This ridiculously good image was made by graphics team member Sigrun. Props sir
This is long. Really Long. While we tried to stay away from balance discussion, it inevitably comes up and this piece was no different. Please keep in mind that many of the complaints or issues people had will be fixed through the beta so they are hardly detrimental - the review build that we played was already out of date by the first day of blizzcon.
You will also notice that most of the writers have varying opinions on each of the races, mechanics etc. While discontinuous, this should be considered a good thing - having variations in thought shows that there are no longer as many clear cut "issues" and that significant progress has been made even since BWWI Paris. There is quite a bit of material here to digest so read through and we hope this gives you a well rounded feeling for the direction Starcraft 2 is taking.
Chill - Game Flow and Mechanics
Zatic - Matchup Analysis
SpiralArchitect - Game and Unit Analysis
Plexa - Game and Unit Analysis
intrigue - Game Mechanics and Terran Analysis
NeoIllusions - Zerg Analysis
Chill - Game Flow and Mechanics
Game Speed and Pacing
I really felt that the speed of game (in terms of purely unit moments) was kept true to the original. That is, the units move quickly, attack quickly, and die quickly, just like in Brood War. There was some talk that the game felt slow, and rumours formed that the game speed was locked on Fast instead of Fastest. I really think these are both wrong in the regards to keeping SC2 similar to its predecessor.
Similarly, the game pacing was quite good (again, with “good” being both arbitrary and in trying to emulate the original). Tech seemed to come at very similar timings when compared to Brood War; games would usually be at midgame within 5 minutes, with the endgame sometimes coming as early as 15 minutes. Unfortunately the system we played with ended the game after 20 minutes, so I never got to see the effects of a full-blown stalemate on the game’s pacing; however, I am fairly confident that it would be quite similar to the situations that can occur in Brood War’s endgame.
Basically, both game speed and pacing are perfect in my eyes at this point. Battles are quick and dirty. The game equally rewards aggressive and passive styles. A standard game seems to usually end by the 15 minute mark, and you can certainly have complete map dominance by the 20 minute mark. Game speed and pacing are true to the original.
Note: FrozenArbiter has confirmed that the game was played one step below fastest according to Blizzard.
I led with the problem-free game speed and pacing section so that the crash through unit and game mechanics would be that much more painful. Not to sound too dire, but there are a lot of issues with units. Now, I am very optimistic that Blizzard has recognized these issues and will fix them before release; however, if we were going to write an article on how StarCraft II might eventually be, I’d just link to a picture of woodland creatures dancing around a rainbow. We can only report on how the game works now.
Units control very well for the most part. Unit pathing is accurate. Units seem to move without getting too easily obstructed and take the logical path. Units move down ramps more easily than before. Units still auto-flank in a sense; this simply means that with improved pathing comes a more powerful attack-move.
So all in all, units do what you want, except for a few. Mutalisks stack, yes, but it really isn’t comparable to the original. They overlap if you spam but usually spread out pretty easily. Mutalisk micro is very hard to do. Mutalisks are still good, and I spent quite a lot of time with them, but I really couldn’t get the hang of harassing too well with them. I tried patrol, hold, and attack, and nothing made them emulate their Brood War counterparts. That’s not to say Mutalisk micro can’t be done and won’t be solved eventually. I’m just saying in this build, I personally couldn’t get it to happen.
Zealot against Zergling micro no longer exists. One reason will be explained in the next section, but the more important issue is explained here. Six Zerglings engage my 2 Zealots. Since I don’t play Protoss in Brood War, I actually use micro in this situation. I grabbed my 2 Zealots and instructed them to attack the leading Zergling. Since the Zergling line was coming in at an angle, there should have theoretically been room for 6 Zealots around that Zergling. The first Zealot engaged, but his companion felt it a better idea to, instead of going around the other Zealot to attack the Zergling, go around the entire Zergling line and attack from behind. I don’t know why things like this occur, but it was definitely a reoccurring issue in my games.
This is one of the few remaining things that really makes this game feel like it’s running the Warcraft 3 engine instead of a StarCraft 2 engine. Every movement in the game has a tedious precursory animation. You want to withdraw an injured Zealot from Zerglings to keep it alive while the others deal damage? Well, get ready to sit there while he spins and then begins to move back, then spins, and comes back into battle. You want to maximize your Mutalisk harass? Well, get really good at guessing which SCVs are alive, and which are slowly falling apart as the nearly-2-second death animation plays.
This has made some considerable progress. At BWWI, Mutalisks move like spaceships – they would turn and then move forward. I hope Blizzard realizes that we actually hacked their game so we can play without online latency. They need to realize that hardcoding latency into the game in the form of tedious animations is a bad idea. I’m all for a pretty game, but build the unit mechanisms first and then dress them in whichever pretty hats you want afterwards. Don’t take away my unit control because you want to show my Zealots spinning before they run away.
Yes, as a preemptive response, Warcraft 3 has unit turning and also has a healthy competitive scene. But is it because of it, or in spite of it? Have you ever heard any competitive gamer, or athlete for that matter, saying the response is too fast? “The input delay on my stick is too slow, let’s play on an old LCD”. “These units respond too quickly, let’s play the OSL on BNet extra high latency”. “They’re skating too quickly, let’s dull everyone’s edges and institute a speed limit”. I understand these analogies are taking it to the Nth degree, but it’s trying to drive home the point that latency is never a good thing. Using anticipation should be an option, not a requirement.
The game has changed a little bit since I last played it. Mostly for the better, but of course I’m mostly going to point out the situations where it was for the worse.
Terran upgrades come from the appropriate addons. For example, Terran infantry upgrades come from the technology addon to the Barracks. Factory upgrades from the machine shop-esque addon and so on. This is a fine change from the Engineering Bay and Armory location in the original StarCraft, although it does seem to devalue these buildings a lot. Engineering Bays no longer float and give building armor upgrades (beyond useless in my eyes), meaning you would only ever get one now for Missile Turrets.
Missile Turrets absolutely destroy air units now. Nine Mutalisks will just about trade with three Missile Turrets, while Cannons seemed pretty bad against Mutalisks comparatively. The timing for three Hatch Mutalisks is perfect. I tried to copy my normal Brood War build as closely as possible; I ended with 900/900 with a fourth Hatchery making while my Spire finished, and the timing felt very close to what it would have been in Brood War.
Zerg buildings now spawn a lot of Broodlings when they die. I believe the amount of Broodlings is related to what kind of building, but I’m unsure. Either way, I’m left wondering what issue this is trying to solve. I don’t know how games are designed, but I would imagine the game testers would bring up issues and then the designers, balancers and art team would work to solve these issues. What issue does the Broodlings address? I suppose possibly it adds a bit of protection from being countered, since the Broodlings will clog up an intruding army while the main Zerg army returns home. Zerg is already the most mobile race as is, so it seems silly to give them defense from something that are already strong against. Either this concept is over my head, or Blizzard is trying to mold the game to their cool ideas, as opposed to the other way around.
Overlords no longer detect. I found this out the hard way when I spotted Zatic doing a one base DT build. I spread my Overlords, got ready, and then heard the fateful DT swipe and remembered Overlords don’t have detection by default. This seems like a timely area to mention that DTs give the “Our forces are under attack” ping even if they kill something in one hit. Detection is a lot more available in this version than at BWWI, which is a very nice improvement.
For a cost, Overlords can be upgraded to Overseers, which gives them detection and the ability to spread creep and plant Nydus Worms. Spreading creep seems like an interesting way to stop island or secret expansions from being taken, but since Zerg usually have the quickest army and best scouting, this again seems like another redundant ability that plays to their strengths. And then there’s the Nydus Worm. Kennigit fell in love with them in Paris, and I’m sure he would all over again at their revised form in California. No longer do Nydus Worms require creep. Simply fly an Overseer anywhere, click “Plant Nydus Worm”, and about two seconds later you have planted a Nydus Canal that can connect with multiple exits and doesn’t die unless every exit is killed (and since you inevitably already have one in your base, this will never happen). I believe I saw an Overseer plant a Nydus Worm while three Turrets were firing at it and it still completed. How are you supposed to stop this? Idra said he pulled SCVs to stop it, but they really do complete in 2 seconds so you would have to be unbelievably quick to stop it from happening around the proximity of your base. And that’s the problem, at the cost of sacrificing one Overseer, a Zerg gets to move as many of his units as he wants directly into your base. Against Haji I was relentless, I would simply plant a Nydus Worm, run in and kill his Command Center and then do it again. All it takes is a two second distraction and you’ve lost your main. Hell, plant four Nydus Worms simultaneously around his base. One will inevitably live and there you go. And we’re not talking late game maneuvers here, Overseers are Lair tech and require no research to drop the Nydus Worm. I’m sure this will be addressed but I wrote this much to emphasize how ridiculous it is that these are even in the game. Like seriously, no one ever stopped and said “Hmmm, maybe this is impossible to stop?” I actually hope it is in the game so I can get A+ with Zerg.
