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!
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!