Saturday, March 15, 2008

Star Craft II Zerk second look


"It’s official, and the zerglings are out of the bag. Following closely on the heals of yesterday’s zerg announcement, we’ve got more juicy details on the third faction in Starcraft 2. Like the Protoss and Terrans, the Zerg are a mix of familiarity and significant differences. While virtually all of the staple units remain intact, there are some new additions and changes to the tech tree which fundamentally alters the way the Zerg are played."

Units & Tech tree (values follow this format: minerals-gas-food-build time):

Drone 50-x-1-16

Overlord 100-x-x-25

Zergling 50-x-1-23 (comes in pairs) - Requires Spawing Pool

Roach 75-25-1-23 - Requires Roach Den

Hydralisk 100-50-2-23 - Hydralisk Den

Morph to Lurker 25-75-33 - Deep Warren (upgrade from Nydus Warren)

Nydus Worm 100-100-2-33 - Nydus Warren

Infestor 100-100-2-33 - Nydus Warren

Mutalisk 100-100-2-33 - Spire

Morph to Swarm Guadian - unknown

Corruptor 150-100-2-40 - Spire

Ultralisk 300-200-4-70 - Ultralisk Cavern

Queen Limit 1 - 150-x-x-25 - Spawning Pool.

The QueenThe most notable difference to the Zerg of Starcraft 2 when compared to the original Starcraft, is how creep, defenses, and the Queen work. To start with, the Queen is completely and radically different. She has a build limit of one, is available very early on in the tech tree, and is the primary means by which creep and defenses are built. She builds defenses and creep by laying eggs, much in the same way a Protoss drone initiates the warp in sequence of a building it wants to construct. First is the Creep Tumor, which is more like a Creep(y) Eyeball that is embedded in the ground and looks around frantically (possibly because that‘s what strange eyeballs do, but probably because it acts as a stealth detector (unfortunately we didn‘t have a chance to test this theory). The Creep Tumor has one function: extend the creep. It’s also stealth, which helps it survive since it’s so fragile and totally defenseless. The next thing the Zerg Queen can do is lay Zerg’s primary defense: the Swarm Cluster. This is basically a battery of tubes that launch suicidal bug-like things at approaching enemies. They are high DPS, but have very low health and a relatively limited range. The limited range, however, is by design. The Queen can also lay a Shrieker, which is a small tower that does what its name implies: goes mental and starts shrieking when there are nearby enemy units. What this is does is effectively extends the range of a Swarm Cluster to anywhere inside of that Shrieker’s radius. So by positioning the Shrieker carefully, a player can basically double the range of the Swarm Cluster (as it will attack as far as the opposite side of the Shrieker’s radius). This effectively means Zerg’s defenses have directional range, depending on the layout of the Shriekers. But wait, there’s more. The queen has features and abilities that makes it the closest thing to a hero unit that Starcraft has ever had. She’s also capable of “teleporting” around the creep to any building placed on it. So if she’s by your hatchery, and one of your expansions is under attack, you can instantly “warp” her near a building at that location. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test whether the creep needs to be connected in order for it to work. The Queen can also give Zerg buildings defensive weapons in the form of four small bugs that fly around the top it, allowing it to attack nearby enemy units. She can also cast poison creep in a small area, and she can be evolved into larger and scarier versions as you climb the tech tree. While the Queen sounds like a Warcraft 3 hero, she’s not. She’s incredibly weak, and can’t level up through experience. Her role is mainly defensive, though we can expect to see her used in some creative cheese, Starcraft 2 style.

Other Gameplay NotesThere are some minor tweaks to the gameplay, not just for zerg, but also for all the factions. Unlike in Starcraft 1, where money wasn’t spent until the drone started morphing into the structure it was instructed to, the cost of a structure is now deducted immediately after the location of the structure is chosen. While minor, it’s one of many small changes made to make the gameplay a bit more accessible to casual players. The Zerg Tech tree has also undergone some changes. The Hydralisk den now requires a Lair in order to be built. To compensate, Roaches have effectively replaced the Hydralisk as the more advanced tier-1 (T1) unit. However, Roaches are not anti-air, which leaves Zerg without a mobile T1 anti-air unit. The tech tree, units, and their corresponding upgrades overall makes it a bit harder for Zerg to adapt on the fly as easily as it could in Starcraft 1. The lack of of a T1 anti-air unit means the only way to respond to air units is quick tech to Lair and then either Spire for Mutalisks, or Hydralisk Den for Hydralisks. Because of this, the tech tree has not been locked down yet. Dustin Browder still wants to play around with moving Banelings to T2, and Hydralisks back down to T1. This is of course all part of Blizzard’s obsessive compulsive desire to test, re-test, and test again to get a proper feel about which option is the best to go with.

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