StarCraft 2 is a real-time strategy (RTS) video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. Released in 2010, it is the long-awaited sequel to the original StarCraft game from 1998, which is considered one of the most influential RTS games of all time.
As an RTS game, StarCraft 2 challenges players to gather resources, build armies, and defeat opponents in battle. Gameplay involves commanding units in real-time combat while managing resource gathering and technology research simultaneously. Players must balance economic development, technological advancement, and military strength over the course of a match.
StarCraft 2 continues the epic sci-fi story from the original game, with three new campaigns focused on the Terran, Zerg, and Protoss factions. It features the asymmetric gameplay and races from StarCraft, with new units, abilities, and an upgraded game engine.
Table of Contents
Factions and Races
There are three unique playable races in StarCraft 2:
- Terran: Humans exiled from Earth with advanced mechanical units and versatile gameplay
- Zerg: An insectoid alien race focused on overwhelming opponents with numbers and speed
- Protoss: A technologically advanced alien race with strong individual units and psionic abilities
Each race has completely unique units, structures, mechanics, and playstyles. This asymmetric design leads to a rock-paper-scissors dynamic where different matchups and strategies strongly counter others. Mastering one particular race and its matchups is a key part of competitive play.
Competitive Gaming and Esports
Beyond the campaign, StarCraft 2 has become one of the world’s most popular competitive esports. The multiplayer ladder system pits players against others of equal skill in 1v1 matches. There is an incredibly high skill ceiling in terms of execution and decision-making, leading to exciting professional matches.
Top players compete in global tournaments and leagues such as the ESL Pro Tour, IEM Katowice, and the GSL for millions of dollars in prizes. Professional StarCraft 2 requires incredible skill, providing thrilling entertainment for viewers. As an esport, it has helped pave the way for gaming to reach a mainstream audience.
Even after over 10 years since its launch, StarCraft 2 remains one of the premiere RTS esports. It continues to be played, watched, and beloved by fans worldwide for its competitive depth and polished execution as a PC strategy game.
Three Playable Races: Terran, Zerg, Protoss
StarCraft 2 has three unique playable races that each feature distinctive units, structures, mechanics, strengths, and weaknesses. Choosing which race to learn and master is critical for both casual and competitive play.
The Terrans are humans exiled from Earth. Their civilization has advanced technology but an outlaw culture. Terran gameplay revolves around flexibility, positional play, and combined arms.
Some key Terran strengths:
- Versatile, well-rounded units
- Strong defensive gameplay
- Customizable production with add-ons
- Powerful hero units like Ghosts and Battlecruisers
The insectoid Zerg seek to overwhelm enemies with numbers and speed. They evolve and mutate to adapt to threats. Zerg gameplay focuses on aggression, expanding, and swarming the opponent.
Some key Zerg strengths:
- Lots of cheap disposable units
- Fast production and quick reinforcements
- Creep spread provides map control
- Strong late-game with high tech units
An advanced alien race, the Protoss wield psionic powers and plasma weaponry alongside powerful war machines. They are expensive but have robust units and abilities.
Some key Protoss strengths:
- Strong individual units
- Versatile warp-in mechanics
- Powerful area of effect (AOE) skills
- Intimidating air fleets
All races in StarCraft 2 must gather resources and manage their economy. The two key resources are minerals and vespene gas. Players harvest these via worker units and expend them to construct buildings, train units, and research technologies.
As an RTS, efficient resource usage and economic development forms a core gameplay concept. Expanding to new mineral lines, securing additional gas geysers, upgrading town halls, and balancing worker counts are all essential. Resources are often the limiting factor that determines victory or defeat.
Beyond simple resource gathering, additional “macro mechanics” exist to test player focus and attention. These include:
Larva Inject – Zerg players must periodically inject larva into their hatcheries, which provides supplies for unit production. This mechanic rewards attentiveness with increased production capacity.
MULEs – Terran players can periodically summon short-lived MULE robots to harvest minerals at an accelerated rate. Managing MULEs gives economic boosts.
Chrono Boost – Protoss can speed up production in a single structure via Chrono Boost, helping them focus on key technologies or units.
Control and Micro
StarCraft is an incredibly fast-paced RTS, with professional players regularly demonstrating over 300 actions per minute. Key skills include:
Unit Control: Selecting units and commanding them in battle with hotkeys and control groups. Microing different types of air, ground and spellcaster units simultaneously is critical.
