Playtest 191: Atlas 2.0, easier, and with improved Mercs!

TreiskTreisk Member, Administrator

Atlas 2.0, easier, and with improved mercs!

Last wednesday's playtest was our first big step forward towards tackling the "add more strategy" problem with Atlas. Despite many-o-issue, you wonderful playtesters immediately jumped in an brought to light what you felt like the biggest issues were.

We grouped the feedback into two core problems that we hope to address with these set of changes.
- It was really hard to do anything. Playing Atlas was impossible yo
- Mercs felt disconnected from squads or, in some cases, felt better than squad units themselves.

Therefore, we've considerably improved and automated gameplay to try to keep you focused on battling and decision making, and less on things like worker/building management. And, we've reworked and rebalanced several mercs based upon our learnings. Let us know what you think!

Systems & Control

Production & Base-Building

  • Reduced production structures down to two.

    • Main Base - Handles squad units and upgrades
    • Mercenary Base - Creates Mercenary units
  • All other structures unlock the production options in the main base or mercenary structure

    • Note that tooltips have not been cleaned up for the structures or unit requirements yet
  • Base structures are now invulnerable
  • Construction is now "Set and forget" rather than channeled. A worker can begin construction, and then immediately resume mining.

Expansions & Workers

  • Expansions are now built by your Hero's T ability (as in Atlas 1.x)
  • Workers now auto-build for any nearby available resource patch, and auto-respawn when killed.

    • This also means they are now free.
  • Any idle worker will return to mining after being idle for a few seconds.


  • Ctrl + ~" functionality added to exclude units from "~".

    • Press ~ to select all units
    • Shift+deselect any unit you wish to be excluded.
    • Press "Ctrl + ~".

This is now the new "~". Anything that is produced will be added to ~. The units that were excluded will never be selected with "~"


Context: The biggest piece of feedback we got on the Mercenaries is that they felt like they didn't augment your squad, they overrode it. We've replaced a handful of mercenaries in both trees (as well as given both groups access to Engineers) to get some of that feeling of the mercenaries HELPING your squad units in your army.

Another thing we wish to do with Mercenaries is reduce a bit of their control overhead. As such, we've introduced some supportive spellcasters, and an Autocast feature for these! Let us know how these feel!

Also, we'll be giving these more proper, differentiated names in the next couple days. Bear with us as we stick with "A-1," etc., for just a bit longer!


  • The Engineer has received a new model and animations!

Raiders (Triangle)

Tier 1
- Cubelet
- Attack speed: 0.4 ⇒ 2.0
- Engineer
- Slow Trapper
- Does not attack; casts Slow Trap.
- Slow Trap (Z) - Drop a trap at a target location. After 6 seconds, the trap becomes invisible and arms itself. If an enemy unit walks over the trap, it springs, slowing enemy units' movement speed for a few seconds.

Tier 2-A
- Whelp
- Has received a new model and animations!
- Skycannon
- No longer has two modes. Is now slowed after attacking.
- ChillerMan
- Autocaster that casts Chill, slowing the movement and attack speeds of enemy units in combat.
- Leviathan (Finisher)
- Cost reduced

Tier 2-B
- Spotter
- Shieldman
- Casts Absorb (X) - Places a shield on a target unit that absorbs damage and converts it into healing on the target.
- TimeLord
- Autocaster that gives Haste to friendly units in combat, increasing movement and attack speed.
- Blinderman (Finisher)
- Casts Blinding Smoke (C) - Places a huge blinding smoke at a location that lasts 20 seconds, dramatically reducing the attack range of enemy units inside it.

Assault Corps (Square)

Tier 1
- Wood Cube
- Now deals heavy damage to structures and titans, and much less damage to units.
- Engineer
- Added to the Raiders!
- Priest
- Autocaster that casts Auto-Heal, occasionally healing injured allies.

