(This is Part One of our hands-on feature. Check out Part Two for changes to the Terran and Zerg!)
Spoiler alert, I lost a lot of games.
That’s probably down to two very valid reasons. First, it’s been a while since I laddered in Blizzard’s StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, the second in the trilogy that makes up the overall game. Now that the Terran and the Zerg have each had their turn with a main campaign, the story comes to a conclusion through the eyes of the Protoss Armada in Legacy of the Void.
A select few people have been given early access to the multiplayer segment of the game that dominates the competitive Real Time Strategy genre. Outlets for professional tournaments include the likes of the ESL, Gfinity and even Blizzard themselves in the World Championship Series Global Finals. Sadly, that is a level I can only aspire to, with yours truly currently graded as a Gold league player in the game.
That comes to the second reason why I lost a lot of games. Most of the people that have been given access now include the best of the best among the StarCraft 2 community. I would of course have no chance.
However, it didn’t stop me from finding out what’s currently being thought out for the multiplayer and I thought it’d be good to share what I discovered.
DISCLAIMER: Whilst I will remark on what’s new with the beta, it’s worth remembering that it is a build of a game currently in development. Features can (and sometimes do) get pulled from the game or modified as it gets closer to release, so please do be aware that some parts might be different by the time it’s released to the public in full.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in!
Part One – General Changes and the Protoss units
In this post, I’m going to cover my experiences with my main race, the glorious Protoss, as well as the general changes to the core gameplay that applies to all. Let’s cover the latter first.
If you’ve watched any stream of competitive StarCraft 2, you’ll know that on most occasions the first few minutes are a bit of a slow chore. Players are racing to build up the core foundations of their economy to allow them to execute the build strategies they have in mind. That core foundation is of course, the workers: Probes for Protoss, Drones for Zerg and the SCVs for the Terrans. For each race, a small period of time is taken to build the worker count from the starting count of nine up to the right amount to support the building of the first structure without compromising the income rate too much.
For me, I typically build to 9 workers, get my first Pylon down and then work towards getting more workers and building my first unit producing structure – the Gateway- at around the 13 worker count.
Legacy of the Void turns this initial period inside out. Instead of starting with six workers, each game begins with twelve workers. This effectively erases that initial ‘warm-up’ period and gets the income going super-quick.
It took a moment to get used to this, as I found myself with a lot of minerals way faster than what I’m used to. Take one Protoss Vs. Protoss (or PvP) match I was involved in. In a PvP, expansions don’t normally happen until the 6-7 minute mark in Heart of the Swarm. This is mainly down to one base being sufficient for the early purposes of getting the core tech structure down before building the death-ball much later on. The Protoss race thrives when it is given time to build a massive deathball of doom to roll over its enemies.
In this particular match, I found myself in a comfortable enough position to build an expansion just two minutes into the game. That’s almost approaching Zerg territory with crazy fast expansions. That of course led to armies being built fast and tips the balance of gameplay away from economic macro-management slightly and towards the combat-focused micro-management of units.
This is further enhanced by another core change, this time concerning the resource pools at each base location and their nearby expansions. At each base, there are two Vespene Gas geysers and eight Mineral patches. It’s the mineral patches that see a change in the beta, with the available minerals in half of the patches reduced. Normally they each held 1500 minerals, but four of them now hold 750 minerals in the beta. This reduces the overall resources available at each base, a change designed to encourage expansions a lot faster and more aggressively.
Of course, taking an expansion is risky, as it creates another position that could be targeted by your opponent when it’s discovered. It seems like the idea is to create those opportunities far earlier than what we’re used to, getting the game to the tasty combat phases faster.
In my time with the beta, my rusty skills meant that I was often several bases behind my opponent’s own count. More bases mean more money, and also served to get stronger units out into the field far more faster than what’s typically seen in Heart of the Swarm today.
In a game which demands lightning fast reactions and decisions, I feel that it makes sense to bring the game’s structure in line with the style of play. In the competitive scene, it’s almost become a formality where each player builds that initial army, unless of course some cheesy tactics are being deployed. It’ll take some getting used to on my part, but from a spectator’s point of view it’ll make watching the pros a lot more exciting I think.
My Life for Aiur!
That pretty much covers the obvious changes that I discovered so far that applies to everyone in the Legacy of the Void beta. Now I get to turn my attention to the race that I ‘main’ as in-game. The glorious race that is far more advanced than those ruff-n-tuff Terrans and the icky Zerg.
I of course mean, the Protoss race!
In the beta, each race has been treated to new units to bolster their rosters. The Protoss are gifted with two units to deliver sweet death to their enemies. (I’m permitting myself to exert a bit of personal bias here, of course).
First up, we have the Adept. Requiring the Cybernetics Core to unlock, this foot soldier is a ranged unit that ‘fires da lazors’ against its enemies. It’s a little bit cheaper than the Stalker at 100 minerals and 25 gas as opposed to the 125 minerals and 50 gas required to warp in a Stalker. It’s key quirk is an ability called Psionic Transfer. This allows the adept to create a copy of itself that can be controlled, but can not attack. Crucially though, once the timer on the clone is up, the Adept teleports instantly to where the decoy finished up. It’s a tricky unit to micro-manage, however its potential is huge. Done correctly, you could feign a huge assault with your real Adepts at one point, yet teleport to a weak point in your enemy’s defences that has been left exposed.
Its teleportation ability does bring it close to the Blink ability that can be researched for Stalkers, but with a slight twist. Time will tell to see if the in-game meta shifts towards the Adepts or if a mix between the two is more viable.
Secondly, we have the Disruptor. This unit is warped in via the Robotics Facility and requires the Robotics Bay to unlock. It’s a pretty big investment, costing 150 minerals and a whopping 300 gas to build. However, its attack has the potential to be a massive damage-dealer if controlled correctly. Its ability, Purification Nova, deals massive splash damage to units nearby. The damage is enough to one-shot-kill a Terran Marauder and a group of Disruptors could make light work of large army groups, so long as they correctly get in to position. Enemy units could move away, but is bested by the enhanced movement speed that the Disruptor enjoys as it counts down to unleashing its attack.
Typically, when it comes to StarCraft I like to build an army and send it away to roll over my enemies. These new units are rather at odds with my normal play style, as they don’t typically gel well with the ‘deathball’ principle of Attack-moving your units. However, they do present some interesting possibilities that I’m sure to figure out as my time with the game progresses. I reckon I’ll be having a lot of fun with the Adept, using them to distract armies towards expansions and sneaking in some cloaked Dark Templars through my enemy’s front door.
This concludes Part One of my hands-on with the StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void Beta. In Part Two, I’ll touch on the additions to the Terran and Zerg races and other features currently in place in the beta.
What do you think of these changes? Reckon they’ll make the Protoss race unstoppable? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!