StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Achievement and Strategy Guide for the Single Player Campaign
by Matthew Hibben
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: July 27 2010
SC2, (StarCraft II) much like WOW, (World of Warcraft) gives players a structured way to play harder content. Through the use of the achievement system, SC2 gamers can test their skills by playing much harder content using the same basic mission framework. Mission achievements can be something as simple as replaying a mission on a harder setting, to rather complex conditions for victory ( killing additional units or capturing additional resources).
Another aspect of the achievement system is that it allows players to unlock rewards and see how they measure up versus other players through Blizzard's Battle.net site. The purpose of this guide will be to help players through the more complex "harder" achievements. As most players will find or are aware of through WOW's achievement system, difficulty can change drastically from achievement to achievement. In terms of racking up achievement points, the best place to start is with preparation. Read up on the specific achievements or groups of achievements you will be tackling, both the achievements themselves (as detailed in the achievement UI) and the specific mission write ups found on various gamer sites. For this guide I won't be going step by step through each of the 29 missions, I will instead take a more global look at strats (strategies) with a mixture of specific mission examples along the way.
The first thing you will want to understand (and this is where preparation comes into play) is knowing your units very well, not only what they do, but when they become available. "Impossible" missions can become trivial simply by having the right units or the right upgrades for units. I can't even count the number of play throughs that I either had to grind through knowing "wow if I had x unit this mission would have been cake", or simply restarting the campaign from scratch to redo my unit choices. Units come in two conditional varieties, static mission units and research units. Mission units are units that become available upon playing a specific mission, and once the mission is completed those units will become part of your inventory. The conditional aspect is that units become available as missions are completed, however the order missions are completed in is not linear. What this means is that on one play through you may have units available that perhaps would not be available on a different play through based on the order in which missions are completed. Research units in a sense are conditional as well. Research units come into play as soon as you have the necessary amount of Zerg or Protoss samples to acquire them. Missions reward specific types of these samples and with mission completion being dynamic . . . well you can see where this is going.
Going back to the idea tha all achievements are not created equal, so is it the same for missions. Some missions are what I like to call pushovers or easy modes, missions that do not get much more difficult on the harder settings. I found that completing as many of the "easier" hardmodes first or as early as possible gave me more capital and research points to spend on those units and upgrades needed for those "harder" missions. However it's not as simple as listing a play through, SC2 is also about individual style as well. I read a lot of walkthroughs/guides listing units I never use as crucial units to upgrade.
Sure there was a lot of overlap where unit choices seemed to mesh, but there was a lot of "wow I never use that unit". In the end it's about completing the achievement by whatever means works best for you.
So what are the crucial units and what are the associated missions? Well let's break it down and tackle those bread and butter units first, good ole Marines and Medics (often referred to as MM's). MM's are the backbone of your army and because of that you want to upgrade these as soon as possible. The main strengths of MM's are their ease of production, solid upgrades, and how strong these units can be in numbers. Most missions with very few exceptions allow you to produce these units right from the start, meaning you can have a very large force relatively early in a mission. One of my first MM upgrades is usually allowing Medics to be produced without a Tech Tab. Now I know some would say "but later when you get the Tech Reactor its wasted", and my response is that the end of the protoss tech tree takes about 15-20 missions to get to, and that is a lot of mileage I get out of one upgrade until then. What that one upgrade allows you is to mass produce MM's, often called MM balls.
A few cheap Barracks with reactors can produce endless ground units in no time with very little upgrading to your base. Missions as early as "The Evacuation " and "The Devil's Playground" can make great use of reactors pumping out MM combos on hardmodes. MM combos work very well in general until later missions where the AI has the counters for them, mainly AOE (area of effect) attacks. Missions like "SuperNova" on brutal have units that can wipe out MM balls within a few seconds. Another aspect of the brutal AI is that Medics will be targeted aggressively by the computer taking priority against most other units.
Another staple unit is the siege tank. The siege tank is just a beast, and once it is unlocked on the mission "The Dig", will be used heavily for base defense from then on out. The mission "All In" and its corresponding hardmodes have strats revolving around the use of siege tanks. The "siege wall" strat which can actually be used on any mission but shines on "All In", involves making a large ball of siege tanks within your base that pretty much rain down heavy artillery on any incoming ground unit. The final real bread and butter unit is the bunker which isn't actually a unit but more of a structure. Bunkers are the backbone of base defense, and because of this I made upgrading them fully a priority. There really isn't one mission that I can think of that hinged on bunkers per se, but you will use them on many missions for solid defense and inexpensive cost.
Research units were covered briefly in last week's video article but here I will provide more lengthy explanations of these units and why they work so well. The Science Vessel, or as I like to call it the Donut, is the sleeper of utility. I remember on my first play through reading what it did and thinking well that's cool but nah. I have since changed my tune. Science vessels are flying units that can repair/heal mechanical units. Where they really shine though is that the hard and brutal AI's do not aggressively target them as they do medics and SCV's (Terran worker units). Think of science vessels as flying medics for all of your combat mechanical units. Aside from the fact that the AI doesn't prioritize them as targets, their repair ability doesn't deplete Resource, as opposed to the SCV repair which does. "SuperNova", "Engine of Destruction" , and "Maw of the Void" were all very difficult brutals for me to complete, but the Science Vessel made them much easier. "SuperNova" and "Maw of the Void" both increase in difficulty by limiting the resources available, and the Science Vessel's Heal really adds to the longevity of your units without detracting from production limitations. Another unit that seems lack luster at first until you see it in action is the Hercules. Now in all fairness it's only really important for one mission, the "Moebius Factor", but when doing the hardmode and brutal becomes invaluable .
