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November 5, 2017

Some thoughts and speculations on H&H

H&H first thoughts
A new co-op commander was shown at the Blizzcon - Han and Horner (H&H) will join us as 14th co-cop commander. And perhaps as soon as November 14, when the ladder is going to be free-to-play. At this point, the information is limited, but it won't stop me from speculating. Take my thoughts with a huge grain of salt.

What is the fantasy for this commander?
Combination of two forces - Mira's army of expandable mercenaries and Matt's army consisting of elite air forces.

That sounds a little similar to my UED design - two types of forces, one with expendable and aggressive ground units, and the second one made of strong air units. But on the closer look, there are so many differences, that I don't think it's actually that similar.

T.Chosen has compiled the list of units and unlocks from Livibee's stream (VOD). And I have added info on masteries from Crank's stream (VOD).

My thoughts and speculations about H&H design

1. Assault Galleon

It was inevitable we would get a mobile production structure/unit in Co-op, as it's very common in strategy games. The production available directly on the front lines helps Mira as her units are expendable and need to be replaced often. Assault Gallenons also look great when fighting.

Players are limited to the maximum of five Assault Galleons. This hard limit is not the most elegant mechanic. However, Abathur already has it, and it has some positives too. It makes for more varied unit composition. The units with the hard limit can be made a lot stronger, since players can't abuse that by massing them. That also makes balancing the commander a little bit easier. The downside is that players will likely be forced into making these units, as it's the case with Abathur. Technically Fenix's champions have the hard limit too, but it's more understandable that you can't build more than one hero or champion.

2. Salvage Mechanic and on-death effects

The salvage mechanic alone wouldn't be fun. But when it's combined with on-death effects on Mira's units and her ability to produce units directly on the front line, it results in an interesting gameplay. The Player is encouraged to fight, lose units, trigger on death effects, salvage resources and quickly reinforce. How fun it will turn out will depend on the strengths of the on-death effects and the salvage mechanic.

The fact that the salvage works on the ally's units is great. It alters the other commander's gameplay, which makes the game more diverse. Some commander will benefit more than others - for example Zagara might be able to recover a lot of salvage, as she is losing her units all the time.

3. Precision Strike and scalable top bar abilities

The Precision Strike alone is not that special. What makes it interesting is the option to build more Strike Fighter Platforms. I like it and look forward to seeing how it plays out. However, the total 40 supply cost for 10 Strike Fighter Platforms seems steep for how quickly you can max out with Mira's units.

4. Damage dealing calldowns

There is a lot of calldowns focused on dealing damage. Magnetic Mines is a more defensive top bar ability, as the mines require some time to set up. But the rest of top bar abilities - Precision Strike, Space Station Reallocation and Call in the Fleet are direct damage calldowns. They all have their own distinguishing elements, but they serve the same purpose - deal damage at the targeted location. That is not a bad thing, but I'm surprised we didn't get any unit calldown, which are fun and more flexible. Also, without any good static defense, it might be little harder to deal with some mutators or sudden enemy threats. These top bar abilities might not clean the whole wave or will not work that well against a stream of units, for example from Void Reanimators and Void Rifts. However, the Precision Strike looks like it was made to be the answer to Void Rifts. This is just a small concern, and it will probably work out well. The army is reasonably mobile too.
5. Composition(s)

At the first glance, we see two sets of units that players will be able to combine. It would seem there will be a lot of options - pure mercenaries, skyterran or any combination of them. That is the case in my UED design, where different forces can work both alone or together to form a very flexible commander. With H&H, the developers are strongly pushing players into combined forces, which is, after all, the theme they are going for. I don't blame them, but I would still like to see a commander where players can make significant choices and use the commander in wide range of playstyles.

Some of the limiting factors
  • Mira's units seem more mineral heavy -- For example Galleons, Reapers and Hellbats cost only minerals. The result might be that players have no choice but to spend the gas on Matt's air units. 
  • The production of Matt's units is on cooldown in the starport -- Players are limited on their air composition. It's not possible to go mass Wraith or mass Battlecruisers.
  • The only solid Matt's anti-ground unit is the Sovereign Battlecruiser -- Wraiths still tickle enemy units with their laser and Vikings are not likely to be very cost-efficient on the ground. That again forces players to use Mira's units.
  • Level 15 unlock is only useful when players are combining Matt's and Mira's units.
  • Assault Galleons look very strong and players are limited to 5 of these. It's likely, that no matter what player wants to do, he will make 5 of these very early.
Again, it's not that these things are bad. It's very similar to Nova's production scheme, which has similar downsides and upsides. Yes, player's options are limited, but most likely there will be enough small choices for each player. It removes some flexibility from the commander and a small strategic layer, and results in some weaknesses against mutators. But overall this design works very well for co-op commanders.

6. Supply Bonuses

"Significant Others: Horner's units gain 0.5% health for each supply of Mira's units. Mira's units gain 0.5% attack speed for each supply of Horner's units."

This level 15 unlock is quite interesting. We will have to see to whom the SCVs count towards. Maybe it would be preferable if the bonuses were switched, but I don't think it matters as much. The incentive is definitely to max out as fast as possible, in order to get the maximum out of these bonuses and trade the effectively. That goes a little against Mira's theme.

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