Tier 2-A
- Martyr
- Aura radius increased
- Activation hotkey moved to Z
- Activating the Martyr now slows its movement speed dramatically instead of rooting it in place.
- Dropship
- Unload hotkey moved to X
- Motivator
- Autocaster that casts Bravery, increasing the physical resist and attack damage of friendly units in combat.
- Siege Titan (Finisher)
- Now only attacks structures

Tier 2-B
- Phantom
- Autocaster that casts Curse, providing vision of enemy units in combat and reducing their Magical Resist by 35.
- Orion
- Attack damage: 15 ⇒ 5
- Attack Cooldown: 1.5 ⇒ 0.2
- Sentinel
- Teleporter (Finisher)
- Now has an aura that increases friendly units' movement speed by 20%.
- Activation hotkey moved to C



Context: At last, we're putting some touches on Poison Squad! We're starting with the Hero abilities, which were previously fairly dry. We're still ironing out some problems with the squad (particularly the frustration of playing Hydros into it), as well as looking to punch up the Tier 2 in the coming weeks.


  • New Basic Ability!

    • Epidemic (D) - Fires a line-shot that strikes the first enemy target, dealing direct damage and damage over time. These effects bounce to nearby enemies. (Gains higher periodic damage and bounces to more targets as the Hero levels up)
  • New Ultimate Ability!

    • Blood Plague (F) - Target an area. After 3 seconds, enemies in the area are afflicted by Blood Plague and will lose 50% of their max health over the next 5 seconds.


  • Corrected a bug that prevented Howling Commandos from reaching air units

    • If you notice this sort of behavior on other units that "should" be able to shoot air units, please let us know!


  • What did you think about the new mercenaries system?
  • How did it feel to manage workers and construct buildings?
  • Did the new map you feel like you had more options?
  • How did you feel about the first ten minutes of the game?
  • How did you feel about the new Poison Squad hero abilities?


  • SnowSnow Member

    Man, automation improvements! They felt fantastic, no for the review.

    What did you think about the new mercenaries system?

    I really liked it, in comparison to last week. Having one building for mercenaries that you unlock through other buildings though, is a little weird for me - but still, being able to go to one place to build them all was nice. I am excited to see how you push this - the balance changes to the mercenaries made a huge difference for me in terms of "augmenting your squad" but i think this can still be pushed. How specifically i'm not sure - will update as i think on it. But to clarify what I mean :

    • was in game, fast teched to purifiers immediately at the cost of having many units, relied on alder for expac (tanking neutral camps). Used ground mercaneries to augment my army till i could get up to speed. They didn't feel powerful, and my own units felt better to use, but they were a great interim unit until i could catch up.

    On this though, late game still felt like "whelp, we've been pushing, saved up a butt load of gems, and now we simply have to many mercenaries to deal with". But massive improvement on the early game feel for the imo.

    How did it feel to manage workers and construct buildings?

    Biggest improvement here. My hero built my expansions, that auto generated workers that auto-tasked to the correct places. This was fantastic. It felt like my hero was important and needed, and like my workers were valuable and needed gaurded, but not micro-managed. This opened up LOTS of time for me to harass and push map objectives. SIGNIFICANTLY reduced the chaotic feeling from last test. Moi props on this change.

    Did the new map you feel like you had more options?

    Again, this map feels to big. It takes a really long time to get places. Also on this note, having more options didn't reduce the power of Vela. I wanted to play as her so i could speak from the experience of playing as her instead of against her...and she just felt ridiculously strong. Purifiers were the first units i built (able to get 2 out immediately) and with their 360 vision i was able to just use mercenaries to guard them and walk them forward slowly. Effectively cutting off all their expansions. No flanking potential, no ability to do other things.

    How did you feel about the first ten minutes of the game?

    While there were less things to do in the first 10 minutes due to not having to manage workers, i felt great. Much less chaotic. Not much to say here. The automation allowed me to focus on mid map harass and expanding.

  • AquaAqua Member
    edited February 22

    I may have more to share later, but I wanted to put this here to be sure. This is a bot game I jumped in to see how poison would work against camps, and what I found is that camps would sometimes not even attack me (you can see this in detail around the 10 minute mark). Aside from this, I saw some players in games use poison to great degenerative lengths, abusing the heal-blocking to kill hard camps right from the start.


