Starcraft 2 Terran Research Guide
Spending your Points: Comparison of Upgrades
Welcome to my guide to Terran research projects in Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty. Here I'll share my tips on which research to choose as you gain more points and move toward the end of SC2. You'll also learn a little about what each one does. The guide will also provide some helpful tips about ways to use the units that are only unlocked through spending research points on the Protoss or Zerg trees.
About Research Points
As you complete missions after making it to the Hyperion after mission 3, you will receive either Zerg or Protoss research points for completing nearly every mission. There are few exceptions to this rule. At five-point intervals, you'll get an opportunity to choose between two research projects in each race's tree. This is a very cool system to add to a Real-Time Strategy game, lending some customization to Terran forces as you proceed through the Wings of Liberty campaign.
This lends a lot of replayability to SC2. The research you choose, and when you get it can change the way you'll tackle various maps. I stronly recommend playing through a couple times and trying different things. Especially on a harder difficulty. You can sharpen your skills and increase your response time as a player by dealing with a harsher AI before you go play with the big boys.
Which is The Best Choice for my Points?
Starcraft 2's research trees doesn't feature many bad choices. Since you only get one choice per level on the tree, I will give you a comparison of one Zerg or Protoss project versus another. In many cases, these choices are subject to opinion and play-style. You cannot go back and choose another unless you load a previous saved game. You'll only want to do this if you make a really horrible choice.
Toward the End of SC2's Wings of Liberty Campaign...
Your power will greatly increase as you approach the top of each of the research trees, especially the Protoss. After maxing out one or the other, you'll begin to get 10,000 credits for each research point you get. This can add up to a lot of credits! If you want your military to be as strong as possible, do not proceed beyond the point of no return without wrapping up the optional missions. This can mean a couple units upgrades or mercenaries by the game's end.
Mineral and vespene costs to make units that are unlocked through research are listed, so you can see the price for the prize. As I complete unit guides the detailed stats will be available on that special unit's page. I have highlighted a few of the more interesting stats for each unit.
Protoss Research Tree
Protoss Research Points are available more abundantly later into SC2. It is not a bad idea to pursue this type of research as soon as it becomes available. Several of these choices can make big boosts to your economy and the bonuses will aid you in nearly every mission of the Terran campaign. Some of these are clearly better than others.
5 Research Points: Vanadium Plating Vs. Ultra Capacitors
Vanadium Plating: Unit armor upgrades will give an additional +5% to life points in addition to the usual armor boost.
Ultra Capacitors: Weapon upgrades will additionally increase attack speed by +5%
Best Choice: I think the health upgrade is the better choice here. I'm big on focus firing with my units as they attack multiple fighters. I'm likely to try to take out several tough targets, and sometimes shots can be wasted. Therefore, the extra life is more important to me. 15% health is not a big difference on a marine, but it helps a ton with larger units. I'm also more likely to upgrade armor before damage in a campaign mission. Some units are really expensive and it's better they stay alive. A couple extra armor goes a long way when multiple smaller units are engaging your forces, as is often the case with Zerg.
Getting the health research may also give you more incentive to run after those armor upgrades, which can actually save you minerals allowing you to get more mileage out of your army. This is helpful in the later missions of the campaign.
10 Points: Micro Filtering Vs Orbital Depots.
Micro-Filtering: Increases Vespene gather rate by 25% for all refineries and automated refineries.
Orbital Depots: Supply Depots don't need to be constructed. Instead they will be dropped from the Hyperion to the spot you designate on the battlefield.
Best Choice: I'd always spend my points on the Vespene gas. Sure, you wouldn't have to wait on Supply Depots with the orbital research, but you can always just order an SCV to make multiple depots by shift-queueing commands. I think you should be able to keep track of how many depots you're going to need ahead of time, so grab the gas gather rate.
Consider also that Vespene gather rate is capped and SCVs can gobble up minerals tremendously quickly. You'll be needing more and more gas toward the end of the campaign to repair your more advanced ships and vehicles.
