The recent release of the Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm beta brings some changes to a game that developers have been tweaking since the Wings of Liberty release in July 2010. So what works and what doesn’t?
We got a chance to find out.
What we like
1. Interesting new units.
The biggest change is the removal of some old units, such as the Protoss Carrier, and the introduction of new units – at least two for each race. Their new abilities will give players new and exciting means to wreak havoc on their foes. Some of the new units seem quite weak and highly situational, while some immediately strike you as “ZOMG that’s awesome!” That was my response to the new Zerg unit Swarm Host, which burrows and spawns little locusts that do really good damage to land units and buildings.
Some units have had their skills tweaked to make them more useful. The ability for Terran Reapers to regenerate their health once out of combat is great but they do a lot less damage to buildings now. It remains to be seen how players will adapt to these changes and what strategies they will develop as a result.
2. Tweaked graphics.
The graphics for Heart of the Swarm have undergone an upgrade from those in Wings of Liberty. With a new, rebuilt physics engine the edges are sharper and movements smoother. It’s much prettier to look at.
3. Resource collectors mine without being told to at game opening.
Although a little thing, you don’t have to instruct your probes or drones to collect minerals when the game starts. It does it automatically. The rally point for your command centre or nexus is automatically set to the nearest mineral line. A small thing, but welcome for the novice player.
What we don’t like
These complaints are purley about the beta in its current form:
1. No campaign. At all.
Staggeringly, not everyone plays multi-player games in Starcraft II.
There are a large cohort of players in it for the single-player game and (to date) fantastic storyline. If you are one of those players then this beta rapidly turns from exciting to disappointing.
If you want to play without competing against a human opponent (see point 2 below) then you have to create a co-op vs A.I. game. You can't set the difficulty level above 'Very Easy', so it rapidly gets boring.
The final release will have a single-player campaign. You'll just have to wait until then.
2. Your opponents are good.
If you are not a hardened ladder player, you will get your arse handed to you repeatedly as a lot of beta invitees are seasoned players. This repeated beating is a little demoralising if you just want to see what changes have occurred and play against people of a similar calibre.
Easy to do if you have friends with invites, but as invites are still limited this isn’t really an option.
3. Long wait times for games.
Sometimes the wait for games can take many boring minutes. General chat can have people complaining about waits of up to five or more minutes. This could be due to a number of factors (small number of beta participants, which league you are placed in, etc.) and should get better as more invites are sent out.