Tag Archives: Blizzard

Blizzcon 2017 Round up

So Blizzcon is coming to a close once again, and our favourite developer hasn’t disappointed despite not having a whole new game to show off. So what did they have for us?

Warcraft

First up, it’s probably strange to most that the big news for Warcraft wasn’t the new expansion. Battle for Azeroth is the latest in a long line of expansion for the ever-popular MMO, but perhaps the fatigue is starting to set in and now news of a new pack is more like the start of a new season rather than something to really get excited for. That being said, we usually find the first few weeks of a new expansion to be the most fun while people actually get to explore and try new things out. Battle for Azeroth focuses on the war between the Horde and Alliance, taking place in whole new continents called Kul Tiras and Zandalar. It features new enemy types, a new level cap, dungeons, raids, new islands that looks like little procedural dungeons, 6 new allied races (new create-a-character options unlock once you have recruited those races in the story) but these are mostly variations of existing races, and a whole new levelling system that means you can choose from a lot more zones to level up. So now when you get to level 57 you don’t have to go Outland, you can head on straight to Northrend if you’d prefer and level up there instead.

Overall, it’s pretty standard for an expansion with nothing as exciting as a new class, but it seems to be setting up for what might become the real endgame of WoW, the war between Alliance and Horde. We wouldn’t be too surprised to see Blizzard abandon the expansion pack model after this one, instead supporting the game through content patches until they eventually move on to whatever will come next.

The big news for World of Warcraft was the announcement of official support for the vanilla version of World of Warcraft. We don’t have a timeline yet, but Blizzard will be making the original game available, complete with ammo counts, 40-man raids, having to walk to dungeons, LFG chat, and consumables for literally everything anyone ever wants to do. Seriously, if you didn’t play World of Warcraft before TBC, you might have a shock coming as to how hard and time-consuming the game used to be.

Starcraft

Starcraft’s surprise announcement was that the game is going free-to-play. Soon Starcraft 2’s multiplayer and Wings of Liberty Campaign will be entirely free, with the game being supported through micro-transactions connected to the popular co-op mode. The game is getting plenty of balance updates and more content for c-op mode too in order to keep the older players interested while the (hopefully) huge influx of new players find their feet. This could be a way to ensure the competitive scene stays alive by removing the barrier to entry for more casual players. As big fans of WCS, we’re hoping this works out well for them.

Heroes of the Storm

As expected, Heroes of the Storm is getting two new characters, with Overwatch’s Hanzo and the dragonflight’s Alextrasza joining the Nexus. We always want more dragons but couldn’t be more indifferent about Hanzo. He’s dull in Overwatch and he’ll be dull in Heroes, I can’t see what they could possibly do to differentiate his skillset from the other DPS assassins. Maybe Blizz will surprise me!

Other than that there’s not a lot new coming for Heroes, but considering the steady flow of content we’ve had over the year it’s hard to complain!

Overwatch

Overwatch is getting a new hero (of course) along with a brand new map set in Blizzard-style theme park. As massive theme park nerds we’re probably more excited about the map (and dreaming of it becoming real) but Moira (the new character) is fairly interesting too as a kind of shadow healer who can kick out a lot of damage while healing at the same time. Currently she looks like a Mercy who can also kill everyone, which sounds horrifically overpowered. Blizzard even joked about this, saying you spell her name ‘OP AF’ – but we’ll have to see what they can do to balance her or buff the other supports to fall in line. If you are having a hard time ranking up in overwatch then check out this Overwatch rank boosting.

Hearthstone

It feels like there’s something new every month for the insanely popular card game, but Hearthstone is getting another expansion, Kobolds & Catacombs, that’s themed around the idea of a choose-your-own adventure game. Everyone can get in on the fun with a free card out now and a quest coming later in the month.

 

And that’s your lot for this year! Sadly there was no news of Diablo 4 or any new titles like the rumoured Warcraft 4, but for the games you know and love there’s plenty to keep you occupied. We’ll be following the updates to Heroes of the Storm closely and potentially World of Warcraft if they can convince us to sign up (again)!

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Diablo 3 – Rise of the Necromancer Released

Today Blizzard has released another update to Diablo 3, reintroducing the Necromancer class from Diablo 2 into the mix. The pack costs £12.99 and comes with a few little extras like 2 more vault tabs, a pet, a sigil, a banner, some wings, etc.

Obviously the main attraction is the new class and we’ll be streaming some Necromancer gameplay tonight to try it all out! Read the full press release below:

Continue reading Diablo 3 – Rise of the Necromancer Released

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Blizzcon 2016 Updates

We’ve got our Virtual Ticket so we’re going to be following all fo the news and updates from Blizzcon, especially news for our favourite games Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. Keep stopping buy to see our thoughts and opinions as the show progresses over the next two days!

Opening Ceremony: November 4th 6pm GMT

 

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Medivh invites you to the new Hearthstone expansion – One Night in Karazhan

For those of you who have played through the Hearthstone adventures, you’ll know that some of them are a little tongue-in-cheek. OK so they’re cheesy as hell, but that’s why we love them, and One Night in Karazhan is no exception.

Right now you can play a free prologue (available to everyone and with four cards as a reward for beating it!) and you can buy the first of what looks to be three episodes.

We had a lot of fun with the mechanics of the prologue, where you take on the role of Medivh and have his ridiculous spellcasting abilities at your whim, to the point where we were easily doing 50-60 damage in a turn. We played it twice after we beat it just because it was so much fun! So load up Hearthstone and get to Karazhan. That’s where the party’s at!

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Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void Review (PC)

For Protoss fans this expansion has been a long time coming. Finally bringing the Starcraft II trilogy to a close, Legacy of the void tells the story of the Protoss, while also wrapping up some loose ends of plot threads that have carried through the last two parts, Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm. Of course the expansion is more than just another chapter in the story, it’s also an overhaul of multiplayer and the introduction of three new fairly spectacular features, Allied Commanders, Archon, and Automated Tournaments.

