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Starcraft 2 Impressions from Blizzcon

Updated Tue, Aug 25, 2009 by Xerin

Starcraft 2 has been in the making since, well, forever.  We finally got our hands on a real piece of meat in the campaign, and with every race available for use in skirmish mode as well; we gave everyone a spin.  The units you know and love may not have changed too much, but the new ones will throw you for a loop!  So without further ado, here are the Ten Ton Hammer impressions of Starcraft 2 from Blizzcon 2009.

Campaign

The campaign throws you right into the action with Raynor's recommissioned battlecruiser, Hyperion, under assault by Zerg forces for the first time in years, seemingly.  After a narrow escape, the news hits that the Zerg assault that they encountered was not the first, nor would it be the last.  News reports of the Queen of Blades returning to the front of the assault shake Raynor up a bit, since he once harbored feelings for her.  And perhaps, he still does.

Once you get past the overview of the situation, you're free to move around the Hyperion as you see fit.  The Armory was my first destination as it's where you purchase special upgrades for your units and buildings with Credits acquired from mission to mission for completing objectives.  There were some definitely unique ones for the single player campaign such as SCV Cost -15, so your precious workers are only 35 minerals each.  This would be a huge deal in multiplayer, but less so in single player as your economy generally isn't under the attacks it is in multiplayer, and once you build it up you don't generally need to ever make more SCVs.  There are other more subtle things, such as putting out the fires automatically on terran buildings so they don't burn down when seriously damaged. 

Talking to everyone onboard is fantastic.  Dialogue is well written and the characters are animated like they're really saying it, with respective body language as well.  Tychus, in particular, is extremely well done, maintaining the look and feel of a realist renegade who sees everything in a negative light while looking out for himself.  Once you've gotten a hang of the interface, talked to your crew, and possibly upgraded at the armory, you head to the Star Map in the middle of the bridge to select your next destination.  One mission was a fairly generic escort mission that brought back the return of Firebats.  The other was a much more interesting map that I'll give to you in more detail.

The map in general resembles... almost a Nascar circuit.  There's a relic Raynor has his eyes on, and it's under Protoss guard to the far east.  You start at about 8 o’clock, or in the bottom left.  The problem is, while you can certainly build your forces and start knocking out the patrols and guards on the way to the relic, the Zerg are apparently also after it and start to your northwest.  They're fortified to the point of making it impossible with your available units for the mission.  Medics and Marines are your weapons of choice for this mission, until your main man in the Armory drops off the latest infantry battlesuits, the Marauders.  Marines pack 45 hp and do 6 damage, more or less just like their original counterparts, but the Marauders have 1 armor, 125 hp, and do a 2 shot barrage that does 14 damage or 22 to armored units.  Protoss Stalkers are right outside your base  demonstrate the dominance, and your 3 Marauders will walk over 3 Stalkers with no casualties with a little micro or a Medic backup.

The Zerg will push along the north side through the Protoss defenses at a fair rate and establish their own defenses there as they conquer.  They'll also send detatchments of Zerglings, Hydralisks, and Roaches at your base from time to time so a little defense is important.  That's where one of the Armory upgrades can come in, which adds an automatic gun to the top of bunkers.  It only does damage at the rate of one Marine, but it can help to draw fire to unloaded bunkers rather than more critical units or structures while your army is away, or just raise the potency of a fully loaded bunker that much further.  Towards the end, they were also sending Mutalisks!   With your unit options limited to being counted on one hand and the Zerg having the entireity of Lair tech 2 units available, I was actually thinking Hard difficulty might've been a wrong choice when my bunker fell towards the end.  So with my slow Terran army far to the east, I decided to push on and have my newly spawning units handle the remnants that broke through, praying they wouldn't be reinforced.

The Protoss base was leveled quickly enough, with Marauders being quite good at handing incoming Photon Cannon fire due to a combination of Armor and a solid HP total so Medics can get to them and get them healed before the situation gets too dire.  At this point the Zerg was almost to the Protoss northern side guarding the relic, so I knew I had to secure it now.

