Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The original Zerg species was originally discovered by the mysterious and ancient Xel'Naga after the Xel'Naga abandoned the Protoss on Aiur. The enhancements added to the Zerg by the Xel'Naga included the ability to "mutate" after birth and alter their own genetic code. Thus, the Zerg do not rely on machines and technology like the other playable races in the Starcraft universe. When the Zerg conquer a species with useful traits, they add these traits to their genetic pool.
When the Xel'Naga discovered the Zerg, they found they had purity of essence, which the Xel'Naga had found lacking in the Protoss, with their purity of form. Fearful of the chaotic in-fighting that had enveloped the Protoss, the Xel'Naga created the Overmind, an enormous brain-like entity, to bring order to the Zerg. When the Zerg destroyed the Xel'Naga fleet above their homeworld Zerus, they retrieved memories or records of the Xel'Naga experiments with the Protoss as the Overmind absorbed large numbers of Xel'Naga. (This allowed the Zerg to increase the sentience of many of their breeds without losing control of them.) They then devoted their energies to seeking out the Protoss in the hope of absorbing them into the Swarm, uniting purity of form and of essence, to create a totally perfect being.
All Zerg are directly subject to the will of the Overmind; it is a biological impossibility for them to oppose its directives. Only Cerebrates (smaller brains), and possibly Ovrlords and Queens, have sentience, and control a different army (called Brood), using Overlords as lieutants to directly control the warriors and workers. The lesser Zerg minions are wholly dependent upon the Cerebrates and the Overlords for order. Should a Cerebrate die, its brood will run amok; the animalistic nature of inidivual Zerg emerges. In the context of a multiplayer match, when an Overlord dies, a Zerg player loses control points, and must grow more overlords to replace the loss. Without these control points, additional zerg units cannot be built. Even Zerg buildings are living organisms, and aren't built but grown. They act as organs in the body of the Zerg Hive Cluster.
Main gameplay attributes
- Low cost per unit produced
- Low unit power
- Low supply consumption per unit
- The Zerg units (and buildings) regenerate (recover from damage) over time. All Zerg ground units can be healed by allied Terran medics (Brood War only). Also, most of the land units have the unique "burrow" ability; this is a very effective way to set up an ambush. Burrowed units can only be harmed by area-of-effect attacks such as psi storm and Siege Tanks in siege mode, unless they are revealed by a Sensor unit. However, burrowed units cannot attack, move or use special abilities. The only exception is the Lurker, which can only attack when burrowed. Burrowed Zerglings spread throughout the map provide a very cheap and effective method for following enemy troop movements.
- Least efficient building method, extreme building restrictions. Zerg structures can only be built on the Creep. The Creep is formed by either an hatchery (Zerg's main structure) or by a Creep Colony. (note: on some StarCraft maps the restriction is nearly eliminated.) Certain buildings must be 'upgraded' to attain higher technology level.
- All Zerg units are made from larvae at the Hatchery. This allows Zerg to quickly switch unit combinations, counteracting the high building cost. It also allows for expansions to be used for unit production without spending more resources on production buildings, whether to assist in an offensive, or for emergency defense.
Three special abilities in particular stand out:
- "consume", a Defiler special ability. It destroys a targeted unit of your own army and partly restores the energy (50 energy points regardless of the consumed unit) (required to use special abilities) of the caster. Because of the very low unit cost, the Defilers can recharge instantly almost for free. Other races must wait for the energy to replenish over time.
- "spawn broodling", a Queen special ability. It destroys the targeted organic unit almost instantly and creates small, very low-health units called Broodlings that are used mainly for scouting or heckling purposes. Typically used to destroy deployed Terran Siege Tanks.
- "plague", a Defiler special ability. It reduces the affected unit's HP by 300 hit points or down to 1 hit point, whichever comes first. It is very useful against grand fleets of Battle-Cruisers and Carriers, or against Terran or Protoss bases.
All Zerg units slowly heal over time, and all Zerg ground units (except for the Ultralisk and Broodling) have the ability to burrow once the evolution is researched. All Zerg units are morphed from larvae produced at the Hatchery, Lair, or Hive.
- Larva — tiny unit spawned from a Hatchery, Lair, or Hive. Up to three are spawned over time. They carry the genetic material required for each Zerg unit (except for Broodlings adn Infested Terran; see below). They have low hit points and you cannot control their movement, but an extremely thick carapace absorbs a lot of the damage inflicted upon them. When ordered to morph into a unit, they tranform into an egg until the units hatch. Eggs are nearly impervious to attack as they have high hit points and an extremely thick carapace. One unit is hatched from it, except in the case of zerglings and scourge, whose genetic simplicity allows two to hatch from each egg. Larva eventually die when they are cut off from the creep.