Micromanagement: Precise execution of unit movement, positioning, focus-firing, and abilities during engagements. Stutter-stepping, flanking, catching enemies out of position, and targeting their weak units first through good control.
Scouting: Monitoring the enemy using scout workers, observer units, scanning abilities, and hallucinations. Tracking their economy, tech, unit composition and location allows for anticipation and reaction.
Maneuvering armies and managing battles represents the real-time aspect of an RTS. Victory goes to those with superior strategic adjustments and reactive control.
Strategy and Decision-Making
While tactical control is critically important, higher-level strategic decision-making ultimately determines multiplayer success. Key concepts include:
Build Orders: Effective construction sequences to open the game, prioritizing economy, production, and desired tech paths. Build orders establish dynamics for a match based on scouting.
Economy Management: Balancing mineral and gas income with expenditure. Constant worker production and expanding to new bases to ensure higher income to support late-game armies.
Unit Composition: Assessing the enemy’s forces and altering your own unit composition to counter them. What matches up well against their tactics while still being affordable?
Tech Paths: Choosing which advanced technologies to research based on scouting. Prioritizing key upgrades, destructive powers, or higher tech units.
Timing Attacks: Hitting specific attack timings to punish an economic or tech focus. Multi-tasking economic development with coordinated attacks.
StarCraft 2 gameplay has an immense strategic depth. Dynamic decision-making, adapting to new information, and managing priorities pushes skilled players to their creative limits. The numerous viable approaches and styles keep matches exciting at all levels.
Story Overview and Factions
Beyond competitive multiplayer matches, StarCraft 2 features an epic single-player campaign spanning three installments. Each chapter focuses on one particular race, continuing the story from the original StarCraft games while introducing new characters and threats.
Wings of Liberty: Terran Campaign
Wings of Liberty is the initial Terran campaign, centered around Jim Raynor as he reforms his rebel group Raynor’s Raiders. They battle against the terran Dominion and its malicious leader Arcturus Mengsk, who has taken control of the government. The story has elements of a western alongside sci-fi themes.
Key characters include:
- Jim Raynor – Main protagonist, ex-marshal and rebel leader
- Sarah Kerrigan – Jim’s former partner, infested by the Zerg Swarm
- Arcturus Mengsk – Ruler of the Terran Dominion and primary antagonist
- Tychus Findlay – Jim’s ex-convict friend
Wings of Liberty sees Raynor’s Raiders strike back against Mengsk’s forces and attempt to find and rescue Sarah Kerrigan from the Zerg. This sets the stage for the next two campaigns.
Heart of the Swarm: Zerg Campaign
In Heart of the Swarm, Sarah Kerrigan takes center stage after being abandoned by Jim Raynor and captured by Arcturus Mengsk to be experimented on. After breaking loose and regaining control of the Zerg Swarm, she sets out on a quest for vengeance as the Queen of Blades. Her and the Swarm also face threats from invasive Primal Zerg factions.
Key characters include:
- Sarah Kerrigan – Main protagonist, Queen of the Zerg Swarm
- Jim Raynor – Sarah’s former love who abandoned her to the Dominion
- Izsha – Zerg advisor bonded to Sarah
- Arcturus Mengsk – Sarah’s hated Terran rival
- Zurvan – Leader of the rival Primal Zerg
Ultimately, Sarah Kerrigan has her vengeance, but realizes redemption may still be possible.
Legacy of the Void: Protoss Campaign
In Legacy of the Void, the Protoss face annihilation at the hands of the demonic Golden Armada. Their leader Artanis works to unify the various Protoss factions, reclaim their lost homeworld, and stop Amon, a malevolent fallen Xel’Naga who threatens the galaxy.
Key characters include:
- Artanis – Hierarch attempting to unify the Protoss
- **Jim Raynor **- Terran ally against Amon
- Sarah Kerrigan – Zerg ally against their common foe
- Amon – Fallen Xel’Naga seeking godhood and destruction
This final chapter sees allies and former enemies unite in order to stop Amon before he destroys all sentient life in the sector.
Mission Design and Gameplay
The three campaigns have over 30 missions spanning distinctive planets and environments. Players control various signature heroes and complete objectives such as infiltration, defense, timed survival modes, endpoint rushes, and assassination missions against powerful adversaries.
Missions gradually increase in difficulty and introduce new units, abilities, and even unique mechanics. Objectives vary widely so no two missions ever feel the same. While story dialogue and events occur between and within missions, interactivity and combat form the core.