The Nydus Worm still seems to be incredibly powerful...perhaps too powerful in good hands. Time and balance will tell
Sunken Colonies can uproot, walk, and reroot. I found this out when I offensive Sunkened a Zerg’s main (a la 2 Hatch against 1 Hatch Lair ZvZ in Brood War) and he simply uprooted his Sunken and moved it in range of my morphing one. I was not impressed.
There’s a few global game mechanics that need to be addressed, and obviously I will start with the most pressing: gas mechanics. Unlike the rage I heard from other people talking about it, I was really willing to give this a shot. For anyone who doesn’t know, every base in the maps we played on had two geysers. Although strange in itself, this wasn’t the issue. After every 300 gas, a geyser will shut down for 30 seconds. Your workers will stay near the geyser, idle, until it comes back online, at which point they will resume mining. Obviously it’s one of Blizzard’s efforts to put macro back into the game. I think it could provide interesting timings of when to pull workers, when to get your second gas, and the like. Even though it’s pretty annoying and makes no sense from a lore standpoint, I’m willing to give it a shot!
Golden minerals mine at twice the rate. This was only a problem in ZvP (as addressed later) and a few times when it took away your choice of giving up map control for awhile (since you would be forfeiting two bases, essentially, instead of one). I think the problems with this mechanic can be fixed with better map design and a more solid understanding of game flow. I like golden minerals!
Workers come out of the town halls mining automatically. I’m willing to give this a shot. I did notice this made my macro incredible, I’d always be surprised when my main ran dry and I had nearly 50 workers there.
Ah MBS. First off, I’m pro MBS and I’m not even going to get into it here. It greatly simplifies macro but I believe there is a place for it in StarCraft 2, and I’ll leave it at that for now.
This section will be really quick. The point is, people tried to play StarCraft II like Brood War, and of course that is not going to work. The Zatic build (3 Marauder and 5 Marine rush) was incredibly hard to stop as both Protoss and Terran, although I only played people copying the build, not the inventor himself.
Protoss seem doomed, which was a very nice change of pace (Despite intrigue beating me in his first game of SC2 ever with Dark Templar and going “Wow Protoss is easy”). If Protoss can live past the Zatic build they have a good chance of beating Terran, but that is really easier said than done. Their main problems, however, stem from Zerg. Because Zealots prefer to run than fight, 2 Gate is not really viable. Protoss can still comfortably fast expand; however, StarCraft 2 has two new variables not present in Brood War that complicate the situation. First, there is no counter to Mutalisks. Archons suck, Psionic Storm sucks, and there are no Corsairs. Stalkers do surprisingly well, but Mutalisks are too mobile for pure Stalkers to defend effectively. The main problem, however, are golden minerals (which let workers mine them at double the rate of normal minerals). In Brood War the game has evolved into Protoss FE’ing, and Zerg responding with three bases. Well in StarCraft II, Zerg still take three bases, but they mine at the rate of four bases, since their third one will inevitably be a golden mineral base. It’s an issue that has many solutions, ranging from better map design to better Protoss openings, but it seemed in California no one really had the answer, aside from proxy 9/9 Gates -_-.
Zerg against Terran is interesting as well, but also leaves Terran doomed. Imagine Brood War: Terran does 1 Barracks FE, while Zerg responds with 3 Hatch Mutalisks and taking a third base. Now try to peel this sense of game flow and tape it onto StarCraft 2. What’s that you say? No Medics? Right. So as a result, Terran goes 1 Barracks FE, then Bunkers up praying to stay alive until he gets to Starport and gets a Medivac (Medic + Dropship) out. Now he can begin harassing, since he’s given up map control for so long he surely cannot content with Zerg’s ground army, and since there are no Scourge, drop harassment is pretty good against Zerg. Unfortunately, mass Hydralisks are also very strong against Terran infantry (even with multiple Medivacs), leaving Terran feeling pretty scared to even attempt a drop. Any sort of early game push (instead of FE) is absolutely crushed by mass Zerglings, since Terran no longer have tier one Medics or Firebats. There is a Factory unit (Helion) that combines the Vulture and Firebat, which NeoIllusions said was good against many Zerglings, but I never faced an early game Marine/Helion push.
Hooray, at this point in time Zerg are the best race.
Zatic - Matchup Analysis
At Blizzcon I played random almost exclusively to get to know as much SC2 as possible. I will try to cover strong strategies and builds I found "standard" at Blizzcon for every matchup - as much as a build can be standard after 2 days of beta play.
Unfortunately the 20 minute cap on games prevented any decent game to really go into the late game. Sure you could mass any late game unit against pubbies but I can't write about strong late game play here apart from speculation.
Disclaimer: I will talk a lot about balance and strong unit combinations. Both may have been already changed in new builds. Also these are just my own observations, you will see that others that were at Blizzcon have different opinions.
Rushes seem non-existent. The main reason for that is that workers have become fierce melee units. Even Drones can fend of a 2 gate easily until there are enough Zerglings. Any 4,5,6-pool rush didn't seem nearly as effective as in Broodwar.
I didn't find fast expanding viable either, except for Zerg. Any fast expo against Zerg is quickly overrun by 3 hatch pure ling or ling/roach. Some FE variations might have been doable, but 1 base tech was definitely the most common strategy a Blizzcon.
Before I start, what is the infamous "Zatic build"?
+ Show Spoiler +
I actually tried this build in my very last games at BWWI in Paris and found it very strong back then. Turns out it was still a serious punch at Blizzcon.
9 Supply at Choke
10/11 Raxx at Choke, place carefully (addon needs to fit)
1 Marine, kill Scout
Supply either completing wall, or:
@50 Gas, build tech lab addon completing Wall
Take 1 SCV off gas
Reactor addon as soon as 2nd raxx finishes
Take 1 SCV off gas
Constant Marauders from 1st Raxx, constant Marines from 2nd. Take SCV off gas when it shuts down. With 3 Marauders, 5 Marines and 2/3 SCV, go. Rallye Marine/Marauder or save for CC.
I won the first couple of games using it so people started copying the build to rush through the community tournament (Hello Gaetele :-). That's probably where all the hype came from. While it is a viable build it is not as notorious as its reputation :-)
I'll do the easiest part first, because I don't think there has been much of a change to ZvZ in terms of gameplay. Admittedly ZvZ is also what I played the least. However, from what I experienced, the only thing hat really changed is that it is not 1 base Zerglings only into Muta/Scourge but 1 base Zergling only into Zergling/Roaches. I tried Hydras in one game but they got overrun by Zerglings. As written in the intro, early pool rushes aren't viable either. It basically still comes down to micro.
2 gate just doesn't work against 1 Gate Core in SC2. It doesn't matter that you can't block your ramp anymore, pure Zealots just can't win against Zealot/Stalker/Probes. That leaves 1 Gate Core as the only real PvP build. And then? There are no Reavers, and Colossi suck hard, as do Templar. What PvP came down to was just massing and massing Stalkers, Zealots and DT, a-moving and trying to snipe the tiny observers of your Protoss opponent.
I had a 20 minute game with LR that was basically big army clashes without anyone being able to do real damage. With MBS and thus perfect macro you always had your next army ready at home when you lost a battle so the winner of the battle couldn't drive home his advantage.
The only times I felt I really had the upper hand for a moment was when I managed to snipe enemy observers and still had a couple of DT left in my army.
Unfortunately I never tried the Nullifier - according to Plexa it is actually good but I never built one. Also Templar might actually be dangerous if you don't use them with your BW muscle memory but abuse smartcasting to cover the entire enemy army in a storm carpet.
The previous mirror matchups got pretty boring after 2 days - not so TvT! The beauty of TvT is that there are many viable builds and it plays rather different from BW TvT.
