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The game includes new and returning characters and locations from the original game. The game was criticized for lacking features that existed in the original StarCraft game including LAN play and the ability to switch between multiplayer regions. At the time of its release, StarCraft II became the fastest-selling real-time strategy game, with over three million copies sold worldwide in the first month. In the Terran campaign, the original StarCraft briefing room is replaced with an interactive version of the battlecruiser Hyperion, with Jim Raynor, a bitter and hard-drinking mercenary captain, as the central character. In a departure from previous Blizzard games, the campaign is non-linear, with Raynor taking jobs for money and using that money to buy additional units and upgrades. Blizzard’s Vice President Rob Pardo stressed that each campaign will function very differently.
The Terran campaign, Wings of Liberty, places players in a mercenary-style campaign, as Terran rebel group Raynor’s Raiders raise funds by taking assignments from outside groups. Sarah Kerrigan is the focus of the campaign, and the story revolves around the possibility of her redemption.
The Wings of Liberty campaign contains several missions with unique features, such as lava that floods the battlefield every five minutes, forcing the player to move their units to high ground before they are destroyed. In another mission, enemy units attack the player only at night, forcing the player into a form of siege warfare. Between missions, players can choose units, buildings, and upgrades that are not available in the multiplayer missions. Wings of Liberty features approximately the same number of units as the original StarCraft. Some units from the original game have returned, some featuring new upgrades and abilities. For example, the Protoss Zealot, a melee unit from the original game, has the researchable ability to dash forward and quickly reach nearby enemies as a refinement of its speed upgrade from the original. Other units have been replaced or removed.
Units in StarCraft II have new abilities, compared to the original, that encourage more complex interaction with the game environment. Among these is the inclusion of units that can traverse varying levels of terrain, or have the ability to teleport short distances. Some Protoss units can be warped into pylon-powered areas using the Warp Gate, a slight modification of an existing building called the Gateway. StarCraft II’s campaign has units that are only playable in the campaign and not in the regular multiplayer mode, though they are available for custom maps. These mostly consist of units that have been scrapped from development such as the Terran Diamondback as well as various returning units from the original StarCraft such as the Terran Wraith and Goliath. The campaign features hirable mercenaries, modified versions of certain units with enhanced attributes such as health or damage that become available for hire once the standard unit is unlocked.