15 Points: Command Center Reactor Vs. Automated Refineries
Command Center Reactor: Allows the Command Center to train two SCVs at once.
Automated Refineries: SCVs are no longer needed for Vespene gas harvest -- although they still need to construct a refinery.
Best Choice: Get the Refinery research hands down. In some missions, you might save having to make up to six SCVs (and thus 300 minerals from your starting pool). Most of the time you only need to make a few more SCVs at start to harvest minerals anyway. You'll also start immediate production of Vespene when the map starts, no matter what your other SCVs are doing.
20 Points: Science Vessel Vs. Raven
Science Vessel: (100 Minerals, 200 Vespene Gas, 2 Supply, 200 Health) Has the Irradiate spell and can repair nearby mechanical units. Also serves as a detector.
Repairs are great. The Science vessel can do this in the field and do it well. This will help air units to survive, and keep from having your weak SCVs splattered by AOE attacks leaving your mechanized military to take damage far from home. Upgrade your Units' armor to give them even more mileage.
Irradiate can be helpful as an advance to an attack. Duck in, irradiate an Ultralisk and wait a bit. Unfortunately it only affects biological units, but thankfully that's a universal trait for the Zerg. Not so helpful vs Protoss.
Lastly the cost of the Science Vessel is not too high. With Automated Refineries there are loads of opportunities to grab three refineries and bring in a ton of vespene. You'll have leftovers, and they can go on this unit!
Raven: (Stats same as above, but 140 hit points) Has two spells, Hunter Seeker Missiles and Auto Turrets. Detects cloaked and burrowed units like the Science Vessel.
Auto Turrets cost a mere 50 energy and can be helpful for quick base defense (and even offense in the field), but you'll have to micromanage casting it and make more every 180 seconds. You could lay 6 of them with max energy and the cellular reactor research, so they can provide a nice screen to protecting your base, and even while on the offensive.
The Raven's Hunter Seeker Missiles do big (150) damage after a brief delay. It can affect any type of unit, air or ground. It can miss, however. You can use a few Ravens as advance attack units to soften up the big targets in an enemy base.
The Point Defense drones cost 100 energy and can intercept certain types of projectile shots like missiles. This can be helpful in laying a screen to defend against air assault. The drones also last 180 seconds.
Best Choice: For me, the Science Vessel wins hands down. I don't care about Ravens because I don't care about casting. Most of the time sheer brute force and the where of the attack will do the trick. That's not to say they're useless, Science Vessels are just better in my eyes because their ultimate ability doesn't require any micromanagement on your part. Note that I do think the Raven would be best choice for a skilled player, due to the broader options for use. They can cause a lot of damage and chaos in the right hands.
The Raven can be helpful as a defender if you make good use of its turret and point defense abilities, but a Science vessel can keep your units alive making the turrets seem less useful while out on a campaign in enemy territory. The only time you'll really find a great use for the turrets is during the final battle when you must defend for the entire mission.
Both Ravens and Science Vessels get a damage dealing spell which deserve some comparison. The Raven deals faster damage with its attack (after a delay), whereas the Science Vessel deals damage over time. The Raven's Hunter Seeker can miss, whereas the Science Vessel's Irradiate is pretty much guaranteed to deal damage to nearby units. Dealing about 8 damage per second, it makes quick work of small crowds. Both spells can also damage friendlies, so they're destined to be used as openers, unless you strangely want to sacrifice some units which is usually not a great idea.
I recommend you make sure to generally use more than one Science Vessel if you pick that unit, then they can heal each other. Their aid can enable a fleet of battlecruisers to reap havok, then reap some more! Especially with upgraded armor.
Whichever research you choose, it's likely you can survive just fine without either unit. If you end up sitting on the fence, just grab the Science Vessel so you can get repairs to your mechanical units while out on the road.
25 Points: Tech Reactor Vs. Orbital Strike
Tech Reactor: Functions as both a Tech Lab and Reactor in one. Attaches to all unit production buildings (except Command Center).
Orbital Strike: Your Barracks units will be dropped in pods at the building's waypoint.