First of all, there is of course the Zatic build. It is deadly to any 1 raxx Fact build as it hits just when there is 1 Tank but no siege mode. Marauders blast away a Wallin in seconds and a Tank dies to 1 volley. You need Marauders yourself and a bunker to fend it off.
You can follow up a Marine/Marauder build with Medivacs, however, that works only right with the 1st Medivac. After that TvT is about tech advantage, and that means air advantage. What I found interesting is how strong air builds are. Banshee/Viking is an incredibly strong combination as it gives complete map control. Turrets are very strong for air defense but you can't move out with ground against Banshee/Viking until you have Thors, which is Terran's highest tech.
On the ground sieged tanks still vaporize anything in range. However, due to the strong air units and the lack of tier 2 anti-air, the standard TvT became a pure air-battle. I watched a 20 minute dog fight between
It didn't come to it, but I guess Battlecruisers are still the weapon of choice in late game TvT. They have Valkyrie rockets as an upgrade so I guess they clean up with any previous air builds and Yamato should deal with Thors.
Unlike in its predecessor, Starcraft 2 TvT is suprisingly interesting
Read Chills section: 100% true. 3 hatch muta is just so deadly against Protoss, because Protoss lacks decent anti-air. The Phoenix is basically a Corsair that doesn't do splash. I don't know what this unit is supposed to do, it is just useless. All Protoss can do is sit at home behind cannons and mass Stalkers. At least this largely prevents Nydus worms.
Pure Stalkers still have it hard against mass Muta/ling and really hard against Muta/Ling/Baneling. Fast expanding didn't work either on the maps we played because you would need way to many cannons to prevent a Zergling/Roach runby. Roach runby is nasty, because then you have an invincible unit in your base and you have only cannons. GG.
When you somehow have an advantage PvZ, mass Stalkers is really all you need. You can mix in Zealots, but I didn't find them usefull at all, especially when there are banelings. Colossi colosally suck, as shown in any gameplay video from Blizzcon. They are by far the worst unit in the game, even worse than the Phoenix. The other Protoss air units are hopeless against Zerg too.
A unit mix I did not try but imagine slightly more effective would be mixing DT in and shooting down Zerg's Overseers with your Stalkers. However doing that might be in vain if the DT just die along with the Zealots to Baneling splash.
Banelings are incredibly powerful especially when paired with other units like the roach
PvT was really fun and seems balanced. It is very similar to BW PvT. DT still serve their role, and Stalkers/Immortal and to a lesser extend Zealots are your army choice. For Terran, Biomech is very strong in the midgame as it negates the Immortal's shields. Versus pure Stalkers pure Tank/Helion works well although I think I used Helions more to block the Stalkers from getting in range rather than to actually do damage.
Early Marine/Marauders are very dangerous but can be deflected with Stalkers / Probes when it comes to it. DT are as good as ever - let one in your undetecting base and you are fucked. The tech is slower though, so pure DT rush is very risky and gets raped by early Marine/Marauder.
TvP may be a matchup where fast expanding could work. I never tried it against someone good though, but I would imagine that SCV/bunker/Marine/marauder can hold off Protoss' early attacks and forge first may work against Marine/Marauder openings, but that is pure speculation.
In the end I was under the impression that Bio/Tank vs Stalker/Immortal is the standard PvT play. A switch to either Carrier or Battlecruiser gets easily killed by the other's air-to-air units (Viking/Warpray). I didn't find the Nighthawk very useful except for detection. They can cast spider mines for 50 energy but that does not seem worth it at all.
Oh my god. TvZ has become so weird. There are so many changes from BW TvZ. Firstly, you can perfectly wall on every map, so T is very safe from the beginning. Zerg on the other hand can defend against any pre-Medivac attack with pure Zergling. Even against the Helions which I found pretty useless. This led to Medivac/Marine being the primary Terran units. Which makes Terran incredibly mobile against Zerg. From what I can tell Medivac harass into either Viking/Banshee or expansion quickly became the standard. Zerg still can go Muta which is very effective against the constant Medivac drops but is easily defended against with Turrets and I don't know how well Muta do against combined Medivac/Viking/Banshee. Also, early Viking/Banshee force the Zerg to build Hydra or they will lose too many Overlords before the Spire finishes.
Of course, there is the all-killing Nydus worm, but I actually think with an aggressive 1 base build you can keep the Zerg occupied enough that he simply needs his units at home. But maybe I played too many gm people who don't Nydus-abuse :-)
And also, Terran has an insanely effective tactic as well: Nuking. That's right, nukes are very much viable against Zerg. Nukes are tier 2 tech, which means you get them just as fast as Zerg gets detection. But the real tricky part is that there is no "Nuclear launch detected" anymore. It just says "Your base is under attack". Now imagine what that means with Medivac drops being the standard Terran attack. You have to have an Overseer (50/50) ready at every possible nuke point plus the forces to kill a Marine/Medivac drop and then kill the ghost in time - provided you even noticed the still tiny red dot. Now have fun dealing with more than one simultaneous drop or let's say Vikings shooting down your overseers.
I got nuked 2 times by Haji and LR simply because I didn't notice the nuke at all. "Your base is under attack" - Ah, Medivac drop, send Hydra, deal with it ... Boooooooooom.
After Blizzcon I really regretted that it was over and that I can't try more strategies. I still think most of us went into SC2 gameplay with a BW mindset. Me completely not using smart casting and thus writing off Templars is one example.
Also, to find the strongest, most imbalanced strategies you would really need to try radical things. For example, does the Nighthawk targeting drones' damage amplifier stack? Helion/mass nighthawk FTW. This kind of totally absurd play didn't even come to my mind at Blizzcon. I guess that is left for the beta.
I don't think any race is really overpowered at the moment. You can make a case for Zerg with their strong anti-air and AoE dealing Ultralisks and the Z>>P imbalance. But the feeling that Zerg is strong might just come from many of us at Blizzcon being Zerg players in BW too. Protoss seem underpowered in the late game with their lack of decent tier 3 units but again that has not been tested in a good game so far.
* I am still sure it was Tuna and Neo, but both deny.
SpiralArchitect - Game and Unit Analysis
StarCraft 2 is one of the most anticipated e-Sports of all time and the fans are merciless. As I approached StarCraft 2 I tried to go in with an open mind and forget about Brood War as much as humanly possible. What I found was that I enjoyed the game I was playing despite the parts of the game I disagree with. I have always wanted a game that was nothing like Brood War for StarCraft 2, of course the units and settings are familiar, but there is little resemblance in gameplay to me.
StarCraft 2: Cracks in the Foundation
The first thing I noticed was the lack of a competitive atmosphere when playing StarCraft 2. Of course a pro feels the tension on stage but it doesn’t feel as intense to me. I have said before that MBS is not a problem because it is not. The main problem with StarCraft 2 in the Blizzcon build was the little things which took out the majority of the work which directly affects the competitive nature of StarCraft. Probes politely move out of the way for each other when told to move to a position, unless on hold position a Zealot block will move for any unit you tell to pass it. All of those things make it easy to concentrate on the obvious aspects of the game, macro and micro. Base management is much easier compared to Brood War; I really was disappointed by this. I think there are faults in MBS for StarCraft 2 but overall it is not the biggest problem at this point and the developers can put their efforts to use in better ways than MBS.
It is hard to speak about balance at this point since of course there are going to be huge changes between now and the release; we aren’t even at beta yet. But there are a few things which I did notice about the mechanics of each race which will be very troublesome. Zealots are still viable mid game but they are much less effective against Zerglings by themselves, microing your Zealots could actually cause you to lose more than just A-Moving into his army. Stalkers in mass are actually pretty overpowered to a noob but in the hands of pro gamers they are deadly and if they remain the way they are I could see an imbalance coming in there.
The Zerg are really underequipped when it comes to teching early game compared to StarCraft which is not necessarily bad, fast Roaches were very effective. I found that Zerglings were more powerful than I expected especially with the Baneling upgrade. Banelings are overpowered and will be nerfed before release, you heard it here. The Nydus Worm is unnecessary and I could really see it become the nuke/Scout unit of Sc2 on the pro level.
