Closer To The Heart: StarCraft II’s New Units

By Nathan Grayson on June 12th, 2012 at 11:00 am.

'The poor, completely helpless tank' is a phrase I'm not sure I'll ever get used to writing.

I’ll admit that I haven’t played StarCraft II in a while, so it’s been easy for me to slip into thinking “Gosh, how could an expansion that only adds some new units and missions take so long?” Then I watched this video of Heart of the Swarm’s shiny (and, in some cases, slimy) new toys, and goodness, Blizzard does know that it’s, like, destroying everything, right? Again, I’m no expert, but almost everything here looks like a game-changer in some way or another. I mean, the Protoss Oracle will probably be the new linchpin in my patented “I know I’m going to lose, so I’ll attempt to annoy my opponent to death” strategy by entombing enemy supplies and turning my buildings invisible. And then there’s the Zerg Swarm Host, which belches out “endless” free minions until either it or you die of natural/totally-not-natural causes. That’s only the beginning of the absurdity. Check out the rest after the break.

Right then. As a general rule, I make a point of fearing anything that can whip tanks around with its tongue and reduce entire men to putrid piles of acid and bone by breathing. And while I have no doubt that Blizzard’s tirelessly tweaking to ensure that everybody remains on an even playing field, Zerg players are clearly getting the most love from a creative standpoint – which isn’t too surprising, given the expansion’s, you know, name. Again, though, my brain’s StarCraft drivers are woefully out-of-date. So, are these units really as bonkers as they look?

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76 Comments »

  1. N says:

    Not much love for Terran huh?

    • Shortwave says:

      I lot of people seem to feel this way.
      I have not played enough lately to have an opinion on the vanilla game.. I used to be terran though and it doesn’t look good.. I’m sure they will address it anyways.

    • tinners says:

      Not seen the widow mines? They’re sick!

      Blizzard are so good at making the game balanced, i’m sure they’ll make it right before it gets released. At the end of the day, people have built careers around this game so they can’t afford to get it wrong.

      • mmalove says:

        I’m sure their pro league players will prove they’ve gotten it wrong in at least one respect. But what I appreciate about blizzard is they don’t walk away from the table post release, they rebalance and tweak, until you get a game that feels very balanced and provides even top level players with interesting strategic choices in early middle and late game.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I guess they just don’t come across as that interesting since for the most part their units are normal people in power-suits or vehicles, essentially missing out the fantastical or bio-horror that “inspire” Protoss and Zerg respectively.

      I do enjoy a nice bit of military precision space-machine-gun fire… but Terran are space red-necks, and starcraft is often less than precise in terms of formations.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      Terran are already awesome, so I don’t think that’s terrible.

      Also, WIDOW MINES.

    • Kdansky says:

      Terran has the most flexibility right now (you literally have an answer to everything), and just adding faster Mechas and more sturdy Hellions might fill their very small gaps. Simple case in point: Terran has more units to choose from than the other two, and was considered superior for quite a long time until people figured out how to play Zerg/Protoss well enough to crush flexibility with brute force.

      • Shortwave says:

        Yea, I was taking a closer look at those new Mechs..
        I got a mild geek boner. They seem like they will be brutal in a lot of situations.
        I will squeel if they make it to marine arena.

    • rocketman71 says:

      Nope. Blizz hates terrans. They demonstrated that with Diablo 3.

    • wicko says:

      Nope. Would be really nice to see some fast flyers or a new caster or something. Widow mines are great, except the opponent can see which units the mines are attached to without detection and just micro them away.

      • Milky1985 says:

        I think it might work like the Ghosts nuke, you can see it if you pay attention as it will be a dot or something, but only the allied teammates of the person with the mine (and the poeple commentating) see the big countdown.

        So like with teh nuke, if you are being nuked, you can see a dot. If your donig the nuking you see the big nuke icon.

        Not sure tho, not seen or heard what they have said about that, but it makes the most sense otherwise everyone will just split the units.

        • Vandelay says:

          Edit: Whoops meant to be in reply to your below comment. On the Widow Mine, a big circle appears above the unit, filling up until the mine detonates. You wouldn’t miss it.

          I have to disagree with the usefulness of Repears as a harass unit. Zerg will have a Queen, Protoss a Stalker and Terran a bunch of Marines easily before the first couple of Reapers reach their base. You never see them in Pro play and I no one on the ladder has used them since their nerf back in the beta.

