission with just a dominated tank; without Maelstrom Rounds, the tank gets killed first. The hard achievement is to kill every last unit, and if you’re a perfectionist, then you’ll be doing this already. Don’t worry about the miscellaneous missile turrets—they don’t count.

V. Rebellion

1. The Great Train Robbery

Difficulty: 1/2/3/5

Achievements: 2/2

This mission is really fun on easier modes but is truly brutal on brutal. I could not beat it the first time around, and had to play the mission that unlocked siege tanks first, so I could kill the bunkers and the two marauder strike teams from afar. Once you get siege tanks it’s a lot easier.

The normal achievement is to kill the marauder strike team—fairly easy. You get the achievement during the game, so you could save the game, kill the strike team (getting the achievement but for example lose half your army), the reload and play on without killing it. Siege tanks in siege mode crush the marauders.  The hard achievement is to not miss a train, and this is quite easy.

2. Cutthroat

Difficulty: 1/2/3/3

Achievements: 3/2

Here is again a very fun mission, where you must gather scrap minerals around the map and deny the opponent from gathering minerals. Once you gather the minerals you can just do a siege tank push or a fun ghost/spectre push.

The normal achievement is to kill 25 units with vulture spider mines, and this is actually not easy to do—I had to go to melee range of a unit, lay a mine, then run back, to get enough kills. Just laying mines at base entrances doesn’t seem to get enough kills.

3. Engine of Destruction

Difficulty: 1/1/2/5

Achievements: 3/2

Very easy on the first three modes: even on hard, you can just send 1-3 SCV’s repairing the Odin and create a small wraith fleet (6-8 of them) and win, with no ground support. On brutal, the opponents target your SCV’s! On several of the base pushes, I had to send ahead an army of siege tanks/marauders and basically suicide them so that Tychus in the Odin wouldn’t die. For the final push, just bring all your SCV’s off the mineral line and have them repair Tychus. Have some wraiths to hit the battlecruisers, and it’s do-able from there.

Find and destroy the Loki is the normal achievement. Find the what? It turns out the Loki is this battlecruiser in the back of the fourth base. It’s pretty easy to kill with cloaked wraiths: you just kill the detectors and own the Loki with impunity. The hard achievement is to not let the Odin go below 30% hp, and this is super easy if you have SCV’s repairing it.

4. Media Blitz

Difficulty: 1/2/2/3

Achievements: 1/3

Now you actually get to control the Odin, in which Tychus acts as a one-man army. This makes the mission very fun as well. The best base to destroy is the one with the factories and heavy armor—in normal and hard you can afford to destroy this base and some starports in the air base; in brutal, you only have enough time and hp to destroy this one base. It’s still an easy mission though, with the Odin being as strong as he is.

Killing an enemy factory, barracks, and starport is super easy—you just do what the achievement says. Beating the mission in less than 20 minutes, though, is somewhat tough—you’ll need to wipe out as much as you can with the Odin first.

5. Piercing the Shroud

Difficulty: 2/2/2/2

Achievements: 2/2

Being the secret mission, this is pretty easy no matter which difficulty you’re on, but not incredibly easy. The only trouble is the invincible hybrid, so even casual mode is not a true walk in the park.

Normal achievement is to kill the Brutalisk without losing a unit—easy if you use plasma rounds. Next is to locate all the weapon pickups—also quite easy if you know where they are.

VI. Prophecy Missions

1. Whispers of Doom

Difficulty: 1/2/2/3

Achievements: 2/3

The first Protoss mission, fairly easy since Zeratul is so powerful. On later levels you’ll have to think about how to do some of the puzzles, though some can certainly be cheesed. For example, on the baneling part, I just run back and eventually the banelings will give up chase and roll back, whereupon you can take free shots at them.

Surviving with 3 or more Stalkers is not too hard if you blink properly. Not getting Zeratul damaged is a bit tougher, and you’ll also need to be patient for his shield to fully regenerate after each fight.

2. A Sinister Turn

Difficulty: 2/3/4/5

Achievements: 2/5

This is one truly tough mission, where the hybrid Maar consistently attacks and resurrects every time you kill it. He casts very powerful abilities too, becoming more powerful over time. On brutal, I won by sneaking into the pillars with a few immortals, stalkers, zealots, and dark templar, damaging each preserver pillar so that it only has 50-ish hp left, then kill them all quickly. This is because when you kill a pillar, Maar teleports back and begins to slaughter your army, so by damaging all the pillars first, you can quickly kill the remaining two pillars after Maar’s teleportation.