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The campaign is what many fans will have been waiting for and they’ll no doubt be disappointed by this entry. While many were hoping to see the culmination of an epic story that has been building up over many years, what we actually get is a rehash of Heart of the Swarm with a Protoss skin on it. This isn’t about the Protoss learning to fight alongside Raynor and Kerrigan, it isn’t about the overwhelming power of the Protoss, it’s not even really about reclaiming their homeworld and their legacy. The Xel’Naga’s part in it is underwhelming and Amon simply isn’t an impressive opponent. Instead you bumble about from planet to planet, gathering the different groups of Protoss that conveniently allow you to slowly unlock more unit types. Bizarrely the new multiplayer units (the Adept and the Disruptor) are completely absent from this mode, so you’re just going round unlocking units that you’ve been playing with for ages. There are a few gimmicks to some of the levels, such as a movable base or fog that strips your shields, but there’s nothing as interesting as the giant death lasers and rising lava from previous games.Even separate Protoss forces are given incredibly little development. A warlike band who settle things through fights to the death appear for two missions, sneer a bit about being told what to do, then do what they’re told with no more objection. The purifiers, tyrannical machines that were expressly designed to wipe out life, namely zerg life, join your ranks with no adverse consequences, like say the famed genocidal tendencies for which they were outlawed. All missions fall into two categories, either you build up a bass then construct a deathball big enough to roll over any opponents, or you control a small bunch of heroes and roll over your opponents with some ridiculous abilities. Admittedly on brutal things are much tougher, but just because you have to react and build faster. There’s no interesting quirks or more complex objectives, you just have to play against unfair odds and use trial and error to build exactly the right counters to incoming attacks.

By the end of the campaign we were utterly let down and have lost all faith in Blizzard’s ability to create a good Starcraft story. The ‘humanising’ of the Protoss and the Zerg have ruined the mystique they had and now they’re all just vaguely different aliens trying to get along in this big old crazy universe. The one thing I was really hoping for was some awesome CGI showing the more powerful Protoss units like Colossi and Tempest in action, but no such luck, there’s just the opening cinematic we saw a while ago and then a handful of character based ones that assume we really care about Tassadar. I don’t care about Tassadar.

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Thankfully, campaign is only a small part of this expansion, and the rest of it is pure fried gold.

Multiplayer has received a much bigger overhaul than it got before Heart of the Swarm and the new economy changes really make a world of difference to players of all skill levels. No longer do you have five minutes of dead time before anything interesting happens as you now start with twelve workers and can start constructing an army almost immediately. Bases run out of minerals quicker too so you need to be much more aggressive with expansion leading to more varied strategies and faster matches, which can only be a good thing. The new units are a mixed bag and still the subject of much balancing, but it is nice to have some refreshing new options to deal with strategies that were previously a pain. See an incoming swarm of mutas as Terran? No problem, just get some Liberators out and absolutely wreck them with incredible AoE damage. Need to harass as a Protoss? Drop some Adepts in and kite enemies for days. Need to defend as a Zerg? Just build all the Lurkers in the world.

On top of new units and economic changes in mutliplayer, there are a whole suite of new modes to engage players of all skill levels. There are now automated tournaments that are focused on your ladder level (silver, gold etc) and start roughly every couple of hours. They’re a great way to get a competetive rush and feel like you’re taking part in the esport while you risk very little. Sadly there’s no spectator modes for these yet but I’m sure that’s something Blizzard are considering or trying to implement.

There’s also Archon mode, where two players control a single side. This is interesting because it allows for some incredibly micro as you can focus purely on army control, and gives players a unique way to learn the game, by playing alongside someone who is doing most of the difficult work. Of course it also leads to arguments and much finger-pointing, but thankfully you can now play Archon against the AI so it’s a slightly less frustrating experience.

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The final new mode is Allied Commanders. This is a fully fleshed-out co-op mode entirely separate from the campaign. You and a friend select a commander from a choice of six and take on randomised co-op missions that are similar to the story missions in terms of objectives, but are catered more to two players. This might include defending a base or shooting down escaping shuttles, and always require you to build up a base and make the most of each commander’s unique powers and abilities. Raynow can call down Banshees or the Hyperion to support with someserious firepower, Kerrigan can get involved herself and devastate armies single handedly. As you play this mode you can level up and increase the difficulty as you go, unlocking new abilities and units and always giving you a serious challenge.

For those invested in the multiplayer, Legacy of the Void is a brilliant expansion. It’s kept what’s great about Starcraft and built on it in nearly every way imaginable. Sadly the campaign is mostly awful and for single-player gamers, this is one to avoid. The idea of what Legacy of the Void should have been is much better than this depressing reality. Our score reflects the multiplayer modes, because that’s where most people will be spending their time, but half it if you’re just going to play for the single player.

Verdict 8

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Overwatch Beta beginning October 27th

We played Overwatch repeatedly at Gamescom, it was the only game we went back to more than once. It’s a perfect mix of Team Fortress 2 team-based action and Shadowrun-esque player abilities. We really enjoyed the variety and strategy involved and can’t wait to get stuck back in. So it’s good news that Blizzard have finally announced the beta launch date. The full press release is below.

Overwatch Beta Coming Soon
 
Get ready for battle—beta begins Tuesday, October 27 in the Americas region, with other regions to follow!
    
Attack commencing in 3… 2… 1…
 
 
The Overwatch beta officially begins October 27, and we’re getting ready to invite our first batch of recruits for some field-testing!
 
 
The beta test will kick off on the 27th with Americas gameplay region, with Europe and Asia to follow. Read the mission briefing below to learn more about our plans for the beta, and don’t forget to sign up if you’re interested in helping us shape the fight for the future.
 
We’re aiming to accomplish two primary goals with our public beta test: First, get tons of top-notch feedback on the gameplay—including balance, feel, and fun—to help us make Overwatch the best team-based shooter on the planet. Second, we want to hammer the heck out of our tech, including stress-testing our server infrastructure and making sure the game runs great on the widest variety of systems possible.
 
