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Mech Me: StarCraft II Big Balance Overhaul Incoming

Mech is back, baby

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.

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