Saturday, March 16, 2013

Zerg Rushin

It has been quite awhile since I finished a RTS game's campaign. Hell, it has been awhile since I finished a game in general. Life at the moment is not permitting much time for games besides the occasional coop vs AI game in League of Legends, something that does get stale after awhile. Anyways, Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm has, as of writing this, come out less than a week ago and I have already dedicated enough time to it to blitzkrieg through the campaign on normal and occasionally hard difficulties. My overall judgement? It's good. I'm not sure why it took them 2.5 years to develop but hey, this is Blizzard we are talking about. They were probably high on cocaine and wading through strippers for 90% of its development.

Nice view
What did I like? Well first of all I found the story to be quite interesting this time round (compared to Wings of Liberty) and not just because it was to do with my preferred Starcraft race. I loved the music, never really getting the space cowboy theme of the previous Starcraft games. While it is true I have a fascination with things that look positively deadly, I was honestly not expecting the amount of characterization and development given to the Zerg lieutenants Kerrigan encounters. They actually seemed like a cool group of ... monsters, some of which I wouldn't mind hanging out with (if that were possible). While the campaign is a little linear (strange complaint for an RTS I know), it is not boringly so as you do feel like you are amassing your Zerg army for a final showdown.

Fashion these days ...
It is obvious they have wanted to make the control of the Zerg a bit easier, at least for the campaign. A race that could be unsurprisingly confusing to control has had some of the multiplayer/original impairments lifted. Hatcheries of all kinds now generate up to 12 larvae without the need for a queen to keep ejaculating on them. Queens can now also roll with the swarm, unimpaired by non-creep terrain, healing units in the mass like bosses. The use of F2 to instantly select all offensive units is also a godsend. Similar to the WoL campaign, you can improve certain units (some unique to the campaign) to be more proficient at certain tasks. Some of these are incredibly well thought out, turning for example a new Zerg offensive siege unit, the Swarm Host, into the ultimate defensive unit en masse. Through the use of readily changeable mutations and one time only evolutions, I turned my Swarm Hosts into units whose locusts could attack both ground and air as well as tunnel to any location on the map that has creep. This kind of clever game design allowed me to make a small pack of Swarm Hosts that could move to defend any threat (including deployed siege tanks) anywhere I had a base in seconds. Brilliant!

In Soviet Russia ... rush Zergs you!
Unlike my Swarm Hosts however, most of my other units were mutated and evolved to serve two particular purposes: durability and/or numbers. Zerglings that were tougher and spawned in threes instantly, Roaches that took less damage and created roachlings from kills, Mutalisks and Hydralisks that could regenerate health or take a heavier beating. You get the idea. My dealings with Effective Hit Points in many games (particularly Diablo 3) has convinced me that it is the most efficient way to play. Surviving longer, perhaps indefinitely, results in the dealing of greater damage. If that damage can be split amongst tens or even hundreds of units that never die, well then you have a force to be reckoned with. Nay ... a swarm.

Gotta catch em all

However all of this would not be worth much if not for the abilities they have given Kerrigan. A decently thought out set of abilities can make base/unit building and combat quite interesting, depending on abilities chosen. You could potentially turn Kerrigan into either an autoattacking or ability using killing machine should you please. I however chose to base Kerrigan around keeping my swarm alive for unreasonable lengths of time (AoE heal), as well as providing decent damage when necessary. Her passives were also built around making an army as quickly as possible through increased efficiency in drones and overlords. For her ultimate ability I of course chose Drop Pods (easily the best of the three) for even more Zerg numbers.

Why should I ... care again? Geddit?

The end result was a Zerg swarm that could literally pop up in minutes and survive against even the most ridiculous encounters. Observe.

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