 
To accomplish this, we’re dividing our beta participants into two different groups, each with different mission objectives and deployment schedules. The Closed Beta group will form the core of our testing crew. In addition, we’ll be conducting a number of Beta Test Weekends with wider groups of players when it’s time to break out the big guns.
 
 
Closed Beta
 
The Closed Beta will be composed of a small number of testers who will have regular access to our public beta test. Our goal for the Closed Beta is 100% gameplay feedback, and we’ll be encouraging participants to discuss and dissect every hero, map, ability, and other aspect of the game on our upcoming beta forums.
In order to get the most meaningful and constructive feedback possible, the total number of players in the Closed Beta will be extremely limited—though we’ll be adding more people from time to time to make sure we have the right number of heroes actively engaged.
The first phase of the Closed Beta will deploy on October 27 in the Americas gameplay region, and players may be added gradually to start (with more being invited as new features are ready to test). During this time, we’ll continue to make preparations for our Europe and Asia gameplay regions—our goal is to have Europe come online next, with Asia following at a later date.
We’ll provide more details—including an FAQ—once the Closed Beta begins.
Beta Test Weekends
From time to time, we’ll also need to open up the floodgates and call upon an army to overwhelm our hardware. The goal: get as many heroes playing as we can, all helping us “stress test” our servers to ensure they can withstand the assault.
These larger-scale Beta Test Weekends will be brought online occasionally for a limited time, generally over a weekend, and will run concurrently with our ongoing Closed Beta test. Because Beta Test Weekends are primarily hardware- and tech-focused, the number of heroes, maps, and gameplay modes will be restricted—but feedback on everything will definitely be welcome.
Multiple different Beta Test Weekends will be assembled in various parts of the world. We have tons of would-be heroes signed up for the Overwatch beta, and we want to give as many as possible a chance to play during the testing period. The first Beta Test Weekend is currently slated for after BlizzCon—stay tuned for more information following the event.
A few more things: The Overwatch beta will be Windows-only, and you’ll need to have theBattle.net desktop app installed to play. If you’re selected to participate in either the Closed Beta or one of our Beta Test Weekends, you’ll receive an email with instructions shortly before you’re deployed. Read this article to make sure our transmissions won’t get filtered, and don’t forget toopt in if you haven’t already.
 
We’ll have more information to share on the Overwatch beta in the near future, so keep your sights trained on playoverwatch.com!

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What we want from the new World of Warcraft Expansion

So next week there’s going to be a new World of Warcraft expansion announced. It’s safe to say after Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor that people are wary after 500 days with no new content after Pandaria’s last patch and then the severe lack of content or new gameplay in Draenor. Garrisons quickly lost their appeal when you realised it was no more engaging than a 3d Farmville and even the shipyard featured more timers than actual things to do. We, like so many others, cancelled our subscription not long after reaching the max level, so what will it take for us to renew?

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New Hero Classes

Notice that’s plural. We know balancing classes is one of the most difficult things in World of Warcraft, you don’t want raids to be forced into taking 20 paladins or all healers to just be priests, but levelling up a new class is definitely one of the more exciting things to do in an expansion. We loved exploring the world as a Death Knight in Lich King and starting from scratch as a Monk in Pandaria – lets introduce more than one this time and really give the new expansion some longevity.

We think they should both be hero classes, so it gives the designers a little more freedom to create something that’s not only powerful but makes sense as starting off that powerful. For starters we’d like a Witch Hunter anti-magic class. It’d function like a cross between a Hunter and Rogue but with a strong focus on debuffs, particularly around magic. Silences, spellshields, counters, as well as a suite of movement-based escapes. While it might not do as much damage as pure dps classes, it would make up for it with survivability and debuffs. Imagine a spell nullification field during a raid boss, where the raid can gather to be entirely protected from a raid-wide damage aoe.

Secondly we’d like to see something a bit more unusual, a void shifter. This would be a magic-based tank that would rely on a giant health pool and rather than having mana, damage absorbed would power their attacks. They’d be more agile than the current tanks we have and work on intercepting as much damage as possible, jumping into aoes to absorb all the damage, then unleashing it as a channeled beam that would leave the opponent more vulnerable. It would be an interesting new playstyle, to try and throw yourself in the way of everything and fight in phases of damage gathering and then dishing it out. The chance to have a magic based tank would also mean we could have some new art styles in terms of armour.

More meaningful factions

Factions have always been a grind to be feared more than anything else, and while the grind can pay off with some special enchants, a mount or some tabards, it’d be nice if they did more. We’d like the factions to be tied in with the story, changing the path of cut-scenes you see and which parts of the world you use. This was experimented with in The Burning Crusade but we’d like to see it go further with some really meaningful decisions to be made. It’d be nice if it was reflected in your garrison too.

Keep garrisons

As controversial as garrisons have been, we like the idea. We wish they didn’t provide resources of every type for everyone, we wish they were more interactive, but we like the basic principle of them as a place you can call your own. Hopefully you’ll be able to bring your garrison over to the new areas and customise it a little more this time around. The professions buildings should be gone, except for the professions you actually have, all it does is isolate people

Make all the professions useful

A fairly simple way of achieving this is to make all professions create an important consumable. Obviously alchemists have flasks and potions, scribes have glyphs, enchanters have… enchantments, but we’d like to see this expanded. In vanilla WoW Engineers made ammo and every professions seemed to make something everyone else wanted. Perhaps Blacksmiths, Tailors and Leatherworkers could be the exception as they will be making armour and weapons, but everyone else should have a way to consistently make money from what they are doing, no matter how many other people are doing it.

Overhaul the UI

It’s hard to play WoW at a high level without a plethora of add ons, so it’s about time the most popular ones were incorporated into the UI itself. A modular UI with huge numbers of official plugins would be amazing and Blizzard have been quite good about updating things as they go with the LFG and LFR tools and bags, lets just see them take it to the logical conclusion.

Improve the engine

While many will say WoW has looked the same forever, in fact the engine has been upgraded many times, with new water, weather and animation effects as well as better textures and geometry. We’d like to see another wave of optimisation, making World of Warcraft one of the first games to embrace DirectX 12 and the efficiency it brings. New particle effects, sharper textures and better draw distances would all help to improve the look of the game, without damaging the world they have already created. Let’s make this one a big leap Blizzard, not a tiny improvement to the quality of leaves.

