Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm is finally here, and it doesn’t disappoint.
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Starcraft, so I was really anxious to see what Blizzard would do with this expansion. In short Heart of the Swarm doesn’t disappoint, it’s a well-crafted expansion pack that deserves its place in any PC gamers library.
Heart of the Swarm takes place a few weeks after the events in Wings of Liberty. Kerrigan is a human again which is nice for Jim and everyone else, except for the fact that the entire galaxy still wants her dead. Heart of the Swarm is a revenge story at heart; it centers on its main protagonist Kerrigan and her quest to kill Dominion Emperor Mengsk. Along the way Kerrigan must regain control of the brood mothers and rebuild the Zerg swarm. Many of the characters from the first campaign make an appearance but their roles aren’t as important as Kerrigan and her brood mothers. There is even a character from the original Brood War expansion that makes a return, but I won’t spoil it for you. Overall I really enjoyed the storyline in Heart of the Swarm even if some of the things that went on during the campaign made me a bit upset, but I wont spoil them. Thankfully the cliffhanger ending I feared didn’t appear, Heart of the Swarm closes very well but also leaves the storyline open for the next expansion pack.
The gameplay in Heart of the Swarm remains basically the same, but Blizzard put a lot of time and effort into making it much more unique then Wings of Liberty. Much like Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm has many dialogue options between missions that open up whole side stories for you to experience. The upgrade system has been changed to the evolution system, which allows you to enhance your various spawns with extra abilities. Eventually you will gain evolution missions which give you a choice between two types of units, choosing one will close the other one off forever so you have to choose wisely. Thankfully Blizzard lets you try out both evolutions before making the drastic choice. Using Kerrigan as a unit was a surprising move on Blizzards part. Much like the hero system in Warcraft 3, Heart of the Swarm lets you play as Kerrigan in almost all of the missions. Kerrigan gains experience levels, health, power, and new abilities by completing sidequests. Your ability loadouts can even be changed between missions letting you mix and match the best abilities for the job.
Blizzard really outdid themselves with the mission design in Heart of the Swarm. Wings of Liberty was highly praised for its design when it was released, and Heart of the Swarm takes it to the next level. Blizzard did a great job of incorporating the new units into the story mode as well as giving you really fun objectives to complete. One mission has you infesting a Protoss battleship using just a larva. The mission progresses as you sneak your way around units ultimately becoming a Brood Mother, building an army, and overwhelming the ship. Of course there are other missions similar to ones in Wings of Liberty, but Heart of the Swarm does a great job of creating missions around the Zerg play style. One thing I noticed in Heart of the Swarm was that it is a much easier game then Wings of Liberty. I’ve played both games on normal and I can say without a doubt Wings of Liberty gave me a little more grief then Heart of the Swarm. Masochistic players looking for a challenge might find Heart of the Swarm a little too easy for their liking, however casual players will most likely not mind. Another thing I found kind of annoying was the hint system. The hint system plays audio clips of your various Brood Lords telling you things like “if you spawn more drones, you can get minerals faster”. In the beginning levels this is all well and fine, but when you are on the last mission controlling over 150 units at a time, it gets really annoying to hear that over and over again, especially when it’s obvious you already know what you are doing.
Multiplayer has also been given a few new mechanics to keep you coming back. The most notable change is the new race ranking system. Depending on which race you play in any given match you gain experience towards that races rank. For example if you play a match using the Terrans, your Terran rank will go up. Ranking up your various races unlocks new portraits and unit skins for you to pimp out your profile. Your race rank is also displayed next to your portraits before games, just so you can show off how much time and effort you’ve put into any given race. Each race has also been given new units to play around with, new upgrades, and various other changes to make each race different. The famous balance that Starcraft is well known for is also surprisingly intact after this expansion, however players will obviously find loopholes and advantages in the first few months.
Overall Heart of the Swarm is an amazing expansion to an amazing game. It adds a little bit to everything Starcraft 2 already had to offer. Whether you are a casual or hardcore Starcraft player, this is one you need to have in your collection.