Terrans have the marauder. I hardly need to say more, the Marauder is a very impressive unit with lot versatility in any matchup. They are overpowered as of right now when in the hands of a competent player or when abused (looking at you zatic!) in a good build. Other than that I really found the Terran to me a fairly balanced race compared to the other three.
What really irks me is the unavoidable advances in technology which Blizzard cant ignore. Multiple Building Select, mass unit select, auto-mine; they all come together to drag down the basic quality of the game itself. I constantly found myself spamming hotkeys just to keep myself busy, microing with one hand, tears streaming down my face. Actually it wasn't quite that bad as I enjoyed it as a stand alone game. But as a sister or sequel to Brood War it doesn't quite match up; but hell I don't think any game ever will.
The Swarm has the most potential in my opinion, though the place they are at right now is not ideal. They have a long way to go before being ready to wow the pants off of your Grandma but I was so impressed with their mechanics and unit mix that I came away with an even higher opinion of Zerg in general. Zerglings are still a full game unit which I was very happy about; Zerglings are by far one of my favorite units due to their versatility. As I said though they are overpowered when upgraded to Banelings this will need to be fixed.
I was very disappointed with Mutalisks and Lurkers. Neither seemed to find a vital role like they did in Brood War, I was expecting them to fill different positions in the Zerg army but I couldn’t really find a comfortable one. Mutalisk micro is not existent in the old way of thinking but there is room for improvement with them and I definitely think they belong in the final build of the game. Lurkers on the other hand may play a less dominant role against Terran and Protoss alike. I do think they will make the final cut but in the end I am not sure if they should go through in the state they are right now. Marines are much more resilient to Lurkers and with the Medivacs necessary in a bio situation marines can be easily lifted to safety.
The biggest disadvantage to the Zerg is MBS, its much more damaging to them than Protoss and Terran. The Zerg style of macro is probably the least benefited by MBS in my opinion since Protoss and Terran would be selecting 10+ buildings in the mid game compared to Zergs 4-5. MBS is much less necessary for the Zerg in this build and most likely it will stay that way. This was the scariest imbalance that I noticed in the Zerg, but at the same time it isn’t something that is going to really hold them back too much.
I have never been a big fan of Terran so I really found them to be much the same as I do in StarCraft, bland and boring. Their tech tree is very similar to the old one and I kept finding myself trying to go M&M or tank/vult timing push and completely ignore any further tech. Marines play a very different role now as viable early game units against Protoss and a good opening to mech against Zerg. They are a lot like Zerglings in the respect that they will perform an all game role in StarCraft 2, at least I think so. Marauders are sweet, they need balancing but I really do love them and Reapers are too much fun. They will be the backbone of early game harass against any type of target as they are even more mobile than the Stalker.
Mech is much more like a standard late game strategy than an early game opening now; I really don’t know how to feel about it. Tanks are useful for support but they don’t seem to be quite as effective in the role I was assuming they would take. They need to support the army rather than be supported by anti-air/mines. They cannot function as the head unit of an army like they used to but they will still be useful. Thors are completely useless in any scenario, at least everyone that I used them in. They are cumbersome and constantly get caught on themselves when turning or something, probably a balance mechanic but nonetheless I really didn’t think they were viable. I failed to make even one of the new vulture units because I care that little about both the former and the latter.
BCs are still as fun as ever and likely to make more appearances in pro gaming. They are pretty powerful just like in StarCraft but they played a very good harass role as well since most Protoss and Zerg anti-air units were not really that fit to handle them without some kind of ground support. I heard about zatics defensive nukes and decided that my next game against some noob I would just nuke the hell of out of 'em. Well I did and I actually found that nukes might play a real role in StarCraft 2 other than humiliating a noob. They are much stealthier without an onscreen warning and the audio warning only says “We are under attack”. They also do a ridiculous amount of damage against buildings and Ghosts are inexpensive and a better unit than before.
Protoss are suffering from a bad case of being way too old compared to Zerg. I found them to be a lot like they were before aside from the new Zealot/Stalker combination which may become the standard in any matchup. I think that Protoss has been under development for too long, the changes in Zerg and Terran left the Protoss behind mechanics wise. MBS is so advantageous to Protoss it is a joke, macro style players will be ridiculously happy with the ability to put all 30 gateways on one hotkey. But the main problem I found in Protoss was the “dreamer” aspect is somewhat gone, they are so macro intensive that they don’t feel as volatile as they were.
Zealots will be taking a back seat to Stalkers in the final build. They are not as powerful as before and I really couldn’t find a good strategy to focus around an early game Zealot rush. Well I was able to figure out a decent vTerran rush but other than that I found it more effective to just ride it out into Stalkers before moving out. Stalkers are as powerful as Dragoons would be with blink and good mechanics. They suffered from terrible mechanics in Brood War and now they are back with a vengeance. This unit will play a huge role in any StarCraft 2 game professional or not.
Now for my least favorite part of Protoss, the Capital ships. The Mothership is a noob bashing tool for sure; I cannot imagine a scenario where this unit will become viable in a competitive scenario. Carriers take the EZ mode role that they have always had since there is hardly any micro involved besides assuring their interceptors don’t run out. Archons are also a big problem for me (though they don’t walk anymore, thank god) they seem almost overpowered for the price. I was able to defeat a swarm of BCs with just four Archons on open ground, they do so much damage that by the time you notice their attack your first unit is already half dead.
As a stand-alone game, I love StarCraft 2 and that is all I am going to look at it as from now on. A long time ago I decided this game could never be as good as Brood War. But sometimes I just want to believe in something that I know is not very likely, like Savior making a return to the winners podium, or Boxer clutching a golden mouse. For a brief moment this game lived up to the hype in my head, but it was a very brief moment. I am now looking forward to seeing what it will become in the next year or so, I wonder often if Blizzard will address some of these very serious issues before the release.
Plexa - Game and Unit Analysis
intrigue - Game Mechanics and Terran Analysis
I played most of my StarCraft 2 games as Terran, hoping to be able to give a more specialized report from one race's point of view. We'll start with an overview:
My first impression of the game was that it looked great. The colors are vibrant and engaging, the map details rich, and the interface modernized yet still familiar. I was annoyed by the bizarre hotkeys, but then again I suppose 't' for storm isn't exactly intuitive either.
Looks exactly as you'd imagine, really an upgraded version of their Brood War ancestors. Their buildings are very recognizable, the warp-in animation pretty awesome, and pylons have this cute little spin to them. Zealots along with most other units look SO badass, I love it so much! Many little new details add to the game without being overdone, and I totally approve. However, my gripe is with the look of the stalker and dark templar - they look really just clumsy and lame.
I am definitely not a fan. Yes I'm racist, everything just looks the same: I'd find myself scanning a zerg's main and having no idea what I was seeing aside from the pool. Is that an overlord or a queen? Is that a spire or a sunken? It doesn't help that the creep has this strange artificial reflectiveness and is the same color as the buildings. Zerglings look like cockroaches, lurkers like stupid crabs, blah blah it's just very underwhelming.
I like! Like protoss, everything is recognizable and overhauled. The initial complaints from earlier gameplay videos still hold ground though: terran just looks a bit off when everything is so damn crisp and polished. Terran in cinematics and popular imagination is rugged, with haphazardly built buildings that are prone to randomly explode. It's not bad as it is now, but could definitely be improved.
MBS and Unlimited Unit Selection
I'm just going to say it: I don't mind MBS. At least for terran, it is a convenience and does not convey the type of advantage you'd imagine because different buildings (even different barracks, depending on the addon) are used to produce completely different sets of units. If you're not aware of how MBS works now, to make four marines from 2 barracks with addons (capable of making 4 marines at once) both hotkeyed to 3 you'd have to press 3mmmm, not that large a leap from 3mm4mm. Transposed to lategame where you have 4 barracks with reactor addons (capable of making 8 marines at once), instead of 3m4m5m6m7m8m9m0m you will be pressing 3mmmmmmmm. By my own arbitrary standard as a ~200 apm player, I find these keystrokes to be 'hard enough,' which you'll just have to take my word for until the beta is out. I am aware that this will still lower the skill ceiling on macro, but I really believe the mental aspect of remembering to macro is the limiting factor for most players anyway. I should qualify my statement in saying that I believe this will damage high-level and professional play.
The complex part of the MBS issue is that it affects each race very differently, making it hard to make a definitive overall judgment. MBS is annoying for zerg because of issues with larva, while for protoss... LOL it is still pretty easy. Again, I am not pro-MBS, just that I am now not as anti-MBS after having experienced it.