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So that’s it, those are the things we want from the new expansions. We haven’t mentioned PvP, Raiding, Dungeons or the story, because those are the things Blizzard are already good at . Every story to the expansions has been engaging, if anything we’d prefer it if they pulled back a little and told a more intimate story, like the excellent Deadmines quest chain or what happened with Onyxia back in Vanilla. We’ve already saved the world, saved Pandaria, and now saved some alternate dimension, lets hold back and deal with some character stories, while Blizzard inevitably drop more hints about the coming of the Burning Legion and the Old Gods.

 

We’ll be reporting on all the news from Gamescom next week live from Germany so keep checking the page and Twitter for regular updates!

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Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void Blizzcon News Roundup

So last night Blizzcon announced Legacy of the Void, showing off a few new units in the opening ceremony, having a campaign panel, releasing some videos of the new units and features and holding two exhibition matches with some of the world’s best players so we could see things in action. The multiplayer panel is still to come today but we’ve rounded up some news and opinions on the new units, features and changes we’re going to be seeing in some for mor another in Legacy of the Void. Remember all of this is liable to change before launch, Blizzard aren’t afraid to cut out units or make drastic changes based on beta feedback but this is how things stand at the moment.

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Game Features

Archon Mode

Archon mode lets two players control one army. This is a godsend for players like us who enjoy 2v2 but dislike the fact that the game isn’t really balanced for it. All those strategies you see in WCS? Useless in 2v2. A 6 pool might be easy to beat in 1v1, but what about when there’s twice as many zerglings coming for you? Reaper harass might be useful in 1v1 but what happens when the opponents has two based and two lots of early units to defend by default? Archon mode will let us use those strategies while still enjoying the team aspect. The exhibition matches we saw made us of this and it’s kind of assumed that one person will control the base and macro while another controls the army micro. Of course it opens up new possibilities like fighting on two fronts at once or just doing extreme micro within one battle. With everything we’ve seen from Void so far it definitely looks like micro is going to be a big part of the game going forwards..

Worker Changes

We think this is probably the most dramatic change in the game. Now instead of starting with 6 workers, each race starts with 12. This eliminates the first couple of minutes of building workers, instead jumping you to the point where you need to get more supply as soon as possible. Mineral patches now hold 1000 minerals instead of 1500 too so they’re going to be mined out almost immediately, forcing you to take a second base. This will make lots of early rushes completely pointless because you’ll be in a position to defend before they can even cross the map, it also means expanding is going to become much more aggressive as starving out an enemy becomes an even easier tactic. We’re happy to lose those few minutes of dead time at the start of every game and we’re not going to miss being rushed with crazy early attacks. Of course they’ll still happen but hopefully you won’t feel quite so helpless.

Automated Tournaments

This hasn’t been mentioned at Blizzcon but is on the Legacy of the Void website. There’s now going to be daily automated tournaments that anyone can enter. This means you’ll be able to experience the drama of a tournament, no matter what your skill level is, without the stress of singing up for a manually organised one.

Allied Commanders

Another new mode lets players work together to fight through different objectives against the AI. It seems like a kind of horde mode so far but will help people to learn the game and maybe open up a new fun mode to progress through if PvP is too stressful or not your cup of tea. In this mode you’ll be able to pick a commander (think Kerrigan, Raynor etc) and then use their unique units while taking on increasingly difficult missions.

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Terran

Cyclone

In the exhibition match this was by far the most controversial addition to the game. The cyclone is built from a factory and can lock onto any enemy (air or ground) and shoot them while driving away. The range of 9 is quite high and allows it to outrun almost anything, effectively kiting it until they die. The zerg players in the exhibition couldn’t find an answer to it at all and two of them managed to take down basically any unit they threw at it (although they didn’t try zerglings). Expect this to get nerfed at some point, possibly with a range decrease.

MERC

The MERC is a new barracks unit that uses a giant claw to grapple to enemies or friends. It can close distances quickly and then melee the opponent, killing a baneling in a single hit. They also have a fair bit of armour so they can survive that kind of close-quarters combat. One of the best uses we saw from this is using the hook on a friendly unit to get out of a battle quickly. Apparently they can’t be used alongside reapers to get up cliff edges, will be interesting to see how players use these in a full army.

Battlecruiser

The battlecruiser has been given a fairly amazing new ability, to warp in to anywhere on the battlefield. It uses over half their energy but if you have vision, they can get there. This means rather than leaving them exposed on their journey to the front line you can warp them anywhere you have vision, harassing, defending or just coming straight from your factory to the front lines as a powerful reinforcement. No one wants ten battlecruisers to turn up on their doorstep.

Thor

Thors can now self-repair, using an ability that heals them entirely over twenty seconds. Of course this leaves them defenceless so you don’t want your whole army to do it at once, but it does solve the problem that using SCVs to repair them on the battlefield was never particularly easy to micro. This means we’re like to see more use of Thors in the late game as a harassing unit, dipping in and out of battles but always surviving to fight another day.

Siege Tanks

Siege tanks can now be picked up while in siege. This means you can use a medivac to drop them right into a base and they can fire straight away. It does take up the whole medivac though so there’s still occasionally reasons to move them unsieged. This will really help with emergency evacuations and mineral line attacks.

Banshees

Banshees now have a speed upgrade available that will allow them to move faster than observers, ravens and overseers. This means they’ll be much stronger for harass and from what we’ve seen so far their range might have increased too.

Ravager

Zerg

Ravager

The Ravager is an interesting unit that the pros have found difficult to use so far. It’s morphed from a Roach but has an added attack (That can also hit air) that strikes down from above after a short delay. The delay allows opponents to get out of the way quickly so it’s much more effective used with fungal growth from infestors or on slow or stationary units like Siege Tanks and burrowed units. We can see them breaking down siege tank lines and clearing out widow mines fairly effectively but even the slowest Protoss air units can get out of the way if they’re paying attention.