- Drone — worker, consumed when creating a new base structure. Has a weak attack that cannot be upgraded.
- Zergling — melee attackers, the weakest of the basic ground units, but very low-cost, as a single egg hatches two zerglings; the "Adrenal Glands" upgrade available at Hive tech level gives them a 33% increase in attack speed. Movement upgrade is also available. Zerglings' power must not be underestimated; it is easy to quickly produce huge amounts of them, and when fully upgraded, their sheer numbers can overwhelm an opponent quickly. Because of the genetic simplicity of a Zergling, two hatch from each egg. Requires Spawning Pool.
- Hydralisk — distance attack. Generally regarded as the most versatile unit, masses of hydralisks can defeat most anything (especially when used in conjunction with Dark Swarm). Hydralisks are the only Zerg ground units that can attack air units, so they are essential in any game. Many people feel that, at only 75/25/1, Hydralisks are also the most cost-effcient unit in the game. Hydralisks are quickly dispatched by reavers and siege tanks. Movement and attack range upgrade available. Requires Hydralisk Den.
- Lurker — morphs from Hydralisk. Must burrow to attack, but is invisible to opponents like all burrowed units. Devastates Terran infantry and opponent's zerglings, or any unit with low hit points. Splash damage is linear and does not decrease with distance or position. Consumes twice as many supply points as hydralisk. Requires "Lurker Apect" evolution at the hydralisk den. (Brood War only)
- Defiler — caster, no non-special ability attack. Have 3 types of special abilities: "consume", "dark swarm" and "plague". "Consume" sacrifices a player controlled Zerg land unit for 50 energy points for the defiler regardless of the unit sacrificed. "Dark swarm" is a temporary area effect special ability that negates all ranged attack that falls within the dark swarm — only melee and spash damage can affect health points. Dark Swarm tends to be the Defiler's most useful special ability. In the hands of an expert, it allows a small group of hydralisks or zerglings to destroy far superior forces. A fleet of carriers foolish enough not to retreat from 12 hydralisks under the effect of dark swarm would find itself decimated in short order. "Plague" is a very lethal special ability, reducing the affected units or structures HP by 300 hit points or down to 1 hit point, whichever comes first. It is very useful against grand fleets of Battle-Cruisiers and Carriers. Special ability and energy point upgrades must be researched before use (dark swarm is the only inherent special ability). Requires Defiler Mound.
- Ultralisk — Expensive heavy melee unit. In Brood War an armor upgrade for the Ultralisk is available that makes them almost impervious to lighter Terran attacks. Speed upgrade also available. Their physical attack is seriously lacking, though, for the cost and size. They make amazing meat shields as the surrounding zerglings and hydralisks deal the real damage. They are also useful for simply intimidating an opponent; an inexperienced player will typically panic at the sight of even a small group of Ultralisks. Requires Ultralisk Cavern.
- Broodling — special unit, see "Spawn Broodling" in general attributes above. Spawned by the death of an organic land unit when affected by a Zerg Queen's Spawn Broodling special ability. All broodlings will die eventually regardless of health about two minutes from the time they were created.
- Infested Terran — special unit (see "queen" below). Is manufactured from a previously infested Terran Command Center. It is a kamikaze unit that has attack power equivalent to a nuke.
- Overlord — supply, detector, and (when upgraded), transport unit. The Overlord is much like the Terran Supply Depots. Although initially very slow, an upgrade available at the Lair gives increases its speed to a reasonable level. There is the also the ability to upgrade its sight range, making it into a very effective "spy" unit. An evolution available at the lair gives it the ability to transport up to eight unit slots (each unit takes up a different number of slots; zerglings, broodlings, and drones take up one slot, hydralisks and defilers take up two, and ultralisks and lurkers take up four). It is capable of detecting cloaked and burrowed units.
- Mutalisk — short distance attack. Bounces three times for reduced damage in each successive attack. They are not cost effective unless used in large groups and against units incapable of attacking air targets or units with a slow firing rate. Mutalisks are often used to harass the opponent's harvester units. Precursor for Devourer and Guardian. Requires Spire.
