Hi guys, I am going to bring you as much HOTS analysis, thoughts, and predictions from the experience I have so far playing the beta. I hope blizzard can use some of this feedback as well in their design/balance process as they release/tweak the current beta they have.
I've played about 10-12 (15-20 more or so on sunday) games so far, 1-2 as P/Z, the rest all as Terran. I have focused on playing mech every single game in TvZ/TvP to test the new widow mine and warhound and see how they complement (or don't) mech.
My first impressions playing with/against all of the new units is...they're all imbalanced as fuck. This to me seems like a good sign, as Brood war had a similar design philosophy, whether on accident or not. I think blizzard needs to take this route more often - allow each race to have things that seem "ridiculous" at first, much like brood war, and then all of these powerful features of each race balance each other out. The route they have taken lately with WOL is nerf, nerf, nerf and imo it hasn't gone so well lately.
Obviously with the beta blizzard is going to the extreme with some things like a 22 range tempest. I highly doubt that will make it into the actual game. But here I will go over the new units, and some of their new interactions/uses:
Hydra speed/Ultra Charge/Viper - I'm listing all of these together because the strength of all these new things for Zerg just amplifies Zerg's power overall. There are so many styles Zerg's have at their disposal, and these new additions simply allow even more new unit compositions/styles that Zerg players can use and abuse.
It's going to be scary that Zerg can do anything from mass roach, to mass muta/ling/bane, to mass brood/infestor, to mass ultra/ling/infestor, to mass queen/infestor/brood, and now they will have viper/hydra/roach or mass ultra with pure ling, the list goes on.
Also, hydralisk speed is now a necessity, because to play against brood war mech 2.0 (i'm dubbing HOTS mech as brood war mech 2.0) you will need late game hydras in your unit composition for tech switches either to them or out of them.
Changeling - I didn't get to mess around with this, but you can apparently fling them now into your opponent's army. I actually think this will be really too good. Lategame mass changelings has it's uses now (though rarely seen) and having to individually click on one and find each one might just be too good for Z in combination with everything else Z is getting. On the other hand, like I said, if it sounds like it's strong, then I believe the developers are headed in the right direction (brood war balance philosophy).
Swarmlords - A few people used them against me, and I just scanned and killed them pretty easily. The things that they spawn are strong as hell. I am thinking you'll see these used in small numbers on different places on the map for harrassment much like lurker drop harrass.
As is right now, I would actually say that it takes too long for them to spawn out units. I think these would play much better in SC2 if the swarm things spawned at a quicker rate, but also died at an equally quicker rate as well. I did not play anyone good enough to abuse these to their potential obviously, so we'll have to see.
For the Zerg units overall, there is just way too much versatility now. Every person I talked to agreed (including some Zergs) that Zerg is getting the best new things in heart of the swarm.
It's going to be tough to figure out wtf unit comp zerg is going in HOTS.
Mothership Core - this thing is one of the few "broken" things I have seen so far. It has 3-4 abilities, it can become a badass cannon 10x better than a planetary with 13 range, it can recall units, it can move to any nexus you have on the map, and more importantly and the most broken is for 25 energy it can make your nexus regenerate 100 energy in like 2 seconds.
Also, the only current prerequisite for this unit is simply having 100 minerals and 50 vespene gas. This will have to change because it just simply is too good right now.
You guys know 4 gate? Well, imagine a 4 gate powered by x4 chronoboost every 25 energy that your mothership core gets. You basically have a super charged 4 gate. All you do is get the mothership core, open standard 4 gate, voila, now every 25 energy your mothership core hits you have 100 energy on your nexus, meaning insta-4 chronos on your gateways. I have dubbed this the "avilo super 4 gate build" because I can. I didn't bother refining the timing on it, but the ability to give energy may be too powerful period. Imagine being able to hold off certain rushes with only 1-2 sentries instead of 5-6...
You also can have an insta range 13 planetary to any nexus that you teleport your mothership core too. Protoss already is the best race on defense with warpgate imo, they don't need more recall/mass defense stuff.
I really did not like the mothership core at all. It felt too much like a queen, it felt very out of place, and it felt like it would add too much variance/dice rolling/unscoutable nature to protoss (even more than now) because your opponent won't always be able to tell where your mothership energy goes - well, except in the current build they know it's going to your nexus for chronoboosts lol.
To be honest, I hope they just remove this unit from the game. It's unnecessary, and feels weird.
Oracle - I don't know how much I like this. I didn't really think it's entomb ability was that OP because I already metagamed the shit out of everyone and had defensive widow mines in my base on oracle paths (hehe) but the reason I don't like it is because it's like an arbiter 2.0 with the cloak field, and there's no need when speed prisms in lategame already serve that purpose with mass warpgate.
