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Overview

The Zerg were created by the mysterious Xel'Naga race after their first creation, the Protoss, rebelled against them. The Zerg were a simple insect species that was altered by the Xel'Naga to have a 'purity of essence', an internal drive to constantly improve themselves, something the Xel'Naga also gave them the ability to do; the Zerg would "infest" other life forms and absorb entire species into their "Swarm" altering and improving the Zerg as a whole by adapting themselves with the new species' genetic quirks. Eventually, the central hive mind of the Swarm, the Overmind, attained true sapience through this infestation method, and quickly rebelled against the Xel'Naga as well, apparently eradicating their former masters before setting off into the universe, driven by their genetic need to assimilate the most powerful organic species and annihilate the rest.
 
The Zerg are unique in the Starcraft universe in that they use no traditional technology whatsoever. Instead, they are masters of genetic manipulation, the most advanced biological lifeforms ever seen. Their skin and claws are just as powerful as Terran and Protoss armour and weapon technologies. Because of their intention to consume all life, they are the most feared and hated race in the Starcraft universe.

History

The Zerg were the second race to be created by the Xel'naga, after the Protoss had broken free and rebelled against the same. The Zerg were given a collective consciousness, meaning that all Zerg are essentially part of the same organism, with the Overmind serving as the brain. The Overmind could not be controlled however; gaining its own sentience and its own agenda, and the Xel'naga's dream to create the perfect lifeform ended with them being killed by their creations. After discovering their "sibling race", the Zerg clashed regularly with the Protoss, seeking to assimilate them and gaining their psionic abilities, of which the Zerg had none. The situation was further complicated when the Zerg discovered the Terrans, hidden away in the Korpulu sector. Eventually however, the Zerg managed to assimilate psionic abilities into their ranks. Not through the Protoss, but through one Sarah Kerrigan, a Terran ghost agent who was left behind on Tarsonis after her commanding officer, Arcturus Mengsk used a psi emitter to lure the Zerg there and destroy the Confederacy of man. The Overmind infested Kerrigan, turning her will towards the goals of the Zerg, in order to slowly gain control of the Koprulu sector until they find out the location of Aiur, the Protoss home world. Though the Zerg are successful in taking the planet, a Protoss templar named Tassadar and a Terran soldier named Jim Raynor attack the Overmind, and Tassadar sacrifices himself to destroy it, leaving the Zerg mindless and wild, roaming the surface of Aiur and attacking anything in their sight. Kerrigan herself soon stepped up to take control of the Zerg swarms, in effect becoming the new Overmind. As the self-styled "Queen of Blades", Kerrigan now has a vast army of nightmarish creatures at her beck and call.

Zerg Units

StarCraft

Larvae

 
Larva
The larvae, essentially enlarged forms of the original Zerg insects, contain the DNA of all of the Zerg breeds. They are able to evolve into any of the Zerg broods. They are produced by Hatcheries, and in Starcraft II, by Queens as well.

Drones

 
Drone Unit from StarCraft
Drones are the most essential unit in the Zerg swarm. They not only mine for Minerals and Vespene gas, but also transform into the "buildings" that compose a Zerg base. Like Terran SCVs and Protoss Probes, they have incredibly limited attack capabilities, making them vulnerable to almost any attack. On the plus side, they can burrow into the ground to escape attackers. The main downside to Drones, however, is that drones do not "build" hive structures, they transform into them; every time you create a building, you lose a Drone. The Zerg tutorial mission goes out of its way to warn you never to use your last drone to create a building. 

Zerglings

 
 Zergling Model
The most numerous of the Zerg units, Zerglings aren't especially powerful, but they more than make up for their individual weakness with vast, overpowering numbers. Their genetic code is so simple that two hatch from each larva, yet they only take up one population space. They can also increase their speed once researched at at the Spawning Pool. The main weakness of the Zerglings is that because they only attack with their claws, they lack any defence whatsoever against aerial units, although they can burrow underground to escape such attackers. 
 

Hydralisks

 
  The Hydralisk makes a cameo in WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos
Hydralisks are one of the most famous Zerg breeds, representing the species on the original Zerg variant cover art and the episode selection screen in StarCraft. Although they possess incredibly powerful claws, they are far more dangerous from their ability to shoot bone spikes at such velocities that they can penetrate Terran neo-steel armour. They can attack both air and ground units, making them a very important factor in the Zerg swarm. Their downside is that they aren't particularly fast, though their speed can be upgraded. Like most other ground units, Hydralisks can burrow to escape enemies or lay in wait for unsuspecting prey.

Lurkers

 
 CG Art of the Lurker
In the StarCraft: Brood War expansion pack, Hydralisks gained the ability to evolve into Lurkers. While they are completely defenceless on the ground, when burrowed, they are able to shoot super dense spikes through the soil that impale anyone or anything found near that area on the surface. As such, they're perfect for defence, and are often used as "mobile turrets" to push the front line of a battle forward. Lurkers do not reappear in StarCraft II's multiplayer mode, nor in the Terran-centric Wings of Liberty campaign, but it has been suggested that perhaps they will return as a campaign-exclusive unit in the Zerg chapter of the game, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Overlords

 
Overlord Unit from StarCraft II
One of the most useful Zerg units, Overlords relay commands from the Cerebrates to the rest of the Zerg swarm; Zerg players rely on Control to expand their population, and must spawn more Overlords in order to build more units, in the same way that Terran players must build supply depots and Protoss players must build Pylons. How the Overlords communicate with the Zerg and how they survive the vacuum of space is unknown, but they do care for the larvae and transport other units within their bodies. They can also detect cloaked and burrowed units.
 