As for unlimited unit selection for large-scale battles, the advantage is mainly for movement across maps. It's not optimal to rely on for the actual micro in battles, since again as Terran the micro is very mouse heavy and needs multiple hotkeys for different types of units anyway.
Intrigue: "LOL PROTOSS"
Automining HAS to go. It's completely unacceptable to have such a level of automation on only workers - either do it for every unit or don't do it at all. I do not consider auto-attack for rallied units true automation; it is a double edged sword because while it is (only) useful for long-lasting or already won battles, you may be sending a few units at a time to follow random enemies across the map, get lost, and/or die. On the other hand, every single probe adds to your economy. The automine equivalent for military units is if they automatically micro themselves, going around killing expansions whenever your opponents make one.
It seems artificial and really an unnecessary way to simplify the game. This is the feature in this current build of SC2 that I feel the most strongly about, and although I am sure most of TL agrees with me I'm going to explain it anyway. Late game, say you have 4 expansions as terran. How do you macro? 0ssss, and you are done. No more idle workers so that multitask is rewarded, no more idle command centers. Ridiculous.
The new gas mechanic is gross. Chill has a rather open mind about it, but again I find it forced. If automine is removed, this stupid attempt to make macro harder (ironically after simplifying it) can be removed. How is having a geyser shut down every few minutes while making an extremely annoying beeping interesting or beneficial at all? In the late game, when there are 6-8 gasses mining and 60+ scvs mining, why would anyone be bothered to move 3 scvs at the shutdown geyser to minerals? There is little advantage to be gained from mastering this mechanic, and thus little potential to add to the game beyond annoying players.
To address those that find manual mining tedious: I find manual mining necessary because proficiency at this skill alone can create a huge skill gradient. I don't find another explanation necessary, nor I am well versed enough in the argument on this topic to elaborate.
Gameplay & Strategy
This section will be very Terran-centric, as 90% of my games played were as T. This disclaimer should be obvious but here we go anyway: given the early build of the game and my short experience with it, the following is for you guys to get an idea of how the game plays out now instead of any form of absolute guide. Also consider that I played mainly against other TL.net members, so the strategies employed may be too geared to those from Brood War.
Terran vs Protoss
Initially I experimented with the familiar build orders from Brood War, and quickly gave up. The siege tank and its siege research are simply too far up the tech tree to be safe, at least without sitting in your main for a while, giving up map control and harassment, and still getting a relatively late expansion.
Instead, these openings seem viable early game/midgame:
- the zatic build. A few marines and marauders are very capable of pushing back the initial units of the protoss, even just rolling them over should the P skimp on units. I found that I could tech to marauder without a wall even when the protoss opened zealot first, as your first one comes out as the zealot reaches your base.
- marine/medivac, transitioned from the zatic build or just opened with a reactor addon (allows for building of 2 marines at a time). This build seems to force your hand - either you have to try to break the protoss right away with it or harass like crazy to buy time until you can establish a defense and get an expansion up.
- factory/starport openings, transitioned from a wallin + bunker or the zatic build. With a factory, a fast hellion runby can be deadly with their weapons upgrade that massacres probes. Fast banshees from the starport completely destroy a fast protoss tech build such as a dt rush, as stalkers are impossibly poor against them.
These builds allowed me to get enough siege tanks to safely take my expansion. Notice that there is no true fast expansion build listed - even with bunkers at your natural, the mobility of stalkers to blink up into your main or raw power of midgame protoss ground against your fragile expansion is simply too much of a threat to be worth it. Instead, terran is forced to take initiative to be able to get into macro mode. This is a refreshing change in early game dynamics for TvP. As for lategame, the few games I played that reached true lategame were large-scale slow marine/medivac pushes with tanks (which are insanely powerful now) in familiar TvP style, though with ridiculous storm dodging and drop harass. I was not able to explore as many unit combinations at this stage in the game simply from lack of time.
Terran vs Zerg
Again, I started with standard Brood War openings. 1rax cc failed miserably by virtue of lings for some reason raping marines now. Standard unit heavy openings worked pretty well - for example, I managed to pull off an 8rax bunker rush and some limited form of 2rax marine aggression. Some of these transitioned to an expansion well, such as the 2rax marine. However, these didn't seem optimal compared to the openings I ended up favoring:
- a modified zatic build, which I will call the intrigue build LOL. I used a higher number of marines and only 1-2 marauders along with 3 or so scvs, going for a delayed bunker rush timing off of 2rax - one with a tech lab, one with a reactor core. This force is capable of easily taking down a sunken and is very easily microed against lings. It transitions cleanly into an expansion, better than a 2rax marine opening (even with reactor cores) because even one or two marauders greatly greatly increases the ability to micro due to the slowing effect of the grenade launcher. Even then, it's difficult to survive without bunkers. Medivac tech is delayed for a quicker expo.
- fast factory to hellion runby - sooooo good against lings and drones. Good to expand with, but a lot of bunkers are still necessary. Starport openings flopped for me because banshees come too late, or at least it seems more favorable to get a medivac for its dual purpose if you are looking to harass.
Notice that I was really scared of getting my expo broken. 3hatch ling and 3hatch hydra seems much stronger than it was before, probably due to improved AI - in one game I played, I had 2-3 groups of marine/medivac (with stim and armor upgrades!) on a ramp with 2 bunkers and several marauders only to get WIPED in one big mass ling attack. Towards the end of BlizzCon I realized that a solution to this threat would be to wall off with depots since perfect blocks are easy, and that depots can be lowered.
Zerg units now move 30% or so faster on the creep, so my initial SCV scout annoyingly died very quickly to 50apm randoms attack moving their lings. On the other hand, muta micro is not yet perfected along with the fact that turrets now are reaaallllyy good. The timings are quite similar to in Brood War, and late game played out pretty similarly to the TvZ we are familiar with - marine/medivac tank nighthawk (flying detector) pushes against lurker/ling/hydra. I'm not quite sure how zerg can handle the constant drops though, since scourge have been taken out. In big battles, this fact is somewhat compensated for because nighthawks are as fragile as paper, even weaker than their predecessor the science vessel. Even with a full army, I had to be extremely paranoid of a nydus worm popping up in my main at all times.
The maps we played on at Blizzcon and WWI had very wide ramps. Obviously this is map design dependant but the test maps required a fair amount of attention to block.
Terran vs Terran
This matchup was fucking fun. I got to try out various openings and never really came up with one that was obviously better than the rest.
- the zatic build (once again!) is a great opening, the parallel of a 3marine 1vulture push in Brood War TvT. Expanding with it seems very reckless though, because of some of the other viable units listed below.
- reaper harass. I had this amazing idea to jump cliffs and pepper my opponents' mineral lines with reaper mines, which are invincible and blow up after about 3 seconds. The splash isn't huge but is enough of a threat to force a defensive response. As a bonus, mines cost energy instead of having a limited number per reaper.
- VIKINGS. Vikings are basically goliaths and wraiths rolled into one, and give good firepower with mobility. I ended up running into a lot of viking vs viking battles.
- thors. They actually build much faster than you'd expect, and just stomp around blowing shit up in the air and the ground. They can be accompanied by a fanclub of scvs just repairing it, even (correct me on this) rebuilding them on the spot should the thor be destroyed.
Mirrors are always difficult to figure out, so I have much less to say about this matchup besides just throwing out units that work. It seems that there will be more units that are viable than in Brood War's TvT, but of course it's too difficult to predict.
Terran is just extremely mobile now, a large change from the way it used to be. I felt flexible early game, not running into any obviously overpowered strategies or forced modes of play. The mineral intake of 5 each SCV return takes some getting used to but by the end of the convention I had a very streamlined build up to about almost 50 supply in TvZ without any glaring problems.
Some miscellaneous things: it's interesting how big of an effect there is when medivacs cannot heal each other. There are no longer medic blocks or infinitely lasting m&m groups because of such a simple change. Other micro mechanics have been changed too, partially because of how turning animations introduce an unnecessary latency. Patrol does not work because of this wait, so for the most part I was using hold position to control my units. Early game, worker attack AI is amazing and nullifies a lot of mineral line harassment. Finally, nukes are fast and hard to detect, proving quite effective and definitely an option in this game.