          I don’t really see this change making much of a difference to their viability and actually would have preferred them to go the other direction and boosted their base killing ability or just remove them entirely. Terran already has enough worker harass units.

          • jrodman says:

            On the contrary, I see reapers semi-regularly in pro-level games. I watch maybe 20 pro games a month, and while not every player really has the reaper as a tool they use, most terran players will use them from time to time.

            Your overall point (in the context of your intended resposne) is valid though. Usually you see one reaper created, or possibly two. Never more than that. And they’re used to kill off drones/scvs/etc when the opponent has troops that can’t respond, or they’re used to apply pressure and reduce drone count before the opponent has any troops of their own.

    • Crazy Horse says:

      Zerg finally gets some love as reward for having to be twice as good as any Terran player to be able to beat him in Wings Of Liberty. This expo looks set to even the score up a bit. None of these new units break the game or give a race a massive edge. They are not brute force units but all gas heavy, micro-intsensive specialists thats provide more options to skilled players. The bronze-silver leauge will hardly be affected by them in any game changing way. So no, Nate, they are not bonkers.. they are awesome.

      In any case you are overlooking the greatest upgrade to the Swarm in this expo, the thing that will put the fear of god back into the Terrans and the Zerg back into Zerg: upgraded Hydralisk move speed! It’s about damn time.

  2. Toberoth says:

    I’ve got no idea what I’m doing when it comes to SCII but I never tire of seeing waves of troops melting into each other. I’m sure there’s a lot of clever clickery going on in these plays, but I’m damned if I know what it is. Looks cool though :-)

  3. BobbyDylan says:

    The only thing I wanna know about Heart of the Swarm is the release date!

  4. mouton says:

    Sometimes I think that I just might play it. Then I remember how – in all likelihood – horrible, infantile and cliche the storyline will probably be. Oh well.

    • Snegletiss says:

      Well, people usually don’t play SC because of the story.

      • mouton says:

        I know, I know. Still, it wouldn’t hurt Blizzard to finally hire a writer or two one day.

      • Milky1985 says:

        I do, the single player was enjoyable, story isn’t too bad.

        Better than diablo 3.. other than the fact that is basically the same as diablo 3 at this point just in space.

        [EDIT] In fact doing a charge through in normal difficulty atm, thinking of going for the complete in under 8 hours achivement now i know i can skip some missions :P

      • Xocrates says:

        Except when they do.

        I really really wish people stopped used that argument. It simply isn’t true most of the time.

        The original Starcraft had a really good story as far as RTS go, and, as big as the online scene is, there are huge numbers of single player gamers out there.

        This is true to most games, heck, Demigod, which was designed as a multiplayer game and had rubbish single player, had only 23% of it’s players try multiplayer (key word, try, I doubt most of those played regularly online): http://forums.demigodthegame.com/369857

        And even then, if we accept the “no-one plays it for the story” argument, it doesn’t change the fact that ALL parts of a game should be up to standard. I would rather for something to be missing that be outright bad.

      • Tori says:

        I did :(

      • Tafdolphin says:

        Me too. SC1 had a great story.

        • mouton says:

          It didn’t. We just were teenage.

          But it was servicable and competently told. And still better than SC2.

          • Vorphalack says:

            Oh i’d argue that it did. Granted, some of the themes were pretty basic, but the dialogue was well written and well voice acted. It all fit the SC1 aesthetic and brought the universe to life, there were no ”comedy value” characters like the news anchors in SC2, and as a linear game the whole story had a better flow than SC2.

          • vivlo says:

            It did ! Well maybe not the plot, but the atmosphere… remember the cutscenes, the very first which showed an event never to be related in the following game, remember “i love you sergent !” and the fading torchlight, and the battlecruiser that abandons its soldiers in the trench, and desperates resistance missions only to be threatened by the rescuers countless times, and and and and….

      • zino says:

        I do. Never cared about MP. I enjoy spectating MP though.

      • BubuIIC says:

        I have to add here, I did and I enjoyed it. I think it’s a good enough story and really well executed.
        Also the Starcraft 1 story is really good!

  5. Shortwave says:

    I’m just wondering if Marine Arena will adopt these new units eventually, would be pretty interesting.
    But yea, looks like a ton of work went into this. I’m sure it’ll have some balancing to work out but it looks pretty good to me. Dunno’ if I will buy this though since I really only play custom matches anyways.