  • Mercenary Systems

    (1.1) - Today it felt like Mercenaries were being used more directly in battles, and seemed to complement squads better than before. The few times I tried to use them independently, they got destroyed quite quickly. However, I liked adding booster mercs (healing, motivators) into the mix, as a way to shore up weaknesses or change what I could do with the squad (a little, as overall capability and nature of the squad wasn't impacted too much). (eg. healers and healing wards don't return to Ryme his healing from way back)

    (1.2) - Managing mercs still felt a little difficult, though the changes to a single building that can be hotkeyed was very welcome. I had difficult working out the control group subtraction feature that was added specifically for ~, but I think this just takes some getting used to.

    (1.3) - I really like having vision be part of the game, and in general, the concept of gathering and using intelligence makes strategic decisions much more rewarding. I don't have a feel for how wards would be strong or weak (like whether they are "too strong" now), but I definitely like using them.

    Worker and Building Management

    (2.1) - I find that I miss some of the manual requirements from playtest 190. Who knows where the optimal balance is for the widest range of players (and what puts it where you guys want it), but while the captor building expansions makes it much easier to focus on the engagements, it reduces some of the process of deciding to build something, preparing the worker and moving out. On the other hand, this test the process felt correspondingly quicker. This is in no small part due to being able to build the expansion as soon as you lock in defeating the camp (or even starting it early).

    (2.2) - In one game, I discovered that aggroing the near camp and losing made the titans continually kill my workers at my main base. Ooops.

    New Map

    (3.1) - I'm still really liking this map, particularly the style of the crossing sidelanes between areas. Not much else to add here, though.

    First Ten Minutes

    (4.1) - The biggest thing that stood out was realizing that the camp I was trying to start with was definitely the wrong one to start with, and feeling like I was really behind (this was with Alder) going into the first gem spawns. Targeting on flying units is still kind of confusing (like where to aim skill shots).

    Poison Squad

    (5.1) - Had one game against Poison off-lane. Didn't get a chance to observe or really play much against the new abilities, that I noticed. I like how they read in the build notes, though.

  • PursuitPursuit Member
    edited February 22


    Today I felt like the game was too easy mechanically. This is probably largely personal preference, but basically what it comes down for me is I like having things that I can do reasonably well, but also have room to improve. It’s not necessarily fun to get a build order down perfectly in Starcraft 2 for example, but it is a very fulfilling experience. I feel like the base building at the moment isn’t really something I have to work to improve at, besides remembering to build the stuff at all which isn’t challenging just a chore. I would prefer to see more challenging mechanics but I also don’t think it necessarily would improve my enjoyment of the game, just add a sense of satisfaction / fulfillment.


    I’d break multitasking down into two parts for the purposes of this feedback- multitasking in terms of base management and stuff and multitasking in terms of splitting up your army / attacking multiple locations / ect. I feel like relative to 1.0 the game has more of the former (which I like) and less of the latter (which I don’t like). It also took quite a bit of time and playtesting before I really learned how to effectively do the latter in 1.0 though, so maybe it’s something that will adjust itself over time.

    Winning the Game

    Right now I feel like there’s usually a long delay between the point at which you obtained a nearly irreversible game winning advantage and the point at which you actually win the game. My last game of the night went on for 40 minutes when I felt like the game was actually won in the first ~10 minutes. It was just 30 minutes of being unable to actually close out the game with all of my expansions and most of my opponents and the other side of the map being in a similar situation. This was weird too because I feel like in some of the games they ended super quickly after one side got a big advantage; I had one game end in <10 minutes after securing a game winning advantage.

    Squad Identity

    Before the cost of everything was doubled, I felt like you picked Assault or Raider as your units then picked a squad as your supplement to that. After the cost change things seemed less extreme in that regard, but games also ended up lasting significantly longer.

    Team Dynamics

    I wrote up a long thing about this and ended up deleting it. Long story short, I like feeling like I ‘deserved’ a win or loss. This is a part of what makes cheese in Starcraft 2 feel so frustrating; you don’t feel like you ‘deserved’ that loss (even though you usually really did, because it’s a 1v1 and your opponent did a better job of hiding his cheese than you did of scouting and reacting to it). In team games I feel like the situation can come up where you can lose games you legitimately ‘deserved’ to win or win games you really ‘deserved’ to lose based on how your allies perform. Here’s an example of a game I won that I feel like I didn’t deserve to win. It left me feeling frustrated at the end of the game, because it wasn’t like I did something cool or clever to win, my ally just won harder than I lost.


