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Starcraft 2 Preview: New Zerg Mechanics
Before taking a look at the new Zerg units in Starcraft 2, it's worth checking out the new mechanics that have changed the way the Zerg are played across the board. Like the Terran Orbital Command and the Protoss Chronoshift, the new new zerg unit, the Queen, has completely changed the face of the game. The new Queen mechanics are entirely different from those in Starcraft - the Queen, instead of being a high-tier caster, is now an early game unit that is essential for base defense and Zerg economy - she can be produced from the Hatchery after building a spawning pool and comes with three essential abilities - Spawn Larva, perhaps the most useful, which allows the Hatchery to produce a burst of new larva after a medium length timer, Spawn Creep tumor, which places an invisible building which will spread creep and can reproduce once, and Transfusion, which in a pinch can heal a Zerg unit for a significant amount.
The Queen is an energy-based unit, so using her abilities will be a strategic decision. Do you need more workers or a quick squad to bolster your army, or do you want to build a better creep highway so your units can control the map, or do you need to save the energy to keep your Mutalisks alive in the face of an assault? In addition to her abilities, the Queen has a fairly strong ground and air attack, allowing her to defend your base in the face of an early push or in a desperate situation.
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New Zerg Units - Ground
The core of the Zerg army remains very similar to what it was in Starcraft - the Zergling is still there, as quick as ever and just as powerful in the early rush, as is the Hydra, still effective at range and the backbone of any Zerg ground army - but some holes have been filled with interesting new units. The Zergling can now morph into a Baneling, a rolling explosive unit that is excellent at destroying massed armies and breaking fortifications. There is also the Roach, a tough assault unit with a short range that can also regenerate quickly and move while burrowed - a very good unit to mix with Hydras. Instead of Defilers, there are now Infestors, which can spawn dangerous Infested Terrans, cast Fungal Growth, a powerful AoE spell that snares and damages units, and use Neural Parasite, which takes control of the effected unit - an excellent counter to Colossi, Thors and Ultralisks.
In addition to these new units, some buildings will now spawn Broodlings when destroyed, making assaulting a Zerg base very dangerous. The Nydus Network, a new building, can spawn a Nydus Worm, a stationary unit that can transport units from the network to anywhere on the map you have vision as long as it lives.
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New Zerg Units - Air
The Zerg air army has not received as radical a change. The Mutalisk still remains a backbone, and a powerful one, but with a different set of backup units. The Scourge has been removed, and in its place is the Corrupter, a powerful anti-air unit that is especially effective against large foes and that can corrupt a building to cease its production, a good harassment tool. The Corrupter can also morph into a Broodlord, which is similar to the Guardian from Starcraft, in that it has a deadly long range ground attack, but instead of simply attacking, the Broodlord spawns Broodlings, sowing confusion among ground troops and remaining far away from the battle while the Broodlings take down anti-air defenses and ground troops alike.
Last but not least, the Overlord has received a change. In addition to the original abilities of sight and transporting troops, the Overlords can now spawn creep temporarily, expanding your domain or blocking an expansion. Though they are no longer detectors by default, Overlords can be upgraded to Overseers, who can detect invisible units and spawn a Changeling, an attackless unit that takes the form of the first unit it encounters - an excellent spy.
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The Zerg in Starcraft 2 - First Impressions
Much like the new Terrans and Protoss, the Zerg playstyle is very similar to what it was in Starcraft, but more complicated and nuanced. The Queen is essential to success and allows for a variety of new strategies. Fast expanding as Zerg is now safer and more powerful than ever before with the Queen's ability to defend and the new mobile Spinecrawlers. Spawn Larva means that you no longer need to build multiple Hatcheries in your base to build units, and Creep Tumors allow for a more micro-intensive but much more powerful method of map control. As a result, the Zerg are now one of the most economically powerful races in Starcraft 2. If left alone, they can use the Queen to outproduce their opponent in workers and quickly expand to control the map. It is more important than ever to shut down the Zerg early unless their enemies wish to face large armies of Hydras or Mutalisks in the mid and late game. Though perhaps lacking in the new diversity that Terran and Protoss have, the Zerg are as powerful as ever.
Be sure to check out our Terran and Protoss previews for detailed looks at the other races, and stay tuned for more guides, previews and announcements about the beta and the progression of Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty.