Legacy of the Void: First Impressions
The Legacy of the Void beta has just been released, and most of TL Strategy dove right in to test it. The full list of changes (which you can find here) is absolutely massive; the beta truly feels like playing a whole different game. We recommend you read the changes carefully before reading the rest of this article. This is just a brief recap of the initial thoughts and impressions of our members and several known players of all three races. While reading, please keep in mind that none of this is conclusive, since it's so early in the testing processs and Starcraft is constantly evolving.
The biggest change is perhaps the new economy. Both the extra workers at the start and the reduced resources massively impact the game in deep ways that likely hadn't even been predicted by Blizzard; in fact, both changes are so big we will focus on them in greater detail in our next article, coming out soon (tm).
In general, the fewer resources per base make the game feel completely different from anything we've played before, including Brood War. Currently, bases mine out incredibly quickly, to the point where you absolutely must take at least a third, and potentially a fourth, as soon as humanly possible. It's almost as if the game was a race against your own workers. This is such an extreme feeling that it defines the entire game: are actually punished for not expanding, rather than rewarded for expanding. To a certain extent, this is similar to Starcraft 1 (you do need extra bases to have more income), but the way the games play out is very different. It feels like there just isn't enough time to do anything but secure extra bases, particularly with slow and immobile armies. This is a very different feel from BW, when it was possible for mech, terran bio (vs zerg) and protoss (vs zerg) to stay on two bases looking for openings and opportunities for a while before needing to take a third and/or fourth. Many of us are even starting to theorize that going above twelve mineral workers per base might actually be a bad move, as you will mine out quicker for little benefit in return. Currently, we think this might result in one of two outcomes: either the games will stabilize in long games with really fast four base builds, or they will become similar to the scrappier HotS and WoL games in which both sides are at about two base economy as a base mines out as soon as another one is secured, with the builds used also resembing HotS styles.
The extra workers are perhaps an even bigger change, even though it doesn't appear to be so on the surface. The basic idea is simply to get in the game and do things faster than in the past; whether you will enjoy this or not is entirely subjective, but it's undeniable that for broadcasted games it's nice to cut out the early game "boredom".
However, this isn't all the extra workers bring. The higher early game income impacts the growth of economy, compared to the growth of tech, extremely quickly. Players have far more resources to set up an expansion and infrastructure, but important research timings such as stim, lair or warpgate are unchanged. The end result is that when these researches end, the opponent's build is much more developed than it would be with a 6 worker start, making any build relying on such a research - like a basic stim timing - considerably weaker. Again, this is a massive change and we will go more in depth on it in a future article, but it's easy to see how completing stim when the Zerg has full saturation is weaker than when he has 50 drones for example. This also shifts the focus of the game away from key tech to just massing easily accessible units that don't require good upgrades to be effective. We believe this is a huge reason why cyclones and ravagers in particular (more on them later) appear to be so strong in many situations - they both require very little tech (roach warren and factory, respectively), meaning their power is easily acquired early on.
Finally, the quicker growth also changes the pacing of scouting and reacting very drastically, which is particularly noticeable with Zerg overlord scouting. Because builds develop quicker than before, it feels harder to scout and deviate, with many builds hitting very shortly after they are scouted. Whether this allows players to branch and react in time to various threats, or increases the elements of build order luck that are always present in any version of Starcraft, remains to be seen.
There are also a few other, comparatively minor changes, that are worth discussing. The look on units and buildings on the minimap is more "transparent" and less saturated, making it very hard to spot movement, especially over a clear background like a desert map. The map pool itself is quite unsatisfying: some maps are plagued by bugs like mineral nodes being ignored by workers and ramps having disappeared from the original version of the map, while other maps are simply universally disliked, like Inferno Pools. One of the new Blizzard maps, called Lerilak Crest, features a natural with two very large chokes that can't possibly be walled, creating extremely annoying gameplay for both Terran and Protoss.
The changes to the early and mid game timings discussed earlier impacted Protoss the most, because now the mothership core and any early game sentries just do not have enough energy to be an effective defense, to the point where it's very easy to get completely destroyed by the first few cyclones or ravagers that hit the field. It's also harder to be on the map with any kind of army, as both the immortal and colosuss are weaker, and key researches like forge upgrades, Warpgate and Blink are just so much slower compared to the past. Our Zergs, Terrans and Protoss all agree that the race doesn't have the power of the other two at the moment, in part because of the nerfs or new units and in part because the economy model just doesn't fit the research-based Protoss playstyle.
That said, we feel that both the new Protoss units are designed very well, and even though they both might need number tweaking, they seem to be very interesting gameplay-wise.