    Honestly this probably just comes down the the smaller player pool we currently have and not queueing with a team. That being said, it’s been the greatest source of frustration for me in Atlas at the moment. Probably 2/3 of my games end this way.

    Favorite Game of the Day


    This game by far had the most army based multitasking of any of the games I played today. It’s the only one where I consistently used more than 1-2 control groups, felt myself moving around the map securing objectives ect. I think it was also probably a game where I was ahead for most / all of the game though, so that probably contributed to it's being 'fun'.

    Poison Squad

    Healing was super OP this version which in turn made Poison really strong. Poison ult felt like a bad version of Celesta's ult, which at best it had about the same damage as Celesta's ult but over a long period of time and at worst it did like 30 damage. It might have been a bit harder to dodge than Celesta's ult in general, but letting it hit you didn't seem all the scary with how much healing there was in the late game. It was much better than the old ult which just killed everything around the hero though. Epidemic was probably more fun to use but seemed less effective overall than the old hero ability, especially later in the game where the ability to poison your opponent's entire army every few seconds was just absurd. Probably for the best!

  • Mercenaries

    Even after the nerfs to wood blocks and priests, I found myself pretty much only building those units, not necessarily because they were still overpowered, but because they were simple to use and did the things I wanted to do (destroy buildings and sustain my army). In hindsight, a motivator would have also been useful in some games.

    Right now it makes a lot of sense to use mercenaries that do their thing from behind a respawning meatshield of squad units. This can create some interesting gameplay, with skirmishes shaping themselves around the positions and priority of the mercenaries. However, I think things get less interesting when players are able to benefit from having large groups of backline mercenaries, and encounters become, "Can I reach my opponents' ball of Priests and prevent them from reaching mine?"

    I think the key is to reduce or eliminate the benefits of having multiple mercenaries in the same place. For instance, the Priest could project a healing aura when stationary, and the auras of additional Priests would not stack with each other. Instead of having a mercenary that does extra damage to buildings, have a unit that applies a (not-stacking) armor debuff to structures or instantly drops the shield on towers. Taking this approach would place limits on the advantage one side could acquire against the other in straight up engagements. Instead, teams would need to split up their forces to derive a benefit from having more mercenaries than their opponents.


    So much better. Sometimes I will accidentally catch a worker when I am drag selecting my units, and that is kind of annoying. I can't remember if workers or heroes build Ion Cannons now. That seems to be the one remaining reason for workers to be micro-able. I still think that ideally structures should be built by selecting the expansion rather than the worker.

    The Map

    I do think the map is a little too wide, and I think that is actually reducing the number of options I feel I have because I don't want to move to far out of position to help my allies or protect my expansions.

    First Ten Minutes

    The individual unit and mercenary huts are still pretty pointless, though perhaps they could be useful for trolling your ally. As discussed, titan camps are pretty easy to take one-after-the-other in the early game because your units respawn so quickly. I know you want there to be a gradation in difficulty, but on top of that it might be simplest to just have some camps "open" later in the match.

    Scratch that, I have an idea. You kill titans, and then your workers harvest resources from their corpses. After awhile, the corpses are depleted, and a more dangerous pack of titans spawns at the camp. You could use this to effect transitions in resource availability from early to late game: early titans could provide gems while later ones could give more soup. Also, it would be kind of interesting if you could kite titans to positions closer to your expansions to make it safer for your workers to harvest them.

    Poison Squad

    The only game I finished with poison was a bot game. The hero felt much easier to use with his new abilities, and I enjoyed myself while playing.

    In regards to the Swamp Slime, perhaps it would be helpful to shrink its unit radius to the slimes "core," and have it project a damaging aura that is visually indicated by its outer body. This would make it easier for it to squeeze between allied units, and make it possible for enemy units to visually be engulfed, while not causing any issues with unit selection.