- Guardian — can only attack ground targets. Morphs from Mutalisk. It has a long-range attack, capable of destroying all stationary defenses without fear of retaliation (but they must watch out for Terran Goliaths with upgraded range). However, they are painfully slow and must be backed up by units capable of defending against air targets. This is the main Zerg artillery (siege) unit. Requires Greater Spire.
- Devourer — can only attack air units, with a slow attack speed. However, its attack is incredibly devastating. For each acid spore that is a unit is hit with (up to 9), the firing rate is slowed and the unit takes additional damage from all attack until they wear off. Also morphs from Mutalisk, but moves much faster than Guardians. Requires Greater Spire. (Brood War only)
- Scourge — kamikaze unit. Capable of kamikaze of air units. Powerful attack that is necessary for bringing down a large force of Terran Battlecruisers or Protoss Carriers. Is useful for stopping drops and destroying isolated air units. Low hit points. Like the Zergling, the DNA of the scourge are so simple that two are hatched from every egg. Requires Spire.
- Queen — caster, no non-special ability attack. Special abilities: "parasite" enables you to see what the infected unit sees, including detecting ability — can be negated by restore special ability (Brood War only) — inherent special ability (no special ability upgraded needed); "ensnare" is an area effect special ability that slows enemy unit attack and movement rates; "Spawn Broodling" instantly kills an organic unit to create two low-hitpoint broodling units. Also, the Queen has the ability to infest a heavily damaged (red) Terran Command Center and transform it to a factory of Infested Terrans. Requires Queen's Nest.
Zerg structures are unique in two major ways. First, Zerg structures are considered alive and heal over time, just as Zerg units do, and bleed when injured. Also, all Zerg structures except for the Hatchery and Extractor (which is restricted to construction over a Vespene geyser) must be built on a thick, spongey purplish-brown material known as the "creep." Creep Colonies are needed to extend the creep to allow the manifestation of other Zerg structures. When a Creep Colony, Sunken Colony, Spore Colony, Hatchery, Lair, or Hive is destroyed, all corresponding creep retreats except for a tiny area around the structures. Larvae eventually die when not sustained by the creep. Structures of other races may not be built on the creep, but will not be destroyed when overrun by it.
- Hatchery — spawns larvae from which to morph Zerg units (up to three). Also allows the Burrow evolution, which allow all ground units (except for the ultraliks and broodling) to burrow into the ground at will. Only Zerg building without any building constraints, and also expands the creep further. Provides limited supply.
- Extractor — built over a Vespene Geyser, this building allows Zerg Drones to harvest gas.
- Evolution Chamber — provides three levels of upgrades for Zerg ground unit attack power and armor (attack power of Drone is not upgraded).
- Spawning Pool — allows for the construction of Zerglings at the Hatchery. Contains upgrades for the movement speed and (once you have a Hive) attack speed of Zerglings. Requires Hatchery.
- Creep Colony — expands the Creep. Can be upgraded to Spore or Sunken Colony.
- Spore Colony — stationary defensive structure capable of attacking air units with rapid-fire spores. Can detect cloaked and burrowed units. Requires Evolution Chamber.
- Sunken Colony — stationary defensive structure capable of attacking ground units. Requires Spawning Pool.
- Hydralisk Den — allows for the morphing of Hydralisks. Contains speed and attack range upgrades for the hydralisk, as well as the "Lurker Aspect" (Brood War only; requires Lair), which allows for the morphing of lurkers. Requires Spawning Pool.
- Lair — upgrade of Hatchery. Required for second level of Evolution Chamber upgrades, some advanced structures, and the Lurker Aspect at the Hydralisk Den. Carries over all abilities of a Hatchery, but with increased hit points. Also allows for the sight range and speed upgrades for the Overlord, as well as the transporting evolution. Requires Spawning Pool.
- Spire — grants ability to morph Mutalisks and Scourge. Also contains upgrades to armor and attack power for air units (attack power of Scourge is not upgraded). Requires Lair.
- Greater Spire — evolution of the Spire. Required for morphing of guardians and devourers. Requires Hive. Carries all abilities of a Spire.
- Queen's Nest — required for morphing of Queens. Allows evolution of ensnare and spawn broodling ability for Queens, as well as an energy upgrade. Required for Hive.
- Hive — upgrade of Lair. Retains all the abilities of a Lair, as well as allowing for the third-level armor and weapon upgrades at the Spire, Greater Spire, and Evolution Chamber and the rest of the structures (and the attack speed upgrade for zerglings at the Spawning Pool). Requires Queen's Nest.
- Nydus Canal — ability to instantly transport ground units from one location to another. The "exit" location can only be constructed on creep. Requires Hive.