In StarCraft II, they now have the ability to create creep for producing buildings. In StarCraft II, Overlords are no longer detectors, but can evolve into Overseers, which are detectors, but do not have the ability to transport units from place to place or create creep. Instead, Overseers can create changelings, tiny units with a limited lifespan who transform into enemy-coloured Marines, Zealots, or Zerglings when they encounter an enemy unit, to serve as the perfect spy, as well as a contaminate ability that sprays slime on an enemy building and inhibits it from producing units or upgrades for 30 seconds.


Mutalisks

 
  Mutalisk Art from the cancelled StarCraft: Ghost
The basic Zerg flying unit. Mutalisks are able to shoot a small parasite known as a Glaive Wurm out of its mouth at enemy targets that bounces from one unit to another while disintegrating explosively. It is able to stand up to the other races' flying vehicles quite well, and their relative cheapness means fielding a large 'air force' is easy. In Starcraft, Mutalisks are capable of evolving into two different specialized attack forms, the Guardian and the Devourer, but in Starcraft II, neither form makes an appearance.

Guardians

 
Guardian Unit from StarCraft
A flying unit that can only attack ground units. It is an evolved form of the Mutalisk. Guardians are considerably slower than Mutalisks but have an incredibly long attack range and, as its name suggests, a small group of them can defend an area from ground units with ease, though if protected from aerial attacks, they can also serve as heavy bombers. Guardians were intended to return in Starcraft II, with the new name Swarm Guardians, and were present in several builds, but have since been removed entirely, their function now taken by the Brood Lord. As with the Lurkers, it has been suggested that Swarm Guardians will appear in the Heart of the Swarm campaign. 

Devourers

 
 CG Art of the Devourer
The other alternate form that a Mutalisk can evolve into, added in the Starcraft: Brood War expansion pack. Devourers are air units that can only attack other air units, spewing a highly corrosive acid that can melt through almost anything. Their acid also effects units around the one that it was targeting, literal "splash damage". Although the attack itself does not deal very effective damage, the acid slowly lowers the HP of the unit and, notably, slows down the speed at which that unit can attack. Like the Guardians, the Devourer form does not appear in Starcraft II, but like the Defilers, Devourer corpses can be found and collected to earn Zerg research.

Scourge

 
Scourge Unit from StarCraft
Scourge are flying suicide bombers that ram other aerial units and violently explode. They, like Zerglings, can be hatched two at a time from a single larva. Because they are cheap to produce and incredibly strong (four or five can take down a mighty Terran battlecruiser), they make a very efficient counter to aerial units. Scourge do not appear in StarCraft II's multiplayer mode, but have been sighted in the Wings of Liberty campaign, so it is likely that they will be a campaign-exclusive unit in Heart of the Swarm.

Queens

 
 Queen Model from StarCraft II
The Queens from Starcraft and Starcraft II are completely different units. 
 
In the original Starcraft, the Queen is a flying unit which has no attacks and relies on special abilities. It is able to Ensnare an area, reducing the speed of any unit caught in that area and revealing any hidden units. They are also able to attach a parasite to an enemy unit, allowing the Zerg player to see everything that unit sees. If the unit is a Detector, the player will even be able to see any invisible units near them. 
 
They are also able to Infest a Terran command center, once damaged into the "red zone" of its health bar, which transfers control of it to the Zerg player and allows them to build Infested Terran units. Finally, they are able to infect a biological unit (or a vehicle driven by a biological unit, such as a Terran Siege Tank or Protoss Dragoon) so that it will instantly die, and two Broodlings will expel from the corpse. 
 
In Starcraft II, the Queen is the Zerg equivalent to the Terran M.U.L.E. and the Protoss chronoboost: a support mechanism. The Queen can spawn additional larvae from the hatchery, increase the spread of the Creep, and heal friendly Zerg Units. Now modified to be a ground unit, the Queen moves moderately quick while on the Creep, and slows to a crawl while on normal terrain. A middling ground attack and strong anti-air capabilities is another departure from the role the Queen played in Starcraft. 


Broodlings

 
Broodling Unit Portrait from StarCraft
Broodlings can only be created when an original Starcraft Queen infects an enemy unit. They have a limited life span although their existence means an enemy unit died to give birth to them. They are not powerful attackers, weaker in every way than even the Zerglings, but a handful of Broodlings can be a good distraction in a battle.  
 
In Starcraft II, Queens no longer have the Spawn Broodlings ability and they are instead brought to the battlefield by a new unit called the Brood Lord, which generates them inside its body and hurls Broodlings at ground targets as its primary attack, instead of spawning them inside enemy units. Once the Broodlings have impacted their target, they bounce down to the ground and begin attacking things of their own volition, making the Brood Lords a dangerous threat. 