Bonus objectives encourage mastery and reward experimentation with different approaches and playstyles tailored to that mission’s mechanics. Optional side missions add even more gameplay hours while bringing in familiar characters from the original StarCraft.
Replayability and Extended Play
The StarCraft 2 campaigns provide tremendous value through sheer volume of content alone. With three robust story arcs and associated gameplay, completing everything takes over 30 hours. Multiplayer strategy against the AI or co-op friends adds to this.
On top of the three main campaigns is even more additional content:
- New Game Plus – Replay the campaigns with existing power-ups
- **Master Archives **- Unlocks top-tier units across all missions
- **Achievements **- Hundreds of challenges to pursue
- Mutators – Custom modifiers that drastically alter co-op play
- Level Editor – Create and share new Story Mode missions
Altogether there are effectively endless gameplay hours available for those wishing to truly master StarCraft 2’s PvE offerings. Dedicated fans continue creating new maps, missions, mods, and even entire campaigns to this day.
Beyond the story mode campaigns, StarCraft 2 has a variety of multiplayer competitive and cooperative modes. These offer near limitless replay value as players test their skills against others.
Ranked Ladder and Matchmaking
The highest level of competition happens on the 1v1 ranked ladder maps. This matchmaking queue pits players against similar-skilled opponents as they progress through leagues and divisions.
Leagues and Tiers
Matchmaking ratings determine rank, starting players in Bronze league. Advancing through higher tiers involves Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, and Grandmaster leagues. The top professionals compete in the Global StarCraft II League (GSL) in South Korea.
Players accumulate ladder points with wins and losses, working towards promotions and fending off demotions. Bonus pools provide some protection to minimize abrupt ranking changes.
StarCraft 2’s matchmaking algorithm emphasized fair games between closely matched talent levels. Parameters like past win rates, uncertainty levels, and demonstrated consistency help inform the system.
Over years of iterations, the mechanics minimized instances of smurfs abusing lower leagues. This provided newer players the safety to focus on improvement rather than frustration.
For skilled competitors, the consistency of similar opponents enabled refinement of builds/strategies. Publishers sporadically tweaked metrics to combat inflationary trends at the highest level.
Rewards and Achievements
Beyond the prestige and satisfaction of reaching higher leagues, the ladder system incentivizes further competition through reward systems.
Portraits, profile borders, badges, decals and skins unlock at certain tier thresholds or milestone wins. This cosmetic meta-progression reflects rank for boasting purposes while showcasing dedication.
Separately, an achievement system with over 500 milestones encouraged replayability. Goals included hitting various benchmarks with each race or even winning X games without losing any units.
Unranked and Custom Games
More casual players not interested in hardcore competition could enjoy multiplayer via unranked matches and custom games. These lobbies enabled laidback competition or cooperation with friends.
Arcade and Mods
The StarCraft 2 Arcade gave access to an entire marketplace of player-made games utilizing the engine. These included tower defenses, roleplaying games, hero arena battles, and more with support for up to 64 players.
Modding tools empowered creators support the custom games’ proliferation. Standout examples like Desert Strike and Direct Strike even joined official ladder maps. Certain mods evolved into standalone titles.
2v2, 3v3 and 4v4 team games coupled friends together against random or arranged adversaries. This entertaining game mode let less experienced players contribute alongside higher-level friends through combined strategies.
For premade groups, tactics like timing attacks or rushes added fun chaos. Specialized team responsibilities also lowered the individual burden compared to solitary 1v1 matches.
Separate from traditional head-to-head competition, co-op missions pit groups of distinct commanders together against AI enemies. Leveling up and customizing champions provided long-term goals chasing mastery of abilities.
Blizzard introduced additional playable heroes and maps over time with varied objectives, keeping the experience novel. Friendly fire options even enabled 2v2 cooperative battles demanding tight synergy.
As one of the most vibrant competitive games, StarCraft 2 games are broadcast across the world as premier esports events. Top players compete professionally in tournaments and global leagues.
Tournaments and Cash Prizes
Major individual competitions like IEM Katowice, DreamHack, GSL vs The World, and the Global Finals award over $200k+ for first place to champions. Some utilize unique formats including team leagues.
Blizzard directly supported partners in organizing reliable tournaments. The WCS system in particular anchored a structured competition circuit with seasonal playoffs. This guaranteed professional salaries and reliable content.