- Defiler Mound — allows for morphing of Defilers, as well as the Plauge and Consume evolutions and an energy upgrade. Requires Hive.
- Ultralisk Cavern — allows for morphing of Ultralisks, as well as (in Brood War), speed and armor upgrades for the Ultralisk. Requires Hive.
- Infested Command Center — comes from a queen. When a Terran Command Center falls into the "red" zone (severely-damaged), a queen can infest it. Constructs Infested Terran.
The Zerg excel at quick generation of armies, making them highly flexible. Each Hatchery produces a maximum of 3 larvae and a new one every 20 seconds, making it easy to grow new units, and every Hatchery can create any available Zerg unit, unlike the specialized factories of the other races.
Their return cost is building expenses. Each Hatchery/factory is extremely expensive (300 minerals and 120 seconds of build time, compared to for instance the 150-mineral 80-second Terran Barracks), and furthermore, each new structure must be grown from a Drone (50 minerals, 20 seconds). Defensive structures are even worse: the Drone must be hatched and then turned into a Creep Colony, and then the Creep Colony must be turned into a Sunken or Spore colony (for a total of 175 minerals and 80 seconds). A lost building is worse for Zerg than 10 lost units. (Zerg defensive structures are also the worst in the game, so smart players eschew them altogether.)
Because of slow building and Drone sacrifice, Zerg have the weakest starting economy, hands down. They make that up with their Overlord, which can be immediately sent to scout, and the serependitous discovery of an enemy base can lead to an early attack, something the Zerg excel at. An early-game strike at the enemy's mineral line will usually even the odds, if it doesn't hand the Zerg the advantage. Since Hatcheries allow the building of 3 units at once, if the Zerg survives to mid-game, they tend to catch up and even push ahead of the other economies.
It is a horrible misconception that all Zerg can do is rush, a misconception a Zerg player will always turn against the opponent. If early harassment fails, a drop of Zerglings and Hydralisks before the 10-minute mark (or Lurkers if economy is that good) into their backline will usually be met with little resistance while the opponent repositions his choke-blocking troops to defend his failing base (scout it out first).
Zerg are particularly weak against well-defended choke-point unless you use a trump strategy. Due to the cheap cost of units, Zerg fighting power cannot be concentrated onto one choke point efficiently. 24 Zerglings can be stopped on a cliff, blocked by 3 Zealots. It would be much wiser to attack from a different angle. In general, fighting in open space is best for Zerg.
Finally, Zerg excel at the use of aerial "bombs." "Bombs" involve a mass of flying units, in this case the Mutalisk (arguably the most practical air unit in the game). The problem with large numbers of units is that they are hard to control using team hotkeys (as anyone who has ever attempted a flood of Zerglings can attest), so the "bomb"ing player attaches all of his Mutalisks to a single Leader, using by either the "guard this unit" command (right-click on the Leader unit) or by designating it as your Hatcheries' Rally Point. (This also allows the player to hotkey his Hatcheries, which can be extremely practical.) To attack, select the Leader and Move it (Move To, not Attack To) right on top of the enemy army; the entire mass of Mutalisks will follow in one huge blob. When the Leader is knocked down by enemy fire, the other Mutalisks will go crazy, attacking whatever is nearby and decimating the enemy's army. The "bomb" is also effective with Terran Wraiths and Protoss Scouts. You can only really "bomb" an enemy army; against resource lines, there is no guarantee that the Leader will be killed, which is absolutely necessary, as the army will follow it until ordered to do otherwise, and the whole point of the "bomb" is that you don't--almost can't--give orders to the actual army.
When Zerg face off against each other, the game gets fairly predictable. Zerg have only two major starting strategies: a 'Mutaling' rush, utilizing Mutalisks and Zerglings; and the 'Hydralurk', sending Hydralisks and Lurkers. If the enemy hits hard with Zerglings, build Hydralisks, Lurkers or Zerglings of your own. If they hit with Mutalisks, Hydralisks always win. Against Zerg, one must expand much more quickly than against other races, since a completed Hatchery means more units (via the extra factory) and stronger ones (via expanded Creep and associated building benefits).
Strangely, in Zerg vs. Zerg, high-tech units tend to take a back seat to churning out a standard military and strengthening their attack power. It's not difficult to research to the point of having a Lair, and that is basically all you need; Zerg have arguably the weakest air arm of the game, rendering Devourers useless in Zerg-on-Zerg (Scourges are more efficient anyway); and Guardians, while useful, need a significant army as backup. The Queen's Ensnare spell, though rarely seen, is very useful in Mutalisk air wars.
