The Major League Gaming Anaheim Spring Championships are running today through Sunday. At the event, Blizzard was offering the press an opportunity to come in and play a few hours worth of multiplayer matches of the Heart of the Swarm expansion against some of the competitors.
Needless to say, I was utterly destroyed in every single match, though most of them were merciful enough to let me live long enough to mess around with the new content. Hit the jump to see what I thought.
Before I do anything else, I'd like to address what is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about HotS. Yes this will be a full game and yes it will be worth full retail price to fans of the series.
Each race gets at least two units, and several others get upgrades and new powers. A Blizzard representative said that they focused many of these multiplayer add-ons on giving players defenses against popular tournament strategies, and trying to refocus some of the powers such that players use a broader spectrum while also keeping with the original concept behind each piece.
The revisions made to StarCraft II are subtle but game-changing. As I mentioned earlier, everything that was added is designed to very specifically alter how two races interact. For example, one new Zerg unit, the Viper, can grab enemies and pull them to wherever the Viper is. This can have dramatic consequences for Terran players as their siege tanks can be neutralized almost immediately.
Protoss can now begin building their mothership earlier, starting with a core before upgrading later in the game. The mothership core has some of the abilities of the full unit, like mass recall. The sheer cost of material for the Protoss often dissuades players from taking risks and this was added to encourage Protoss players to be more aggressive in the early game.
Terran players can expect a number of new units and mechanics as well. A new deployable mine, the Widow, can attack both air and ground units, dealing huge splash damage. It is intended as a manner of guarding against unit drops and defensively pushing the border of your territory.
There's plenty more than what I've mentioned, but Blizzard wanted to make it clear that this content may be replaced or completely dropped at any time. Additionally, there are a handful of units from the original SCII pantheon that might be removed from the final release. The only unit that was absent in the build that I played, however, was the Protoss Carrier.
In addition to all of these unit/mechanic modifications, Blizzard has been working on some game modes and tools to help new players jump in more quickly and old players refine their games. Soon, replays of past games will allow multiple people to watch simultaneously, and pick up and begin playing at any point in time. These are some exciting tweaks, and I can't wait to see how they are used by the community.
Unfortunately, the campaign mode wasn't playable tonight, but Blizzard did confirm that they will be releasing more information soon. The closed beta will also be launching sometime in the next month, allowing the team to fine-tune the balance of the new units and figure out how the best strategy (get it?) for moving forward. No word on a release date yet, but then again it is Blizzard, so it probably won't be for another several years.
Oh, yeah, and not one word on Ghost yet. They seemed pretty angry when I asked too...