Also the main reason I didn't like this unit is because it only adds to the protoss 1A deathball - now you can literally cloak your entire 200/200 army very early on in the game...or whatever standing army you have. I would recommend that the cloaking field be a later game tech requiring the prerequisite of the fleet beacon, much like the brood war arbiter required the arbiter tribunal.
This way, the oracle has access to entomb for harrass early/mid-game, and it can become a useful late game unit with the cloaking field.
Tempest - 22 range...the only reason I see them making it like this is for shock factor for beta testers. It will not make it into the game with a 22 range upgrade and it would be a travesty if it did. Yes, they are very weak alone, but in 200/200 situations or any situation with a very good player...they will end up being way too abusable. I overall don't like them adding another siege unit into SC2. Siege tanks/broodlords/collosus already are strong enough, and adding in the tempest seems like it would be way too good against mech.
I would say if they keep this in the game with the range upgrade, they will need to literally make it a glass cannon, and reduce it's health even further, otherwise this unit is going to end up 20x better than the broodlord, allowing Protoss to simply pull your army into theirs or always force an engagement.
It's also another 1A unit, which is bad.
First off, it seems like everyone that has played Terran, including the almighty Flash himself, has been utterly disappointed with the attention Terran has received for HOTS. I would have to agree with them - I saw no changes to the raven in acceleration/speed/price tweaks which I have suggested over and over as well as other people, and in HOTS single ravens may become even more necessary in some instances in order to deal with mass cloak from oracles or burrowed zerg units like the swarmlord thing.
I feel that the developers are hinging way too much on the "new units" to magically balance stuff out and have stopped worrying about WOL balance. They need to shore up fixing the raven for lategame TvZ vs infestor/corruptor/mass queen brood lord before they move on to only HOTS balance. I say this and make an emphasis on this because with all the new goodies in HOTS, the old WOL lategame TvZ Zerg deathball composition will still remain the same, and even though I did not experience anyone playing the old style in the beta, the new units are not equipped to handle the old WOL comp.
So first off...
The Warhound - This unit is the biggest disappointment of trying the beta. It's a mech marauder 1A unit - the exact opposite thing every Terran player and every Starcraft wants in HOTS.
The warhound was absolutely pointless in TvZ because there are no mechanical units. I never built 1 warhound in this match-up. And since it cannot shoot up anymore, and widow mines are better for AA/muta defense...it's just bad.
Here I am going to recommend that the developers had the right idea on removing the thor from HOTS. As much as I hate to say it, the widow mine is much more cost effective at dealing with mutas than thors are in general, and if the developers stick with their guns on the warhound being the mini-thor with less AA, but lower costing as it is...it just seems more logical.
Every TvZ game I played, and I played a few masters, I went mech with widow mine/siegetank/hellion, and I usually only built 1-3 thors for AA.
Now to TvP though...once again, it's a mech marauder 1A unit. I feel like Blizzard has done nothing to address TvP mech at all (in terms of siege tanks), and has found a band-aid solution with just giving mech players the ability to build a marauder from the factory. You simply build a lot of them, and not as many tanks it appears.
With all of the new goodies from the other races, I feel like the siege tank should be looked at again in terms of damage, price, or supply (like everyone has said 5000 times). Ironically, the reverse was true for TvP - the thor is utterly garbage in TvP mech just like it currently is in WOL, so you build lots of warhounds instead.
TvZ = tank/hellion/widow mine/1-4 thors, ZERO warhounds
TvP = tank/warhound/hellion/widow mine, ZERO thors
It isn't all bad though, because mech is indeed more viable now, solely because of the one new hope for not only Terran, but for much, much better gameplay overall
THE WIDOW MINE. This unit will be the heart of Terran, it alone makes mech viable in TvP.
This unit is built from the factory, and can be built from reactored factories. It can 1 shot most units after attaching to them, but if the unit dies it does not explode and deal splash. These are cost effective against everything except zerglings. It takes 10 in-game seconds for it to blow up, which may need to be reduced to 5 because in a lot of the games I played I felt like my army was being crushed and the widow mines would explode as the battle was basically finishing one way or the other.
The advantage to the widow mine over the spider mine is that you can re-position them and they kill air units. This is the sole reason why mech TvP will be viable, and why reactor factory opening will become the standard. Because of this unit, you now have a valid anti-air option from the factory, that is dependent upon user skill/knowledge as well in terms of placing them.
I believe they will detonate and kill a void ray, which was one of the huge reasons why "opening mech/factories" was always a gamble and killed mech. The fact alone that you now have something to deal with void ray openings means that in TvP you can open factories, and money does not need to be drained into missile turrets/armory+thors, or any other ridiculous things you had to do in WOL to "make mech work" that put you at a disadvantage for even "going mech." Now you have all that extra vespene gas that would have gone into armories/starports/thors into extra factories with a viable AA unit.
