Starcraft II Heart of the Swarm Review - www.impulsegamer.com -
Starcraft II Heart of the Swarm
Reviewed by
Peter Bourke
on
Starcraft II Heart of the Swarm Review. With unexpected twists in the story, some awesome new units, it's a happy time to be a Starcraft fan!
Rating:
4.5

Gameplay 9.0
Graphics 8.0
Sound 8.0
Value 10
Distributor: Blizzard
Reviewer:
Peter Bourke
Review date:
March 2013
Rating:
M15+

9.0


Starcraft II Heart of the Swarm

The next installment of the Starcraft franchise has landed with the Heart of the Swarm, an expansion for the 2010 release of Starcraft II Wings of Liberty. After rescuing Sarah Kerrigan from the Zerg in the previous game and "separating" her link as the Zerg Queen (aka the Queen of Blades), Jim Raynor was hoping for a happy reunion with his one-time lover. This would not be the case. Rather, Kerrigan was forced into a series of tests and separated from her lover as a faction of the Dominion attempted to capture her for their own nefarious purposes. Needless to say, the Zerg shit was about to hit the fan!

Key Features

  • An all-new, Zerg-based campaign, that focuses on Kerrigan, the erstwhile 'Queen of Blades'

  • Over 20 new missions

  • The release of new StarCraft II units and new maps

  • Improvements to Battle.net, including StarCraft Marketplace, timed to coincide with the release of Heart of the Swarm

  • New multiplayer options, including group and clan systems, unranked matchmaking, global play enabling players to battle others in different regions around the world, multiplayer replays, additional stat tracking, and others

  • A leveling system that gives Heart of the Swarm players a new way to earn customization options for their online profiles

  • PC and Mac system compatibility ensures that everyone can play

And as poet and playwright William Congreve wrote Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, Kerrigan embodies this theme perfectly as she reestablishes her link with the Zerg in order to find Raynor, whether he is alive or dead and end the reign of the Terran lead Dominion and hopefully annihilate their leader Emperor Arcturus Mengsk. I also loved the inner turmoil of Kerrigan as she battles between her human emotions versus the Zerg logical swarm structure. Add in those amazing cutscenes and it's quite easy to get emotional invested in the character...

Welcome to the next chapter of Starcraft II which not only offers gamers an in-depth single-player campaign but also endless months (or years) of online multiplayer of the greatest RTS ever made. If you have never played Starcraft before, the game does help with the basics that include a variety of difficulty levels, hints before each level and the ability to have conversation with advisors. However the key to all good RTS games is micromanagement as you build bases, upgrade your structures, protect your borders and then take on the entire map. It's classic RTS fun with a keyboard and mouse.

Even though the story of Starcraft II Heart of the Swarm is clichéd and sometimes overacted at times, the elements and gameplay create this wonderful gaming experience. As the previous chapter focused on Jim Raynor and his Terran forces, it is actually quite refreshing playing Sarah Kerrigan as she controls the Zerg and creates a plethora of weapons against her enemies. This was also the trickiest aspect of the single-player game, coming to grips with the Zerg and ever since the original Starcraft, I've been a huge fan of the Terrans so breaking this bond was difficult. Evolution is another key element of Heart of the Swarm which requires not only for Kerrigan to "evolve" but also the Zerg into this new species with almost human-like intelligence. Nonetheless, after completing the single player game, the Zerg now hold a special place in my heart as does Kerrigan. I guess this was the case with the refined menu system of the game which definitely makes the Zerg easier to control, especially with the new research and mutation system.

What I like about Starcraft is how different each of the factions play. Unlike the Terrans or the Protoss, the Zerg are a very fast paced species that easily allows you to create an army in moments. However like the aforementioned species, gathering resources (crystals and gas) is still an imperative element of this real-time strategy. Whether in single-player or multiplayer, the person with the most resources generally wins. Also, it's great that Blizzard still allow the player at times to control one unit such as Sarah Kerrigan (aka the hero unit) as you use her special Zerg Queen powers to decimate your foes. Add in powerful hero upgrades and Kerrigan can really decimate the battlefield and it's these solo-levels that help counter the sometimes repetitive nature of RTS games.

Of course it's all about multiplayer. Playing this game online is brilliant and no matter what race you choose, there are plenty of challenges to be found, especially with the new units. New Zerg units such as the Scourge Nests that when upgraded can take down a Terran Battlecruiser in one attack is just so awesome to watch. I also loved the Vipers, powerful and fast flying units and the ultimate warriors, the Aberrations which are something out of Lord of the Rings. All these tools add to your arsenal. For new comers to Starcraft online, it's great how the game teams you up with someone of your own level but pros will be challenged by the new units. The game supports both ranked and unranked matches and needless to say, a string of loses can be quite frustrating, even for this seasoned Starcraft player. Sometimes you just need to have a break and then get back on the Zerg swarm for revenge. As to maps, well... some of these maps will challenge even the most professional Starcraft gamers until they become familiar with them. All in all, the single-player and multiplayer experience is a perfect amalgamation for Starcraft fans.

Graphics/Audio

Graphically, Heart of the Swarm is almost a carbon copy of Wings of Liberty that must be played in FULL HD with the detail turned on. All the units are crisp and clear that are made more enjoyable by the full screen cinematics. I would love to see a CGI Starcraft movie. Lighting is used well and the backgrounds boast this faux 3D that work hand-in-hand with the gameplay. At times, the Zerg armies are a little crowded and I wish I could zoom out a little more but fortunately it still works well.  The music provided by Blizzard suits the gameplay perfectly and increases the drama of the story. Sound effects must be played loud to totally immerse you into this world.

Final Level

Starcraft II Heart of the Swarm is the next chapter of the Starcraft universe that offers gamers a very sturdy single-player experience and neatly delivers a great chapter revolving around Sarah Kerrigan. The gameplay is flawless and if it's not broke, don't fix it which Blizzard seem to epitomize. However where Starcraft II Heart of the Swam excels is through its online multiplayer experience that allows you to play head to head with friends and foes as you climb that Starcraft ladder, whether ranked or unranked. The best part of Starcraft is that even if you have finished the single-player game, the multiplayer game can literally be played again and again without you being bored. Blizzard have done it again but let's hope that the third expansion revolving around the Protoss... doesn't take another 2-years! With unexpected twists in the story, some awesome new units, it's a happy time to be a Starcraft fan.

P.S. I can't wait to see how the e-sports community embraces this expansion!


 






 
 



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