Blizzplanet staff Eldorian and Medievaldragon were invited to the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm beta courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.
I’d like to give you a quick intro into what’s currently available to beta testers.
The HOTS installer is a 3.66GB file download, and the installation takes a few minutes while it initializes files for the first time.
The Single-player campaign and achievements tabs are disabled for beta as expected. However, the StarCraft II Editor is available for map makers. Quick Match only provides 1v1 at the moment.
This is how the Terran Portraits and Decals section looks like. The Zerg and Protoss Decals seem to be a work-in-progress or locked. They are missing.
The Menu options contain the game configuration settings: Graphics, Voice, Sound, Controls, Gameplay, and Battle.net. I was glad to see the video settings automatically set to Ultra with my nigh four-year old high-end video card: EVGA GeForce GTX 285 Superclocked. There are minor changes to some of these options.
Graphics Tab: Looks exactly the same. This might change later on throughout beta and in the final retail release build.
Voice Tab: Looks completely exactly the same.
Sound Tab: Under the Volume section In Wings of Liberty, the “Response Sounds” is a checkbox. Sound Effects now has an additional dropdown option named “Move Sounds“. In Wings of Liberty, “Move Sounds” is only a checkbox. In HOTS, there’s a new checkbox named “Voices“. Beneath it is now a slider from 1-100% for Response Sounds. Under the Setup section there’s a new checkbox to “Group Sounds”
Controls Tab: This tab got a significant addition. In the “Controls” screenshot below the entire “Unit Control” section is new to HOTS, allowing players to customize some Unit UI options.
Gameplay Tab: Looks more or less the same, except for a few options moved to a different location within the same tab to fit-in two new options. The reduced violence checkbox was moved to a new section named “Parental Control“. The only change in this tab is the addition of the “Menu Screens’ Theme” in the Interface section. It’s a dropdown menu where players choose: Zerg, Terran or Protoss.
Battle.net Tab: No changes.
Heart of the Swarm adds two new Zerg units: The Viper and the Swarm Host.
The Viper looks like a giant dragonfly. It requires a Spawning Pool, an Infestation Pit and eventually a Hive. It has some fun utility abilities:
Consume allows to consume 200 life of a friendly building over 20 sec to convert into 50 energy. That’s a nice battery recharger.
The Abduct ability costs 75 energy and let’s the Viper pull a friendly or enemy unit to the Viper’s location. Basically, a harpoon-like tongue that pulls long-range units into your Hydralisks or melee/anti-air units’ range. It could also remove your own units from sure death if you use it strategically. Let’s say an expensive Ultralisk goes in to do damage, and you pull it out of harm’s way before it gets killed so that it regenerates back home for later use.
Blinding Cloud creates a cloud for 10 sec that reduces attack range of biological and mechanical units under it to melee range. It has strategic use against enemy Marines, Marauders, Hydralisks, Roaches, Siege Tanks, High Templars and other range-attack units. — thanks Neinball
I still don’t see where the Swarm Host fits in the gameplay design. The Swarm Host requires a Spawning Pool, a Lair and an Infestation Pit. It has no abilities other than burrow and that it creates two Locust units every 15 sec. The Locust units die in 10 sec, and do melee damage. I can only see this unit as an expansion harasser. Burrow it by the nearest enemy expansion or other possible expansions, and activate the Locust ability to attack any incoming enemy SCV/Drone/Probe. It could be used to lure. For example, a player who wants an expansion will send an SCV/Drone/Probe. When he is alerted of the Swarm Host attack, he might want to send a group of units to defend that spot. That’s an ideal ambush scenario if you got a group of units to deal enough damage hidden nearby.
Heart of the Swarm introduces three new Protoss units: The Mothership Core, the Oracle and the Tempest.
Alright, the Mothership Core is still a semi-Mothership minus the Vortex and Cloaking Field. The Mothership Core requires a Gateway, an assimilator, and a Cybernetics Core. The Mothership Core keeps Recall, but has two exclusive abilities not found in the full-upgraded Mothership: Purify and Energize.
Purify makes the Mothership Core deal 25 damage for 45 sec. Energize makes this unit a mobile battery to recharge the energy of a friendly unit or building to max energy.
The Mothership Core is extremely slow, so I wouldn’t recommend taking it outside the base because it wouldn’t be able to flee. It functions like the Zerg Queen — as a base defense unit, and as support unit against the initial rush attacks.
The Oracle requires a Starport. This unit has good utility, but I think Blizzard might have to increase its radius range to make it more be viable in the game. Players have to get really close to an enemy base running the risk of encountering turrets. The Oracle has three abilities: Preordain, Revelation and Entomb.
Preordain causes an enemy structure to grant vision for 120 sec and display what it’s constructing when selected.
Revelation reveals enemy units within target area. Units revealed can’t cloak and will remain visible while burrowed for 30 sec.
Entomb is definitely a very cool ability for specific harassment strategies against unprotected expansions, and to cripple the enemy’s economy. Its radius is so big it can entomb an entire mineral field for 45 sec or until destroyed.
The Tempest doesn’t have any special abilities, but it serves the same funtion as a Zerg Guardian. It has a long range attack that deals 30 damage, and attacks ground and air units. At 3.3 Attack Speed, it has more than twice the attack speed of a Stalker, and three times the damage. It has a big size as well. As soon as enemy players see a bunch of these, the size alone will make them shake in fear.
The Warhound requires a Factory with an Attached Tech Lab. It’s an anti-vehicle mech against ground units. These can’t attack air units.
In large numbers, these Warhounds can pack a big punch at Stalkers, and Siege Tanks. However, they are weak against Roach, Zealot and Marauders.
They have a light-blue laser attack against buildings and non-mechanical units which deals 23 damage.
When Mechanical units are in range, they switch to haywire missiles that do + 7 bonus damage for a total of 30 damage per volley.
The Widow Mine is a truly cool unit for the Terrans. No need to build Vultures. These can be built in the Factory in batches of two with a reactor attachment. Cost only 50 minerals and 25 gas.
The mine detonation deals 160 damage to the primary target, and the large blast radius deals 35 splash damage to nearby enemy units. These are ideal for those packs of enemy units sent to attack your base. Spread them in a straight line, and surely the enemy will think twice to attack your base without building an Arbiter or Orbital Command Center with Scanner Sweep. The cherry on top: the Widow Mines are triggered by air units, and also do splash damage to air units if they are near the primary target. Send a large batch of them into an enemy unit, and while some might die — enough will survive to take out a few enemy units. Pretty nice to leave near enemy buildings. Watch them kill units as they come out of buildings.