The game is without doubt very fun, and the pacing is fine. In terms of competitive play, it is foolish to declare this early (as even many posters here have no shame doing) that StarCraft 2 is going to be 'just like WarCraft' or 'easy.' I found the scope and niche of each unit to be reasonable, the possible strategies interesting, the mechanics still challenging - and this is only the alpha build! I see much promise in this game.
NeoIllusions - Zerg Analysis
[Blizzcon] Impressions of StarCraft II and Zerg
Disclaimer: Hurrah for BlizzCon #2. The game has changed a good deal since last year, however it still has the makings of a good RTS by Blizzard. But overall, when reading/discussing StarCraft II, people should have an open mind. WarCraft III’s gameplay is nothing like the previous two titles of the series, and the same goes for Diablo III. I realize that there are a lot of purists on TeamLiquid.net, and that they want only the best for StarCraft II, but do realize this is StarCraft II, not StarCraft with Enchanced Gaming Engine and New Maps. Yes, StarCraft became what it is today with a bit of luck, I completely agree. But Blizzard isn’t going to drag it down the crapper as so many pessimists claim.
Lastly, some statistical data I describe may be wrong as I am doing this review completely from memory. Please feel free to call me a noob and correct my blunders!
Zerg – Overcome All
The Zerg in StarCraft II are still as fast paced as they are in Brood War. They are a very fluid and mobile race, regardless of unit mix or tech tier. What I personally enjoy about playing Zerg is the ability quickly mass produce units, very fitting of the race’s swarm mentality. This segment will go over my thoughts on the Zerg units, buildings, the three matchups and some of the games I played at BlizzCon.
Zergling: From Spawning Pool
The Zergling is still the staple ground melee units in SC2. At 50 minerals a pop, you get two Lings per purchase. The upgrades also remain the same; you have a speed upgrade at Hatchery tech and adrenal upgrade at the Hive. The single biggest difference about Zerglings in SC2 most definitely is the control. Thanks to a vastly improved engine, there is definitely something smarter about these beasts. The pathing is impressive, Zerglings no longer move en masse in a single file line. Surrounds are almost automatic. In ZvP, I predict Zealot micro to be far more difficult for Protoss against Lings with their fast surround mechanism. Also, unless this is tweaked down, fancy worker micro to keep a worker alive in a Zerg base for the first 3-4 minutes of the game is near impossible: Zerglings are noticeably faster than any of the three workers, on or off Zerg creep. Lings ensure hits land every three to five steps, regardless of any maneuvers the worker may attempt.
Hydralisk: From Hydralisk Den
What I consider the bread and butter of the Zerg swarm, the Hydralisks return much like they were in SC1. Costing 2 upkeep instead of 1, Hydralisks are presented as Zerg’s tier 1 ranged units. They may be augmented with only one upgrade this time, a speed upgrade, while range is set and static throughout the game. I had a tendency of going Hydras <=> Lurks in a lot of my games. Despite having the same HP, Hydras have a much bulkier feel to them, though it might be because they are simply larger on the screen in SC2.
Roach: From Roach Warren
The first of six new Zerg units, the Roach is like a hybrid Zergling/Hydralisk. Albeit slow moving compared to its zerg cousins, the ranged, ground-attack-only Roach has the ability to tear through biological units with ease. I say it is capable of shredding biological units because it literally has an added attack bonus (+5, iirc) against them. Roaches are also mini-tanks at Tier 1 thanks to their accelerated healing. Roaches boast one of the fastest natural HP regeneration rates in the game (second probably to Medivac healing) and they also have a Hive upgrade at the Roach Warren that improves their HP regeneration even more (putting it almost on par with Medivac healing).
Overlord: From Hatcheries
Still Zerg’s unique way of creating more upkeep, the unit has nevertheless seen quite a few changes. The biggest by far is that Overlords are no longer detectors. (cue hundreds of Zerg players at BlizzCon crying, “wtf is this man, why can’t I see those Dark Templars?!”) The detector trait has been moved to the Overseer, which is a morphological upgrade to Overlords. At Tier 2, both Overlords and Overseers gain the ability to spew creep - there are many theorycraft possibilities for this one, trust me. Overlords retain their speed upgrade, but the sight range upgrade has been removed. Also, as far as I can remember, you cannot load units into Overlords anymore, no matter how hard I tried right clicking.
Overseer: Morphed from Overlords at Tier 2
The Overseer provides +10 upkeep each, as opposed to +8 for each Overlord; so essentially, you get +2 upkeep for each Overseer you morph. Detection is granted to the mighty Overseer by default but one thing I did notice was that it was able to detect further when it wasn’t moving as opposed to when it was following my army. This could make it worthwhile to not just have a few Overseers follow your army but to place them at strategic high ground and cliffs for static detection across the map.
Overseers also came with a Spawn Changeling ability, which as far as I could tell, was just another Hallucination like spell. The most interesting thing about the Overseer now is its ability to summon the Nydus Worm, sans creep. I came to BlizzCon with the idea that I would need one Overlord to spew the creep and another Overseer to summon the Nydus Worm, but nay, just one Overseer will do.
Baneling: From Baneling Nest, morphed from Zergling
By far my favorite unit from SCII, the Baneling is nothing new conceptually. It functions just like a Scourge does in SC but on the ground. With Banelings, you can target a unit and deal splash damage to every enemy unit in the vicinity (hello unsuspecting rally point). Ever wish you could see more vulture mines blowing up probes? Now you can! Banelings against a mineral line are just devastating. They can also be used to target buildings and have a +25 damage bonus when kamikazed into them. Finally, at Hive tech, you can augment Banelings with a speed upgrade. Late game, Banelings moving at the same speed as your Cracklings is just joyous fun.
Lurker: From Deep Warren, Morphed from Hydralisk
Ironically, as opposed to SC2 Hydralisks which look bulkier than their SC1 counterpart, the new Lurkers appear smaller and slightly more agile than Lurks from SC1. Nothing really new here: burrow, splash, rip apart Marines and Zealots.
Infestor: From Infestation Pit
I made many attempts to use Infestors at Tier 2 but most of them ended up very unfruitful. I attribute it mostly to my lack of understanding of the unit since I read Plexa was able to boast better results. Replacing the aerial Queen, Infestors are Zerg’s main Lair spellcasting unit. They come equipped with three spells: Fungal Infestation, Summon Infested Terrans and Neural Parasite.
Fungal Infestation functions much like a Terran Irradiate. Upon killing the unit, Fungal Infestation causes considerable splash damage to surrounding units; quite effective against a clump of low HP units like Zerglings or Marines.
Summon Infested Terran does exactly that, it summons 10 infested Terrans per casting. I used this spell for the first time trying to break a Tank siege on my nat. Walk the Infestor onto a cliff overseeing the siege, 1a2a3a4a your Ling, Hydra, Lurker army, then summon 10 Infested Terrans next to the Tanks first to keep the Hellions occupied.
Neural Parasite is a basic 10 second mind control, and yes it works on enemy workers as well.
Mutalisk: From Spire
Not much has changed from SC1 to SC2 for the Mutalisk but, probably due to the new gas mechanism, gas is hard to gather efficiently. As a result, I did not find a time-effective 2 Hatch or 3 Hatch Muta build my games where I wanted to avoid the Hydra path (which I used in the majority of my games). Ironically, a Hydra to Muta tech switch did yield some success, largely thanks to the majority of Blizzcon attendees not being aware what the best anti-air unit for their race was. Mutalisks have only 1 morphological upgrade this time: the Swarm Guardian
Some staff had an issue with zerg buildings and buildings looking too similar regarding color scheme and the specular highlighting
Corruptor: From Spire
Supposedly the Tier 2 Devourer equivalent in SC2, I could not, for the life of me, find a plausible way to use this unit. Corruptors are dedicated anti-air units (cannot attack ground) and retain the splashing spore ability that Devourers had. At the Spire, there was an Enduring Corruption upgrade that allowed for an increased duration of the spores against enemy aircraft. The spores remain stackable but that didn’t change much. In small numbers, Corruptors consistently lost to equal number of Phoenixes or Vikings. Corruptors need help; as Zerg’s anti-air unit, they are pitiful.
