Mech Me: StarCraft II Big Balance Overhaul Incoming

I’m always interested in big balance changes to long-running competitive games, the rewriting of rules and reshaping of how matches go. I’m still waiting for football to follow Dota’s lead and re-landscape and re-plant the pitch every few months – I’d love to see how the cars deal with that. Over in the world of StarCraft II [official site], Blizzard have announced details of a big rebalancing coming up in November. Why go into it this early? Because they want a good few months of feedback and tweaking. Terran mechmen, read on! Oh, and hey, SC2 is on sale now too.

The idea is to launch these changes are the end of the current competitive season in November. Blizzard explained their plans in a blog post over the weekend with far more detail than I’ll summarise. Basically, they’re changing a whole lot of Legacy of the Void matchups and counters.

“For Terran, our primary focus is on improving the viability of Factory unit armies—popularly known as ‘Mech’ compositions. While the resource changes in Legacy of the Void have been working great overall, they did have a unique effect on the effectiveness of Mech play. Outside of very specific maps (such as Dusk Towers) it has been challenging for players to go Mech due to the difficulty in securing additional expansions. Because the resource changes have had such positive effects outside of Mech play, we wanted to make some changes to Mech to improve it across the different types of StarCraft II maps.”

Changes including completely redesigning Cyclones, making Siege Tanks deal even more damage but lose their ability to be carried around by Medivacs, making Liberators worse at anti-air, making Thors better at anti-air, and switching Battlecruiser abilities from costing energy to having fixed cooldown times.

As for Protoss, they say they want to deliver even more improvements beyond what Legacy of the Void gave those sullen spacemen:

“For one, we’re aiming to make the race’s interactions with Terran Mech more interesting. We’d also like to increase the power of the Zealot in certain areas compared to Adepts or Stalkers, and also make some generally cool unit improvements.”

Look for things like Tempests getting an area-of-effect damage-over-time ability to force units out of position, cheaper Interceptors on Carriers, and mmmaybe Dark Templars who can blink away to escape once they’ve been detected. They say “have a low degree of confidence” that last one will actually reach SC2 but hey, they’re trying it.

Finally, for the Zerg:

“We want to take this opportunity to experiment with a heavy rebalance of the Swarm Host, a redesign on the Infestor and its abilities, and a rebalancing of the strength of different Zerg tech paths. This means there are changes to units in different tech options, as well as an adjustment to the Ravager that feels necessary, especially given the changes that we intend to make to the Siege Tank.”

Expect changes including cheaper Swarm Hosts, Hydralisks buffed to make them more of a core unit, Infestors able to tunnel to any visible spot on the map, and a 25% health boost to Banelings so those frightful gits are more likely to reach their targets before bursting.

Do read Blizzard’s blog post for more detail. Lead multiplayer designer David Kim also hopped on the DreamHack livestream over the weekend to discuss these changes with Smix and that nice boy Artosis. Skip to 1:02:10 in the archived broadcast for that.

Before all that, hey, to celebrate DreamHack, Blizzard have put the many parts of StarCraft II on sale until August 22nd. Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm are down to £8.49/$9.99 each, while a 25% discount brings Legacy of the Void to £19.99/$29.99.

I’ve not seen any of DreamHack, having spent the past week on holiday mostly watching sinister, strange, and sexual theatre in the Edinburgh Fringe, so – any matches I really should check out? I’m way behind on SC2 but do like to see what’s up every now and then. As someone who used to watch competitive Brood War, which went unchanged for yonks, I’m still a little thrown by expansions and overhauls changing it up constantly.

From this site

11 Comments

  1. QSpec says:

    Ah Starcraft 2… the game I want to love more than any other, but for some reason it just doesn’t scratch the same itch that BW did when I was a little one.

  2. Horg says:

    Not from Dreamhack, but worth a watch for recent competitive SC2, Totalbiscuit ran a KotH tournament last month called ‘Shoutcraft Kings’, found here:

    link to youtube.com

    I haven’t watched any pro-craft since WoL, which was comically imbalanced in favor of Terran, but judging by the SK tournament the balance seems to be in a better place now that all three races have fully fleshed out rosters. It might be time to start paying attention to the pro matches again.

    • Vandelay says:

      I’ve not watched any since Legacy was realised, but I did see some a while after HoTS and it still had terran as the top dogs. Seige tank/marine deathball was completely overpowered.

      Legacy sounded like it was mixing things up a bit, but I feel that there are some fundamental decisions in the engine that mean the deathball tactics will always be strong and that just makes it less interesting to watch. It makes it a pity that there really are no other RTS esports around, as a well balanced RTS with flexible tactics would make a great spectator sport. SC2 always felt much more accesible and readable than the melange of heroes and abilities in Dota 2, but just doesn’t have the same variety to offer.

      • Reefpirate says:

        Each race has had their run of dominance, but saying HotS was dominated by marine/tank seems to be missing the mark quite a bit… Tanks weren’t all that popular with Widow Mines being available and very effective in TvZ.

        However, ever since HotS came out, the races have been incredibly balanced in the competitive scene (particularly if you look at Korean leagues). And LotV so far has seen a serious reduction in ‘deathballism’… More action all over the map than ever before, once again particularly if you watch the Koreans play.

    • adwodon says:

      hmm I wouldn’t have said WoL was comically imbalanced, the only notable time of significant imbalance was probably Brood Lord Infestor combo from zerg, that led to a long period of really stale games.

      Terran had a fair bit of an advantage in the first few months maybe as the map pool favored tiny maps but things were pretty decent towards the end of WoL, HotS was also good but LotV is amazing so far. These patch notes look super promising too.

  3. Zankman says:

    Do you need WoL and HotS to play LotV?

    Generally, how does SC2 work in that respect?

    • Freud says:

      Legacy of the Void is a standalone title.

    • Moraven says:

      You can get all 3 for $49.99 (not sure how much in euro or pounds).

      LotV sells for $29.99.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      It’s confusingly set up.

      WoL is standalone
      HotS requires WoL (might work with LotV but unsure)
      LotV is standalone again and all you need for MP.

  4. Doomlord says:

    A vast majority of the feedback I saw after the reveal and the first big trailers still doesn’t seem to be getting addressed (and in fact seems to be ignored by the gaming media but that’s not a huge shocker, honestly). And that is simply that there’s not much new with this upcoming sequel – units and gameplay seem the same. The coloration scheme seems a bit too bright and cheerful (Grim Dark, anyone?) and they stupidly didn’t even line up the same excellent voice-actor for Angelos. Those might be little touches but they tell the fans a lot more than Relic probably realizes, sadly.

    I’ve heard little (not even this nicely written piece) to get me terribly excited about this one and I suspect that’s because they’ve opted to simply play this one safe and that’s such a poor way to go. :(

    • Asurmen says:

      We’ve all seen comments go wrong within the same article, but the system posting something in an entirely new article is new to me!