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Karunology: Terran Infantry, Colossus In-Depth, New Abilities

Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, has been sprinkling various bits of information about StarCraft 2 on a select few threads on Battle.net. Karune provides his take on several new gameplay mechanics and changes to existing units and reveals some new data on them.

First up, some more information about the new Nydus Worm transportation mechanic, which we have also brought up for discussion.

The worm is no longer underground and moveable. It is a spawned unit that acts as a exit/entrance to the network.

Since the Worm no longer travels to its destination, it can not be intercepted on the way. However, it is not invulnerable – the enemies of the Zerg will still have a chance to kill it before it starts hurling Zerglings at their base.

Yes, you can see and attack the Nydus Worm before it becomes fully built. The visual graphics of this are not totally complete yet.

Next up, Karune talks about two of the Terran’s new units – The Reaper and the Marauder – and their roles on the battlefield.

Reapers are actually one of the best units against any light units in the game. They kill Zerglings, workers, and even Zealots pretty well with a little maneuvering. Their mines also decimate stationary defenses, as well as tech buildings. They are no doubt one of the best raiders in the game right now.

Reapers, which have bonus damage against light-type units, are currently the best economy raiders in the game – being able to jump into the enemy base, dispense with its workers, and plant some explosives for extra measure. Aside from that, they are also quite capable against all other light units, including the basic units for the others races – Zerglings and Zealots. However, they are very lightly armored – meaning that efficient usage might require quite a lot of dancing.

Reapers on their way to another raid

Marauders on the other hand are probably better mixed, unless you are going up against an all armored ground force. Marauders work well against both Protoss and Zerg. Early game, as mentioned above, they are great for slowing Zealots while Marines do the damage. Against Zerg, they are better suited against those pesky armored Roaches with the fast regen.

Marauders are now found in almost every Terran build. The slowing effect of their attack is beneficial when coupled with the ranged Marines against the other two races’ melee units. In the later parts of the game, the Marauders’ bonus attack against armored units keep them viable. They are especially important against the Zerg Roach, which quickly regenerates and shrugs off damage, as they can focus their anti-armor attack and squash it before the Roach has a chance to recover.

Marauders

Karune answers a question about Stargates and the option of upgrading them to Warp Gates, like Gateways.

Only Gateways can be upgraded to Warp Gates. Gosh…warped in Carriers/Void Rays over an enemy base would be OP!

Next, a discussion about abilities which may or may not make it into the game:

The Molecular Disrupter is a new ability we are testing out on the Nullifier, in which the unit fires a psionic projectile which bounces between units of the same type, doing 10 damage with each hit, up to a maximum of 10 bounces. Thus, if you were to use this ability on 2 Marines (with 40 hit points each, not upgraded), both Marines would die easily. If there were 3 Marines, it would kill 1 Marine and leave the last two at 10 hp each. Currently, the ability costs 125 energy.

The Nullifier’s chain-lightning like ability, the Molecular Disruptor, joins his other two abilities – Hallucination and Force Field. This one looks a little out of place for the relatively “peaceful” caster, which has so far only passively affected battle situations with its abilities. The mechanic of only jumping between alike units feels a bit tacked on, not having any real use in any fight.

Nullifier

The Seismic Thumper is no longer in the multiplayer game, but was originally dropped on the battlefield, which slows all units within it’s radius by 50% (including friendlies). The only way to stop it was to destroy the Seismic Thumper itself.

The Seismic Thumper, an ability designed for the Nighthawk, will only appear in the single player portion of the game. An interesting idea for an ability that fits the Nighthawk’s role, it is currently out of the game, replaced by another new ability, Targeting Drone:

The Targeting Drone is similar to the Auto Turret in the fact that it does not have a timed life. It currently costs 50 energy to deploy and has 120 hitpoints (all subject to balance of course). The Targeting Drone can target one unit at a time, and increases the damage that unit takes by 50%. You cannot have two drones targeting the same target. These drones are also flying, stealthed, and immobile. They may excellent perimeter defenses and can be coupled with Auto Turret raids to maximize the damage.

With the addition of this ability, the Nighthawk has truly become the master of defense for the Terran, able to deploy Auto-Turrets, Spider Mines and now Targeting Drones. Coupled with its detection capabilities, this is a unit that will accompany Terran armies into many confrontations, scouting ahead of the main force and preparing preliminary defenses until the heavy gear is deployed.  Aside from that, it will certainly be useful for quickly setting up a defense perimeter around any new expansion. This is a great defensive addition to the Terran, which, in StarCraft 1, had no standalone defensive structure they could rely on for protection against ground forces.

However, since all of the Nighthawk’s deployables are energy based and permanent, a limit will likely be imposed on the number of concurrently deployed abilities to prevent abuse. Perhaps, like the old Protoss Reaver, it will have to pay to manufacture some of them first.

Nighthawk gang

Finally, Karune discusses the Colossus‘ role in detail. The Colossus, which used to be extremely powerful as an individual unit in the previous builds, has been toned down somewhat and now has a more defined place on the battlefield.

In my opinion, the Colossus is the most effective when you have more than one. Three seems to be my optimal number, especially against Terran. Medivacs heal at a very fast rate, but only one target at a time. Against a group of Marines with a Medivac, one single Colossus would do virtually nothing, because the damage would be healed through easily. With three Colossi, the Marines would die in one sweep, negating any healing that could be done. A single Colossus is good at softening targets, but with more rapid healing from Medivacs and new units like Roaches, it may not be enough. At that point, you need enough to kill them in one sweep, and when you do have that, it will do significant damage to any army, especially with the additional range upgrade for the Colossus.

The Colossus has changed from the powerful assault unit it once was into more of an attack support unit. It will function best when it utilizes its extreme range upgrade (9) to target distant enemies from the safety of cliffs, or behind other, cheaper and more expandable units so it can inflict its AoE damage and soften up targets.

Some concerns were raised about the mechanism of the attack, which sweeps across in a line in front of the Colossus. The area of effect is very dependent on the position of the Colossus, and the timing of the animation also raised some questions. Here’s what Karune had to say:

Even though the beam is currently shown visually in various ways, the damage is done to all units in that straight line at the same time instantly. That line will always be based on the position you are attacking from, so in that way there is a lot of control as how to use the Colossus.

THREE Colossi is the only way to roll

Lastly, Karune reveals an interesting piece of information about Blizzard’s plans for competitive play:

The range of the Colossus is what makes it such a great support unit, as well as an awesome raider from cliffs. Additionally, all competitive maps will have cliffs to some degree.

StarCraft 2 has intergrated many mechanics which depend on cliffs and height differences. This is something that differentiates it from StarCraft 1 in a great way and adds more complexity to the game. Aside from units, like the Colossus, which can traverse these heights naturally, the line-of-sight changes add to the importance of utilizing cliffs intelligently. It’s no surprise that Blizzard will want to see these new additions in maps designed for balanced, competitive gameplay.

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