February is here. A month before the true masochism begins. For me at least. It'll be the day when I forget all morals, all religion, all sanity, all just to play Heart of the Swarm, record it, comment on it, post it and distribute it for your sake.
You can ask, and with all due reason, why to do this? Is it for fame, as our dear Pesky Mesky refused to walk further into the river of lard? Is it for insanity, as only a madman would dare venture further into the horrific writing that destroyed Diablo III and dares do the same to Starcraft? Is it for exibitionism, as some would dare call "Falchion's one shot at getting famous"?
My answer is: All the above. Simple as that. Yes, I'm shamelessly admitting that I'm usurping Mesk's position as our dear recorder in this particular case. So what? Yes, I'm crazy enough to record Heart of the Swarm, post it here, and call it my fame shot. So what? Yes, I'm purely a show-off at the things I do. So what? There's also a fourth answer. Because I can do it. Because I WANNA do it. Would someone do an LP he didn't want? Doubt it. But here I am, on the threshold of all legal boundaries, willing to die and suffer an humiliating afterlife for this sake. All for this.
But, unfortunately, that's only still on March. So, why am I writing to talk of this now? It's to talk about the Beta, the direction it's going, judging by the previews, my opinions on current game flow (Which IS non-existent) and what I actually wanted for Heart of the Swarm.
For now, let's talk about the game, the Beta.
Everyone has known the awful pile of mess that was WoL's Battle Net 2.0, hidden under a plastified cover of graphics. Ever since before HotS beta was announced, we heard people complain on how difficult it is to navigate, how messy it was and how it lacked chat channels and other important stuff since it's release two years ago. But I've grown used to it.
When I came to Heart of the Swarm beta, I saw the changes to most stuff through my periodic visits to Blizzard's website. Of course, I got lost over a period of half-hour just trying to figure out most of it. There are good news and there are bad news.
The good news are, the menus are much more simplified, gameplay-wise. Now you can name your poison (Campaign, Matches or Arcade), choose options more easily and the chat channels now come in installed. Unranked matches are a positive addition, as now not everything is about the leagues Blizzard so value. Graphic layout, compared to WoL, now seems more sober and the loading screens are easily readable. The bad news however, is the empty feeling of it, concerning the player's profile. It's all now accessed by right clicking on the portrait, as well as most other options will only be accessed through specific menus (You can only access ladder stats now through Matches, WTF?).
Also, they STILL aren't supporting offline custom map playing, that would allow campaign playouts without having to use the goddamn editor test module. That was something that SHOULD have been added ever since WoL, as it was in SC/BW, but I think they'll only add it in LotV, for the sadistic humor of it. I've heard a shitload of people, not just here on CC, stating that campaign interested would be increased if support for offline map playing, so much ladder as custom campaigns and UMS, would be added.
One thing I felt the most positive since WoL, however, are the more lenient prize systems, but it's level system is also the most flawed, rewarding experience even when you lose. I think all experience collected through the game should be nulled the moment you lose the match. This would increase interest in Matches and incentive players to the fact they want to win to gain those prizes, in form of portraits and decals. The decals, the moment I learned you didn't have to surpass the masochist 500-wins demand to win any decal at all, was a positive change in my opinion. The feeling of having to swallow that same decal time and again gets disgusting over time.
Although I have to hate to admit it, but actual work was put with most doodads and terrain (The cliff doodads for the iceworld are a thing I highly praise, as I can re-skin it to look like rock in the editor, and the Protoss station's are the best made so far, I could make a FUCKING HUGE SENTRY WITH THEM!), but there are also doodads I oughta critic personally for (The new Korhal buildings lack any Normal map at all, and some doodads are just WoL doodads with a reskin).
If there's one thing lacking, still, are some types of decals, like an alphabetic one. I mean, we have decals for 0-9 but none for A-Z, none for factions, and I wonder why Blizzard is so afraid of it. Maybe it's because the last thing they wanna see is some space station ground with a nice 'FUCK YOU' decal in sci-fi format, go understand those people...
The data, I haven't seen anything new other than the hilarious ragdoll effects, pulled over from Diablo III, and I doubt I'll see any of that prior to the release. So far, it's only been graphic work and the balancing for the units, which I'll comment below.
THE GAME, IN ALL PERSPECTIVES:
I've played some Terran during beta stage and a bit into the eerly early beginnings of Wings of Liberty. I've cracked my head time and again over the heavily-restrict timings while playing the lard-sack humies. I've grown tired over the exhausting need to both administer my base and my army, especially when they get into trouble.
