A look into the future of StarCraft 2 at Blizzcon 2016

Blizzcon is a treasure trove of fandom, gaming culture, inside jokes, and all the newest information about Blizzard titles. Over the weekend I attended both Starcraft 2 panels, and got a good look at what’s in store for fans in the coming year.

War Chests

The first big announcement was the new addition of War Chests. These seasonal bundles will be purchasable through the client and contain a variety of items. When the War Chests go live, you will be able to pick a faction and begin unlocking items for said faction. This will include decals and new skins, along with other things like comics that you will be able to read in the client. Sample factions included the Tal’darim and the mercenaries from Wings of Liberty.

Blizzard plans to release the first War Chest in Q1, but we all know how Blizzard can be with their release dates. Though I think it’s safe to say that they will be on target, considering how well they’ve done with the Nova mission pack.

In addition, proceeds from the War Chests will go towards supporting e-sports in some form. The team isn’t quite sure how the extra funds will be applied yet, but they promised more details on the initiative soon.

Nova

Speaking of Nova, it was announced that there would be no more Nova missions. But don’t fret: we will be learning more about Nova and her early days in the Dominion. The story will be told in the comic, Nova: The Keep. Nova-themed unit skins will also be released in the near future.

Co-Op

Co-op is fast becoming one of the more popular ways to play Starcraft 2 – the amount of games being played are even surpassing competitive multiplayer. So it only makes sense that the team continues to develop it and, I can assure you, they are giving it a lot of love.

We got sneak peeks at two new co-op maps along with the new co-op commander, Alexei Stukov. I had the opportunity to play Stukov, and the new mission, Miner Evacuation, at the demo stations.

Miner Evacuation is like the other evacuation maps and wasn’t too difficult, though I think the demo game was set to normal difficulty. As for Stukov, he was a lot of fun to play around with.  In terms of playstyle, he reminds me most of Zagara and all of her disposable units. Because of the nature of Stukov, he isn’t best suited for a map that requires a lot of movement, faring much better for base defense.

The hybrid design of Stukov’s buildings and units brings another interesting twist to the standard gameplay. While you have Terran buildings for unit production, the units spawn from cocoons like you are Zerg. This means that you get to spawn up to twenty Infested Marines at once from a single Barrack.  Unfortunately, since they are infested they have a death timer. My favorite unit to play with was the Infested Siege Tank. It has your standard Siege Tank functions, but with a Spine Crawler thrown on top for good measure. 

The panel also touched briefly on the co-op leaderboard that is in development. It will rank your performance on each map and allow you to compare your scores to others. There weren’t too many details on this feature, and it’s not expected to be ready until the middle of 2017.

Multiplayer

With all the expansions released for Starcraft 2, the development team has to look at other ways to keep the game fresh and relevant. The team decided to approach the problem by making a big balance patch that acts as sort of a mini-expansion.

Terran

Mech was the first thing that the team looked at, noting the heavy decline in mech being played on the competitive level. Siege Tanks got a mixed bag of potential changes. They are getting a significant damage increase, but Medivacs will no longer be able to pick them up once they are sieged. Tankivacs have been a defining style of play for Terrans, so it will be interesting to see how they adjust.

Adding the original Goliath from Starcraft was also looked into for a while, but the team ran into problems with the unit just not fitting in anywhere in the idea of mech play. Too often they found themselves using a group of Goliaths like a group of marines. Thors also already provide the anti-air that the Goliath provided in the original Starcraft, so Goliaths idea got scrapped.

Protoss

The children of Aiur are receiving some love, whether you like it or not.  Zealots have fallen out of favor ever since the Adept shaded onto the scene, so Blizzard is looking to buff the Zealot to get them back into the game.

The biggest change is with the Tempest. The long-range bombardier is receiving a mixed bag, much like the Siege Tank. Anti-ground weapon range is being nerfed, but Tempests are receiving a brand new ability that looks a lot like the Corsair’s disruption web from the original Starcraft.  That’s where the similarities end, though. The Tempest lays down its disruption sphere and every non-friendly in the affected area takes damage for as long as it is in it.

Dark Templars are getting a ‘blink’, but it doesn’t look too promising at the moment. It’s too costly to research, and a Warp Prism can do nearly the same thing and much more. Carriers were also touched on, with the cost of Interceptors being reduced to five minerals each. That makes building Carriers a lot more attractive.

Zerg

Don’t worry – Zerg received some love, too. A major change that will heavily affect competitive play, in my opinion, is Infestors now being able to use their abilities while burrowed. If you don’t bring detection, you are going to be in some serious trouble. Swarm Hosts will have an increased Locust spawn amount, too, hopefully bringing them back into the competitive scene.

While the Siege Tanks got increased damage, it still won’t be the solution to Banelings.  Banelings are getting an HP buff, so players will have to make sure to target them down more precisely instead of relying on splash damage in order to survive.

If you’re interested, you’ll be able to test out many of these changes and more in the Starcraft 2 client shortly.