HotS Beta Impressions #5: Final Impressions

With the release of Heart of the Swarm a week away, and the beta for it now being offline, I feel it is a good time to take a step back and look at how I feel about the complete expansion, rather than focusing on minor things. Starcraft 2 Wings of Liberty has risen to be one of the most popular RTS games, as well as one of the most popular games to be played as an eSport. However, will the next expansion be enough to keep fans interested in the game?

Personally, I think it will. Let’s be honest here. Wings of Liberty was getting a little stale to both play and watch. Many match ups have devolved into predictable games where each side does the same thing. The only thing that keeps things interesting is when someone either does a really cheesy build, or does something that used to be standard months ago. There are no new builds, just the use of old builds in the new metagame.

That being said, Blizzard has implemented a lot of new units that will help shake up the metagame, thus giving the game a new feeling again. However, they have done two things with these units that ensure the game will still be able to be played competitively. The first is they have made units that help races in unit compositions of the current metagame. For example, Terran’s new Hellbats will allow them to deal with mass Zealot Templar when playing against Protoss or a lot of Zerglings when playing Zerg. Similarly, Protoss’ new Tempest unit is an effective counter to Zerg’s Broodlords, which they love teching to extremely face since it is always difficult for Protoss to deal with. Finally, Zerg’s new Viper unit is great when dealing with both Protoss and Terran ranged units, especially Colossus and Siege Tanks. The second thing about these new units that is so great is they are not ridiculously overpowered. Sure, Hellbats are great against Zealots and Tempests against Broodlords, but if the other team switches up their unit composition these units would become ineffective. Thus, we will see players experimenting with new strategies in the days to come, which will make the game much more interesting to play and watch.

The final thing Blizzard has done that I am really excited about does not, in fact, have anything to do with the gameplay, but rather the tools they have given players outside the game to improve it as an eSport. The new ability to watch replays with others is a great tool for players who want to improve themselves with the help of friends or teammates. Blizzard has also added a way to salvage a game so event organizers can recover from unfortunate disconnects. Finally, Blizzard has finally added a ladder for unranked play, allowing players to still play 1v1s against players of their skill level, but have the games not count against them, thus allowing them experiment without the fear of losing ladder points. Overall, with the new units as well as the changes they have made to the user experience, Blizzard has definitely showed they know what they are doing when designing Heart of the Swarm with a major intention being to have it grow as an eSport.