From my experience, as playing Terran and against Terran, it'd be pretty hypocrite to declare that the new mech units didn't give players much option from bio massing and hasn't changed much. Plainly said, they didn't. Most Terran players (At least below Diamond level) still continue to favor bio, which is enhanced with the unnecessary Medivac speed boost. Or they go crazy dodo and mass Widow Mines (The new, missile shooting Spider Mine) galore.
I call it unnecessary from my personal POV in playing most of the matches, even on 3v3, which was my home in WoL: Good or bad Terran Medivac drops are curiously akin to the Reaver/Shuttle control in Brood War: They make or break Terran players. With the best control over your drops, you can ruin a player's economy, crack his infrastructure and make him ragequit while he tries to move his deathball wondering: "How the fuck does he move THAT fast? Is he Asian?".
On a lore and realistic level, let's lay it clear: Yes, the Hellbat and Widow Mine don't even have a fucking clue of sense, ever. They're just units meant to show-off in matches and nothing more, IMO, especially coming from a mind as retarded and not so creative as David Kim's (No, Browder can't be blamed alone for these ones). Really, it doesn't make any sense making another transformable vehicle when you already got two for Terrans and who fill their roles in a somewhat decent matter, which are the Siege Tank and Viking. And anything written off from Metzen, Roper or anyone else just... won't solve it. Ever.
Although, on the drop matter, you can now expect more than Marine/Marauder drops or Hellion drops. Now, there'll be Hellbat drops (RIDICULOUS NAME, I STILL SAY!), and Widow Mine drops. Firstly, however, let's concern the Hellbat: A shitload of people, not just us here on CC, have been ranting on the Hellbat and how the fuck they turn Mechanical to Bio when transformed, but, surprisingly, there were those two guys who consistently used them to complement their bios, and the Hellbat, at least as meat shield, came out pretty decent, and I was still on my Roach/Hydra composition and didn't even fucking care to transition to Mustaches, so it was my personal fault. Apart from the mech-to-bio turning fact, Hellbats can become either a shield answer to mass Stalkers/Roaches or harassers, depending on how the players are interested. For me, on it's crude state, they turned out to be hard-counters to Zerglings and Zealots, and they only got dangerous against Stalkers every turn they increased their number, which forces you to transition to air anyways.
Now, the Widow Mine matter. I've heard a shitload of people complain that the Widow Mine is simply too OP, either for it's easy mass or the damage output when burrowed. I'd go with the former, personally. Ever since they announced it in HotS alpha, I was convinced it was going to become an AoE hard counter, one way or another: Timers, jumping, even those missiles that don't make a clusterfuck of sense at all. All I could do was get used to it, especially since the announcement pages came up in Bluzzlard's site, meaning there's no shit we can do about it now. So, back to the matter, there were people complaining on it, and I discover these people are either Zerg rushers, who practically love Ling/Bane/Muta combo or jackasses who simply forgot to bring in a detector (Even Raven for Terrans). Lemme say this upfront and straight: Widow mines ARE hard counters to about everything, especially when massed, and they WILL assfuck your army if you fool around. In this particular case, you have no choice but to either send an expendable MULE, make some Hallucination out of a Sentry or go Brood Lord or Swarm Host. I once tried microing Observers and Colossi to knock down those Mines from a safe distance, but then my opponent adapted to Vikings and... you figure the rest. ¬¬
Finally, you can't complain and brag on Terrans and not remind THE REAPER! Out of most WoL units messed up in HotS, the Reaper got the most mess through out all of it's alpha and beta stages. It lost most of it's firepower, even explosives and the vs. Light bonus, it got a ridiculous health pool and has been gaining and losing speed and the unnecessary see-up-cliff mode. Between the Void Ray and the Reaper, I'd say the Reaper got fucked up the most, especially players who like to use them to harass and screw up tech and economy in PvT and TvZ, like myself. This time you gotta literally mass them if you hope to at least damage his economy a bit. I guess that's why they compensated it by moving Reapers to Reactor tech...
Finally, the Thor, it doesn't change a bit other than making your AoE AA a single-target one. Simple as that. Terran are the most fucked up in changes. And will fuck Bronzes up if you let them.