When the Swarm confronts Terran foes, it usually faces one of two main tactics. The primary strategy employed by Terrans, the dreaded tank push, is as effective against Zerg as any race. A prepared Cerebrate has several effective counters. Burrowed Zerglings are capable of lying in ambush for approaching tanks and emerging practically on top of them, too close to hit. When protected from Marine fire under the cover of a Defiler's Dark Swarm, Zerglings can quickly surround and destroy enemy tanks. Tanks can also be neutralized by a Queen's Spawn Broodling. This is especially effective if the enemy deploys tanks in small groups: a tank that is suddenly turned into Broodlings will attract the fire of other nearby tanks, distracting them, and damaging tanks or infantry close to the Broodlings. This can also be used in the middle of a group of Marines, or as a cheap way to damage Bunkers prior to a base assault.
In the Broodwar expansion, Zerg face an additional threat: pure infantry armies of Marines and Medics, affectionately nicknamed M&Ms. These can deal significant damage to Zerg forces while sustaining frustratingly few losses. Fortunately, the Zerg now have Lurkers, which are specifically designed to counter large groups of infantry. Lurkers benefit especially from good unit control: a cunning Cerebrate will note the approach of infantry and continually order his Lurkers to hold their fire until the enemy troops are right on top of them. This will greatly increase splash damage, and, when combined with surface troops, makes it difficult for the Lurkers to be targeted, even after being detected.
In extremely long games, Terrans sometimes opt for a large fleet of Battlecruisers. These intimidate some Zerg players, as they have no equivalent capital unit, and large groups of Hydralisks will be quickly mown down. Queens and Defilers are the answer here, as Ensnare and Plague will cripple the enemy and render them unable to escape. In Broodwar, Devourers and Mutalisks are a highly effective combination.
Terrans have few special abilities that are trouble for the Zerg. Irradiate can be highly annoying, as a single use will destroy an Overlord or Lurker. It is largely ineffective against other units, however, due to the extremely long time it takes to work. Burrowing the affected unit is the best defense when it is used on a pack of Hydralisks. Nuclear strikes should not be a problem as long as you keep Overlords in every base.
Finally, although Infested Terrans are entertaining to use, their effectiveness should not be overestimated, as they are rarely able to reach their targets without dying. In allied or team games with a Terran partner, however, Defensive Matrix can drastically alter this...
Zerg players have a bit of an advantage against Protoss, due to the fact that Protoss have no reliable early scout (Probes die in two hits from Sunken Colony, Corsairs are a bit late, and Zealots have a hard time making it into a good Zerg's base). For this reason, Protoss players have to play a guessing game regarding the Zerg's strategy until they have reliable data. Generally, Zerg players pick a strategy at the start and later on change it to throw the Protoss off balance. Mutalisks, due to their small size, are fairly resistant to Dragoon fire, and of course are completely safe from Zealots. High Templar, however, will decimate them if they pause in midflight. Hydralisks, if micromanaged properly, can defeat Zealots without taking a single hit. Zerglings destroy Dragoons due to their small size and speed.
The Zerg will typically have massive numerical superiority against a much smaller army of far tougher units. The clever Cerebrate will turn this into an advantage by dividing his forces and attacking from multiple fronts. This has the added benefit of dispersing your troops, providing some protection from Psionic Storm -- vital in Zerg vs. Protoss matches. A well placed storm can destroy a dozen or more clustered Hydralisks in seconds. Individual High Templar can be destroyed with Spawn Broodling, but an intelligent Executor will trick you with hallucinations while hiding the real Templar in Shuttles. The best solution is simply to prevent large groups of units from piling up in the first place through constant harassment.
Plot advancement in StarCraft: Brood War
By Episode IV, it was revealed that the Zerg had formed a new, young Overmind on Char, the adopted Zerg homeworld, but it was captured by the United Earth Directorate in Episode V. In Episode VI, the final act to date, Infested Kerrigan, the self-claimed Queen of Blades, a former human Ghost telepath soldier who had been infested (transformed) into a Zerg/Human Hybrid, had the second Overmind killed and claimed leadership over the entire Zerg Swarm.
With the Terran Dominion decimated, the expeditionary fleet of the United Earth Directorate destroyed, and the Protoss homeworld Aiur conquered by the Zerg with the survivors fleeing to Shakuras, the Zerg currently stand as masters of the StarCraft universe.
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