Lurker

The Lurker is morphed from a hydralisk and burrows in the ground to create a stationary unit that can fire a line of spikes in front of it. They have a standard 6 range but with an upgrade this increases to 9, allowing them to take down things like cannons with easy. Like the ravager, their attack can be avoided fairly easily but against a group of clumped units like in a mineral line, they can put out some serious damage.

Swarm Hosts

Swarm Hosts have been nerfed fairly dramatically as they can now only create Locusts once every 60 seconds. This makes them useless for sieging. Instead they have a new harass role, where they can drop off locusts without even stopping and move on to avoid being caught and killed. They can burrow with the upgraded and launch units from there, but the intervals between them leave them much more vulnerable. The most interesting new feature is the upgrade for locust that allows them to fly, meaning you can set up swarm hosts on the other side of a chasm or cliff and then fly them right into a mineral line. They can’t attack from the air, but they will shoot down and land quickly and do a frankly terrifying amount of damage.

Corruptors

Corruptors now have a new channeled ability that allows them to strike buildings and ground units. It doesn’t seem particularly strong but it does mean they have some use once you’ve destroyed an enemy’s air presence.

Infestors

Infestors have a new ability that can increase the damage of units affected by 5. Throw this on some zerglings with their attack upgrade and you can suddenly destroy a base in seconds with some truly terrifying DPS. In exchange for this, they’ve lost neural parasite but who really used that anyway?

Nydus Worms

Nydus worms are now invincible until they deploy. This means whatever happens you’re going to be able to get a unit or two through. Hopefully this means we’ll see more Nydus worm play in high-level tournaments, although you can just camp them and open fire as soon as they finish their animation.

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Protoss

Disruptor

The disruptor is the only new unit for the Protoss. It is a ball of armour and energy that can become invincible for four seconds, shoot off into a group of enemies and then release a burst of energy that damages everything around it. It survives the process and can return to recharge and have another go. The cooldown is quite long but with a big group of them you could easily destroy an entrenched position like a line of siege tanks or a big group of banelings.

Oracle

The revelation and vision abilities are now combined, give you detection as well as showing positions when cast. The oracle can now also drop a Stasis ward that acts as a little mine, trapping units in place and making them invincible for a decent amount of time when they run over it. The mine itself can be killed but is cloaked, like a widow mine. We saw a good use of this in an exhibition match against a drone line, freezing them in place and stopping any mining for quite a long while.

Tempests

Tempest are now incredibly fast and can drop down a damage over time effect. It hits a unit and the tempest can flee, but the victim will take 500 damage over a long time. The damage is unstoppable and can be used on buildings so tempests will be truly terrifying as strike units in the late game. In exchange for this new power they’ve lost the ability to strike air units, leaving Void Rays and Phoenixes to fill that role.

Carriers

Carriers now launch all their interceptors at once and they fight at a set area until they expire on a timer. They don’t seem to be able to be shot down and the carrier can just leave them there without affecting them. The carrier itself is a little cheaper now and will be constantly creating new interceptors to send out in waves..

Immortals

Immortals now no longer have a constant hardened shield. Instead they have a barrier shield that can be activated as an ability, absorbing all damage for a short time. This means they’re incredibly powerful for a moment in an attack, but become extremely vulnerable once it is used up.

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What we want from Legacy of the Void

In November Blizzcon is coming and many Starcraft players are hoping we’ll see a reveal of Legacy of the Void, the third part of Starcraft 2. Warlords of Draenor will nearly be out, it’s too soon for a new Diablo and while the full release of Heroes of the Storm might be announced, it’s unlikely to take a headline slot. So what do we want to see from Legacy of the Void? Very precious has been confirmed, we know there’ll be new units (as a previous statement that there won’t be any was refuted by higher-ups at Blizz), we know the campaign will focus on the Protoss and we know that the main antagonist will be Amon, an immensely powerful shadowy (literally) figure who might be closely related to the return of the Xel’Naga. Part of the focus of the campaign will apparently involve uniting the different Protoss tribes (assumedly the Dark and High Templars). There’s also been mention of less powerful hero units like Kerrigan (although Zeratul might end up becoming more powerful and be used as a similar way in missions). Everything from here on out is pure speculation and wishful thinking on our part.

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The Campaign

We’re hoping the campaign will give us a chance to see what the Protoss are really capable of. Starcraft campaigns have previously given us hilariously overpowered units (like banelings that split into more banelings) that could never be used in multiplayer. I want towering Colossi that have void ray lasers to take care of airborne threats. I want dark templars with storms. I want carriers that launch more carriers. The protoss have always been on the sidelines in the Starcraft campaigns, rarely appearing en masse and never in cut scenes. This time we can see what a real Protoss fleet looks like in action, especially in the CGI scenes.

We also want a strong story. Many campaign missions focus on some kind of gimmick to make the game more interesting and that can occasionally come at the cost of the story that is being told. Wings of Liberty did this better in our opinion and the early missions of Heart of the Swarm had some strong moments like the escape from the labs. We know telling a story in RTS format can be difficult, but we hope that it is a real priority for Blizzard.

Finally we want campaign objectives that help prepare people for multiplayer. Why not have a mission where you have to defend against a cannon rush, or a 10 pool, or a bunker rush? Have a mission where an opposing Protoss tribe that owns the shipyards goes mass void ray, teach players the counters for these strategies by letting them work it out for themselves in a repeatable and predictable mission. Learning Starcraft can be difficult and the campaign is a great way to introduce new players to concepts that will serve them well. As it stands they are basically two completely different games.

The Units

It’s insanely difficult to think up new units for Starcraft 2 as every type has been covered in some way or another. Nearly every role is filled so we’re left with looking for alternatives that could change things up. We thought we’d try for one bio, one armoured and one flying unit for each race.