The first achievement is to kill all of the Protoss, which isn’t too bad on normal. On hard and brutal, they have void rays and rebuild their bases, which makes it much tougher. The win in 25 minutes on hard achievement was impossible for me until I did the sneaking in strategy.

3. Echoes of the Future

Difficulty: 1/2/3/3

Achievements: 1/4

You need to get Zeratul to four Overmind tendrils, and you meet a lot of Zerg resistance and counterattacks along the way. Easiest strategy is to mass colossi and stalkers. The colossi own ground units, and the stalkers will take out mutalisks and occasional brood lords.

The first achievement is to kill 50 Zerg units with Zeratul; if Zeratul is in your army at all, it is almost impossible to not get this achievement. The second achievement is much tougher: win in 20 minutes. It’s not impossible though, but you’ll need to act quickly. Securing both warp gates early on and powering up the robotics bay helps.

4. In Utter Darkness

Difficulty: 1/3/4/4

Achievements: 3/5

An overall very tough mission. You have to kill 1500 enemy units on casual and normal, 2000 on hard, and 2500 on brutal. On casual, enemy units have only 50% hp, including hybrids, so it is pretty easy if you have lots of colossi/phoenix/carriers. Starting normal mode, the mission is a defense against a relentless attack. Massing colossi is definitely the way to go. (There is also the dark templar wall strategy which I have tested, and it is very efficient.)

This mission contains perhaps the hardest achievement in the campaign. The first is to kill 250 additional units on normal mode, and the second is to kill 750 additional units, also on normal mode. This second one is nearly impossible. After several tries, I was able to kill 2252 units before my last unit died—that’s only 2 kills above the needed amount. My strategy was massing phoenix and then carriers as soon as they were available. When you lose your base, you just hide on a corner that only air units can access, then just kill mutalisk/corruptors for score.

VII. Final Missions

1. Gates of Hell

Difficulty: 1/2/3/3

Achievements: 1/3

It’s one of the last missions but a fairly easy one. You rescue Dominion drop pods and then make a push against the Zerg to kill three nydus worms.

The first achievement is to kill all the spore cannons, which is very easy because the spore cannons don’t do much. The second is to rescue all 10 of the drop pods, which is somewhat hard to do if you’re using your ground army to rescue them. To be cheap, you can call down a mule to rescue a drop pod if you really need to.

2a. Belly of the Beast

Difficulty: 2/3/3/4

Achievements: 2/5

This is a mission where you get to kill a TON of Zerg. And you use the four biggies from the Hyperion crew: Raynor, Tychus, Swann, and Stetman. Each person has a different unique ability, so it almost feels like an RPG dungeon crawl. Just use your abilities often, and you’ll win.

Normal achievement: don’t let any hero fall incapacitated. This is not hard at all—just watch the queen at the very end. The hard achievement is to kill 50 units in one shot of Raynor’s Penetrator Round. I must have spent 20 tries on this before I got it to work. I used the beginning of the second part of the mission, where you meet an infestor and a ton of infested units in a narrow alleyway.

2b. Shatter the Sky*

Difficulty: 2/3/3/4

Achievements: 1/4

A mission that requires some thinking. I built many different types of units for this mission, including vikings, battlecruisers, marines, medics, goliaths, tanks, and ghosts. Some good upgrades to have: both goliath upgrades make the goliath a very good unit for assaulting the lower-right platform, as it can attack both ground and air at once; ghost’s infinite cloaking as well as range upgrade, as they can easily kill mutalisks, zerglings, and hydralisks; the viking’s aoe attack and range upgrade, so it can destroy clusters of air units from far away; and the science vessel, so you can repair vikings and goliaths. Ghosts were the fun part though, I built 8 of them and had them all perma-cloaked, and just went around attacking and sniping stuff. At the end all 8 of them had at least 20 kills each.

Not losing a unit to platform explosion is super easy: after you destroy a cooling tower, just retreat. Beating the mission in less than 25 minutes is tough though, and you don’t have enough time to mass a sufficient number battlecruisers (plus, they’re slow units). This is why I went more for vikings, ghosts, and goliaths.

3. All In

Difficulty: 3/4/5/6(!)