    But yea, the temptress scares the shit out of me..
    I don’t see how that’s gunna’ fly.

    • jrodman says:

      The tempest?
      Protoss fly their ships powered by pure kitty power.

  6. Kdansky says:

    They have actually changed the new units around quite significantly since the last preview, and while they look a bit crazy, they probably are not more so than what we already have. They change the pace (more mobility in late game) and some basic strategies need a second look at. For example, Terran mech is just underused. Look at MLG last sunday (50h stream on their site) and you see Terran go All Bio All The Time. I saw a single Thor in all the matches I watched, and zero hydras, carriers and BCs.

  7. Subatomic says:

    The new untis look interesting, though I’m not sure what to make of the Tempest. Why remove a long range flying unit with anti-air and anti-ground capabilities that’s iconic to the race (the Carrier) just to replace it with another long range flying anti-air and anti-ground unit (the Tempest)? Wouldn’t it be easier just to tweak the underused (or more accurately, unused) Carrier until it’s a viable unit?

    • Kdansky says:

      You’d have to completely change how its attacks work, and at that point, you might as well just switch the unit with another. I’m sure we’ll see plenty carriers in SP and custom maps.

      See it as a new unit instead of a confusing revamp.

    • Milky1985 says:

      I think the issue with the carrier is that they couldn’t be bother to fix the AI, the ai had an annoying habit of targeting the intercepters rather than the carrier itself. So if the protoss had a reasonable number it was very difficult to one target the carrier and 2 see what the hell was going on (due to the ammount of interceptors flying arround, easy to misstarget).

      Also mass carrier had pretty much no mass counter (curropter and vikings could work just as long as you have kept up with upgrades, but unless your basically maxed out its gonna be a hard fight). Of course if you let your opponent get to the point where they have max out on only carriers you are doing it very very wrong anyway :P

      My opinion as a non pro gamer, just a silver league amature.

      • Kdansky says:

        You’ve got it backwards. The AI targeting the Interceptors was the only saving grace of an otherwise weak unit. Pros would just micro their AA units to only fire on the carriers, circumventing their HP buffer in the form of interceptors. They work acceptably well in direct engagements for players in the lower ranks. They have no purpose on high levels of play, because your corruptors/vikings have decent armor to tank the Interceptors while dealing big shots to the relatively fragile hulls of the carriers themselves.

        And even then the Carrier could not be a defense-breaker like Tanks or Broodlords are, because massed Hydras or Marines will just massacre the Interceptors before you can deal significant damage. The problem is that the role of the carrier and its mechanics don’t overlap. The Tempest does exactly what it should: Give you a way to break a fortified Terran line with Bunkers, Tanks, Thors and a buttload of M&Ms.

        • Milky1985 says:

          Carriers are quite bulky shield and hp wise, yeah they get focused down by anyone who has an idea but it still takes a good few units to take it down in one barrage (while said units will be getting shot at by other interceptors) curropters have a bit of an advantage cause of the curropt ability (really love trying to use that, screw it up but its fun :P) but still can be nasty.

          I agree that the tempest is better, requires scouting (so can stop the fire by denying scouting) but can still seige. Not sure if this means void rays will change tho cause they are in theory the seige air unit with there extra damage vs armoured, i know its not used like that but its still there :P

  8. kikito says:

    Protoss:

    I like how they call Oracle a “Harrassment Specialist”. I half expected one of its powers to be called “lawsuit” or “java” :P

    What is the Tempest’ weakness? It can attack air and ground from far away, and flies. How do you counter that? (I’m not trolling, I really want to know)

    Terrans:

    I like how they are going “transformer”, but they should not overdo it (we would end up having battlecruisers transforming into thors).

    The warhound looks … cheap and not clearly useful. Unless it’s very cheap, I’d rather just build tanks.

    The mines look fun to play with. I’m sure someone will find creative ways to use them.

    Zerg:

    Swarm host -> meh. A slower, longer-range lurker with an attack that can be countered with artillery. Or a tank with less effective attacks, but burrowed.

    The viper is powerful but manual – the long range counters for protoss and terrans work automatically. Not a huge difference for experts, but I don’t see newbies using it.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      What is the Tempest’ weakness? It can attack air and ground from far away, and flies. How do you counter that? (I’m not trolling, I really want to know)

      It costs shittons, has little health, and fires slowly. You can probably just out-econ the other guy and crush him before he gets too powerful.

