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StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Review
Posted on March 21, 2013 by Nickolai Niver

When StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was first released, it was a daring risk. Rather than following patterns set forth by Blizzard since their first Warcraft title that included separate campaigns for each playable race in each release, Blizzard had released StarCraft’s highly anticipated sequel with just one campaign.

The first of three installments, Wings of Liberty was being headed by the infantry soldiers of man. Players were going to have to wait a few years before they could play a Zerg or Protoss campaign. It was a bold step, but it has allowed Blizzard much creative freedom as each expansion focuses entirely on one race. As I said, it's a bold move.

With the release of my personal favorite race, the Zerg, I can only wonder: Will Kerrigan once again find her way into my heart? Or will Heart of the Swarm be forgotten in the void of other real-time strategy titles?

KEKEKEKEKE

Tightly Woven Controls - Perhaps this is partially due to the fact that StarCraft 2 is one of the most competitively played games right now, but the controls are solid. Commanding large squadrons of troops, all with their own unique abilities, is quite simple. Control groups, hotkeys, and simple combat controls make StarCraft 2 a title that does not inhibit players' skills with clunky controls. It's simple (mostly), and it works. What more could you want?

Simply Beautiful - Blizzard is one of those companies that can make an ultra-gorgeous game, and then make it playable for any computer. The lowest settings make it a game capable of being run on most low-end computers, while the highest settings display a gorgeous battlefield. Watching creep overrun the simple, pathetic Terran, and the confused Protoss as waves of zerglings rip through hope at 1,000 KPM (KeKe's Per Minute) can be simply breath taking.

If it was a CoD Game, It'd be a Sequel - Not counting the addition of the challenge missions, or the side missions, Heart of the Swarm is a 15 hour campaign. While that might not seem like much for the RPG gamers, for a mostly online title, a solid 15 hour campaign with unique features is pretty impressive (right Activision?). Each mission is different from the last, which is completely mind blowing when you consider that the entire premise of an RTS game is “go over there, and blow that guy up”. Because of this, each mission will sit fresh in your memory, and not become one giant blob of “Oh yeah, do you remember that one mission where Kerrigan blew that one guy up?” I'm not kidding, 20+ unique missions on an RTS is insane.

Evolve - Perhaps the most defining feature in the Zerg chapter is the ability to completely customize your army. Whether you're the kind of player who prefers strength in numbers, or the guy who values unique forces, Heart of the Swarm has something for you. The zerglings alone have the ability to create 3 of themselves instead of 2, or have the ability to jump skyward and reach places that would normally require an overlord drop. It's a bit sad that these unique army features aren't in the multiplayer, but I'm hoping that Blizzard intends to let all the single player upgrades be incorporated online once the Protoss campaign hits.

A Predictable, but Solid Story - Sometimes players don't want huge twists in stories. Sometimes they want to see what they've wanted to see for 15 years. Without spoiling the story, Heart of the Swarm does exactly what gamers want. The plot is a bit weak, but this is also the middle chapter in the StarCraft 2 story. There are not a whole lot of groundbreaking moves Blizzard could make; otherwise the Protoss wouldn't see any love. Rather than progress the overall plot in some meaningless way, Blizzard decided to make this chapter entirely dedicated to what players have been waiting 15 years to see, and that's respectable. I like the fact that Blizzard realized “Well, there's not a whole lot we can do here, so let's keep the fans happy while we wrap things up in the Protoss story”.


WE'RE BEING OVERRUN

Whine Fest 2013 - I'm a bit sad about the Zerg expansion. It's a great expansion, but the characters all suffer from stuffed-donkey-with-depression syndrome. Everyone plays the victim card as if it's how they pay for their groceries, and almost every conversation turns into one of the two participants being barked down by the other, or having more emotional baggage. If I wanted to see some emo character development, I’ll go watch some Twilight.

Race Against Time - I mentioned that all the missions are unique, and that's true to an extent. The issue with the missions is that the vast majority of them become a race against time. In one mission you'll be trying to keep ships from making it through a warp gate, and in another you'll be de-activating artifacts so that Kerrigan can overpower someone else. I appreciate that the missions are varied, but they all seem to come down to you against time.

Zergling Weak - It's a bit depressing see the Zergs take act 2 of the StarCraft II story. Terran's taking up of the beginning and Protoss' handling of the end puts Zerg in a bad spot. Sure gamers get to see what they've wanted to see for all these years, but at the end of the day they don't really see progress. They see an awesome fanfic that kills time between two campaigns. It's a bit unfair to be completely frustrated about this. If it wasn't Zerg, then Protoss would have the middle campaign. Not that that would be a bad idea. I'm pretty sure the Protoss don't do anything interesting in the first place.




 

StaCraft II:  Heart of the Swarm is a good second chapter for the series. It brought in a new campaign, new characters, and new ideas. It also provided a larger roster of units for the races to include in their strategies. It's a bit disappointing that the characters are as melodramatic as they are, but it's still a great game. It's not the best Blizzard could have done, but I'm more than happy with it.

 

Nickolai Niver - Staff Writer nic (@) original-gamer.com | all author's articles

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