Starbow: Starcraft Brood War 2

by Kuribo on         follow @Satchobo

UPDATE: Roaches ARE in Starbow. They are Lair tech, spit fire, and are incredibly effective.

Starcraft 2’s Blizzard Arcade has been making waves recently with an incredible balance mod called Starbow. Starbow takes elements from Starcraft: Brood War and combines them with Starcraft 2 resulting in a completely reimagined Starcraft experience. There are too many changes to list them all so I will simply try to hit on some of the big points to give you an idea of what makes Starbow so interesting that thousands would tune in to watch a few pros play some showmatches on the mod.

Dragoons outrange marines

Dragoons have returned.

Unit Pathing

The first change from Starcraft 2 you will notice right away playing or watching the mod is that ground units do not clump up. The unit AI has been changed to give the unit control a more Brood War feel with units settling into their own respective areas during and after movement. This creates a natural spread, diminishing the effect of AoE abilities/attacks. The pathing has retained much of Starcraft 2’s polish preventing the sort of failure trains that Brood War was known for. This does not mean you can 1+A Move your entire army in Starbow, but it will make control a bit more natural for those unfamiliar with Brood War.

Need a Light?

FireBats and Medics prepped and ready.

Lower DPS

Another major change is the removal of so-called “hard counters.” There is no unit in Starbow that does more to just one particular unit or type of unit. Instead, units have a damage type and an armor type (similar to Warcraft 3). Each unit’s damage type will do 100% damage to the type of armor it “soft counters.” It will also do 75% against another armor type, and 50% against yet another. This creates a slower pace to battles as you do not have units like Marauders (which are in a rebalanced form in Starbow) evaporating Roaches (which are not in Starbow) while still doing full DPS to everything else.

Nerves Jammedd

Explorer Reporting

More Caster Units

Love that sick feeling when you nail a Psionic Storm? Starbow has you covered. Every faction has more activated abilities than in Starcraft 2. From Science Vessels to Defilers to Arbiters, Starbow adds a LOT of opportunities to micro in combat. To that end when you watch the two showmatches put on by Axiom eSports, keep your eyes open for some incredible back and forth moments. Starbow also has completely new spells not in either Brood War or Starcraft 2 such as the Science Vessel’s “Nerve Jammer” ability. Nerve Jammer places a static device which creates a green field around it after a short delay. ALL ground units in the area have their damage output reduced. Seems overpowered, right? But here’s the thing: Nerve Jammer effects your units as well.

Rebalanced Macro Game

The Macro game in Starbow can be a little bit confusing at first for Starcraft 2 fans as it takes the Brood War approach of allowing workers to return 8 resources per trip (both Gas and Minerals). What this means is that a one-base economy is viable for the early game in Starbow without being an all in as fewer workers are needed. However, it also means your bases will mine out faster than in Starcraft 2. Therefore, expanding is still necessary. To make matters more complicated, Starbow maps are designed with less bases that are harder to take and hold beyond the Natural. This leads to a lot of points of vulnerability and therefore more action throughout the midgame. A passive Starbow player is a dead Starbow player.

Spider Mines are scary

Vultures return with Spider Mines in tow

Rebalanced Racial Abilities

In Starbow, every race has multiple economic/infrastructure abilities to choose from. Where in Starcraft 2 Zerg’s always Inject, Protoss always Chrono, and Terran almost always MULE, Starbow presents a buffet of options for every faction. Zerg, for example, may choose to spawn tumors as now, Inject a Hatchery, or save energy to activate the Queen’s combat ability (Queens are unable to fight without this). Inject is different from Starcraft 2 in that in Starbow it only speeds up the production of Larvae, it does not add new ones above the 3 Larvae cap. What this means is using energy on a Queen becomes a tactical decision. A Starbow player will have to decide if it’s safe to spend the last Queen energy.

No Xel’Naga Watchtowers

Starbow maps are just as big as Starcraft 2 maps, however none of them have Xel’Naga watchtowers. This means that units translate directly into map control and must be constantly out on the map to avoid being attacked unawares or slammed by a surprise tech switch.

Scarabs away

Reaver drops all game long

Combat AI Changes

Starbow implements many of the unit control suggestions highlighted in this video. For example, Starcraft 2 has a subtle but very effective Overkill Protection AI system on units. This means that if you have two Widow Mines, once one has locked on to a target that it can oneshot, another will not. This also effects other units in more subtle ways like Oracles not all focusin the same worker. Starbow does away with this completely. This creates more room for the player’s skill to influence the outcome of combat as unit target selection is not “smart.” Among other changes suggested in that video, Starbow also implements the locked Tank turret. This makes kiting with un-sieged tanks a possibility as it was in Brood War.

Spread those buggies out

Irradiate is bad for Lurkers, mmkay?

It’s Fun


There is currently no Matchmaking for Starbow. But the Starbow channel has been very active lately. If it seems like something you’d like to try out, I definitely recommend it. If you’ve got anxieties, try it with a friend first. There is a lot more to learn. What I’ve listed here is only a fraction of what Starbow has changed, added, removed, and adapted. To learn it all may take just as long as it took to learn Starcraft 2 in the first place. But if you enjoy the two showmatches casted below by Husky and Total Biscuit, it is well worth your time to check out Starbow.