Best Choice: Both of these are pretty great, but the Tech Reactor can save you some money and time making advanced vehicles like Battlecruisers or Banshees at one time. This pretty much renders the medic's armory upgrade to no longer require a tech lab for training useless.
Still, Orbital Strike is not without its merits. You can hotkey your barracks and use it to deliver Marines as reinforcements no matter where your army is on the battlefield. Infantry are never particularly terrible except when up against colossai and brood lords, and both of those can be countered with a strong anti-air element in your group. These upgrades will come very late in the game when you'll likely be spending more resources on advanced units than anything, and the Orbital Strikes are useless in the final battle whereas the tech reactor makes a major difference.
Tech Reactors win for being far more versatile for a newbie, but Orbital Strike could be interesting to skilled players since they can drop troops at strategic places on the battlefield. However you might actually for once use a Hercules transport to get your units into the battle if you don't rely on the Orbital Strike. You'd be able to pump out loads of marauders, put them in the hercules and escort with a Science vessel and some starships. Drop your load on the enemy's base and let chaos ensue.
Zerg Research Tree
Getting Zerg research points early in the campaign due to the numerous mission options to acquire it is not uncommon. You could easily reach tier 2 within a few missions after boarding Hyperion. The Zerg offer considerable bonuses to defense which can help with a lot of the tougher missions. Thankfully, two of the most useful are gained within the first two tiers of the tree. Zerg research points can be shoved down your throat unless you make a deliberate effort to pursue Protoss from time to time.
Don't bang your head into the keyboard trying to make choices in the Zerg research tree. A lot of the upgrades available for research can be missed without too much grief. You may struggle to decide which to pick between the hercules and predator to find that later you have nothing to do with either unit. So don't get all tied up wondering what to do with the points. You really can't go wrong.
5 Research Points: Shrike Turret Vs. Fortified Bunker
Shrike Turret: (6 Damage, slow weapon speed) Adds a turret to the top of all bunkers, which can deal damage to ground units. Handy that it has a mounted gun to aid in damage whether infantry are inside or not. However not so cool that it does less damage than a regular marine.
Fortified Bunker: Gives bunkers an additional 150 health. They start with 400, so that's a nearly 40% increase.
Best Choice: I've always picked the Shrike turret, but honestly I'm not sure why. Sometimes bunkers are barely destroyed. The shrike turret doesn't do that much damage compared to the up to six unit size you can put into an armory-upgraded bunker.
In later battles, bunkers grow softer and softer and are gradually more of a diversion while your stronger units help tear up your foes. They are like tanks moreso than the siege tank, and the SCVs the healers.
I'm seeing the shrike turret as less important, particularly in harder difficulty games. 150 extra life will give your SCVs more time to keep bunkers repaired, and vastly increase the likelihood the bunker will still be standing when the shooting stops. This works even better with the double repair rate for SCVs armory upgrade.>
10 Points: Planetary Fortress Vs. Perdition Turret
Planetary Fortress: (150 Minerals and Vespene, 40 damage, Normal Attack Speed, Range 6, 3 Armor) Fits a large, heavy turret to the top of the Command Center. It does tons more damage than the Shrike Turret above, but the Planetary Fortress' ibiks cannon disables the Command Center's ability to fly.
Perdition Turret (100 Minerals, 50 Vespene, 16 damage (20 vs light), 350 hit points): Flame turret that is great for defending against melee attacking your base. Deals more damage than a Firebat. It can be used fairly early on, but likely won't see much use until later when you're forced into defensive situations. They can be placed in places you wouldn't normally want a Bunker due to it blocking your own units.
Best Choice: The Perdition Turret is probably better. You can use the Planetary Fortress as a means of blocking the hordes you face on Brutal mode, but the perdition would be more versatile. A good setup would be a fully occupied 6 space bunker with a couple marauders and marines inside, with a perdition and missile turret protecting it. This is a nice setup and a single SCV can help in the defense. This one setup can do the work of two bunkers normally, and saves your unit cap for other things.
