Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm Preview
By Umar Farooq (Kluey), OnRPG Journalist
Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm is the second expansion pack of Starcraft 2 that debuted at Blizzcon 2011. The first expansion featured the race Terran. This second much anticipated expansion pack will feature the swarm race, Zerg. Along with many new units there will be improved multiplayer and single player features. In this article we will go over only the multiplayer features as there are more than enough single player features for its own article.
Balance is one of the most important if not the most difficult thing about Heart of the Swarm. The most balanced way to add a new expansion pack would be to not add anything obviously. The only problem with that is, it’s completely useless and no one would buy it. To avoid breaking the game, Blizzard has avoided many types of units such as the tier one units since they are easy to mass. These units were being used as the dominant unit in almost every strategic composition. The Marine was used in every match up except for TvT mech. This caused the game to look a bit repetitive and dull. Blizzard also decided not to make more of these units because of how the previous meta-game worked. Attack command and macro (producing more units and spending all your resources) was the way to play. Because of this, Blizzard is introducing many spell casting units that benefit from micro (the art of controlling your units to make them more cost efficient).
New Units and Removed Units:
Protoss is the race that is known for attack commanding, aka clicking, their massed army into the enemy army. Blizzard intends to change this by introducing many spell casters and positional units for Protoss. Another problem with Protoss was the early game. Early game, many players would die to a timing attack or all-in attack which is so much more powerful. I think that these units will help blend Protoss into a race that requires speed and agile fingers rather than just a sharp mind and a large map.
The Oracle helps Protoss harass as the warp prism was an unsuccessful unit until recently. Denying mineral patches for 45 seconds is absolutely huge as it nullifies the base almost entirely. The Replicator is good but has stirred up some controversy about the future of competitive Starcraft. In traditional Starcraft fashion, a strategy is beaten by good play not by making the proper unit. With the Replicator, any early push with a Siege Tank will require you to make a Replicator and you’re fine. While this is good for lower level players, it makes Starcraft less of the hundreds of actions per minute game and more into the chess-type game. The Tempest is kind of weird as it’s an anti-air unit but, besides Mutalisks, air isn’t really a problem for Protoss players. The Tempest does hit ground units too but does very little damage, making it extremely cost inefficient.
Now, the news that everyone has been sad about, the Carrier will be removed! The Carrier has been an all time favourite unit since Broodwar. Hundreds of interceptors being thrown out by a massive aircraft is just awesome in every way. The Carrier also added a lot of strategic gameplay as you can’t make a Carrier whenever you felt like. It took a long time and money to build so you had to fit that into your gameplan. In other news, the Mothership will be removed and replaced by spells on a Nexus. I don’t particularly like this as it rewards bad play in a sense. If you’re missing your chrono boosts you will have energy to recall. This seems a bit unlike Starcraft to me but I could see it working out fine.
Carriers releasing their Interceptors
The Terran is a human race that uses infantry and artillery to fight their enemies. In Wings of Liberty, the Terran race was considered the strongest race. Terran’s main problem was they were going with the same style of play in almost every game. In their mirror match-up, if the opponent Terran went for a mechanic type build, you would respond with the exact same build or go for a bionic build. Any mix of the two would put you slightly behind as you will have weak armies of both rather than one strong army. To counteract this, Blizzard has put some reactionary units in the Terran arsenal.
The Warhound will help against the mechanic style in Terran vs Terran and some Terran vs Protoss play as Stalkers and Sentries are both mechanical. The Battle Hellion is the anti-light unit but has some health. This will be extremely helpful against marines, zerglings and zealots as normal hellions were way too fragile. The Battle Hellion will also be slower to balance out the extra health it receives. The one unit that got everyone talking was the Shredder.
Shredders zoning out zerglings and banelings
The units that will be removed aren’t that huge for Terran. The Thor is being replaced by a ‘Super’ Thor that you can only have one of and does extreme amounts of damage. Apart from that, Reapers are losing their building attack bonus damage which is a bit weird as late game reapers were extremely effective because of how fast they were and how they could take out buildings really quickly. The Battle Cruiser is being ‘buffed’ and will be given a charge type spell that allows it to sprint quickly towards the enemy. This will be interesting to see because air units are typically supposed to stay close to their supporting units rather than charging in. It could be a good spell to get away from unwanted engagements but it still doesn’t fit the unit as the Battle Cruiser is pretty large.
Zerg is the swarm race that is being put in the spotlight in this expansion. Zergs are usually considered to be the middle race. They aren’t the strongest but aren’t the weakest. They have a good balance between making decisions and playing fast whereas Protoss leans towards the mental game and Terran towards the physical game.
A unit that wasn’t a big problem amongst the players but was to the developers is the Overseer. The Overseer is a unit that gives detection but also gives supply. A unit that has a use but also gives supply is extremely hard to balance. For this reason, the Overseer will be replaced by the Viper which has the ability to give any one unit detection for the rest of the game. It also has a spell that can reduce the sight range of units to 1 and a spell that will pull a unit towards it. The spell that will pull a unit is hard to balance because the strong fragile units are always a target and pulling it into your army makes it so much easier to focus down. The second unit is the Swarm Host. The Swarm Host is a siege unit that sends out 2 mini-units that do not take supply. It will help Zerg to put constant pressure on its opponent.
Vipers reducing the range of marines to 1
Apart from the Overseer being removed, all Zerg units will stay. There will be upgrades for Hydralisk Speed, Burrow Baneling Movement, and Ultralisk Charge. Corruptors’ corrupt spell will be removed (sounds correct, yes?) and will gain a channelling spell that gives you money and does 1 dps.
In conclusion, Heart of the Swarm will bring many new things good and bad. One thing to keep in mind for this game and usually any preview is that things will be changed or even removed totally. Also, new things will be introduced which weren’t released at the time of this preview. At the current state all things will be imbalanced. It will be interesting to see how Blizzard ends up releasing this expansion without throwing things out of whack. When this eventually goes live I’ll see about looking into the game and writing up my impressions.