Swarm Guardian: From Greater Spire, Morphed from Mutalisk
Akin to the Guardians of old, Swarm Guardians are gas heavy and slow. They come with an innate passive ability which functions like the Spawn Broodling of the old SC1 Queen. No, ground units are not instantly killed by each Swarm Guardian attack, but for every attack the SG makes, 2 new Broodlings appear. Like the Infested Terrans the Infestor summons, these Broodlings also have a timed life. The interesting thing about Swarm Guardians is that their passive ability does not turn off, even when it is attacking buildings. So two new little ground meatshields will arise in every Swarm Guardian attack. SGs retain their immense attack range, outranging both Protoss Photon Cannons and Bunkers.
Ultralisk: From Ultralisk Cavern
If Ultralisks were considered to be “cows” in SC1, the new Ultras are god damn elephants. These things are walking monstrosities.
+ Show Spoiler [ Hot_Bid wins the joke of the week] +
Normal ZvP under the Elephant Rule
TurtleZerg: I attack you with 12 elephants.
AverageProtoss: I have no counter for elephants, good game sir.
TurtleZerg: Elephants are AWESOME.
It seemed like as Jaedong's guardians and drops kept failing, he convinced himself that if he only massed enough elephants, he'd be able to just ride them to victory. No matter how long it took or how much time he gave Free, the elephants would win. However, because Jaedong's first attacking units were guardians in the 14th minute of the game, it allowed Free to throw the normal rules of ZvP out the window.
Normal ZvP rules out the window
Jaedong: I attack you with 12 elephants.
Free: I build a time machine.
Free: I travel back in time.
Free: I counter with 40 tyrannosaurs.
In all honesty, most of my games never lasted to Tier 3 but the few games that I was able to tech up to Ultras and build a pack, nothing could stop them. Ultras can somehow burrow now but they lose their speed and armor upgrades. But then again, at the speed they move, I think giving them a speed research upgrade would be rather imba.
Queen: From Hatcheries
To my dismay, Queens are now ground units (and they have anti-air capabilities). I never found out about the anti-air capability until after BlizzCon. I think this would have definitely helped wean me off my usual Hydra tech that I used in most of my games.
The Queen is yet another spell-casting unit, kind of like a WarCraft III hero but without all the experience nonsense. She comes with 3 abilities:
Creep Tumor, this keeps creep from shrinking without the presence of a Hatchery or Crawler in the area. Have an Overlord shit creep and a Queen lay a Creep Tumor and you have an area of perma-creep without any buildings required.
Transfusion, heals one zerg unit to full health. Probably best used on an elephant.
Spawn Mutant Larvae, did not really have an opportunity to explore this spell. Halp meh.
Going down all the buildings would be boring so I’ll just sum up a few notable facts about the new Zerg buildings.
- All Zerg buildings require creep. No, not just to build new buildings on... If your non-Hatchery building is on a piece of shrinking creep, it is in danger. When the creep shrinks past the building, the building will explode in gory goodness. So you have a few options when you lose your Hatchery: the Queen’s Creep Tumor, the Overlord’s Spew Creep, or putting down a Crawler to stabilize the creep. With this effect in play, it might also be wise not to place your buildings at the farthest edge of your initial Hatch. I know I had a tendency of putting my Spawning Pool at some corner of the creep in SC1. If you do this in SC2, you risk those buildings as the first to explode if you lose your Hatchery and the creep recedes.
- Deep Warren is the new requirement for Lurkers now. The Deep Warren is an upgrade from the Hydralisk Den, there is no Lurker Aspect research. At first, I thought this change was infinitesimal but then I realize this could pose as a drawback for Zerg. Should you lose your Deep Warren for whatever reason, you would have to build a Den and then morph it back into a Warren, in order to build Lurks again. The Lurker research from SC1 was much more of a fail-safe path to Lurks. Now in SC2, Lurkers become more building dependent.
- The new Spine and Spore Crawlers can uproot and move! At last year’s BlizzCon, Protoss Photon Cannons could move around wherever there was pylon power. This year, Photon Cannons lost that ability while the Crawlers gained it. Take note, Spore Crawlers are detectors but only when they are settled down - uprooted Spore Crawlers cannot detect.
- The new Gas Mechanism is extremely frustrating but that may be because I am simply not used to it (keeping an open mind here). After about every 500 gas mined, the Extractor would be unusable for a duration of 30 seconds. To “balance” this, every single base has 2 geysers now. I’m not sure if this was intentional but it felt like every time I finished gathering gas from one geyser and it became locked down, the other spare geyser would come back online and I could start mining from it again. I am sure on some level, you could play this out early game to where you would be functionally mining from 4 geysers simultaneously for a certain period of time. But in the long term, the gas mechanism is just a nuisance. Early and mid game, I spent my time juggling drones between the 2 geysers at my main and natural to maintain a constant income of gas. But by late game when I had 4+ bases, I just put 3 drones on every geyser and didn’t bother to move them when the geyser lock down occurred.
Zerg vs Protoss was my favorite matchup in SC1 and continues to be in SC2. In just about every ZvP game you can still open with 12 Hatch without repercussion. Lurker + Lings continued to be my staple strategy, usually containing the Protoss at his ramp if he allowed me. This bought me time to take over the map and just power. If the Protoss managed to build Cannons at his natural or on his ramp, I considered the possibility of getting speed Hydras to break the cannons or just to continue containing and go higher up the tech tree.
Banelings were intense. I would frequently engage a Zealot/Stalker army head on with Hydra/Ling and in the meanwhile run my Banelings into the Stalkers. Unabashed, I knew this strategy would not work as well against most competent Protosses who had Blink researched and prepared. But without Blink, I was looking at easy Stalker soup.
Because of their Hardened Shields, or rather their inability to use them against the low damage attacks of the Zerg, Immortals were just a slower form of Stalkers. I somewhat pity the Zealots, losing their Leg Upgrades in favour of the less versatile Charge. Charge obviously does not work when retreating, probably the biggest drawback of that ability. Showcasing Zergling AI even more, I was thoroughly impressed and amused by the number of times I could pincer Zeals against the wall as they attempted to retreat up a ramp. Those situations are just not fair for Protoss.
10 Swarm Guardians laying waste to the Nexus while the new Broodlings take out the mining Probes is an effective way to take out an expansion. Typically you would have to focus on the Probes first (most likely) then move on to the Nexus if Protoss reinforcements didn’t come back in time. But with Swarm Guardians, you can somewhat do both simultaneously.
Another reason for my consistent usage of Hydras at Tier 2 aside from the harassing Phoenixes were the Warp Rays. I learned this the hard way in two games where I fooled around with Infestors only to have 3 Warp Rays fly into my base and proceed to take out my Hatchery, then move on to my Natural for a repeat performance. For those of you that don’t know, Warp Rays do an increasing amount of damage over time if they stick to just one target. Very good at sniping buildings when someone is inadequately prepared to handle air units.
I think it was after my first 10 to 15 games against other TL.netters that I realized that the conventions of SC2 have completely reversed. I had Protoss players going heavy Stalker with Zealots for backup, then versus Terran, I had players going Mech against me. Seriously, what was going on?
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This was a few weeks ago and I had not been keeping up with the pro-scene. I realize now that Ts like Fantasy and Flash go Mech a lot more in TvZ.
As if Firebats weren’t strong enough against Zerglings and low count Hydralisks, let’s give them a set of wheels! Probably the unit I felt the most threatened by, Hellions are like a cross between Firebats and Vultures. Instead of Spider Mines, these Vulture-like bikes come armed with a flamethrower. They burn Lings like no other, against equal number of Hydras, Hellions managed to surround and splash the Hydras to death. Oh, that’s not to mention Hellions are cheaper in mineral cost than Hydras and don’t require gas.
Siege Tanks are more expensive in SC2 but somehow pack an even meaner punch to make up for the increased cost. You can usually build a Mech army of Hellions and Tanks at a 5:1 ratio, off just one base. If the map has a small choke at the natural, just use Hellions to assume map control over the early Zerglings and force them to turtle up a bit. Then bring in the Siege Tanks for further containment. And should the Zerg go Mutalisks, what can Terran do? Bring in the Thors!
