BlizzCon 2011: Hands-On Preview – Heart of the Swarm Multiplayer

I’ve been a die hard Terran since Wings of Liberty’s release. I’ve always felt Terran were OP and that’s why I played them. Some people say there’s no honor in playing an OP race. But when it comes to SC2, I play to win and that starts with race selection. Let’s face facts, the winner of the GSL tournament and the Starcraft 2 invitational at Blizzcon were both Terran players. Coincidence? I think not.

Now before I get started, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the new units in HoTS as well as the changes to existing units if you haven’t done so already. Otherwise you’re going to be lost.

As I mentioned before, I’m a Terran enthusiast. But after playing the multiplayer demo available at Blizzcon, I’m not so sure they’ll be my race of choice when Heart of the Swarm comes out. The new Terran units just don’t entice me that much. Let’s start with the Warhound. It will be filling the Thor’s role as the new anti-Mutalisk unit. I’m not excited about this. I felt Thors were just fine for dealing with Mutalisks when I’m attacking a Zerg position. Sure they had trouble maneuvering in tight spaces, but I use turrets to defend my base so I don’t need to have Thors running around my mineral line. Now they’re telling me that Thor can’t attack air units and I can only build one? Fantastic, Thor will be the Terran’s version of Mothership in HoTS. Because the Mothership worked out well for the Protoss right? Oh wait, no. It’s being retired because NO ONE USES IT.

I tried the Warhound out against a Zerg player and it was a complete waste of minerals. Without Mutalisks or mech units to fight, the Warhound really has nothing to do and serves no purpose on the battlefield. Maybe I’ll find this thing more useful when I play a few games against Protoss, but for now, I’m not loving it.

Terrans are also getting the Shredder, which will put out a field that damages nearby enemy units. But this ability is only active if there are no friendly units in the vicinity. If a marine happens to come near the Shredder it becomes worthless. I was working on finding places to put these things that made sense, but my Zerg opponent just avoided them for awhile and then took them out with Mutalisks when he got a chance.

I just don’t feel like I’m getting much to work with here. It may be time to switch. So let’s look at my options. I could go Zerg, but I really hate the “inject larvae” system. Why the hell can’t I set this to autocast? I want to focus on battle, not repeating some stupid, mundane action over and over for the entire game. Also, the new “Swarm Host” looks absolutely useless. I can’t believe Blizzard has the audacity to call this a siege unit. If a group of these things ever break through my wall-off I’ll quit Stacraft forever (not really). And as for the Viper… well, the Viper is actually pretty cool. Its “blinding cloud” ability is going to give terran players nightmares. But one good unit isn’t enough to change my mind about Zerg.

Protoss, on the other hand, are looking pretty good in the HoTS multiplayer. Sure they’re losing the Carrier and Mothership but those were overpriced and rarely used units anyway. Let’s be realistic, the Carrier hasn’t been a threat to anyone since Brood Wars. I think the new units will more than make up for the loss of these two. Protoss are getting the Tempest which is a certified Mutalisk destroyer with its 22 damage splash attack and it can hit ground units. They’re also getting the Oracle, which will be an excellent harasser with it’s ability to keep workers from mining minerals.

I really enjoyed using the Oracle. I played a game as a Protoss and when I got a couple of these babies out on the field, I started shutting down mining operations at all of my opponent’s expansions. He had to pull a bunch of Zerglings back to deal with the “entomb” ability. These things work as advertised!

And finally, they’re getting the Replicant. This is the one that’s interesting. It can transform into any non-massive unit that it gets in range of. And once it’s transformed it has all upgrades for that unit, even if the player the unit that got copied wasn’t upgraded. This means I could have a siege tank, with siege mode even if my Terran opponent hadn’t researched siege mode yet. Also (and this may change) it can currently copy workers. And since the Nexus is getting a recall ability in HoTS, it will be possible to sneak a Replicant up to one of an opponent’s workers, copy it and then recall out of there before the Replicant is killed.

I wasn’t able to use this to great effect in my matches, but I’m clumsy as Protoss since I’ve mainly been playing Terran. I think once I have more games under my belt, I’ll be able to come up with some interesting strategies for these guys. Of course, I could be wrong. A few games on an unfinished demo at Blizzcon really isn’t a good indicator of whether or not I should be switching races. It will take a few weeks of playing the game on before I really decide whether or not the switch is in my best interest. But right now I’m thinking of giving my life for Aiur.

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