Teams and Sponsorships
The formation of professional StarCraft 2 teams enabled shared strategies/coaching, branding via uniforms, and collective travel to competitions. As viewership swelled, computer hardware and energy drink companies sponsored the teams alongside seven-figure salaries for superstars.
Korea in particular housed training team houses for concentrated refinement. Top members became household names within esports through highlight plays and winning championship trophies.
Streaming and Events
Online streaming platforms like Twitch popularized player personality streams with casual ladder games between tournament appearances. Concurrent viewership would exceed six figures for premier events as curious viewers immersed themselves in player storylines.
Tournament production quality improved accordingly in response, with flashy intros, analyst desks, virtual sets, and colorful graphics. Sold-out arena crowds cheered amazing moves as commentators analyzed the quick actions. This cycled further interest and sponsorship.
Graphics and Audio
StarCraft 2 utilizes a powerful next-generation game engine, showcasing detailed visuals, destructible environments, and advanced weather systems alongside an emotional soundtrack performed by an orchestra.
High Quality Visual Presentation
StarCraft 2 demonstrated a massive graphical leap over the 1998 original. Development budget prioritized maximizing aesthetic immersion from cinematic storytelling to intricate unit design.
Detailed Models and Textures
2020’s Remaster update further enhanced textures, shadows, lighting and effects to modernize appearances. Every asset now shines in 4K clarity, from swirling protoss pylons to battle-damaged terrestrial buildings.
Unit models in particular utilize high polygon counts alongside lifelike animations for immersive combat. Articulated joints, flowing cloth physics, and beaded sweat all contribute to sold believability in alien diversity.
Mission setpieces and multiplayer map features react to abilities, weapons, and movement. For example, the acid pools on Toxic Slums diffuse splash damage, while Purifier Beams melt through ice walls on Frozen Temple to open new paths.
Destructible rocks, alien plants, weather effects, and even line of sight blockers demonstrate tangible dynamism. This environmental interactivity greatly enhances perceived realism.
Cinematic Visual Effects
Cutscenes and skyboxes feature volumetric lighting, detailed shadows, screen space reflections, lens flares, particle effects, and depth of field photography. This cinematic toolbox dramatically augments narrative presentation beyond functional requirements.
The observer mode in particular leverages these modern post-processing techniques alongside a free-roaming virtual camera for players to craft dramatic gameplay montages. Replays can truly feel like personalized films.
Emotive Musical Score and Sound
Matching the emotive space opera spectacle, a full live orchestra recorded over an hour of stirring soundtrack compositions. Instruments ranging from piano and horns to synthesizers and percussion brought missions to life.
Adaptive Music Systems
Interactive music layers and stems modulated intensity in real-time response to battlefield events. Triumphant trumpets sound when cornering enemies while ominous tribal war drums signal incoming wave attacks.
Exploratory ambient tones encourage curiosity roaming new environments before transitioning into kinetic frenzies once engaging hostile forces. Overall this dynamic music system heightens player investment proportional to stakes.
Voice Acting and Effects
Over 60 voice actors provided unique deliveries across thousands of constructed dialogue lines to actualize distinct character identities. Expressive readings cover a dramatic range fitting whimsical jokes or hopeless tragedy.
Supporting combat, individual unit types have hundreds of portrayed vocal tones and reactions to reinforce their sentience when selected or defeated. Realistic ballistic audio sells the impact of ranged attacks landing alongside meaty blade slashes.
Altogether these systems provide exponentially greater emotional connection to the gameplay events unfolding before your eyes. Players intrinsically feel more integral to the experience through auditory feedback.
Community and Fan Base
As an enormously popular game, StarCraft 2 has developed an active fan base that has kept the game thriving over a decade past launch. Fans interact through forums, websites, social media, and in-person events.
Fan Sites and Online Community Hubs
A variety of fan-created sites and online hubs provide spaces for StarCraft players and viewers to interact. These include:
The /r/StarCraft subreddit has over 270k members discussing news, balancing, tournaments, content creation, and game experiences. As an unofficial community, fans freely express opinions through civil discourse.
Established during Brood War’s prime, TeamLiquid.net has over 14 million comments across 400k threads in its SC2 forum section. As an early pillar of the western scene, it continues driving discussion through deep strategic analysis befitting its academic name.
Various StarCraft 2 Discord servers host tens of thousands of real-time chatters. Group voice channels enable passionate amateurs to directly engage favorite players and personalities through moderated post-match discussions or casual community banter.