Because of my usual Hydralisk opening as Zerg, I had some major difficulty against said Mech builds. I did try Mutalisks a few times but I didn’t feel like I could go on the offenseive with them. Thanks to bulkier Marines and much improved Turrets, Terran bases were harder to crack with Mutas alone. I ended up relying mostly on a Sauron Zerg play style and just trying to out-macro and out-flank the Terran Mech army. Infestors did help a great deal. Someone at dinner theorycrafted Roaches as an early answer to Hellions taking map control but I simply don’t see it since Roaches are so much slower than Hellions. Too bad I wasn’t able to try this one in practice.
For the Terran players that went the orthodox infantry path, I found them to be much easier to handle. One drastic difference in ZvT is that Lurkers outrange Marines in Bunkers. I’m totally not sure if there is still a Marine Range upgrade but if there isn’t, this bodes badly for T. Biomech would seem like the necessary path to go, to have Tanks outrange the Lurks. Other Terrans implemented a 1 base Marines/Maruaders + Medivac build. Medivacs have the dual purpose of being Medics and Dropships in one now. All the more reason I needed to rely on a Hydra opening.
Ghosts sound impressive against Zerg with their Sniping ability that does a load of damage against biological units but I never had any used against me. Never saw any Reapers in my ZvT games either.
This will be common sight on B.Net for years to come - Zerg Rush kekekekeke
It doesn't seem possible, but somehow Blizzard managed to regress ZvZ in SC2. In SC1, Zergs would open with 9 pool, 12 pool, or 12 hatch and ultimately aim for a Tier 2 Muta/Ling game. Well in SC2, there is absolutely no reason to go up to Tier 2. It’s all Tier 1 baby!
Lings are rather self-explanatory but what really make Roaches shine is their combined trait of high HP regeneration and added natural damage against biological units. It would literally take 5-6 Lings surrounding 1 Roach to damage it enough to offset the Roach’s healing in order to kill it. But most players are not dumb enough to allow that one Roach to take all those hits, he’ll pull the Roach back while the other Roaches focus-fire on the Lings one by one.
Ideally you could go for a pure Roach army, like a pure Muta army, but Roaches lack mobility, so that’s one thing you have to remember. Build as many Roaches as you can but don’t totally skip out on Lings.
I heard a few Zerg players complain about how if you put all your Lings and Roaches in one control group and fight, your Lings will always run headlong into the enemy Roaches and get wasted before your own Roaches enter the fray. Well that’s easy enough to fix; just don’t put all your units in one group. Separate your Lings from your Roaches and lead with the latter. Or better yet, lead with your Roaches and run your Lings around and use them to flank the enemy Roaches from behind.
Another reason you need Lings is in case the other Z opens 12 hatch and Spines up (the new Sunks up). Spines do sufficient damage against Roaches that they don’t last for long. All the more reason to have Lings. Let the Roaches soak up as much damage as you can from the Spines and run the Lings around to take them out. Just like SC1, ZvZ is very much a mobility and flanking game.
Although a whopping 0% of ZvZ’s went beyond Tier 1 and I yielded a 100% win ratio with Tier 1, I could see another Zerg player stacking 8 Roaches on his ramp and trying to tech to Lair and Mutas asap. In that situation, I can see how Tier 2 is achievable but then the other Zerg could just grab his natural and Spore up. And I already have little faith in Muta builds thanks to the gas mechanism…
Memorable BlizzCon Games
I faced the onslaught of 2 Fact Hellions the first time against haji and my mind was blown away. How ridiculous is it to give something like a Vulture an attack that deals splash damage? I opened 12 hatch and ran around with 20 non-speed upgraded Lings. Assuming he was going infantry, I just sat in front of his natural ramp and waited. When I heard the Barracks lift up, I started to run away. Out came 4 bikes and I have never been as disappointed as I was after the next 30 seconds. The Hellions proceeded to outpace my Lings and killed all 20 of them before I could run back to the safety of my base. I was stuck in my base and on the defensive for the rest of the game. I lost after he rolled out with 3 Tanks and 12 more Hellions.
In a separate game, I lost to Hellion yet again. This time, I didn’t leave my Lings out in the open. Instead, I tried to power Drones a lot more, made 6-8 Lings and only had 2 Spines. When I saw 6 Hellions approach, I ran up my ramp to block. Haji's response was tofocus fire on my 6-8 Lings and then speed away into my main and take out 1/2 my Drones as they tried to make their way to my natural. Yet another defeat.
My glorious victory finally came when I snuck a Drone out to take an early 3rd base and played defensively. As anticipated, haji came out with his Hellions and shortly thereafter his Tanks started laying siege. I went Lings, slow Hydras and 2 Infestors. While I was able to kill the containment and all the Hellions and Tanks, I was left with only a few Hydras and the 2 Infestors. I continue to expand and just mass Mutas for the win. By the time I had 15+ mutas, Haji only had 3 Thors - victory was mine! In this game, I also denied haji his third win in a row thus denying him his StarCraft II poster on his first try. Serves him right!
Having defeated zatic ZvZ in our first game together (I build Roaches! I a-move! Lings flank!), zatic challenges me to a rematch as P. I gladly accept. We spawn cross position, me 6, him 12. I scout 9 o’clock with my first Overlord and 3 o’clock with my 2nd. It isn't until with my scouting Drone that I find zatic at 12 with a Pylon Forge build at his natural. Ok, so he’s at 12, I run my scouting Drone back home, only what do I find? The God damn German has built a Pylon in front of my 12 Hatch and is warping in 3 cannons! Pulling all my Drones from my main wasn’t enough. I scouted the proxy Cannons too late and my nat Hatch was a goner. From here, I figured, “this game is only going to last 20 minutes, maybe I can just outlast him for a draw.” But no, with 3 minutes remaining, zatic flies in with 4 Warp Rays, fries my 3 Hydralisks and takes out my main Hatch. wtf zatic, wtf…
ZvT Ghostclaws, the original
Ghostclaws managed to play one of the most brutal TvZs I had to face at BlizzCon. Opening with my usual Lurk/Ling build, Ghostclaws blocks his ramp and plays 1 base Terran. The Ashworld map we played on just happened to not have a free natural outside the ramp, you had to go slightly farther to fast expand, at a location where it would usually be for your 3rd base. No matter, I FE anyways. As soon as I have Lurks morphed, in flies his Medivac. Dammit Ghostclaws, are you kidding me? For the next 5-10 minutes we play cat and mouse, with Ghostclaws coming out on top every time. He attacks my expo that has 2 Spines, I run my lings over to save it. My Lings arrive, he loads up his Medivac and flies to my Main. We do this dance a few more times until he lands at my expo for a 3rd time. When I run my Lings over this last time, he doesn’t load back up. What does he do instead? He stims. I lose my Lings and expo in a matter of seconds and I’m on the defensive for the rest of the game. Ghostclaws then continues to humiliate me by flying 2 Medivacs all around my base, dropping Marines right where my Spines and Lurks are out of range. He then finishes me off with the biggest Marines/Maruader/Medivac army I’ve seen in all my games at BlizzCon. Terran is all about finesse, isn’t it? Thanks Ghostclaws.
Ever the innovator, haji pulled a Bisu Build against me, SC2 style. In this unfortunate game, I once again attempted to go a non-Hydra build only to find out that haji has blocked off his ramp with Zeals and had a Photon Cannon up as well. I decided that he must be teching so perhaps I could go Banelings, suicide into the Zeal wall and break into the base with 30 Lings. With my Baneling Nest at 50%, I get a “Your Base Is Under Attack” notification. And what is this? ffs, a Phoenix? I haven’t seen one of these since last year. Knowing they are dedicated air-to-air units now, I put down some Spores in an attempt to keep the Phoenixes away and not have to go back to Hydras. In retrospect, had I know Queens had an anti-air attack, I probably would have built a few. But either way, the continual sniping of my Overlords with 6 Phoenix slowly set me back. I did manage to break through his wall like I had initially planned AND 30 Baneling’ed his main Nexus into oblivion, but I was pretty far behind by not being able to counter his Phoenixes early on and haji eventually ran me over with an army of Zeals, Archons and DTs.
If you got through all of that then hats off to you. We hope this gave you some insight to our first and second impressions of Starcraft 2 and that you have a better feeling of the direction the game has taken. There are still some mechanics we take issue with and the root of this criticism is not because we think it will make the game bad but its effect on E-Sports which is where our hearts lie. That being said, Starcraft 2 is a fun game that is living up to the speed and overall feeling of Brood War. Whether or not it lives up to the E-Sports requirement will be more clear closer to release.