  • NibNib Member
    edited February 22

    I only got to play games before the massive merc nerfs so this may not be too useful.

    What did you think about the new mercenaries system?

    I think it's a step in the right direction from where it was last playtest. While I was playing priests, woodcubes and martyrs were very strong but I'm excited to try out blinding smoke and the absorb shields after the nerfs. I did enjoy how this accelerated games into the mid-game as you had cheap mercs that made clearing titans very easy, but the ten minute deathball was a big downside.

    It was really difficult to spend soup and I think this forces the use of square mercs for the siege titan (being the only real finisher unit) as a way to end games by just dumping your saved up soup.

    Squad identity continued to feel meaningless.

    How did it feel to manage workers and construct buildings?

    I personally preferred how it was in the previous patch and basically mirror Pursuit's thoughts on the subject.

    Did the new map you feel like you had more options?

    The map feels too big. I had a loss due to pushing at the side of the map trying to destroy the expansions of an opponent for them to just walk their deathball down the middle and not being able to respond as I can't recall my mercs and have no chance of fighting without them. I also won a game in a similar fashion as the top lane fought over the double gem base.

    How did you feel about the first ten minutes of the game?

    Most of the games I was playing were ending in 15 minutes and so the first 10 minutes were a bit more exciting than the last playtest with constant fights over the two gem spot base and faster titan camp clearing.

    How did you feel about the new Poison Squad hero abilities?

    I quite like the new D ability as it can be easy to hit for some decent damage in the early game though I think it's a lot weaker than the old one as the game continues, especially with all the healing.

    The new ultimate felt very underwhelming.

    EDIT: I forgot to mention how intuitive and just plain sick the new ~ is.

  • @Snow said:

    Again, this map feels to big. It takes a really long time to get places. Also on this note, having more options didn't reduce the power of Vela. I wanted to play as her so i could speak from the experience of playing as her instead of against her...and she just felt ridiculously strong. **Purifiers **were the first units i built (able to get 2 out immediately).

    Vela doesn't have purifiers. You're thinking Celesta.

  • What did you think about the new mercenaries system?

    I liked the changes to mercenaries to pull them away from being central to your overall fighting force. However, I felt like I just kept forgetting to progress through the tech tree because wood cubes and priests felt sufficient as supplements up until the game hit a point where it was like "oh hey I can just win the game with siege titans", somewhat akin to Atlas 1.X, just with a slight delay because I needed to tech up first.

    As a result, I have tried exactly zero different T2 mercenaries.

    Somewhat related to mercenaries is the changes to ~ for them. I kept getting frustrated having to constantly remove cubes and other siege/harass-related mercenaries from the ~ control group, but I loved that priests/supportive/buffing-style mercenaries were added to it.

    How did it feel to manage workers and construct buildings?

    I liked this iteration of workers. They're interactible, which is nice if you want to build towers or somesuch. They didn't seem to add a ton of control overhead to do the handful of things they do, which felt fine to me, as scurrying workers around doesn't feel all that fun to me.

    Tech buildings themselves feel alright. When I played Starcraft many moons ago I was a Zerg player, so the idea of buildings whose sole purpose is to permit the construction of a new unit somewhere else just meshes well with me, and feel more deliberate and tangible than just researching an upgrade.

    Did the new map you feel like you had more options?

    I'm not sure what does it, but on this map, when I'm on top side, I always feel like I gravitate toward the area just outside the large "valley" out from the double gem expo, and less toward the more central tower area. I also find my ally and opponents on the top side to hang out in the same area.

    How did you feel about the first ten minutes of the game?

    I like having a little bit of stuff to do at the start (first minute or so) instead of just sitting and waiting as per Atlas 1.X. Clearing camps is fun and lets me practice microing units that are being attacked, and pushing myself to not lose units against them feels nice (although deep down I also feel like with short respawns early and it taking some units a long time to heal, letting things die is probably actually the better thing to do).

    How did you feel about the new Poison Squad hero abilities?

    Never got to really experience Poison Squad this test.

