Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm – Review
Follow Genre: RTS
Platform: PC
Developer: Blizzard
Publisher: Activision

Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm – Review

Site Score
9.2
Good: True E-sports game
Bad: Short campaign
User Score
9.3
(4 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.3/10 (4 votes cast)

It’s been almost three years since the sequel to the original Starcraft was finally released, the sequel was broken up into a trilogy of games to allow Blizzard to perfect each race’s campaign. With Heart of the Swarm we dive head first into the Zerg creep, as we take control of Kerrigan and the Swarm.

Be warned the story section of this review will contain SPOILERS of the Wings of Liberty campaign.

 

Story:

At the end of Wings of Liberty Jim Raynor found himself with the newly de-zerged Kerrigan in his arms, his friend Tychus dead by his own hands. Zeratul has seen a vision of the end of the galaxy and seeks to stop it from coming true.

SS2

The story of Starcraft has always been cheesy, but this time the story is starting to take itself too serious and is becoming too cheesy for its or my own good. Don’t get me wrong its not a bad story but there is not as much there as I was lead to believe, the plot is very boilerplate there is nothing they are going to toss your way that you haven’t already seen coming 2 hours earlier. I’m not even sure if some of these moments are supposed to be surprises anymore, they are telegraphed much.

The Starcraft fiction was never grade A material but I don’t remember Kerrigan becoming the Queen of Blades being something that I saw coming from a mile away. It reeks of bad story telling that they probably believed to have more surprises for the player than in reality. The game does wrap up cleanly and sets a clear path towards the final installment to the Starcraft 2 trilogy, if you’re invested in the world than you will enjoy what there is in there for you. If you’re looking for a great story in your games and you’re not heavily invested in the Starcraft universe then you’re not missing anything extraordinary.

Several new characters are introduced in the campaign and all of them are of Zerg origin. Izsha, Abathur, Dehaka, and Za’gara round out your Zergy crew who travel in the Leviathan. Both Izsha and Abathur were agents of the Queen of Blades before the end of Wings of Liberty with Abathur being one of the Overmind’s agents as well, his job is focused on evolution and creating new units, while Izsha was once a Terran Medic who since her infestation at the hands of the Queen of Blades was used to store her memories and throughout Heart of the Swarm she helps Kerrigan in an advisory role.

Graphics:

Blizzard is the best in the industry when it comes to their Cinematics department and this time is no different, there are CG videos strewn throughout the campaign that are gorgeous to behold. The in-game graphics are not bad either, whether the cut scenes between two characters as they have a discussion on board your Leviathan, or as you pull out your view above dozens of units on the battlefield: you won’t see anything that doesn’t look amazing. While the graphics won’t push your computer to the limit or melt your video card like Crysis 3 would, there is something special about the stylized nature of the units you command on the battlefield. Little touches here and there such as death animations and physics are getting some special care in Heart of the Swarm that didn’t in Wings of Liberty, whether its watching a Terran Marine get sliced in half by a zealot or watching a zergling continue to slide across the map when you kill him, the little touches make the game have that special something.

SS

Sound:

If you’ve played Wings of Liberty you know what to expect with Heart of the Swarms sound design. The Zerg have just enough of that squish and “ick” factor in their units sound design to give them the right balance between cool and disgusting. The soundtrack has your typical orchestra flair, the music is present throughout the entire campaign but is never intrusive enough to ruin the experience. Several new Zerg characters make their debut and with them some interesting vocals come along with them, if you listen closely you’ll be able to find Grunt from Mass Effect as a new character you converse with.

Gameplay:

The gameplay has largely stayed the same between Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm at least in terms of raw mechanics. The multi-player has seen the addition of several new units that you’ll have the pleasure of testing out in the game’s campaign, such as the Swarm Host and the Viper. New units have also been added to both the Protoss and the Terran armies in multi-player, such as the Hellbat, Widow mine or the Oracle and Tempest.

Heart of the Swarm is short, don’t get me wrong the campaign isn’t a four to five hour jaunt but it is damningly shorter than Wings of Liberty. If I remember correctly when Blizzard first announced that Starcraft 2 was going to be split up into a trilogy it was because they wanted each race’s campaign to be the length of the original Starcraft game as a whole. So Wings of Liberty came along and it was, the Terran campaign was 30 missions long. Now Heart of the Swarm is released and the campaign is 20 missions, with a handful of those missions dedicated to tutorials.

So now you have the Zerg campaign whose length is 10 missions shorter than the Terrans and the first handful of Zerg missions are tutorials. It feels like an inferior campaign compared to the base game, and sure, it should be said that Heart of the Swarm is priced at $40 instead of $60 like Wings of Liberty but it feels like all the effort was put onto the multi-player and not the single-player. SS 4

Wings of Liberty bursts with missions, that are not integral to the main plor, such as the Tosh or the Doctor’s stories. In Heart of the Swarm all of the missions that you can play are integral to the story, there is no room to breath in the campaign you’re getting all these new units one after the other, then you’re evolving your existing units to behave differently. Your need to uprade Kerrigan to become more powerful, there aren’t enough missions to really get your bearings on what is happening with your army. You get your final unit/evolving unit the second to last mission of the campaign.

It feels like as though they finished the core missions in the campaign and then set it aside to work on the multi-player, suddenly Wings of Liberty sparked in the E-sports scene again and they put all their efforts back onto the multi-player component to this expansion. Instead of coming back to the single-player and adding in new missions to increase the length and allow the player to breath they were sidetracked with their need to mess with the multi-player, and the campaign suffers for it.

That isn’t to say the campaign is lacking in things to do, you are constantly saddled with new units. The upgrade mechanic comes back from Wings of Liberty in a different form, instead of spending money earned from missions you earn points that are then used to increase Kerrigan’s power. You start out with two skill trees and you choose between the two abilities on a Tier about which one to use in the missions. The abilities can range from increasing Kerrigan’s health or damage to auto-mining Vespene gas.

You no longer gain research materials though the mechanic returns, this time certain missions will reward you with extra ‘Evolution missions’. During these missions you test two new strains of an already available unit, at the end you have to choose which strain you are going to use. These strains permanently change how the specific unit behaves such as whether you want your Zerglings to be able to jump up and down cliffs, or you want them to spawn from the hatchery almost instantly and 3 at a time.

SS 3

The mission objectives are as varied as they were in Wings of Liberty, with as many variables and interesting new ways to tackle your opponents. If you played Wings of Liberty and enjoyed the challenge of the campaign on the harder difficulty you might want to start on Brutal, the campaign can be annoyingly easy to players who know what they’re doing and the differences between Wings of Liberty’s campaign and Heart of the Swarm’s campaign on Brutal are vastly different.

Conclusion:

Heart of the Swarm struggles with its single-player ambitions, the story can be cheesy at times though the production values are some of the best in the industry. The campaign feels short and though the games missions are varied and none of them are quite like the others once you get to the end it feels as though you didn’t have enough time to get used to all the disparate and varied units you’ve acquired.

The multi-player introduces new units into the mix for each race, and Blizzard is nothing if not dedicated to the E-sports scene. If you love playing Starcraft’s multi-player you have no reason not to purchase Heart of the Swarm, if you’re looking for a well crafted story you could do worse but its not going to wow you.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.3/10 (4 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm - Review, 9.3 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
Craig Lynn
Craig Lynn


Craig spends most of his time playing Persona games to a ridiculous degree.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.