Heart of the Swarm beta: First impressions.
Play as Ranked
Default OFF: You may now play non-competitive ladder matches, allowing you to practice off-races and try new strategies without damaging your standing. People have been asking for this function for a long time. Not only will this help players deal with ladder anxiety, it will allow for harmless race switching and experimentation.
Default ON: Your six initial workers will now automatically start mining at the beginning of the game.
Having played a fair number of games already it is still unnerving to see our workers immediately dart to the mineral line. Of the many ”enhancements” Starcraft 2 can and will be said to have brought this is probably the most dangerous, as the game virtually issues the command for you, taking away what has always been the first task in a Blizzard RTS. For that instant at the start of the match, the game essentially plays itself for you. No longer will you have to quickly select your workers, rally them to the minerals, splitting them as necessary - with the risk of issuing bad move commands and delaying the building of your first worker. This is part of playing Starcraft too, and now it may disappear completely.
Show Worker Status
Default ON: the game will now display the number of workers mining minerals and vespene gas versus the ideal number.
One of the skills routinely needed in Starcraft 2 is appraising worker counts, yours or the enemy’s. This is done either by sight or by boxing your workers and checking the control group. That the game visually informs you of your saturation would not seem to be a particularly important enhancement, if not for two factors: 1) it removes a skill, therefore a degree of interaction with the game, and 2) it is too forgiving. Consider that player who has unwittingly forgot to place a third worker in each of his vespene geysers. He loses a third of his vespene income, severely damaging his economy, and he might not realize it until the game has been lost. The new worker status bar would not punish such lackluster play, but allow this lack of attention to be easily corrected. This doesn’t just aid lesser players, it hurts the better ones by extension. Better players make due with less tools, and this one is entirely unnecessary.
A new map feature in Heart of the Swarm that lets you further modify the terrain. Unlike Wings of Liberty destructible rocks, the HotS collapsible rocks have two levels of destruction. Firstly, after enough damage is done, the top part of the rocks fall off and become a new pile of its own. On different maps these rocks have different purposes like shutting off the ramps to the natural or to the third or blocking the third whatsoever, preventing a base from being built before the consequent pile of rocks is in turn destroyed.
Map descriptions are coming further down the article!
Simple Command Card
Enables a more simplified view of the command card.
This is on the opposite spectrum, but ironically unnecessary because once they’ve learned the hotkeys nobody uses the command card anyway.
Allow Selecting Uncontrollable Units
Default OFF: You can longer select enemy or neutral buildings and units.
We assume this is to prevent people from accidentally selecting enemy units during a micro battle, another option which allows mistakes to go unpunished.
Select Entire Army
Default ON: Will automatically select every military unit. Another option to be frowned upon, this will make army management that much easier, eliminating situations where units would be lost or forgotten due to incompetence or accident.
Zerg Flavored Menu Screen Theme
Default ON: Toggles a zerg themed background for the out of game menu. Select it because boobs!
Player Slots: 2
Akilon Wastes is the smallest of the four maps currently available for play. Even so, it’s not exactly a rush map, though the wide natural ramp might indicate otherwise. Destructible rocks separate the natural from the third, while collapsible rocks can be used to seal off the third from ground attacks. A combination of line of sight blockers and Xel’Naga towers may make for some interesting mid-map interaction, leading into further expansions, which the map’s wide open spaces will doubtless make difficult to defend.
Player Slots: 2
Howling Peak is more macro friendly. The entrance to the natural is a standard FFE length, making it easily defendable. A passage into third is also available, and once again it is possible to cut access via collapsible rocks. Later into the game it is possible to expand even further, taking the entire lower or upper part of the map. Other expansions, closer to the enemy, are also available. Two Xel’Naga towers are also present, but very far apart, covering late game expansions.
Player Slots: 4
Arguably the best looking map we’ve seen to date, Star Station shows off the new Protoss map tile. Wide open spaces are the theme here. Initial expansions are close together, but further bases will be farther apart. Xel’Naga towers cover the expansions present in the middle of the map.
Player Slots: 4
The most macro oriented map of the batch. Three expansions are close by, creating a cluster around each spawn point. Collapsible rocks overlook the third, making it possible for your opponent to cover your town hall placement with destructible rocks.