Blizzard has announced that the closed beta for the upcoming second expansion to popular real-time strategy game Starcraft 2 is now live.
The first wave of beta keys will be sent out to members of Battle.net later today, allowing you to dip in and get a taste for the new Protoss-themed expansion the many changes it makes to the game’s multiplayer.
Once you receive your access key, you’ll need to either click the link embedded in the email from Blizzard, or log into your battle.net account and navigate to Games and Codes > Download Clients to download and install the game.
The headline attraction in the beta is likely to be the new units for each of the three factions. Terrans can now train the Cyclone – a fast-moving mechanical unit which can attack while moving and lock on to a single target.
Insectoid race the Zerg gain access to two new mutations for the Roach – the Ravager and the Lurker. Ravagers can fire corrosive bile at enemies, which is an area-of-effect mortar-style attack which explodes after a short delay, damaging both nearby ground and air units.
Protoss players can now train the Adept. The Adept is described as a harassment unit, ideal with early-game griefing. Adepts can also use an ability called Psionic Transfer, which projects a false image of the Adept onto the battlefield to act as a decoy. The Protoss also gain the Disruptor. The disruptor is able to become temporarily invulnerable and gain increased movement speed for a short duration. Once the invulnerability wears off, the Disruptor emits a large AOE blast, dealing high damage to all enemy units in the surrounding area.
The full list of changes made to the multiplayer is pretty extensive, as we’ve come to expect from Blizzard. Some units have seen their cost and building time increased, adjustments have been made to damage and health, and some units have lost abilities or gained new ones.
Perhaps the change likely to make the biggest difference to the pacing of multiplayer matches is that there will now be fewer resources on the battlefield: Half the mineral patches on each map will now only have 750 resources, while Vespene Geyser’s have seen the amount of gas you can harvest being reduced to 1700 (from 2500). Blizzard has also doubled the number of workers you start with to 12, and increased supply on all bases. The sense is that Blizzard wants to provoke more base expansion in the early game, which should mean that we’ll start seeing a lot more squabbling over territory and control of resources.
The beta doesn’t contain any demonstration of the expansion’s new single-player campaign – we’ll have to wait until launch for that – but players will be able to try out the new Archon mode, a co-operative/ competitive mode where two players share control of one army. If you’re the kind of player who finds the game’s demanding click-per-minute-based multiplayer too stressful, Archon mode might be more up your street.