During my period in WoL, I played virtually very little Zerg, but I was just toying with it, and it was mostly hilarious of my part. Then came my shot at HotS beta (As I've literally pre-ordered my US copy in December, and this allowed me my passage through it), and thus I decided I had to perfect some of my skills in playing Zerg and thus I took this job seriously. I frequently visited TeamLiquid's strategy Wiki, watched several replays between ZvZ, TvZ and PvZ, and cracked my head in knowing and forming the right strategies at the exact time, in the exact form. I've grown used to having to expand after starting my pool, having to double or even TRIPLE expand around the 15 minute mark, having to upgrade frequently, so much the Spire as the Evo chamber and I've grown used to having at least three Infestors on my bases. Also, I've also grown used to the irritating frequency in which Baneling busts are used while you still don't have Roaches, used to Protoss air hits and Terran drops (If there were any), and grown used to value Ling/Muta more than Hydra/Roach when it came to end a game as quickly as possible. My home during this beta of HotS has been 2v2 a lot of the times, as I honestly suck on solo alone unless I'm really, REALLY focused.
From this experience in playing Zerg, and concerning the new units and the change of new ones, I can safely say Zerg is the less affected of all the two other races when it comes to HotS, but they still got their share of fuck-ups. So far I've liked most of the changes done to old units, the only one I complain of is the fact Blizzard turned Fungal Growth, an instant spell, into a projectile one with a slow-ass speed, which it makes a disaster in countering Phoenix and their range upgrade and Mutas unless you're really confident about your APM. Other than that, the other changes are quite pleasant, of which I particularly praise the boosted Mutalisk regen and the Hydralisk speed, which was supposed to be included in Wings of Liberty.
But, contrary to the changes to the older units, the newest ones just seem like... thin air. It has no lift nor heft. They don't make THAT big of a change for two reasons and two reasons alone: The situation in which they should be applied and the player's interest in them. So far, below Diamond level, I've seen little people use either Viper or Swarm Host unless it was a ZvZ game or PvZ. Starting with the Viper, which is supposed to be the air Defiler, it has practically no use. I'm talking about it's new, green Dark Swarm, and it's not the ability itself that's bad, but the unit's practically FAST speed and how small the cloud is, is what it makes it useless. The problems are both the size of the cloud and the speed of practically EVERY unit in Starcraft II, especially Terrans and their stims. The same applies for the Abduct tentacle tongue, as this ability is not so used as it should be, not even when hunting Siege Tanks, Colossi or Carriers.
Then, the Swarm Host. The Swarm Host, to be used, has to be either in ZvZ, or PvZ. In TvZ, unless the Terran is a complete retard who didn't hotkey his Orbital Commands, a single scan can practically ruin the efficiency of the Swarm Hosts. Siege Tanks and Widow-Mines can one-shot them easily, cloaked Banshees can pick them off, even with Hydras giving cover, and the rest of the units... well they'll simply outgun them. Simple as that. Now, when it comes to ZvZ or PvZ, you only oughta watch out for three things: Colossus, Air or simply more and more Swarm Hosts. The pushes become something that takes a nod from the Terran Tank push in TvT, but ultimately becomes kinda boring as the Locusts, as long as they're shooting something, they're good, and it keeps on the stalemate until you turtle your Swarm Hosts to victory by numbers or when you transition to air and get either Vikings, Void Rays or Brood Lords. Yes, the Mustaches. Mutalisks, though as powerful as they got thanks to the new health regen, will still get owned by Vikings, Phoenix and most sort of AA.
One thing that became mandatory, however, when playing Zerg in HotS, is security. Of your bases. You'll need to have at least two Spore Crawlers and two Spines in each base and expo and have some Overseers in hand, because of how easily accessible the Dark Templar are and the high liability Oracles will visit you this much sooner, around the 10-minute mark if he didn't rush you. I played against this Protoss three times. The three times he either used Oracles and their Worker Snipe ability or went Void Rays and Phoenix. Three times. Goddammit, man...
I've played Protoss most of the time in WoL 3v3, and had some turns in HotS in both 1v1 and 2v2, the only modes available thus far in the beta. As I've come to find out, especially on PvT or even PvP, Protoss are about two things: Timing and the right unit composition, in which both come with expanding and knowing if you scouted your opponent properly or not. Given Terran continues to value bio more and Zerg don't use Swarm Hosts or Vipers that much often, suffice to say that not much has changed to counter masses without Sentries before late-game, where, supposedly, you have both High Templar and Colossi. Or Void Rays, Tempest and Carriers, if he transitioned to air.
Before going with the new units, let's start with the old ones, which are the Sentry and the Warp Ray. Tactically, the already-researched Hallucination favors Protoss a bit, as you now get a fake Phoenix to scout periodically your opponent with impunity, while you still don't have observers. Or, you can get those fake Archons for meat shields you so love and confuse your players a bit and get some free kills. Then there's the Void Ray, which was the most radically changed, trading it's continued charging for a jackass button for free power, which often determines if you'll win a battle or not if you use it or not. To counter it, it's supply is increased. Typical Bluzzlard...