Protoss

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Bio: Warp Zealot – Protoss have some of the most interesting bio in the game and we’d like to provide an alternative method of base infiltration with a warp zealot. The warp zealot would forgo a shield in place of a blink generator like the upgraded Stalkers. It would make them slow (slightly slower than a regular zealot) due to it’s weight, but it would give them the ability to blink like Stalkers with a reduced cooldown, maybe five seconds. This would create a micro-heavy unit that would need to do some damage then blink out again before it gets overwhelmed. With poor control they would be destroyed before they could really do anything, even by workers, but in the right hands they could create an effective little hit squad to disrupt enemy lines and take down siege tanks/colossi.

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Armour: Voidwelder – Due to their shield regeneration Protoss haven’t had a healing unit but we think this could produce some interesting tactics. The Voidwelder would be a spider-like robot like the Dragoon from Brood War. At its centre there would be a warp pylon that it carries about. The Voildwelder would be able to repair the armour of Protoss units and as a bonus it could plant itself in the ground (like a siege tank) and provide a pylon for warp-ins. It would be much less mobile than a warp prism, but also much less fragile. As an upgrade it could be given an ability that makes it provide an increased energy regen rate for units in the vicinity. High Templars, sentries and a Void Welder would become very, very scary.

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Air: Deconstructor – I’ve always imagine the motherships has the craft out of Independence Day and this would make that a reality. Travelling at roughly the same speed as a warp prism, this unit would shoot only directly down with a beam that would be exceptionally powerful. When firing it would move incredibly slowly and would have no defences against air attacks and no ranged attack at all so it would require constant support. The unique aspect to the deconstructor would be that any damage caused by its beam would be turned into mineral and vespene. So if it destroyed a zealot, it would gain 100 minerals for its owner. In longer games where minerals are becoming scarce it could even be turned on your own units to cannibalise them.

Terran

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Bio: Engineer – The medic is gone and we don’t think it’s coming back. What we want instead is a new support infantry unit for Terran. The Engineer would be equipped with a shotgun (The engineer’s weapon of choice countless years of gaming would have me believe) which is effective against bio at a short range (so might stop a baneling, it could also have knockback which we’ll talk about later). The main functions of the engineer would be to repair mech units (less flimsy than an SCV and more versatile in combat) and also to deploy the Raven’s turrets. They would be an early-game unit helping Terrans to control the battlefield and set up little forward operations bases which seems like a very Terran thing to do.

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Armour: APC – One mainstay of RTS games has been sorely missing from Starcraft – the APC. The basic troop transporting function has been mostly covered by the medivac but it’d be nice to give Terrans some options as well as to force them to diversify to create an effective fighting force. The APC would carry the same number of troops as the medivac (although I think the medivac should be reduced to four marines or one larger unit) but would be purely ground based. Like a bunker, troops would be able to fire out of an APC, but only two would be firing at a time. The final bonus to the APC would be a slightly defensive bonus to troops nearby. This would hopefully lead to Terrans attacking with a force comprised of Marines, Marauders, Medivacs, Engineers and APCs, all providing something to the effort.

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Air: Suppression drone – Aesthetically this would be similar to the science vessel, but much smaller. It would float above the battlefield and without any weapons of its own, it would stop units from being able to use any of their castable abilities. Like the deconstructor it would require air support to survive, but it would completely turn the tides against high templars, infestors, vipers, even swarm hosts. Ideally it’d be cheap and weak, with Terrans sometimes fielding groups of them to try and prevent them from getting shot down.

Zerg

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Bio: Slug – The slug would be a disgusting blob that slowly crawled across the battlefield, spreading creep behind it. It would not be permanent creep, without tumours it would fade back like any other, but if you had this in your vanguard it would at least provide a path for reinforcements to run up. The Slug would also slowly heal any zerg units in the vicinity. It would not have any attacks of its own but there would bean upgrade that would create three banelings upon its death. The slug would be expensive and a pain to use but would make a stationary zerg army much, much stronger. The slow speed could be avoided by using overlords or a nydus worm to transport it into an enemy base where it would need to be carefully dealt with before it helped to support an insurmountable invasion.

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Armour: Spitter  – The spitter would solve one of the problems I’ve consistently faced with the Zerg, they have no effective ranged AoE. The spitter would be around the size of a queen and would hurl blobs of the Roaches’ acid at enemies, firing in an arc. This would allow it to fire up cliffs if there was vision, but due to the arc being like a catapult, there would be flight time, making it inappropriate for fast moving targets. This would stop them from being as effective as a siege tank as hellions or stimmed marines could simply move laterally to avoid the hits if they were microed well. A bonus ability would be to be able to burrow and increase their armour significantly while still being able to shoot.

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Air: Drones – This might be a bit of a cop out but I strongly believe that Zerg need some kind of effective early air defence. Queens are valuable and slow to build and spore crawlers are equally slow to build and are fairly easy to destroy. My solution (to avoid Zerg being able to launch early air attacks) would be to make an early upgrade available at the hatchery for 100/100 to enable drones to fly and to make their attacks slow enemies. This would make the zerg a much more mobile race in terms of expansion, avoiding attempts to block them in a little, and it would allow them some defence against early air attacks as the drones could swarm them and trap them around a spore crawler or queen.

 

The Features

The only significant gameplay feature I would like to see added to Starcraft II is physics based attacks. I’m not talking about gravity-gun style uses of the environment, but crowd control and knockbacks. Imagine if Ultralisks had a charge that could break apart an enemy line, or if Colossi could step on enemies and kill them, perhaps Siege Tanks could have concussive shells to scatter tightly grouped enemies. The effect would be based on the weight of the unit so where zerglings might go flying, roaches could perhaps stand their ground. I think this could lead to some much more interesting (and visually impressive) battles, but of course the balancing would make the game even more complicated and open up the possibility of some some game-breaking exploits. The biggest problem might be the increased demand on the CPU, meaning people couldn’t play with less powerful hardware, but I’m never convinced that that’s a good reason to compromise on what could be an exciting gameplay feature.

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Another feature we’d like to see added is in-client spectating for tournaments. I’d like to be able to watch WCS with a commentary, but in my own client so I can look at whatever I want. Maybe a button would allow me to follow a professional but choice is important. When I watch Zerg players I want to watch their opening build, or their scouting, or how they spread creep, and often the professional casters have different focuses. I’d be happy to pay for this feature like players do on DOTA and with the feature being incorporated into the engine behind Heroes of the Storm I think this is a very likely addition.

