In the aftermath of Blizzcon 2011, a plethora of details has been released in regards to the much awaited first expansion of StarCraft II, Heart of the Swarm (HotS). HotS continues the story from Wings of Liberty with an all-new campaign that focuses on Sarah Kerrigan, the former Queen of Blades. New multiplayer units and maps will also be included in the expansion, as well as new features and upgrades to the Battle.net online platform. The multiplayer changes will provide the game with fresh tactics and strategies and will undoubtably change many aspects within multiplayer. Professional Starcraft 2 players have expressed their thoughts with mixed reactions but irrespective Heart of the Swarm will revitalise the growing competitive scene and produce more dynamic plays.
- Continues the epic story of StarCraft II from where Wings of Liberty left off
- Approximately 20 new campaign missions
- New campaign gameplay mechanics, allowing players to evolve new abilities and units for their Zerg army
- New multiplayer units and maps, expanding strategic choice and gameplay depth for each race
- Expanded features and functionality for Battle.net to improve custom-game search, and new tools for map authors to create even more epic custom games
- New pre-rendered and in-game cinematics
NEW MULTIPLAYER UNITS:
The Shredder is a new unit built from the Factory that allows the terran player to control the battlefield. In its mobile form, the Shredder has no attack — but when set to stationary mode, it channels area-effect damage to both the air and ground. If a friendly unit enters the range of the Shredder, the weapon shuts off.
The Warhound is a small, walking ground mech that wields an effective anti-air weapon with splash damage, much like the Thor from Wings of Liberty. The difference is that the Warhound is smaller and much more nimble, though it gives up some range on its anti-air missiles in exchange for this mobility. The Warhound also wields a small ground attack weapon that does additional damage to mechanical units, making it particularly well suited to taking out enemy Siege Tanks — though it’s not particularly effective against non-mechanical units.
Changes to Abilities
- Hellion has been upgraded to transform into a BattleHellion. When transformed into its new battle mode, the Hellion will gain in hit points and get a stronger flame attack that covers a short arc in front of it.
- Ghost’s Cloak ability will no longer be a toggled effect. A one-time energy cost to activate Cloak for a specific time duration. Energy regeneration will continue while cloaked, and Ghosts can re-cloak while nuking without interrupting the call-down.
- Battlecruiser will gain a speed-boost ability called Redline Reactor which has a cooldown
- Reaper no longer has a special building attack, but instead has a passive health-regeneration that allows it to recharge hit points quickly when out of combat.
The tempest is a new capital ship that deals massive area-of-effect damage to air units. It also has a standard ground attack, but its chief role is to help gain air superiority.
The Oracle is a psionic warship, built from a Stargate, that uses several unique abilities to raid and harass the enemy. The first is Entomb, which can temporarily block mineral fields from being harvested. Another ability, Preordain, grants vision of a targeted enemy building, allowing the protoss to see which units or technologies are being researched. Rounding out its kit is Phase Shift, which phases a target building, preventing it from being attacked, using its abilities, or granting technology. Not only can structures like missile turrets be prevented from attacking, but using this ability on a zerg Spire would block the production of Mutalisks, Corruptors, and air upgrades.
Replicants have one ability: to transform itself into any non-massive unit. They’re expensive, so cloning a Zergling would not be very cost effective, but transforming into a specialized unit like a Raven, Infestor, or Siege Tank could open up interesting strategic options for the protoss.
Changes to Abilties
- The Nexus has a new ability called Arc Shield which temporarily adds additional shield and building armor to help fend off drops by the opponent
- Mass Recall, has also been added to the nexus, which allows protoss players to teleport armies from out in the field back to the nexus. The recalled units are stunned for a few seconds when recalled.
The Viper is a new flying unit with three unique abilities. Blinding Cloud temporarily reduces the attack range of all ground units inside the cloud to melee range, and prevents energy-based abilities from being used. Abduct allows the Viper to physically pull a unit to the Viper’s location. Finally, the Viper has a one-time ability called Ocular Parasite, which allows it to detach its eye stalk and meld it onto any friendly, non-massive unit, turning that unit into a detector.
The Swarm Host is a slow-moving ground unit that has no standard attack. When burrowed, the Swarm Host spawns a continuous stream of slow-moving melee units called Locusts that can be used to lay siege and pressure entrenched enemy positions.
Changes to Abilties
- The Corruptor’s Corruption ability has been replaced by a new ability called Siphon that allows Corruptors to target buildings and slowly damage them.
- Ultralisks have a new Burrow Charge skill that lets them dive underground and instantly surface at a target, allowing them to initiate the fight faster on a crowded battlefield.
- Banelings have evolved tunneling claws similar to the Roach, which allows them to move while burrowed
- Hydralisk has a new upgrade that allows them to move faster while not on creep.
As new units are added to multiplayer, some units are on the chopping block. Motherships and Carriers will both be discontinued when Heart of the Swarm of the swarm comes out. You will be still be able to Mothership and Carrier rush in Wings of Liberty if you still desire.
No release date has been announced and in traditional Blizzard style they won’t commit to a date until Heart of the Swarm meets the expectations of its players, as well as to Blizzards own standards. It has also been announced that a beta will take place.