However, if there's one thing that has changed odds in favor of the Protoss, is harassing. Yes, it's the Oracle I'm talking about. The new Protoss light bulb can hurt Marines bad with it's ray ban gun. And workers. It's been both the cause of my cursing and the motive of my praise: Preparation is determined if you have AA air or a decent number of Turrets, Spore Crawlers or Cannons, or if you can catch them with your AA ground before they run to a safe spot to recharge, rest and repeat. Yes, that's how Oracles are used, when not trying out the Protoss parasite spell or the temporary detection, you strike the worker line, get the fuck out then wait 'til it's recharged, while they still don't have any AA. Otherwise, if the folk smartens up, forget them. Oracles just buy time and delay pushes in favor of protecting economy and nothing more.
Then, the Mothership Core, the motive of so many rants along with the Tempest, which was supposed to replace the Carrier but ended up as a support unit (Thank so much the fan-base and our hardcore for that!). Truth is, it's more of a Warcraft III unit than a Starcraft II one, with the only difference is that it never levels up, but it's also liked by some. The reason is the anti-rush cannon for Nexus, particularly when Zerg tries a 6,7 or 8 pool while you make your FFE (Assuming, of course, you got a Cannon and a Cyber Core). Then, there's the pony bubble spell, meant to pick off runners unless they have stim packs. Not bad, but not terrible too, and it covers a role more decent then the Viper's cloud. The recall is the same as Arbiter's in Brood War, so there's not much saying to that. At it's essence, it's a well-rounded unit, IMO, until you upgrade it to the now lame-ass Mothership, which doesn't have it's cool mass Vortex anymore.
Finally, the center of the whole mess concerning Massive Air, the Tempest. The Tempest was one of the units along with the Reaper and the Widow Mine that was radically changed in it's role. First as an air Guardian, then an anti-mass AA, now it's nothing more than just a larger, more armored Mutalisk, with the exception it's attack can't bounce and can be hard-countered by Mutalisks, unless you bring Carriers along. Yes, Carriers along with Tempests make a functional Protoss force this time, and one that can be hardly beaten now unless the opponent brings in mass Hydras or Marines, or shift-click your Carriers with Stalkers. Still, with the range Tempests still got, they can be pretty dangerous and ruin your artillery if you don't watch it. Or, worse, your Colossi.
Other than this, it's business as usual and nothing more.
Of course, I was going to cover that very soon, when it was released, and given we've seen much shit that denounces it's going the way we don't like. Of course, it's about that leaked Hots ending from years ago, that we've even seen put Transformers soundtrack on it, a heresy you should never, EVER do with a product like Starcraft. Then, the screenshots and the trailer from BlizzCon 2011, where we see our beloved shemale Kerrigan doing shit even with the pretty blonde (THE PRINCE, NOT THE GHOST, MIND YOU!). Then, the gameplay trailer released mid-January this year along with the intro, where you see her doing more evil shit but no dialog at all, which I fear will be a disaster (Only explanation as to why Blizzard wouldn't release any ACTUAL gamplay footage without a weak-ass music).
That was, of course, before reading that Twilight-class novel called Flashpoint, where the broad who wrote it inspired rather on Meyer and Rowling than any actual writers, and, judging some of the scenes in HotS will be based in Flashpoint, we can expect (SPOILER ALERT, DON'T READ THIS UNLESS YOU REALLY, REALLY WANNA BEAT ME WITH A SPIKY DILDO!):
- Kerrigan suffers weird shit during her recover. She also remembers the shit she's did, as well as the murder of Fenix (Which, I doubt it, will be mentioned in HotS, as no shit of it was said in WoL).
- Pretty blonde prince knows of the "Artifacts-are-the-key-to-the-end-of-all-things" prophecy, can fist-fight and make himself a tough bad boy, and goes against his daddy Mengsk out of pure stubborness.
- Raynor now gets possessive concerning the shemale.
- The facility where Kerrigan gets her new squeaky stripper suit will be featured probably as mission number one, where the Terran gameplay cutscenes will most likely be Zeratul-bonus missions.
- A broad mechanic from the Hyperion will die seeing Kerrigan perform her japanese Western-bastardized Hadouken.
- The battlecruiser that's being struck by the Dominion isn't the Hyperion, but one of blondie's hammerfish ships.
- The Protoss broad will die as a time bomb aboard the Protoss platform, so no sentimental shit on her.
- Shit is going to end with Mengsk dying and Korhal being poked to death with brutalisk panty-flash attacks.
Predictions for March? 96% probability of clusterfuck (No, not 69, Mesk).