Achievements: 3/3

Oh my god. This mission is way harder than any mission before it—the difficulty ramp is huge. You have to defend the artifact for some amount of time, and in the meanwhile you are attacked by massive waves of Zerg. In all four of my runs I killed the air in Shatter the Sky, so I was up against Nydus Worms in this mission. Banshees, siege tanks, and marauders will be the most important units. Use Banshees to take out Nydus worms. When the end approaches, one way to gain some extra time is to send all your mining SCV’s up to the artifact’s high ground and just build a ton of stuff. Each building will both delay the Zerg final push and stop Nydus worms from popping up at that location. That is how I beat brutal after many frustrating, failed attempts.

The normal achievement requires religious use of Energy Nova, while the hard achievement requires very little usage of it. Both are fairly tough, as I could not manage to get the sufficient number of kills on normal at first, and I could not beat hard without using it more than once. But after a while, it becomes easier to do and both achievements just take some practice.

Technology

Protoss Tech:

  • Ultra Capacitors (instead of Vanadium Plating): I prefer bonus DPS over bonus survivability. When your units are in a large clump anyways you have strength in numbers.
  • Orbital Depots (instead of Micro-Filtering): This is just really convenient.
  • Automated Refinery (instead of Command Center Reactor): A passive bonus; and queuing two SCV’s at a time still makes the SCV’s the same cost.
  • Science Vessel (instead of Raven): Heals mechanical units.
  • Tech Reactor (instead of Orbital Strike): Building two high-tech units at a time is much more amazing than sending infantry anywhere.

Zerg Tech:

  • Fortified Bunkers (instead of Shrike Turrets): I went for the other bunker upgrades as well, and this research fits the upgrades better.
  • Planetary Fortress (instead of Perdition Turrets): I ended up not really using either one.
  • Hercules (instead of Predator): Only useful in The Moebius Factor and Supernova, but better than Predator, which was not useful in any mission.
  • Regenerative Biosteel (instead of Cellular Reactor): Auto-healing mechanical units is an amazing ability. Cellular Reactor would only benefit units like Ghosts/Spectres, Wraiths, Banshees, and Battlecruisers; and their rare use is not nearly as much as the usual massing of mechanical units.
  • Psi Disruptor (instead of Hive Mind Emulator): Passive effect requires less focus than an active one.

Upgrades

Base Upgrades:

  • Bunker: Both upgrades. Both bonus range and bonus slots are useful for defense.
  • Missile Turrets: None. (Turrets are already strong enough as they are.)
  • SCV’s: Double repair upgrade. I thought the multiple construction upgrade was useless, especially if you have Orbital Depots.
  • Buildings: Both. Fire suppression is very good, as is Orbital Command.

Infantry Upgrades:

  • Marine: Both upgrades (stim and shield). Come on, name one mission where you don’t use marines.
  • Medic: Stabilizer medpacks, because is amazing. The ability to train without tech lab is useless later on with tech reactors.
  • Firebat: None.
  • Marauder: Both. Concussive Shells (slowing) and Kinetic Foam (+hp) are both very helpful.
  • Reaper: U-238 Rounds (bonus range, and damage to light armor). It makes some of the earlier missions much easier. The G-4 Clusterbomb takes too much effort to use.

Vehicle Upgrades:

  • Hellion: None.
  • Vulture: None.
  • Goliath: Both. Two attacks at once? And super range? Awesome.
  • Diamondback: None.
  • Siege Tank: Both. Bonus target damage and reduced friendly splash damage are really good.

Starship Upgrades:

  • Medivac: None.
  • Wraith: None.
  • Viking: Both. (Makes Vikings excellent as anti-air throughout the campaign.)
  • Banshee: Both. (Useful for last mission.)
  • Battlecruiser: Both. (This made Shatter the Sky easy.)

Dominion Upgrades:

  • Ghost: Both. (They become really fun to use with infinite cloaking, and bonus range makes them really good at sniping, both with normal attack and with ability.)
  • Thor: Immortality Protocol. (Rebuilding a dead Thor is awesome.)
  • [Spectre: Both. (Lash is awesome, as is infinite cloaking.)]

This is not a Starcraft 2 campaign walkthrough in the normal sense; I just want to give an overview of the mission difficulties and any tricks I found to completing them. And I have certainly played each mission on all four difficulty levels at some point or another.

By the writing of this post I have amassed 1570 of the 1590 achievement points for the campaign (missing only the Lost Viking gold and the normal mode speedrun) and a total of 3000 achievement points.