      • tinners says:

        Also it attacks pretty slowly so a group of vikings/corruptors should be more cost efficient

    • Milky1985 says:

      Zerg is kinda the advanced race IMO, lots of there stuff is non auto.

      The viper is there to basically screw with positioning to stop terrans turtling as much in TvZ

    • Issus says:

      I disagree with a lot of that.

      Warhounds look brilliantly effective. You know those 40 minute TvT tank battles, where both sides have lines of siege tanks and neither player can move forwards. THAT is what the warhound will counter since they don’t have to siege to become effective. Move your tanks forwards to take the first hits, then hit siege and move your warhounds forwards and you’ll smash a tank line.

      Tempest is (I believe) a fairly late-game unit, by which time opposing players should have anti-air capability. Four vikings would probably make short work of it, and stay relevant if there are colossus on the field. Admittedly the tempest would be a huge pain if it was rushed to in the early game.

      The swarm host is countered by artillery, yes, but I think the point of it is breaking siege lines. If the swarm hosts attack at the same time as zerglings then there will be fewer tank hits landing on the zerglings and the line will break more easily.

      Come to think of it, a lot of these new units seem geared towards removing stationary armies, especially breaking through lines of siege tanks.

      • Kdansky says:

        They don’t just look like they were designed to break lines and make for a more mobile game. They are. All the new units are either very stationary, or suited to break fortifications, to allow for a broader variety of strategy instead of the current Meta.

        • vivlo says:

          and, aren’t the terrans the race who is and must master in a positions war ? hence, aren”t they hugely disadvantaged in this ? indeed, their new weaponry is especially aimed towards breaking lines too (antiground goliaths), or establishing it again (mines). I don’t see how they don’t come the great losers of this new set of units.

  9. brulleks says:

    But what about the voice of Geddy Lee?

    (How did it get so high? I wonder if he talks like an ordinary guy.)

    • acheron says:

      I know him and he does.

      • stahlwerk says:

        And you’re my fact checkin’ ’cause.

        • brulleks says:

          bing ding ding ding ding
          bing ding ding ding ding

          Focus on the qua… No, no, must stop.

          See what you’ve started with your flagrant Rush references, Grayson?

  10. MadTinkerer says:

    The units might seem OP at first, but it’s just like the Meet The X TF2 videos. They’re showing off the units being really good at what they do. They’re not showing, in this video, the counter-tactics and units that will defend against those abilities and easily take out those units.

    Incidentally, Terrans don’t need as many new units as the other races. Presumably at least one of the single-player-only units are being balanced and “promoted” to multi-player and are thus technically not new units in the game but still new to MP. Or if I’m wrong about that, then there’s something else Terrans get that balances stuff out. The one thing you can 100% count on Blizzard doing is balancing MP right, even if it takes a patch or two.

  11. Milky1985 says:

    The only thing that i think is a bit OP is the entomb ability of the oracle. Its a great idea and relativly easily to counter (but requires investment) but i think the oracle is a cheap unit, and being able to stop mining for max 45 seconds (lets say 15 seconds if things are being manually attacked ) is quite a lot.

    They need to either increase the energy (so you can’t suicide orcales as they have to build up the ernergy, unless you wanna waste a engerize from the mothership core) or make it so that the drones/scv/probes auto attack the shields, they do little enough damage that it won’t affect the harassment capacity too much early on but will help control (don’t ahve to manually control stuff each time it happens) and make it a bit fairer, currently they ahve said that you need to manually attack or build base defence to do it (that will autoattack)

  12. marcusfell says:

    Hmm… A lot of people like the warhound, but I always thought it was a blocky mess. What gives?

  13. Teronfel says:

    The warhound is so ugly and tanks are useless now.

    I’ll probably switch to zerg.

  14. kimadactyl says:

    The last interview with Dustin Browser I saw, he was talking about designing units that *wouldn’t* be with the giant deathball, basically. They want to make the game more all over the place, rather than huge armies bumping into each other – this is reflected in a lot of the new units. Ironically it seems the main reason this works in SC2 and not in SC1 is simply the pathing, Amazing how such seemingly invisible game mechanics can have such overwhelming effects.

  15. Askis says:

    I’m a bit confused about the Mothership Core.
    Is it an addon for a Nexus, kind of like the Planetary Fortress, but with the Mass Recall ability?
    Or is it a unit that can buff a Nexus (Purify) to give it a defensive cannon?