So what is the Hercules? The Hercules is a flying supply ship that can be used to transport units across obstacles, replacing the Medivac in this purpose.
So what makes the Hercules so much better? First off, the Hercules can soak a lot more damage before it is destroyed. I ran some comparative tests and found that from a survivability standpoint, a Hercules could reach a target across the map and survive where 3 Medivacs could not. In addition to its ability to soak more damage, another selling point of the Hercules is that when the ship is destroyed the units are unloaded instantly without any loss, compared to Medivac transported units that are lost if the ship is shot down. The hardmodes for "Moebius Factor" revolve around doing the mission within a certain amount of time, and not having to worry about producing extra units that would surely die before landing was paramount.
In addition to Research based Units there are also Research based structures. Unique structures as well as heavily modified preexisting structures make up what research can provide. The two unique structures that I went with are the Perdition Turret and the Psi Disrupter. The Perdition Turret (PT for short) is another sleeper unit/structure that at first doesn't seem really game breaking, until you realize its real strengths. The PT is a defensive structure that will actively attack units that come into range. The strongest point of the PT is that it doesn't require supply. Supply is a static resource that limits the amount of units a player can produce.
What this means is you can actively defend portions of your base without allocating supply to do so, specifically useful on the mission "All In" where PT's can be used to defend the artifact, while your main force which is usually supply capped ( at the limit for production) defend your production area. Now I know some are thinking, “none of the structures require supply so what's the big deal?" No structure besides the PT can aggressively defend the base from ground attacks without supply based troop support, even bunkers. Psi Disrupter is the other Research specific structure that I went with. Psi Disrupter slows approaching enemy Zerg units passively with an AOE pulse. This is used with the "siege wall" strat on the mission "All In" to slow targets just enough for your siege tanks to take them all down before they get into damage dealing range ( see part 2 of last week’s video for an illustrated example). Research upgraded units and structures typically follow my early advantage philosophy. I often selected research that would give me clear early mission production gains, and Automated Refineries is one such research I always opt for. All of your factories produce their limit without needing workers to harvest them. Another advantage of Automated Refineries is that structures come into play from a mission start standpoint upgraded.
If your mission starts with refineries they will start as automated ones, meaning you will have the equivalent of 3 additional worker productivity from the onset of a mission per refinery in play (some missions start with 3 refineries). Along this same concept I went with orbital depots. Supply is an important part of base economy. Supply is the maximum amount of units you can have in play. Supply is increased by building supply depots, which require SCV's to build them. What Orbital Depots bring to the table is reducing the build time of supply to zero. A single SCV can call down a depot and go right back to harvesting resources or building other structures, increasing output and lowering effective cost. To round out the gambit of Research enhanced structures is the Tech Reactor. All production structures up until the Tech Reactor allowed an either/or add-on to enhance production. The player must choose either a Reactor, which allows basic units to be produced two at a time, or Tech Tab, which allows special units to be produced. The Tech Reactor combines both functionalities. Where this adds to base economy is that up until now you would need to produce multiple factories, barracks, or starports to produce more than one special unit at a time. This in upgrade frees up more resources and SCV production time, as well as providing to a huge boost to troop production rates.
There are a few Research options that remain to be covered. They fall into a different category, which I call effective health and survivability. Effective health is the gain in survivability stemming from increased damage output, specifically the first Protoss Research branch. I opted for Weapon upgrades over the increase to armor. The reason for this is that in comparing two identical units attacking each other, the unit with the weapon upgrade will kill the other first via the attack speed increase, increasing its effectiveness and allowing it to live longer in process. Whereas a unit with more health will win as well, but take longer to do so. Another of these effective health decisions was the shrike turret. You can choose between more damage and more health. Again I opted for more damage for similar reasons. Dispatching enemies as quickly as possible remains an important aspect of hardmode play, where the AI can easily overwhelm your base if allowed to do so.
Finally, to finish off Research options is Regenerative Bio-Steel. What this does in add a slow passive heal to all of your mechanized units. It's one of those things that isn't amazing until it saves a unit or two and then it is a no brainer. Coupled with Science Vessels, and mech units will regenerate pretty darn fast.
As I mentioned earlier, mission completion order can factor into the ease or difficulty of your hardmodes and brutal play throughs. I know on my brutal completetionist play through I was very mindful of the order I was completing missions in. This is what perhaps will be the most subjective, which missions are cake and which are not, for the specific gamer. For me I found certain missions very easy even on brutal versus others that gave me a lot of problems, so in turn I would base my play through on tackling those easy missions first. Another way to boost your success on later missions is the Protoss quest chain that can be accessed after completing "The Dig".
These missions are not tied to any Terran tech or unit research so completing these earlier is better than later, since they award a very large amount of research and do not change in difficulty based on when you play them. Finally I want to point out that many missions do not need to be completed to fulfill the achievement. "SuperNova" hardmode, for example, I found required too much attention in completing to actually bother with finishing the mission objectives. Once I finished the achievement I simply restarted the mission on hard/brutal and played it as is.
In conclusion I would like to say that these achievements will take time and that it may take many play throughs to complete them all. But therein lies one of SC2's greatest strengths, that the game is complex enough to allow multiple play throughs and still remain fresh and challenging. For more illustrated examples and selected details from this article view our SC2 videos on our Technomicon Media channel on YouTube.