Any questions, criticism, advice? Just make a reply!

The StarCraft II Map Editor, in Context

It’s basically the WarCraft III editor. Plus a lot more.

The point of this post is a comparison between the WarCraft III (WC3) and StarCraft II (SC2) editors. Of course, because SC2 is in beta right now, along with its editor, many things may change. The general idea, however, should stay about the same, and moreover, it is the overall resemblance between the two editors that prompted this post.

I speak from several years of experience with the WC3 editor, and with two very extensive and elaborate maps under my ownership (one self-owned, one co-authored).

StarCraft

My map making started with SC1, and I must say that the WC3 editor is vastly superior to that of SC1. To put the WC3/SC2 editor comparison into context, I shall first go over the basics of the SC1 editor.

Original StarCraft Editor
StarCraft 1 Editor—Terrain (Click Image to Enlarge)

SC1’s editor was far more powerful than others in the time period in which it was released—StarCraft debuted in 1998. The editor’s main strength was the Trigger Editor, which allowed the creator to script the action of a map according to events that happen in the game. The events, however, were not called events—they were called conditions, and this made sense for SC1. Hence, the SC1 Trigger Editor relied on a condition-action schema.

SC Editor Triggers
StarCraft 1 Editor—Triggers (Click Image to Enlarge)

Also powerful was the Unit Editor, with which a user could modify the basic stats of a unit or building:

StarCraft 1 Editor Unit
StarCraft 1 Editor—Unit (Click Image to Enlarge)

Note, however, that this only allows very basic modification. If I wanted to change the attack speed, attack range, attack animation, movement speed, collision size, building options, etc. of a unit, I would be at a total loss with the StarCraft 1 editor.

WarCraft III

Within just four years, in 2002, Blizzard released WarCraft III, which came with a much, much more capable editor.

WC3 Editor Terrain
WC3 Editor—Terrain (Click Image to Enlarge)

Note carefully the icons in the terrain palette in the screenshot above, particularly the ones for “Apply Height.”

Basically, the WC3 editor can produce beautiful terrain. But that’s not the point. Its Trigger Editor is incredibly more complex than that of SC1, and this is where the  superiority shows. Here is a screenshot of the WC3 Trigger Editor:

WC3 Editor Triggers
WC3 Editor—Triggers (Click Image to Enlarge)

Okay, the screenshot is not that impressive, but keep it in mind when we compare it later to SC2’s editor. Do note the Event-Condition-Action schema. Finally, here’s the WC3 Object Editor:

WC3 Editor Objects
WC3 Editor—Objects (Click Image to Enlarge)

This is much more impressive than SC1’s editor, which only lets me change ten integers and a name at max. Note that the screenshot by no means captures the whole list of customizable attributes: look at that scroll bar! Surprisingly, most StarCraft 1 players seem to not know about this power—most of them have no idea how powerful the WC3 editor is.

After all, one of the few World Cyber Games (WCG) game is Defense of the Ancients, more commonly known as DotA. And yep, it was created by the WC3 editor. It appears in fact on Battle.net that more WC3 players play DotA than the actual WC3 ladder.

To further reiterate the power of the WC3 editor, I present to you a demonstration of custom spells I made a long time ago in WC3.

This is far beyond the dreams of a StarCraft 1 map maker. Now, as I mentioned in an earlier post,

. . . I was appalled when SC players and map makers posted numerous questions [on the Blizzard forums] asking whether the SC2 editor will have certain features; Blizzard just said yes, yes, yes. In one of their FAQs, they had the question along the lines of, “Will the editor be able to—,” with the answer, “Yes.” The reason the questions were appalling was because nearly every single feature requested was already in the WC3 map editor, released five years prior to the announcement of SC2.

And if SC2 is released later this year, in 2010, it will have been eight years since the release of WC3. That’s double the time between SC1 and WC3. This means the jump in editor capability from WC3 from SC2 should be twice as high as that between SC1 and WC3, right? Well, it was certainly an improvement, but not a shattering one.

StarCraft II

I opened up the SC2 editor for the first time today. My first thought was, Wow, this looks like WC3. In contrast, I was not suddenly reminded of SC1 when I first opened the WC3 editor. Here’s a screenshot of the SC2 editor: (I recently got a new laptop, and hence the Windows 7 theme in the following pictures will look different from the Windows XP theme you saw in the preceding ones, as I have SC1 and WC3 on my old laptop, and SC2 on the new.)