    Other thoughts:

    Ryme feels really strong. I'm not sure if this is just a matchup thing (I played bot side vs Eris) or if the squad is just that good.

    I feel like I just keep forgetting about a lot of the possibilities available to me right now: expanding beyond the initial few at the start of the game, upgrading my mercenary tech line, building towers and ion cannons now that they're delegated to workers who I don't select very often, all these things that weren't really there in Atlas 1.X.

  • SpideyCUSpideyCU Member
    edited February 23

    For all feedback below, I was playing Ryme if it matters.

    • What did you think about the new mercenaries system?

    OK, so let's make this clear: my answer is going to sound negative, but Sunday was still a very welcome change from Wednesday. I like the stated goal of mercenaries supporting or otherwise complementing your squad. Right now, however, it almost feels like your squad exists primarily to enable farming resources for mercenaries, who then enable taking everything your opponent knew and loved away from them. I tried using the more support-y mercs, but aside from priests it felt like I was being "too cute" with the strategy and that it required too much to line up properly. It was easier to just go for things that killed buildings - even though I didn't win my games this way (ha!), to be fair, it seemed to be what the other side did to BEAT my side.

    Squad identity does dwindle as the match goes on, like @Nib said, and it feels like we come to the inevitable clash of same units vs same units.

    • How did it feel to manage workers and construct buildings?

    It's manageable now - I don't feel like I'm being given pointless busy work as much as Wednesday where it detracts from in-the-field decisions. It does feel odd that there are so many merc "actions" to take related to the buildings as opposed to those of the squad (which feel like they should be more critical) but it's not overwhelming. I liked that I used workers when I needed to, but otherwise they didn't get in the way. Thumbs up.

    • Did the new map you feel like you had more options?

    Now that I have more of a feeling of what I'm doing (as opposed to last Wednesday), I could focus a bit more on map presence than I did previously. With that, I noticed that I feel far more isolated from the bottom lane (I've always ended up top) than in the Atlas 1.0 map. There were times I saw my bottom ally having problems and the opponent pushing the nexus - by the time I got down there it was too late one way or another. Even if the recall-mercenary-issue is fixed, I don't think that would be enough to address it.

    The new map feels OK early on when clearing titan camps, there's more to do than in 1.0. There's something that seems stale to me about the "PvE" aspect, and I realize it's because I was used to Warcraft 3's version of "creeping". In that game, it was entirely possible to run into your opponent while creeping which added intrigue and choice (do I creep or do I counter-creep?) - here, I suppose that equivalent is in gemming, but it feels like I can't punish my opponent early on for clearing titans early (due to the towers preventing engagement). Thus, my only option is to clear titans myself and try to keep up.

    Also, with the vision wards giving huuuuge amounts of sight, it felt easy to keep track of when people were moving out. I was rarely caught offguard, which meant that when I lost fights, it was due either my poor choices in combat (cool!) or being behind in macro (still cool, but a learning curve).

    • How did you feel about the first ten minutes of the game?

    Pretty decent, but I always felt like I had a soup glut and gems were my bottleneck for doing anything. Unsure if that means I need to adjust my playstyle to focus more on gems or what?

    As an aside, it seems much easier to hit a large resource gap between teams. I don't know if it's testament to 2.0 having much more to do than 1.0, but resources prior to the 10 min mark tended to be much closer previously - I remember laughing when reviewing a 1.0 replay and someone said "the other side is so far ahead, we'll never catch up" and the gold difference between the teams was 2800 vs 2650 - that's only 5%! Here, in the game I'll link below, soup was 3600 vs 3000 and a stark 237 vs 188 in gems. It's obvious which side won, which isn't a bad thing but I definitely feel I need to focus more on setting up good income.

    I think I've been playing this like Atlas 1.0 which is why I've been doing poorly. I'm no stranger to War3/SC2, I just probably haven't put myself in the right mindset.

    Misc Thoughts

    Mechanically, I liked where the game was, I just need to get more familiar with managing my resources under these new rules.