Really, neither of these research choices appeals to me much. I think in most campaign missions you should be active on the attack and not defending, except where applicable. I suppose the Perdition will give me more units to take on the road thanks to its help in close-range defense. The perdition has pretty short range though, and won't always be helpful unless you can put it in strategic spots.
15 Points: Predator Vs. Hercules
Predator: (100 Minerals + 100 Vespene Gas. 1 Armor, 120 Life Points) A lightly armored melee unit that can kill large groups of Zerglings without too much trouble due to its lightning field attack (auto). They really need to be repaired by a Science Vessel to make them much use. But then I'd ask, why would you make this as opposed to a goliath or something better?
Hercules: (300 Minerals + 200 Vespene Gas. 6 Supply, 70 Build Time) A massive transport with tons of health. It can make it pretty far into enemy territory while taking fire to drop troops very quickly. Pack some vehicles inside and escort it with a couple science vessels for even more mileage. Units don't die if it's destroyed, they're simply harmed from the fall. Unless, that is...if it falls into water. Ouch. And if one of these babies goes down that way, you're going to lose a ton of units. Better be careful making the flight plan! Look how costly this puppy is before you get excited at all. At least it has 500 health and 3 armor to sweeten the deal.
Best Choice: I'm all for the Hercules ship. I can see more opportunity to use it tactically. The predator just doesn't really get the chance to shine in my opinion. There need to be multiple units and this will only really happen with Zerglings. I'd rather make a couple of firebats (which can get killer armor by the way), who can be healed by medics. Moreover, the factory would be free to produce something with a little more oomph. Like a siege tank. Worse, Predators are lightly armored and have to go into melee where they will be subjected to all kinds of fire. At least the hercules can help you to take advantage of terrain from time to time. They're also very very survivable and as I said above, would go well with a science vessel.
Get the Hercules if only to spite the Predator. In all likelihood no matter which you choose you'll be using them very sparingly, if at all. Hey, at least the Hercules might help you with an achievement on The Mobius Factor campaign mission, which relies heavily on dropships.
20 Points: Cellular Reactor Vs. Regenerative Steel
Cellular Reactor: Gives energy-using units +100 starting energy and +100 total. Your battlecruisers will be able to fire the yamato cannon right after being built, which is helpful. They can also get off a second shot!
Regenerative Bio-Steel: Slowly heals mechanical units
Best Choice: I'm not kidding about slow. After taking bio-steel the first time, I'll always choose the cellular reactor. Science Vessels are sick with this upgrade and more than make up for the paltry aid of the bio-steel. You'd have to park for minutes to see any significant benefit, and a Science Vessel could take care of that so much faster.
25 Points: Hive Mind Emulator Vs. Psi Disruptor
Hive Mind Emulator: Can mind control a zerg unit. Great, you can mind control Ultralisks. It's pretty helpful to turn the fight around that way, but later in the campaign you'll more likely want the enemy to slow so your forces can get more shots off before they start hitting your defense.
Psi Disruptor: Slows nearby Zerg Units. Very helpful at buying your gun emplacements (bunkers, siege tanks) more time to mow down the hordes.
Best Choice: The choice here isn't that simple. If you want something you can build then forget, grab the Psi Disruptor. When you can place it strategically, it'll be a huge help. It's a major bonus in the final campaign mission, "All In". The problem with the Hive Mind Emulator in my opinion is that sometimes there's nothing very incredible to mind control nearby. Micromanaging it isn't a huge task, just hotkey the building and when you see an ultralisk, snag it. The trouble is that a single Ultralisk isn't even that dangerous on harder difficulties. You might tangle up a few of their units though, giving your longer range units an opportunity to dish the hurt.
Either one of these options will do a lot for your defense vs Zerg. It's a pity there's nothing helpful vs protoss, but it makes sense you'd discover a couple weaknesses specific to Zerg with all those research points. Since they're the most prevalent foe, these can come in handy a lot ... You've just got to use them! It's very easy to forget about these options.