SC2 Editor Terrain
SC2 Editor—Terrain (Click Image to Enlarge)

Remember those “Apply Height” icons I told you to remember a few screenshots back? Well, here they are again. It turns out the SC2 terrain editor is very similar to that of WC3. After all, WC3 already allowed beautiful 3D maps, and there wasn’t an incredible amount of room to improve upon.

Okay, now I never really cared too much about terrain in the first place. So naturally, my first instinct was to go to the Trigger Editor. You can imagine the surprise I felt when I saw this:

SC2 Editor Triggers
SC2 Editor—Triggers (Click Image to Enlarge)

Not only are the icons and interface the same, but so is the Event-Condition-Action schema! You’ll notice the “Local Variables” as well, but I assure you, from WC3 editing experience, that it is nothing new: Blizzard just made local variables a little more friendly to use. Now, this resemblance really says one thing: not that SC2’s editor isn’t powerful, but that WC3’s editor was so powerful that they had little to improve upon.

I don’t have this in the screenshots, but once you go to add events, conditions, or actions, the interface does change a little. Overall it is very easy to adapt to, from a WC3 perspective. I think it’s actually a little more user friendly: in WC3 you often had multiply nested fields in a trigger, and to modify a single one would require peeling away the layers, which would require several clicks; in SC2 this requires just one click no matter how many layers of nesting occur, because all the fields are written out. Of course, to more advanced WC3 mapmakers this is not a problem because of JASS scripting, but it is an improvement nonetheless.

What about the SC2 Object Editor? Here’s a screenshot:

SC2 Editor Data
SC2 Editor—Data (Click Image to Enlarge)

It’s actually called the Data editor in SC2. For consistency, I have screenshot the place where you change a unit’s hitpoints for each of the three editors, and you see quite a change on each one. Unlike the very familiar trigger editor, the Data editor does take a while to get used to. Its basics are, however, the same. The right-hand-side panel looks very similar between the WC3 and SC2 data editors (for now I’ll refer to both of them as data editors), and even the left-hand-side is not totally different. If anything, the WC3 data editor is more organized, by both type of data (unit, item, doodad, destructible, ability, upgrade) and within each type (units categorized by race and role); in SC2 all the data is there in one big list.

Alright, that’s my first look at the SC2 editor. I’m not incredibly impressed so far, but I do think it has great potential. After all, SC2 is still in beta, and there are two more expansions coming out. And from the experience of StarCraft: Brood War and WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne, expansions tend to make editors way better.

I’ll probably be messing around with the editor a bit in the upcoming days or weeks, if AP/IB tests allow. I’ll let you know if there’s anything bizarre.

StarCraft II Unit Review: Protoss Void Ray

EDIT 8/16/2010: This post was written on 3/22/2010, during the Starcraft II beta. Since then, the numbers have slightly changed, but the overall strategy is unaffected.

If a single unit is sent into the base of an unprepared enemy, and that unit is a Void Ray, the game is over. (I’ve been on both sides of this.)

Void Ray

In other words, the Void Ray is, in certain situations, the most powerful unit in the game. This is mainly due to its Prismatic Beams, a passive ability causing the Void Ray to  increase its damage level every few seconds, with up to two damage jumps. For a quick stat lookup of the Void Ray, see the StarCraft II website, and for some more detailed info on the damage increasing, see this TeamLiquid thread. (Note: This info is now somewhat irrelevant.)

Okay, so how does one build a Void Ray? Well, it’s at the same tech position as the Scout in the original StarCraft, and is available immediately upon completion of a Stargate. Its cost (200/150 in beta, now 250/150) is overall similar that of an old Scout (275/125). But it is significantly stronger, especially in air-to-ground.

Because it deals damage faster the longer it attacks, the Void Ray is best used against large units—capital ships and buildings. Carefully controlled, however, the Void Ray can be powerful against smaller units as well, if it charges its attack to level three first on a larger unit. This means the Void Ray should be a very micro-intensive unit. You’ll have to constantly choose the right targets to attack.

For more detailed analysis, I shall split this by 1v1 matchup. (Also, any numerical values below are based on the beta as of 3/22/10. Specific statistics are likely to change in the future.)

