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Visitors to BlizzCon 2008 got a chance to play the latest StarCraft 2 build, and, as expected, this one is not without an abundance of changes, just like the one from last year’s event. As we get closer to the beta and the eventual release, these changes become more and more important, as they are more likely to stick through to the end. Without further ado:

BlizzCon 2008

* Banelings no longer require any gas to be produced, after the initial 150 gas investment in a Baneling Nest. Previously, Zerg players had to decide whether to invest in Banelings, which have an early-game crippling potential, or to use the gas to tech up. With this change, using Banelings does not inhibit the Zerg’s player tech advancement.

* The Queen is no longer a unique unit. As such, it is no longer upgradeable by itself, instead relying on global upgrades, and is treated like a normal spell caster. Its abilities now include:

  • Mutant Larva: Create three large Larvas that are not attached to the hatchery. Bring them into battle with you to create adaptive reinforcements.
  • Razor Swarm: Creates a cloud of Zerg insects, controllable by the player, which damage units caught in it over time.
  • Create Creep Tumor: Extends the range of Creep, similar to a Creep Colony.

Dustin Browder, lead game designer, commented that players saw the Queen as too much of a defensive unit and neglected investing time and resources into developing it, instead choosing to focus on the offensive in most games.

Queen

* The Mothership currently has the following three abilities:

  • Cloaking field: As the StarCraft 1 Arbiter ability, this bestows the cloaking effect to all friendly units in a small radius surrounding the Mothership.
  • Vortex: A nerfed Black-Hole, this ability only disables the units it pulls into its event horizon for the period of the spell.
  • Timebomb: This ability disables all units, enemy and friendly, who enter it for the duration of the spell.

* The Nighthawk‘s (formerly Nomad) abilities are:

  • Deploy Auto-Turret: Deploys a permanent Turret on the field.
  • Deploy Spider Mine: Deploys a “burrowed” mine on the field, ready to pop out and explode on any passerby.
  • Deploy Targeting Drones: Deploys cloaked drones which fly around the targeted unit, lighting it up with a targeting laser. This adds 50% to any damage that unit receives, and provides sight around its location.

Nighthawks

* The Vespene Geyser mechanic has changed again. As we suggested, and no doubt partly thanks to feedback from our readers, the “Replenish Gas” process is now Auto-Cast. When the gas in the Vespene Geyser is depleted, it automatically goes through the replenishing process, which takes 60 seconds – during which the workers are unemployed, and can be utilized for something else at the cost of the player’s attention. Unfortunately, this process cannot be turned off.

Dustin Browder has commented that the current gas mechanic isn’t liked by many of the developers and will likely be changed. Perhaps our full suggestion will be implemented – allowing the automatic repleneshing to be turned on and off and the player’s volition – or just scrapped altogether, in place of a system that does not require much action from the player.

Refinery

In the screenshot above, “Available” refers to the amount of gas left in the Vespene Geyser before it has to go through the replenishing process, while “Remaining” is the total remaining amount of gas in the Geyser.

* The High Templar has gained a new ability: Phase Shift. Affecting single units, this takes them out of the battle by shifting them to another dimension for a short period. Effective for both enemy and friendly units. This ability joins the Templar’s two other abilities, the Infamous Psi-Storm and Archon Warp.

* The Ghost‘s Snipe has been replaced with an ability called Psi-Round. This still deals a lot of damage to single units, but also deals an additional 50 points of damage to “Psionic” type units.

* The current unit types are: Light, Massive, Armored, Biological, Psionic and Mechanical. Structures also have the Structure property.

* The Colossus has a new upgrade, Extended Thermal Lances, which increases its attack range from 6 to 9. This is a major upgrade for the Colossus, allowing it to dish out damage from protected locations enemy units can not get to, like heightened terrain spots and fortified positions. Its attack animation has changed yet again: the beam focuses on a single position while intensifying, then sweeps across the field quickly, scorching everything in its path.

Colossi laying some hurt

* Upgrading Protoss Gateways to Warp Gates now costs 50 minerals and 50 gas. This allows warping units built from it to any powered-up location on the map and reduces some of the build time, but removes the option to queue units.

* The Lurker‘s spines and the path of destruction they form are now much wider. As well, it also receives a bonus against armored targets.

* The Battlecrusier can now utilize these three, battle-oriented abilities:

  • Yamato Cannon: As in StarCraft 1, the Battlecruiser charges up a large amount of energy, which is then released as a hot ball of death, capable of destroying most units on the ground or in the air in a single hit.
  • Missile Barrage: This new ability allows the Battlecrusier to saturate a piece of the sky with missiles, inflicting area of effect damage. Especially deadly against lightly armored fliers.
  • Defensive Matrix: The Battlecrusier can now cast this old Science Vessel ability, but only on itself. This is a temporary shield that adds a layer of protection to the already heavily armored Battlecruiser, allowing it to take even more damage.

Each produced Battlecruiser can only choose one of these abilities to utilize throughout its life – it cannot pick another or change its choice.

Battlecruisers

* The Infestor does no longer actually infest. It has also lost its famous Dark Swarm ability, and can no longer cast Disease. It now has the following abilities:

  • Fungal Infestation: Infests a single, non-massive unit, slowly reducing its hit points until it dies – creating an explosions that damages nearby units.
  • Neural Parasite: Takes control over a unit for 10 seconds.
  • Spawn Infested Marines: This somewhat senseless ability allows the Infestor to hatch five eggs, out of which Infested Marines pop out, regardless of the Zerg’s current enemy on the field.

The Infestor now possesses the ability to use his special abilities while burrowed. Coupled with his natural ability to move while burrowed, this makes the Infestor a very interesting unit for the Zerg.

* The Nydus Worm is no longer a unit. The player must now build the Nydus Network building and then “plant” a Nydus Worm with an Overseer.

Nydus Worms

* The Overseer has received the Queen’s Heal ability. The Overseer is now a fast, flying detector unit with a large sight radius, capable of “summoning” Nydus Worms and healing Zerg units and buildings.

* The Phoenix now possess the old Nullifer ability, Anti-Grav. It can now lift up units off of the ground, throw them into the air and attack them with its anti-air attack.

* The Nullifer, which lost its Anti-Grav ability to the Phoenix, now has these three abilities:

  • Force Field: Creates an impenetrable barrier on the field which lasts for 15 seconds.
  • Hallucination: Like the StarCraft 1 High Templar spell, this creates a fake version of the targeted unit, serving as a decoy.
  • Molecular Displacer

* Siege Mode for Siege Tanks is now researched at the Armory, pushing this ability further up the tech tree.

* The Hellion (formerly Jackal) has received a boost in stats and efficiency. When microed well, it can now outrun most enemies while still being able to stop and fire off a quick burst of flame.

Hellions leaving their enemies in their dust

* The Hydralisk has been reduced in tier, hit points, damage, and overall efficiency. It is now mainly used as the Zerg’s anti-air unit.

* Marines now have 80 hit points with the Shield upgrade. The Stim upgrade has been moved up the tech ladder to the Shadow Ops building, and further help arrives a bit later, from the Starport, in the form of the healing Medivac Dropship. These upgrades keep the Marines very useful for the Terran race throughout the entire match.

StarCraft 2’s latest playable multiplayer build coupled with the surge of details about the campaign, along with the StarCraft 2 beta key, are all clear indications that StarCraft 2 is entering a mature presentable stage, soon to culminate with the much anticipated beta.

    

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