    So, I had one absolutely, utterly devastating moment yesterday wherein I was attacking an enemy tower with my four Leviathans. I pulled one of them back because it had gotten into tower range...but I accidentally right-clicked on a titan because the camp was under the Leviathans (looking at the replay though, I swear I clicked NEXT to it). Suddenly, the entire mega-titan camp turned on me and my four costly Leviathans were gone in an instant. I'm torn as to what to think about this - on the one hand, such a huge investment was lost with such a tiny move and it was absolutely heartbreaking. On the other hand, technically I made a mistake so I should be punished for it. I don't know if (1) it's fair to ask for titan camps to have to be Attack-clicked instead of just right-clicked to initiate combat, if (2) there's a better solution or if (3) there even NEEDS to be a solution.

    ref: G53f56e5890a3452db3a01a036fdb9c7d
    around the 22:00 mark

  • LefLef Member

    What did you think about the new mercenaries system?

    Mercenaries were interesting. They add a significant amount of scope to the squads, but I also feel like they're dangerous. The idea that they're an addition to the squad system and that you weave them into your army as support wasn't how it felt during my experience. Mercenaries felt vastly more important. Squad units respawn, and as such were more sacrificial than mercenaries that I wanted to protect at all costs. Mercenaries are also the reason the map matters. Gems and soup are essentially only used to build mercenaries and lead them to have an inflated sense of importance. It wasn't uncommon to see armies comprised mostly of mercenaries, and I certainly target fired mercenaries above squad units in every fight. All in all, I felt like the game was centered around the mercenaries which pulled the focus away from the squads.

    They also do essentially everything. Mercenaries are dangerous for the same reason that artifacts are dangerous in Magic. Artifacts can be accessed by anyone, which can break the color pie and reduce deck diversity. Similarly, priests reduce the viability of squads with a healing focus. Since I can access that effect from any squad, why would I pick a squad with healing? The nerf to them to make them significantly more inefficient mid-playtest speaks to one of my concerns with the system. Obviously its balance-able, but I remember Mirrodin all too well.

    How did it feel to manage workers and construct buildings?

    Way way way way better than Wednesday. I could keep pace with macro and the distance between my decision and the in-game action was much smaller. Specifically, reducing the worker load was the best change. I didn't have to use brain space on building them or telling them to mine. Building construction still feels awkward. Putting down a structure in the base area that requires space and further attention to continue upgrades makes me work much harder. However, I'm willing to concede that this is simply an area where some amount of apm/familiarity is worthwhile. It certainly didn't have the icky feel that the Wednesday test did, that I couldn't manage my base. It would be nice to have all the management in as compact a selection area as possible, but its manageable as is.

    Did the new map you feel like you had more options?

    The new map simultaneously feels like it has more options and fewer options. The map is larger and has more points to contest. You can get ahead in more ways, but the early game feels much more stifled and goes by rote. There's a certain amount of PvE that you are required to do in order to play the game. I think this came down to when the first gem wave spawns. In Atlas 1.0 you could take out titan camps to expand immediately, but you gave up the first gem wave in order to do so. That was largely inconsequential due to the nature of gold. In 2.0 it feels even more correct to kill titan camps since the gem wave doesn't spawn for so long that you can pretty easily kill camps and still be in position. Importantly, you aren't giving up one resource in exchange for another since the gems you secure from the expansion are equivalent or greater than what you will potentially miss from the gem wave. More importantly, there's nothing else to do. Towers are too strong and the enemy isn't coming out until there's something to do on the map. I didn't like how much passivity there was at the beginning of the game.

    How did you feel about the first ten minutes of the game?

    See Above.

    How did you feel about the new Poison Squad hero abilities?

    Did not play with or against poison.


    A huge improvement over Wednesday. It felt like playing Atlas again, but with another layer or two on top of the core gameplay that we've been playing. Adding macro elements without having the macro overhead is great since the amount of 'busywork' in traditional rts isn't satisfying to me. The WC3 inspiration is obvious and welcome. The merc system is interesting and I want to explore it more, I just hope we can avoid Priestcraft or Woodcraft from being a regular occurrence. Even making them significantly more inefficient, I used them to win the next two games. A hard cap like some of the larger mercenaries and other squad units is probably in order, unless we can add Obsidian Destroyers to Atlas.

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