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      It’s an addon. One of its abilities is turning into a defensive cannon. Another is Mass Recall.

    • Milky1985 says:

      as pkt-zer0 said, its an addon, you can ONLY have 1 but it has hte ability to warp to antoher nexus, it has mass recall, the ability to turn into a defensive cannon (the attack animation was kinda like the tempest so guess its much more powerful than a photon cannon) and has the ability to energize units, this fills up there energy instantly so you can get forcefields out from sentries or storms from high templars (most interested in it for that tbh)

      • Askis says:

        Hmm, interesting, but can you still have a normal Mothership for Mass Recall Drop shenanigans?

        • Milky1985 says:

          Yep, the mothership core turns into the mothership!

          I assume you can only have 1 of either so you can’t have a mothership and a mothership core but thats not been said.

          Would be annoying if that was the case, mass recall into the enemies base then when the army turns up or they counter , mass recall back to your own :P

          • Askis says:

            Yeah, that would just be silly, no way Blizzard overlooked something as obvious as that ;)

  16. Milky1985 says:

    @ RPS and everyone else, there is an eactual battle on the youtube channel commented on by Day9 and Rob Simpson showing ZvP, with the new units in action

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gcs52bErU4

    There is also a TvZ in there as well

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv-i8s0ipII

    Shows the units in action (accept the warhound from what I saw, widow mines look fun tho :P)

    • Vandelay says:

      Yes, everyone that hasn’t should watch these. I imagine they are fairly staged, but it will hopefully be a good indication of how the games might go in Heart of Swarm. There is a lot more movement and area denial happening and things just seem a bit more interesting in general.

      Pity there isn’t a TvP game though. I would be interested to see whether the heavier helion is still viable in that matchup. It looks rather good against Zerg.

  17. Nallen says:

    So torn, having felt the full, unlubricated, trauma of the D3 launch D3 and it’s RMAH based design I really feel producing a good product is no longer the core of what Blizzard does. I also HATE that HotS is a bunch of features that should have been in SC2 since day 1, a few units and a doubtless terrible single player experience for full price.

    But I played SC2 since launch, and I love it.

    Edit: Also, I now I get to lose at least 1 muta every time I go near a mineral line with them now? :

    • kikito says:

      If you are referring to the mines, they have an area of effect that also kills friendly units. If you time the kill right, you could suicide-bomb 4 workers with that lisk.

    • Zihua says:

      1) Not full price. Was never going to be full price.
      2) WoL’s campaign was fucking excellent. Why would you think the HotS campaign will be terrible?

  18. Special Agent Brown says:

    Just bring back my Goliaths and I’ll be happy.

  19. ScorpionWasp says:

    They took out the Terran Radiation Field unit??? Bastards! That was one of the more interesting concepts they had… :(

    The Tempest looks completely redundant in my opinion. It’s basically a Brood Lord that also attacks air.

    Ever since day one they’ve been nerfing Siege Tanks into non-existence, and this just continues the trend. What about all that talk of making SC 2 “less ball-of-death-centric” (like SC 1 used to be) and stuff? I enjoyed the days when individual battles were occurring simultaneously all over the map, when it actually took time to travel from one point of the map to another, when units had vastly different speeds because they weren’t necessarily meant to group together like a “ball”. Oh well…

  20. MythArcana says:

    All things Blizzard now leave a terrible taste in my mouth. I’m looking at my installation of D2 and wondering if it’s time to finally part ways for good. It’s a sad and tough choice, but it’s the only game they made that I care about…and it’s older than the pet rock.

  21. Highstorm says:

    I always thought my trypophobia was so obscure as to never really impact anything other than the occasional errant Google image. But those zerg swarmers, man… burrowing was bad enough. I can’t play this game :S

  22. Hug_dealer says:

    I skipped SC2 because it felt pretty old and boring, but this looks decent. To bad CoH2 is coming soon and thats what im looking for right now.

  23. The Smilingknight says:

    looks fucking great from diversity and appropriate cool ability side for both protos and zerg.

    Finally – i would say.
    Zerg strike back!

    Some good players will be able to wreak epic havoc with these new shiny toys.

    Now…if only they could improve the story and missions and stuff like that in single player… i might even buy it… nah..always online = screw you blizzard!