The developers have hit the jackpot here. I can't emphasize enough how this one single unit is going to change the way Terran play. The great thing about it is, it's not just for mech - you can go bio as well and utilize these, meaning blizzard has hit two birds with one destructable rock. They have made mech TvP viable and they have further enhanced bio TvP for every Terran that loves to play bio/viking/ghost. Now you will have a 100% cost effective factory option late game to deal with chargelots, and something to utilize for positioning.
Every Terran player that plays the current game should be thanking the heavens that blizzard got something drastically right. It's the spider mine 2.0, and dare I say, it's what the spider mine would have wanted to be when he grew up.
From the T perspective, you now can play like brood war, utilizing these mines all over the map, and from P/Z perspectives now you cannot simply 1A your army everywhere. Well, you can, but you'll die a horrible death.
It adds a very positional element to SC2 that WOL was missing, and it's powerful enough to be viable, but also allows P/Z players to micro away the unit that will detonate, adding much potential there in terms of apm required to lessen damage from them.
I definitely have to give the design team a 2 thumbs up on this unit, it completely changes the game in a very positive way. At first I was skeptical thinking, "OH, that dustin browder, he's putting the terror drone in SC2." But after using it, it is indeed it's own unique unit, and very, very Terran.
BC speedboost - it's good, but sort of "meh" because it's 100 energy and it's rare to see BCS useful themselves.
Feedback to Developers in terms of how they should scale the units in the current build:
I would say, error on the side of "imbalance" for all three races. Obviously some of the units were made uber powerful or exaggerated for beta testing (imo) like the 22 range tempest, but overall I actually loved the feel of the HOTS units.
When I was using the new widow mines with mech TvZ, and vipers were pulling units from my army, my mines would also latch onto the vipers a lot of times and i'd win the battles from good positioning. Or the Zerg would pull units away with hydras/vipers when I misplaced mines or what not. The reason why I really think HOTS is going to be a great game is because it did feel much more like brood war than WOL has. I never thought "oh the viper pulling my unit is broken as hell." I got the feeling of, "wow i should have just played better and I could have placed mines/pushed better."
I had the feeling that the skill cap may increase to play HOTS. Things like the viper, widow mines, cloaked units, the burrowed swarm lord...they all have a common theme and that's that they're all incredibly fucking powerful if used correctly.
Much like science vessels, defilers, arbiters...they all were powerful if used correctly. So my biggest piece of advice to the developers for HOTS is to error on the side of imbalance this time.
I also advise that you do not neglect unfinished balance issues from WOL. The raven needs to be tweaked looked at to help lategame TvZ because the new units do nothing to address mass corruptor/broodlord/infestor + queens.
I would also advise re-designing the warhound / thor, either removing one or tweaking one, because as it currently stands, the warhound is simply not a "mech" unit. It's a mech marauder, and it's also a simple 1A unit that does not enhance gameplay in the slightest. It's powerful enough that it also overrides the entire point of siege tanks in mech TvP/TvT. Overall, it's just too easy of a unit to use. Bio players already have the 1A marauder to play with against mech in TvT, adding this unit is overkill. It's simply going to be the death of the siege tank again in 2/3 of the match-ups (TvT, TvP).
The idea of a goliath like unit that is cheaper than the thor, and more available and maneuverable is great though, and that aspect should be kept.
I think you guys are going to have a ton of trouble with what you decide to do with the warhound/thor because the widow mine alone essentially makes mech more viable (especially TvP).
Oh, now that I mention mech, I have not mentioned the hellion much in this blog, but I would highly recommend that you change it so the hellion comes out of the factory in vehicle mode. It felt very unintuitive for the hellion to come out in battle mode, and most of the time you would want to immediately change it into vehicle mode to get it anywhere on the map.
Although, I am sure it was made like this a bit for the beta so that people could see it was added/playtest it. But definitely have it come out of the factory in vehicle mode. Then before a battle people can "siege it" much like a siege tank, which makes much more sense.
Overall, from my experience playing the beta I feel HOTS is going in a very good direction and we'll all fall in love with Starcraft all over again when the game is finally released ::
(I wrote this as thoughts have come to my head, I will post another similar blog when I get home tomorrow describing some scenarios/unit interactions more in-depth, along with how the metagame will change. Example: I tested that you can have widow mines behind a full wall off and if a unit gets in range but is on the other side of your wall, your widow mine will still jump through the wall and attach to the opponent's unit)
Thanks for reading :: More to come tomorrow.