The final feature I’d like to see added is hugely expanded stats tracking. I want to be able to see which units I use most cost effectively in different match ups and across my career in general. I want to see what timings I defend against and which ones I struggle against, I want to see heat maps to realise where I lose battles badly and where my attacks are successful. All of these stats must be possible to record and in a game like Starcraft II they could be incredibly useful tools. Especially if they were exported to a page accessible on browsers so you could share links and have people identify your areas of weakness. There could even be leaderboards for things like the most units taken down by infestors’ neural parasites per game, or the most average Hatcheries created. Of course this’d be open to exploits but if you split it up by ladders it could give people new goals to aim for. I might not get to Diamond but at least I could be the master of Zerglings.

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A guide to learning Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Over the last two years I have played quite a lot of Starcraft. I’ve gone from being completely new to the game up to Gold in 1v1 and Platinum in 2v2.Along the way I’ve levelled all three races up to max and tried almost every strategy and tactic in the book. Clearly I’m still not a master in any way – I’m still learning a lot every time I play. That being said I’ve made enough mistakes and wasted enough time on things that I think I can give some advice on common problems and some of the best ways to learn.

Contents

1. Setting up your PC
2. Watching and Learning
3. Picking a race
4. Macro
5. Micro
6. Unit compositions

 

1. Setting up your PC


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Setting up your PC is vital to making an environment where you can play – and learn – effectively. When I started out I was playing while sitting on a bed, using a TV as my monitor. None of this was ideal but sometimes your living situation dictates where you need to game. The important thing is to get in a comfy chair/position where you won’t need to move around and to make sure your mouse is on a stable flat surface. For every half-second you spend shifting your seat or your mouse is unresponsive for whatever reason, terrible things could happen. You also need to make sure you are far away enough from your TV or monitor that you can easily see the whole screen at once, particularly the lower left corner. Keeping some focus on your minimap is essential and if you’re sitting close to a big TV, this is going to be a problem.

In terms of settings there are different schools of thought. I personally play with everything on ultra because the game can look so nice. Often when you watch streams you’ll see that everything is ugly as sin. That’s not because those streamers have terrible PCs, it’s because when you go to tournaments you have no idea what hardware you’ll be playing on. If you are used to Ultra settings and you turn up and can only play on very low you’re going to be thrown off your game because it looks dramatically different at lower settings. If you practise with everything on low at least you can always switch PCs to that. Some people argue that it makes cloaked units (dark templars, banshees etc) easier to see as well. If you’re not expecting to go to any tournaments, it’s entirely up to you, if they are your aim you might want to turn everything down. Regardless of your preferred quality make sure that you are running the game at 60fps. Some movements and decisions need to made in split-second timings and keeping the game fluid is going to be important to you.

Lastly if you’re going to be playing for extended periods (we strongly recommend taking breaks every couple of hours) make sure your monitor/TV isn’t set too bright. You need to be alert and focused while playing Starcraft and if you have the brightness or contrast up too high (or backlight on LED screens) you’re going to get eye fatigue and start missing things or potentially damage your vision. Look after your eyes – they’re probably the only ones you’ll ever have. If eye fatigue is a problem for you it might be worth checking out the Gunnar glasses. I know they seem gimmicky but when we reviewed them we were surprised to see that they actually do have some kind of effect and it could solve a problem for you.

2. Watching and Learning


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Thankfully there are loads of different ways to watch other Starcraft players. We use Twitch.tv a lot and at any time of day you’ll finder streamers and often tournaments. It can be really useful to watch tournaments such as WCS due to the commentary which will often explain to you why certain things are happening. It’s also possible (and potentially even more useful) to download replays right into the Starcraft 2 client from sites such as Team Liquid and GGTracker. While watching replays in the client you can see the game from different players’ points of view and slow down or speed up the game at different parts, as well as seeing statistics like Actions Per Minute (APM) or their resources lost. When you’re starting out it can be a great way to learn build orders as at any given time the first two minutes or so of a game are often quite similar and managing to pull off those starting sequences effectively will help you no end.

It is worth noting that you need to be careful when basing your play off professionals as they will use strategies that simply won’t work for you at first. For instance many Terran players will use a single bunker when playing against Zerg. They’ll get rushed by speedlings and be able to hold them off effectively while you’ll try to do exactly the same thing and get destroyed. This is because all the other skills that Terran player has will help them to overcome that threat effectively while saving a few hundred minerals by not walling off. Unless your scouting, micro and game sense is as good as theirs, you need to spend those minerals on some supply depots or an extra bunker to wall off. Similarly high-level players will be able to make pushes work with a handful of units due to their excellent control and ability to multitask while taking fights without losing any units. Until your micro is that good it’s simply not going be easy enough to imitate.

Lots of channels on Twitch will be dedicated to teaching people how to play and you can find hundreds of Youtube videos that explain everything in a lot of detail. It’s worth watching those big tournaments and expert streamers for entertainment and to get some ideas, but you can’t just copy what they do and expect to win.

Once you do have some games under your belt, make sure you watch replays of games you both win and lose. If you’ve won it’s always interesting to watch back and see if you could have won even quicker, or if something you thought you did well turned out just to be dumb luck. In a recent 2v2 game with Le Petit Dodo we thought we’d held off an attack amazingly and managed to counterattack and take them down. When watching the replay we realised one of the opponents had long periods where they weren’t building anything and they had only expanded to extra bases when the fighting was already lost. If we’d tried the same tactics against a competent player we never would have won using the same strategy so it was good to realise how lucky we’d been.

When you are watching your replays back look for large scale mistakes that you’re making and where you’re losing pace. Do you expand early enough? Does your army size take too long to get going? Are you spreading creep? Are you remembering to upgrade? Are you scouting at the right times? Try to identify one of these issues and then in the next few games focus entirely on that. Keep going until you avoid that mistake naturally and then move on to something else. If you try to take on too many changes at once you won’t learn to do any of them well and you won’t be able to work out exactly that’s causing an issue.