The adept's concept of a core unit that can quickly jump between locations is very unique, and it's easy to imagine many strategical situations in which they can be used to outplay and outposition an opponent. That said, with their current stats they can't fight anything straight up, including the light units they are meant to be strong against. Against marines, all that is needed is a bunker or wall, and against slow lings they are too slow to march onto creep and harass, or trade effectively once speed is done. Furthermore, they can't bypass walls, and their upgrade is so far up the tech tree it appears next to impossible to fit it into a build. As long as their numbers are so low, they are just a reaper that isn't capable of jumping up cliffs. The only use we found so far is an early game two gate adept rush in pvp, hoping that an opponent will have fast expanded and/or cut stalkers.
The disruptor fits a unit design that has been asked by Protoss players for a very long time - a strong robotics unit that is meant to work together with a warp prism for both harassment and straight up fights. The parallels with the Brood War reaver are obvious. They currently are the strongest Protoss unit, as their 150 damage easily one-shots the vast majority of units in the game; they are absolutely devastating against clumped group of units. Their presence puts immense pressure on the opponent to split his army correctly, but also on the Protoss to micro the warp prism perfectly - each disruptor costs 200 minerals and 300 gas, and losing one or two of them is pretty much game ending. The main difference from the reaver is that their movement speed without a warp prism and before activating their purification nova is quite quick, so they are capable of following an army of their own without any external transport. While they currently aren't massable because of their cost, this could have lategame implications once the game is more figured out.
On the bright side, carrier has arrived! This has probably been the most pleasant surprise for Protoss so far. The fact that the ridiculed carrier of all units appears to finally have a strong place in the protoss arsenal is a testament to just how different the game is, and how unpredictable the beta testing process is. Their reduced build time makes them much more accessible than before, and the ability to sacrifice all of the interceptors to deploy them instantly in an area is very strong, as it's possible to lay waste to entire bases and recall out, or simply zone out opposing armies trying to push into a base. They are still expensive and hard to tech to, as they rightfully should be, but finally it feels like that expense is worth it. Ironically enough, they even feel strong enough to replace the tempest in the lategame. The ability to release interceptors could use some quality of life changes, like the ability to target fire interceptors. Either way, the new carrier definitely looks like a major step up from the old one.
As a final and entirely minor note, there seem to be some small inconsistencies in the current build regarding the behavior of some units. While large units like archons, tanks and now disruptors are incapable of getting through a typical 1-hex gap, ravagers, whose model is just as large, can fit through perfectly. Also, blink stalkers have some inconsistencies in their behavior, as large groups of them sometimes just refuse to blink to a spot when ordered to do it. We believe this is likely tied to the scan range update, and possibly caused by the fac that it's impossible for a stalker to blink near a spot that is already occupied by a unit, like another stalker, before blinking, but while noticable it's hard to reproduce.
While the Terran race itself seems relatively unchanged, having gained only one unit, the different economy and new units from the other races, along with the sheer power of the cyclone in some situations, actually make a massive difference in how the race plays. The economy in particular also feels particularly punishing, as mules mine out bases extremely quickly; it's actually somewhat common to not start a third cc, but to simply float the main cc to the third.
Cyclones early on make a big impact in both TvP and TvT. They only require a tech lab factory to build, making them very accessible, and their range, movement speed and lock on ability easily shuts down any flying harassment unit completely no matter the race, from early mutas, to oracles, warp prisms, and even banshees. Additionally, the lock on allows them to trade effectively against protoss in the early game. While many people are already claiming they are as broken as the warhound used to be, they actually function quite differently. The warhound was criticized because it essentially didn't have any weak points, and during the entire game there was no reason not to simply mass them with minor support. Cyclones aren't like that, at all. In fact, they lose much of their worth in large engagements, as they are much more easily swarmed by zealots or bio, and their lock on tends to fixate on mediocre targets. Currently the best description for the cyclone is more or less an early game, ground based carrier, meant to take out key targets without scaling well in larger engagements against many units. It's a very odd design, and we generally feel like some changes will be required to make it a truly interesting and unique unit that benefits the Terran arsenal in a healthy way.
While cyclones rule the early game in the other two matchups, early game TvZ feels very changed and potentially troublesome. Ravager pushes are devastating for anything that doesn't include a tank drop or maybe quick banshees, seemingly reducing the number of viable builds; ravagers just feel incredibly powerful compared to how early on they are available. However, tank drops shut them down convincingly, and seem to force the Zerg into quick two base muta builds with extra queens. While powerful, this mechanic currently feels reasonably balanced, and possibly even enough to make marine/tank the go to TvZ composition again.
