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News from the Starcraft II panel at the Blizzard Invitational

Dan O'Halloran

Amid all the hype for Diablo 3, you may have missed hearing about the StarCraft II developer panel helmed by Blizzard's Rob Pardo at this weekend's Worldwide Invitational in Paris. Joystiq was there to catch all the details on the latest build of the game. See what team Blizzard had to say about the newfound power of the Zerg Queen, the upgraded Protoss Mothership and the reason behind de-emphasizing heroic classes. All this after the jump.

Gallery: Starcraft 2 | 95 Photos

The new-and-improved Zerg
Rob Pardo started the panel (of one) talking about how they wanted Starcraft II to be similar to the original both with new strategies and units. Blizzard knew the strength of the game was the distinct playstyle of the three different races and they wanted to push that even further in SC2. Another driving principle behind the design of the sequel was that all races be easy enough for casual players to enjoy, but complex enough for advance gameplay as well.

Though Blizzard has talked about Zerg play before, this weekend is the first time the race is playable.

First Pardo explored the evolution of the Zerg. The creep is the key part of the Zerg's strategy and Blizzard expanded on that in many ways. New units and abilities have been introduced for enterprising Zerg players to take over the entire map with Creep very quickly. Creep Tumors are buildings that create more Creep over time and Overlords now have the ability to create Creep.

"And what can Zerg players do with this surplus of empty Creep land? A lot."

And what can Zerg players do with this surplus of empty Creep land? A lot. The Nydus worm unit introduces a new transport mechanic for the Zerg. It creates tunnels under the Creep for Zerg units to travel through. If the Nydus worm unit is destroyed, the units in the canal are still safe, only the exit is destroyed. Nydus worms will be expensive to make, so small exits will not be worth it, but carefully placed canals and exits can mean the difference in moving your units across the map quickly.

The other advantage of empty Creep is that new Zerg movable buildings can be placed there. One strategy suggested is to use Overlords to quickly create Creep, move in Spore Crawlers for defense and then move buildings in. Instant Zerg outpost.

All Hail the Zerg Queen!

The Zerg Queen got a big upgrade from SC1. She has transformed from a weak flying unit to a formidable base defender. Her new special abilities include:
  • Transfusion: the ability to heal buildings
  • Deep Tunnel: the ability to teleport to any Zerg building
  • Swarm Infestation: turn any Zerg building into an attacking unit
  • Mutant Larvae: the ability to create units for instant counter attack
As you can see, the new Zerg Queen can travel to any fight her units are engaged in on the map and change the tide of battle quickly. She is so powerful, that you will only be allowed to have one in game at any given time.

More Zerg units
The Zerg Corruptor was created as an anti-air unit with an interesting ability. It can turn any unit it defeats into an infested air unit to fight on the side of the Zerg. Now your enemy's Battlecruiser can be turned against them. Do they attack it, attack you or flee?

The final Zerg feature Pardo talked about was the Baneling. This low health unit remains burrowed until enemies are near, then it charges and self-destructs for massive damage. The ambush potential of this unit cannot be underestimated.

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