3. Picking a Race


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You might not hear this on Reddit very often but Blizzard do a very good job of balancing all of the races. Never pick your main race based on whichever one is apparently ‘OP’ (overpowered) at any given time, a single patch can change it in an instant. It’s also not a good idea to go for Random until you’re confident with the game as each race plays so differently it’ll take you much longer to earn any of them well. Instead have a play against the AI, watch some streams and then try to make an informed choice. If you don’t gel with one, just move on to another until you find something that seems manageable to you. From my perspective these are the main differences between the races.

Terran

Terrans play the most like old-style Command and Conquer. There’s a heavy emphasis on logistics with base building and transporting units being incredibly important. Once a Terran’s production gets going it’s incredibly hard to stop so it can be extremely satisfying to have streams of units marching across the map. Unfortunately Terrans do lack any exceptionally strong single units, with Ghosts’ nuclear weapons and Battle Cruisers rarely being particularly useful. If you enjoy planning out bases and maximising production Terran might be a good place to start and they also have some tools like scans and mules that can make sure you avoid common irritating problems.

Zerg

I currently play Zerg and they focus on map control and an unmatched ability to repopulate their units once they get going. Zerg can cope better than the other races with losing units so if your micro isn’t great they might be a good place to look. Zerg do have a wide variety of options available to them at any given time and have some interesting spellcasting units that allow them to control areas with abducts, blinding clouds, fungals and burrowing. Zerg are also the easiest race to get an early fighting force so if you’re worried about getting rushed, Zerg find it much easier to defend than some of the others. Unfortunately they can be frustrating as once you lose map control, the end-game can become very difficult unless you’re able to use the more complicated units very effectively. There’s quite a lot to remember as you play Zerg with creep spread, larva injects and a need for constant expansion.

Protoss

Protoss revolve around few but highly powerful units. They are exceptionally tech-based and many of their units fulfil the ‘glass cannon’ archetype, fulfilling a single role exceptionally well but having some real weaknesses that can be easily exploited. Because of the power of Protoss armies and their ability to be effective even off two bases, Protoss can be an intimidating enemy. Learning unit roles and counters is vital when playing as a Protoss and you need to learn to scout effectively or your expensive army might end up being completely useless. Once Protoss gets going it can be seemingly unstoppable and the term ‘Protoss Death Ball’ is frequently heard in tournaments. Protoss excel in longer games and are potentially the most challenging to play due to nearly every unit have castable abilities that must be used in order to be effective.

4. Macro


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Macro means the large-scale management of your army and production and for a new players it is the main thing you want to be getting right. You need to be able to expand quickly and get an army up ready before you are attacked. If you can master the art of Macro you’ll win many fights by simply destroying your enemy when they push an attack, and then being able to respond before they can replenish. The key elements of macro are drone/probe/SCV production, expansion, supply management and production capabilities. You want to always be making mining units until you have 16 on minerals for each base and 6 on gas. Once one base is maxed you should be expanding if it is safe to do so, maybe earlier for Zerg. You need to make sure you always have enough supply to create another handful of units and finally you need enough production to make use of all of your income. Any minerals or gas sitting in the bank is completely wasted so you should be aiming to spend absolutely everything unless you are saving up for a particular reason. 1000 minerals could be 20 units that could be harassing an enemy base on preventing an expansion or it could be a set of defences to protect your newest expansion against stealthed units. When watching replays if you ever have a huge bank, are capped at supply or your income is below everyone else’s, try to fix this as a priority.

5. Micro


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Micro is less important early on but when you watch streamers you will see a lot of attention paid to it. Basically micro is the ability to control units in such a way that you maximise the damage they inflict while minimising what they sustain. This requires an intimate knowledge of ranges and damage values that you can find all over the internet (remember it changes with every patch so make sure you’re reading a current source). In essence you will want to be able to make sure that you don’t just send your whole army to attack as one big blob. You need to assign hotkeys to different groups of units (hold ctrl and press a number, then hold shift and press a number to add units to that group) and then control them in groups. Make sure your longer-range units are behind those with more armour, keep your flying units away from AA, be ready to use abilities with the press of a button. When you have good micro you can learn to ‘kite’ your opponents by moving yours back, attacking and then repeating over and over again. This stops melee or short-range enemies from being able to get a single shot off. This tricks means Phoenixes can take down swarms of mutalisks without any damage, marines can destroy zealots, zerglings and banelings and Stalkers can become almost invincible once they have blink. In Bronze and Silver leagues just worry about Macro for now, but above that Micro skills are going to start winning you wars.

6. Unit Compositions


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Another key element of Starcraft 2 is unit composition. It’s all too tempting to find a powerful unit you like and then just create an army made solely of that. Unfortunately that’s a recipe for disaster. Unprotected Collossi can be taken down by Speedlings, Mutas can be eliminated by marines, even carriers, thors and ultralisks can be rendered useless if they don’t have support.

Try to get into a habit of combining strong armoured tanky units (Zealots, Marauders, Roaches) with damage dealing ranged units (Stalkers, Marines, Hydralisks), some kind of crowd-control caster (Sentries, Ravens, Infestors), detection (Observers, still Ravens, Overseers) and maybe some AoE (Colossi, Siege Tanks, Banelings). Of course depending on what your opponent has opted for you might be able to exploit a weakness. If they have no AA (they’ve gone for mass Roach/Zealot) you can go with Banshees, Mutas or Void Rays. If they’ve gone for all armoured units you can focus on units like Immortals that have a bonus against armour. There’s hundreds of interesting interactions between units in Starcraft 2 and gaining experience in what works against what is part of the fun of learning the game. You do need to remember to pay attention to it though.

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Most of all, just remember to have fun with the game. It’s easy to burn out when you’re learning a new competitive game and Starcraft can be as frustrating as any other. Battle.net attempts to match you in such a way that you’re winning 50% of the time, so you should be expecting to lose half of your games. If you can see those as learning experiences, you’ll only ever get better.

 

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