Fan Works and Content Creation
The love fans have for StarCraft manifests through artistic content and community events celebrating the games.
Creative admirers craft tribute paintings, sculptures, novels, comics, cosplays, and even short films examining favorite characters. These fan works analyze personalities from new perspectives or creatively expand the universe in ways the official canon cannot.
Grassroots organizations coordinate recreational tournaments for amateurs aspiring to test mettle without the pressures of ranked ladder anxiety. These provide an entry point for enthusiasts perhaps seeking to one day advance towards serious competition in a welcoming environment.
Lasting Legacy and Influence
Originally an early esport, StarCraft 2’s ongoing longevity as a premiere competitive RTS continues inspiring new generations of gamers and developers who grew up watching its thrilling matches.
Gateway to Esports
Many fans reminisce fondly on the awe of witnessing high-level professional StarCraft on youthful evenings. The shocking strategic depth drew curiosity and bonded friendships discussing tactics. As an early streaming phenomenon, StarCraft 2 provided a gateway to now exponentially more popular esports.
Game Development Influence
Modern gaming staples like MOBAs evolved from StarCraft 2’s flexible mod tools empowering fans. To this day, game designers reference its gold standard asymmetrical race design alongside the reactive gameplay quotient defining RTS. Forthcoming titles hope to capture that innovative magic.
Over a decade since launch, StarCraft 2 still maintains reliable content output through tournaments, patches, and interaction from Blizzard developers with their fans. After becoming a foundational esport, its community persists as tight-knit family forged over years of shared memories cheering victories.
System Requirements and Accessibility
StarCraft 2 supports a wide range of PC hardware, ensuring broad access for strategy fans. Community localization and robust accessibility options also enable playing comfort.
The game client runs smoothly on low and high-end Windows and MacOS systems alike. While segmenting player bases is inconvenient, platform flexibility courts wider appeal.
- 3+ Ghz dual core CPU
- GeForce 600 GPU or Radeon 5000 series
- 4GB+ RAM
- Broadband Internet connection
Supporting eight year old budget hardware, SC2 operates on common laptops without dedicated graphics cards. This accessibility assisted adoption within cyber cafes crucial to growth in Asia.
Localization and Accessibility
Blizzard localized the game and subtitles into a dozen major languages including Korean, French, German and simplified Chinese. This lowered barriers enabling international tournament stars in non-English speaking regions to shine. Global play unified friends across continents.
Colorblind assistant modes, screen reader capability, assignable hotkeys, and text scaling options provide access for disabled gamers. Ensuring entertainment for all who love sci-fi strategy remains an admirable commitment.
Summary of StarCraft 2’s Appeal and Success
Over a decade after launch, StarCraft 2 remains one of gaming’s most beloved and definitive RTS experiences due to its polished gameplay, competitive depth, and engaging worldbuilding.
Satisfying and Complex Gameplay
StarCraft 2 nails the fundamentals of real-time strategy across its distinctive, asymmetric races. Economic macromanagement interweaves neatly with micro-intensive combat immediacy. The gameplay loop of scouting opponents to counter unit compositions with your own innovated tactics retains freshness after thousands of hours.
Near endless strategic variety arises within intricate maps and matchups. Carefully tuned equilibriums between greed and aggression reward creativity’s calculated risks. The mechanical skill ceiling stays unreachable as new champion dynasties showcase revolutionary strategies and reactive adjustments.
Compelling Campaign Setting
The space opera setting realized through fully-voiced cinematic cutscenes establishes emotional stakes tied to relatable heroes and villainous tyrants across pivotal events. Art, animation, and sound design contribute to an atmospheric sci-fi experience that appeals broadly.
Interactivity comes through intense mission variety and increasing challenge. Plot threads build personal vendettas before rallying unlikely allies against a common genocidal god-AI threat. Defeating seemingly unstoppable legions with limited troops proves empowering.
Broadcasted professional StarCraft 2 provides inexhaustible entertainment analyzing the mental warfare at play. Seeing mortal humans perform superhuman feats of precision stuns viewers asCommentators unpack strategic complexities into comprehensible narratives augmented by crowd hype.
Top competitors training relentlessly demonstrate inspiring passion pursuing excellence. Their visible effort doubled as aspirational blueprint for amateurs mimic refining their own gameplay. Icons arose as role models catapulting gaming into its renaissance era.
Ultimately these qualities cemented StarCraft 2 as an iconic, ageless video game that will be cherished by fans for generations.