Unfortunately, the statues near the relic came to life and 1000 HP Stone Zealots with splash damage Eye Lasers made quick work of my clustered forces by the relic.  Undeterred, I quickly amassed another army from my cluster of Barracks, with almost exclusively Medics and Maraduers for the makeup since these massive statues qualify as Armored targets.  The marines stayed home and kept the home front secure and the new M&M horde went off to show the reanimated statues who was boss.  The zerg were past the photon defenses of the Protoss north base at this point and beginning to tear down key structures.  Time was of the essence.

With a little focus fire and being more spread out than before, the Stone Zealots never had a chance.  One by one they fell in spectacular fashion, and the relic was mine.  Kerrigan showed up at this point with reinforcements and said she wouldn't underestimate me again.  And to that, I say bring it!  ...In 2010 that is.  The Campaign portion drew to a close at that point.

Skirmish Brief Impressions

Terran :   There's no reason not to do some kind of block on your enterance thanks to the new supply depots ability to enter the ground (and still produce supply!).  Stimpack is still incredibly potent, and with the new infantry having much more HP than the previous 40 HP marines, it doesn't hurt as much to activate the real firing rates.  Ahhh, that's the stuff.

Hellions are a bit of a disappointment to me.  They simply do far less single target damage than vultures, and have less HP than a ghost (80 vs. 100).   That part made me laugh a bit.  Siege Tanks fire faster when in Siege Mode than before, but the range and damage seemed a little bit less.  From first glance they no longer need spotters to fire full range.

Defenses in general seemed a bit tougher, with bunkers going up to 400 HP and new upgrades adding armor to all structures.

Medevacs seemed a little too good for the cost.  They heal infantry remarkably fast and can do the same crazy pick up and drop tactics of dropships.

I kinda miss Chris Metzen's old Battlecruiser voice.  They still seem like powerhouses thankfully.

It's cool to see other options for your comsat station besides scanning.  The economy boost of a MULE is great ( 3x a SCV! )

Protoss :   I'm really disappointed by Obelisks.  They require a lot of energy to recharge shields and the mineral gathering speed increase spell requires too much extra micro in what should be a Macro build's building.  I hope they make it autocast.

I think Zealot's charge and Stalker's blink abillities take far too long to cooldown for how essential they are to combat for them.  Stalkers in particular are a rather weak unit with no real astounding qualities aside from mobility.  They definitely don't have the dragoon range or single hit power.  That aside, an attack with a mix of both can still annihilate an equivalent force from another race most of the time.

Dark Templar now get more damage per upgrade and for lack of a better way to put it, are even more badass.  They seem to attack a little faster, making them exceptional threats until something detects them.

There is nothing really to say about High Templar except man, Psi Storm is pretty.

Immortals seem a little underwhelming but they're going to be necessary to crack Siege Tank lines.

Carriers are carriers.  There is an upgrade to increase the speed at which they deploy their fleet, and with it it's fully deployed in about one second, if not faster.  Much better compared to the ordeal of launching that the old carrier had to put up with.They feel like they have less range, but I think that's just me.

Zerg : Hydralisks are back and quite potent.  Oddly enough they get bonus damage against other hydralisks, being armored and having a bonus against armored.  Is this going to mean Zerg vs. Zerg is going to be Hydralisk wars just like the original is Mutalisk wars?  We'll just have to wait and see here.

Queens are phenomenal.  Assuming you micro it, they're probably the best economy booster in the game, since for 25 energy they can spawn 4 additional larvae after 40 seconds at a hatchery.  This means you can have SEVEN units suddenly spawn from a hatchery, economy or offensive in nature.  This is pretty big and will help zerg keep up in the economy game as they lose drones to build.  They can also heal structures, which is great for Zerg buildings in general.  If a Spine Crawler is under fire, you can heal it to throw them off as to why it's not dead yet.

Mutalisks are more of the same, as are zerglings.  Brood Lords are like Guardians that are good at fighting units as well as besieging over cliffs.  I'm tempted to say Zerg air will be the best with the new cheap addition to overlord speed, an essential upgrade. 

The AI:  Has Warcraft 3 syndrome.  Loves to attack you, turn around and run when losing, and lose its entire army while retreating if you're faster than it.  This is even on the hardest setting, and it was a bit disappointing.

That doesn't detract from the whole package though.  A stellar musical score and sound effects redeem everything from this skirmish demo.  You must construct additional pylons!  Maybe next year, guys.  Maybe next year...


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