Protoss versus Protoss

Interestingly enough, Void Rays are most potent in this skirmish, for two reasons. One, most Protoss units are huge anyway, so the Void Ray does not waste much firepower. And secondly, Protoss do not have great anti-air defense with just early ground units. In fact, one cheesy but potentially deadly strategy is to rush a Void Ray at the enemy Nexus. If your opponent is caught off-guard, you win. Sure, a couple of Stalkers will easily overpower a Void Ray, but if the enemy is massing Zealots and/or Photon Cannons, then the Void Ray works. Photon Cannons will beat Void Rays, but a Void Ray can simply go around the Cannons or, if the enemy is not careful with Pylon placement, it can destroy the Pylon powering the Cannons.

If you want to execute this rush, you’ll need some type of base defense early: a few Zealots and Photon Cannons (try to avoid Sentries as they consume a lot of gas that the Stargate/Void Ray will need), and maybe a couple Stalkers will do. If possible, place the Photon Cannons strategically as to damage an attacking ground force before it enters your base. Zealots should block the ramp (assuming there is a choke). This way, any attacking force of Zealots will be destroyed by ranged attacks, while a more mixed force should suffer a disadvantage due to the strength of Photon Cannons and possibly the high ground.

To do this Void Ray rush, it is necessary to scout the opponent and at the same time try to prevent his ability to scout you. Scouting is the key to this strategy. When the enemy Probe gets in your base early, send a Probe right away to chase it. When you have Zealots, block the choke. (Or defend it with Cannons.) For your own scouting, since gas is going to be the more important resource, it would not hurt to warp in a Pylon or Assimilator inside the enemy base, just so you know what’s going on for a longer amount of time. Building Assimilators in the enemy base is even stronger for the Void Ray rush: you at least delay your opponent’s ability to gather gas. And if you delay your opponent’s gas, you also delay his ability to build Stalkers or Stargates.

Okay, what if the enemy has Stalkers when your Void Ray arrives? Then your rush will appear to be a failure. If there’s just one Stalker, it might be possible to begin charging up on the Nexus, as the fully charged Void Ray should be able to take out a Stalker. But if he has multiple, your best bet is to pull back the Void Ray. At this point you have two options: play normally with a slightly higher tech but weaker economy, or continue on this air rush with the Mothership. What? How can the words “rush” and “Mothership” be in the same sentence? Well, perhaps it’s not a rush, but you’ll want to get a Mothership as soon as possible after the first Void Ray. A Fleet Beacon should come very quickly. You can use the Void Ray to scout the map. While the Mothership is building, construct another Stargate and another Void Ray. I had a game where my opponent, upon seeing my first Void Ray, tried to catch up to Void Rays as well, but it’s quite mathematically known that Mothership + Void Rays > Void Rays. With a strike force of a Mothership and two Void Rays, you should be able to demolish your enemy’s Nexus, shooting down things that get in the way.

Economically, you will probably have an excess of minerals while warping in the Mothership; that is a good time to expand. And make sure you fortify it with a few Photon Cannons. Warp Gates are very helpful for defense as well.

Okay, so that’s just for rushing with the Void Ray. If you want to use it “normally,” you’ll normally want a Mothership anyway. Besides, your Void Rays, not your Mothership, will be dealing the brunt of the damage once you reach an enemy. Normally, if you have a sizable group of Zealots, Stalkers, Void Rays, and Carriers under the cloak of a Mothership, you’ve got an unstoppable army. (3-4 Carriers is enough, for confusion. I would focus on Stalkers and Void Rays; Zealots can also be used sparingly.)

Protoss versus Terran

This is slightly more difficult; you’ll have to worry about an early-game Marine + Marauder attack. Or, even the Marine + SCV rush, which has recently surging success. To really survive against this, you’ll need a lot of Zealots and a lot of Cannons. Massing Cannons is extremely productive. Also, you’ll probably want to go with a Void Ray + Carrier + Mothership attack rather than just Void Rays. However, you’ll want to obtain an early Void Ray anyway to possibly harass your opponent’s economy and/or expansions. Just be careful: If your attack is too slow, your opponent’s Scanner Sweep can pick up on your aerial intentions. If possible, do a lot of teching. Upgrades, especially in weapons, will help. If map space allows, you can even consider moving your main air force out of your main base, just so a Scanner Sweep won’t get vital information.

Warp Rays, the old Void Rays. Picture by Blizzard.