The mentioned difference in economy vs tech is very easily felt in TvZ early game. While tank drops are quick enough that they pose a decent threat, the traditional hellion/banshee pressure comes out at a much later timing, to the point where it can't pressure nearly as effectively as in the past.
Finally, when playing TvZ bio the combination of buffed cracklings and ultras with nerfed marauders effectively puts the Terran on a clock. Bio can't really transition into the lategame, and now can't beat ultralisks at all.
Before this timing and in the other two matchups, bio feels stronger than in HotS. This is likely to its ability to be on the map and pressure with cheap units while expanding; bio vs mech and bio vs protoss feel significantly easier than in HotS in the midgame, when the power of bio already peaked. The changes to the economy are so drastic that TvP feels much too easy even without building a single cyclone.
As a final quality of life note, many of the maps have weirdly shaped ramps that can't be walled with 2 depots and a rax; this is also happening on the TLMC maps that were previously wallable normally.
Zerg is probably the race that benefits the most from the economic changes. They are designed to make many cheap units quickly, and the ability to get the extra third hatchery so much faster than the other races means they don't mine out as quickly as either Protoss or Terran. All in all, the focus on raw unit numbers rather than tech also make the race feel very strong. The new timings and economy aren't entirely positive however. Overlord scouting in particular is much weaker - an overlord takes longer to cross the map compared to how quickly builds develop, meaning you can get at most one scout off before the opponent has enough units to deny any further attempt, or a build is already fully developed and there isn't time to react to it.
The new units drastically change the way every Zerg matchup is played. Ravagers are incredibly powerful, especially as part of rushes, and they also drastically change the dynamics of ZvZ in particular: both sides are forced to split and reposition correctly to avoid the artillery shots, making roach wars more interesting and micro intensive than ever. Because the ravager shot is so slow, mutalisk switches also seem to have potential in the matchup. Finally, the buff to burrowed roaches is absolutely massive: the tech is very accessible, as it comes online very quickly and roaches are as easily massable as ever. Other than for early game rushes, Ravagers are incredibly devastating in PvZ. Their dps is higher than that of a hydralisk, and they are available much earlier on. The ability to destroy forcefields also appears incredibly powerful, possibly too much so early on in the game. A lair requirement along with a roach warren morph, like for Lurkers, might be necessary.
Lurkers are a fairly straight up units, as their design is essentially unchanged from bw. Their aoe appears to be very effective against most kinds of infantry units, and getting an iconic Zerg unit in the game just feels right. The only complaint we found so far about them is regarding their attack animation: it's extremely hard to see, especially in big battles, and often times it's really hard to realize that the reason an army is getting shredded is because there's lurkers underneath the roach/hydra/ravager forces.
After our first look, the most problematic issue for Zerg currently is their ability to mass units or drones through inject larva, while having a mobile army capable of securing a large number of expansions. The lack of photon overcharge (and possibly the buffed nydus worm) very early in the game makes one base cheeses incredibly powerful, and the Zerg ability to massively drone or make units through inject larva greatly favours them over the slower Protoss. The basic roach/ravager/zergling army currently appears to be so strong that the tech switches that have defined PvZ since the nerf to infestor/broodlord - and that are still very possible - aren't even necessary. Mutalisk/viper in particular appears to be incredibly powerful on paper against phoenix flocks, but it's hard to find situations in which the game develops that far. At this point, the game is so new that any kind of lategame consideration like that is too premature.
TvZ is also very changed. The midgame of muta/ling/bling against bio seems reasonably close to the current situation, minus the fact that hellion/banshee pressure is replaced by tank drop pressure, and that upgrades are harder to get and thus play a lesser role. It's hard to say just how much that changes the matchup. However, the sheer power of ultras completely appears to nullify any kind of bio play in the lategame, and many Terran players are trying to mech instead; however, it's hard to say wether the style truly is viable in the current economy model. As a final note, proxy rax bunker rushes seem to be destined to disappear: by the time they hit any hatch first build will already have at least completely the spawning pool, making defense much more comfortable and thus giving Zerg more room to breathe in the early game.
As we said in the introduction, the changes to the economic model are so massive that they warrant an in-depth article of their own; so far all we can say confidently is that while the basic premises of expanding more aggressively and getting in the game faster are valid goals, this first iteration appears problematic, and a lot more testing will be required to find a truly satisfying model.
The unit design overall seems valid on the other hand. While the numbers themselves are all over the place as expected, the basic mechanics of most units are convincing. The only unit that gets a question mark from us is potentially the cyclone, but we feel like with some retooling - like shifting its power away from the early game into a lategame "key unit" sniper, or removing some of its early power against air units - it could find a place in the Terran arsenal.