SANTA MONICA, Calif.--The beautiful beachfront weather in Santa Monica is no match for an air-conditioned hotel suite where Blizzard Entertainment is talking details on Starcraft II, its highly anticipated strategy sequel. Apparently, the developer is holding back on disclosing too much while it prepares for its own convention, Blizzcon, later this summer, though we did get a chance to sit down with vice president of game design Rob Pardo to talk about a few new details.
Blizzard still seems focused on discussing the Protoss, one of the three playable races in both the original Starcraft and in the sequel. The Protoss remain the game's finesse faction--as before, they'll bring smaller armies with fewer, more-powerful units into battle, as opposed to the larger contingents of Terran space marines and the overwhelming hordes of the Zerg. Pardo explains that the studio is in a "heavy design phase," where different units are being designed, redesigned, and merged on a regular basis. The executive also suggests that not all of the units that have been shared with the public will make it into the final game--many will be scrapped or have their abilities combined with others to create final units.
While Pardo affirmed that previously discussed units such as the zealot infantry and immortal battle tank are still on the table, we were also introduced to several new units that hadn't been shown at Blizzard's previous event in May. These include the soul hunter, a hovering ground unit that can attack both air and ground opponents. Another new unit is the phase cannon, a stationary turret that can be changed into a hovering energy ball that can move like a normal unit, reminiscent of Warcraft III's wisp units, as long as it remains within range of the Protoss power grid. They can then be redeployed as stationary turrets to act as roadblocks or as forward firing lines. Other units include the tempest, a flying troop transport with an underside energy shield that protects against ground-to-air fire, but leaves the unit vulnerable to air-to-air attacks, and the return of the dark templar (which still has stealth abilities) and the high templar (which still possesses the devastating psi-storm ability) units. As before, templars can be merged to form archons, known as twilight archons in Starcraft II, which act as exceptionally powerful infantry units. Note that while all these units sound promising and offer intriguing new strategies, none of them are final. A completely different set of units may end up in the final game.
Keep in mind that Blizzard will likely unveil more information at its Blizzcon event in August. GameSpot will have more details as soon as they become available.