A mixed aerial assault should work. Go for the enemy main base—you’ll want to take out as much economic and production infrastructure as possible. And don’t attack through the main entrance; hit the base from behind or from the side. Again, the Void Rays should be able to take out the Command Center, while the Carriers and Mothership deal with defenders. If you don’t like the idea of an air-only attack, bring in a Warp Prism and warp in ground units from Warp Gates. Stalkers will normally be most useful.

For example, in one game I had a Mothership, two Carriers, and two Void Rays—in total, a very small force. My opponent had a much larger ground army of Marines, Marauders, Hellions, Tanks, and Vikings. After he began an unstoppable attack on my expansion, I sent the air force into his main base. Even though my opponent managed to wipe out my expansion completely, he resigned because his main base was indefensible. I had a Warp Prism with me and warped in 7 Stalkers into the enemy base as well.

The one unit you really need to watch out for are Vikings. If your opponent masses Vikings (in large numbers these are extremely good against Protoss air), then you’ll need to respond with a lot of Phoenix. They really don’t do that much damage against Vikings, but you’ll like their capability to act as shields for the rest of your air force—a Viking needs 9 attacks to kill a Phoenix, and to kill a Void Ray, a Viking will need… 10 attacks. So a Phoenix will take nearly as much time to kill as a Void Ray. Phoenix are also fast, and can chase enemy Vikings that run.

If the enemy goes Battlecruisers, well, Void Rays counter those.

Definitely watch out for Ghosts. The Mothership is especially weak to EMP—it instantly loses half its total health. I’m not really sure how to counter this; just make sure weapons and armor are upgraded sufficiently. If you can spot the Ghost, a Phoenix’s Graviton Beam should disable it and allow other Phoenix to kill it.

Protoss versus Zerg

I have the least experience in this type of matchup, so please excuse my mostly theorycrafting here. Overall, Void Rays don’t work as well against Zerg, due to the defensive anti-air capabilities of the Zerg Queen. Plus, most Zerg units are small, and hence Protoss ground armies work better. For air superiority, especially against Mutalisk, you’ll want to build a fair number of Phoenix. If you have about 2/3 as many Phoenix as your opponent has Mutalisk, you’ll do well.

For the sake of numerical comparison: A Mutalisk needs 20 attacks to destroy a Phoenix, whereas a Phoenix needs only 6 to kill a Mutalisk. Phoenix cost more (150/100 versus 100/100) and take more time to build, so having fewer in numbers is fine. Besides, Phoenix are faster than Mutalisk. Having Void Rays can help nonetheless—they can be powerful raiders as well as Overlord hunters. Plus, they can lure the enemy to send a lot of Mutalisk, providing bait for your Phoenix.

Against Zerg ground-based anti-air, however, you would be at a loss. You’ll probably need a ground-based army as well. I haven’t really tested the strength of a Mothership + Carriers + Void Rays + Phoenix army against a Zerg defense force of Mutalisk + Corruptors + Hydralisk, but it seems that mass Hydralisk will nevertheless win.

Actually, just thought of this. If you do have air superiority, you can still win with a Phoenix + Void Ray combo—the Phoenix can use Graviton Beam on the Queen, allowing the Void Ray to destroy it and/or the Hatchery structure. So, looks like Void Ray structure demolishing is back on.

Edit: It turns out the Void Ray is just as effective against Zerg. My strategy is to fake an early Zealot push so that your opponent builds lots of Roaches, while using a proxy Stargate to pump out Void Rays. Make sure to keep the first Void Ray back and only attack once you have two Void Rays. This is to destroy the Queen. At this point, you’ve either won immediately, or will meet resistance in the form of Hydralisks.

If so, build a Fleet Beacon immediately (!) and get a Carrier and a Mothership. I would throw in an air attack upgrade as well, since you have the Cybernetics Core. Meanwhile, you’ll have built another 2-3 Void Rays, so your air army will consist of 4-5 Void Rays, a Carrier, and a Mothership. Keep everything in the Mothership’s cloaking field, and try to fight on the edge of a cliff, so that if your opponent sends Hydras, you can just pull back the Mothership and have the Carrier and Void Rays continue decimating the Hydras. Because the air force is very gas-heavy, you’ll probably have a lot of spare minerals, so build a Zealot army that can check expansions.

Micro the Mothership and Void Rays carefully enough, and you’ll eventually be wiping out entire armies without losing a single unit. The Carrier is there really for intimidation and confusion. The counter the Mothership is the Corruptor, so a small number of Phoenix should be built as soon as your opponent realizes you have a Mothership. Or you could go with extra Carriers.