Infested Terrans

 
 Art of the Infested Terran
Healthy Terrans are turned into expendable pawns if a Zerg Queen can infest a Command Center. Unlike Sarah Kerrigan and Samir Duran, psychic Terrans whose personalities remained more or less intact upon being infested, these Infested Terrans are mindless drones who live solely to obey the will of the Swarm. They are suicide bombers who run into buildings or ground units and explode in a massive release of caustic chemicals. They are capable of burrowing in order to set up ambushes. Because of the difficulty inherent in obtaining them, and the suicidal nature of the units, infested Terrans cause more damage per attack than any other unit in all of Starcraft
 
In Starcraft II, instead of being suicide units, Infested Terrans use the rifles they were given in their previous lives as marines, and they are not created by Infested Command Centers, which no longer exist, but are instead inexplicably spawned by the Infestor unit, who can create pods from which Infested Terrans emerge. At this point, they have a limited life span, after which time they drop dead. 

Defilers

 
Defiler Unit from StarCraft
Defilers are considered the most sinister of the Zerg breeds. They produce various viruses and poisonous chemicals. They often have other Zerg escorting them so that they can devour them to produce these chemicals faster. Defilers have the ability to produce a plague that damages nearby units over time until their HP is 1, rendering them vulnerable to, well, everything. They also have the ability to emit a dark swarm cloud that allows units inside of it protection from ranged weaponry. Defilers do not appear in StarCraft II, but their corpses appear in one level in the Wings of Liberty campaign, where they can be 'harvested' by the player to earn Zerg research.

Ultralisks

 
Ultralisk Unit from StarCraft II
The Ultralisk is the most physically powerful unit in the Zerg swarm. They are massive walking tanks, tearing enemy ground units asunder with their massive blade-like tusks with ease. Their biggest weakness is that they have no ranged attack or any defence against air units, apart from retreating. It gains the ability to burrow in StarCraft II.
 
An extremely advanced Ultralisk known as Torrasque appears several times in Brood War. It is far more powerful and more armoured than a regular Ultralisk and can withstand dozens of Siege Tank volleys before going down, and even then can be reincarnated by the Swarm, in the manner of a slain Cerebrate. It first appears on Char as an obstacle for the UED in the Terran Campaign but appears later on Braxis as an optional unit for the Zerg Campaign.
 
In Starcraft II, an even bigger breed of Ultralisk, the Omegalisk, was seen in a mission representing a vision of the future.  

 

StarCraft II

Banelings

 
Baneling Concept Art
These are an optional evolved form of Zerglings. They trade in their razor-sharp claws for large chemical sacs that transform them into suicide bombers. They are absolutely deadly to ground units when used in large numbers, and can burrow to prepare the perfect ambush. They hold much the same tactical usage as infested Terrans from the original game, though Banelings are far easier to obtain, and as such, cause much less damage with their explosions. The Banelings deal bonus damage to light units such as zerglings or marines.
 

Roaches

 
Roach Unit from StarCraft II
Roaches aren't particularly strong or fast, but they are feared for their signature abilities to regenerate health incredibly quickly, even by Zerg standards, as well as moving while burrowed. The Roach also spawns with 1 armor without any prior research to upgrade zerg carapace. One-on-one, a Terran Marine cannot cause damage faster than a Roach can regenerate from it. They are a cheap and low-tech unit that can only attack ground units. Especially in large groups, Roaches are almost impossible to kill without powerful concentrated attacks.

Corruptors

 
Corruptor Concept Art
Corruptors are a new flying unit that can only target air units but have an ability similar to the Devourer from Brood War that covers targets in acid. This acid will boost damage inflicted over a brief period to help crack armored targets or enemies with high HP. The Corrupter deals bonus damage to Massive units such as Battle Cruisers or Motherships. They can also mutate into Brood Lords after evolving a greater spire.

Brood Lords

 
Brood Lord
Brood Lords evolve from Corruptors and operate similar to Guardians as a flying siege unit. However, they can only attack ground targets and are helpless against flying units with anti-air capabilities. A key difference is that the Brood Lord fires broodlings as projectiles. Once the broodlings hit the ground they will scurry about attacking targets or anything else in range.

Infestors

 
Infestor Concept Art
Infestors operate in the spirit of Defilers by relying on several nasty abilities to support other Zerg units. Fungal Growth is a cloud of spores that can affect many units, immobilizing targets and inflicting damage over time. They can also spit up Infested Terrans armed with assault rifles for support. The Infestors most defining ability is the Neural Parasite that can take control of an enemy unit until one of them dies or until the ability times out. Infestors also have the ability to move while burrowed, and can cast the Infested Terran ability without unburrowing.

Nydus Worms


Nydus Worm
Nydus Worms are a living, breathing version of the Nydus Canal. They are used to transport units underground across the map without being vulnerable to the enemy. Worms can surface on any flat piece of ground with active vision on the map and unload an entire army one unit at a time.

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