|Release: March 12, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Robert VerBruggen
New StarCraft material is a rare treat—by the time StarCraft II came out, a decade had passed since the original game's final expansion. But right now we stand just a month and a half from the debut of Heart of the Swarm, a $40 expansion that will serve as part two of the StarCraft II trilogy. For some time now, Blizzard has been hard at work, designing units, scrapping the ones that don't work, designing a campaign, and testing loads of new features. Heart of the Swarm will give players a single-player campaign of about twenty missions, along with an overhauled multiplayer experience.
As you probably know (and if you don't, spoiler alert!), things didn't turn out well for Sarah Kerrigan and the zerg in StarCraft II's first campaign, Wings of Liberty. While she was once the mutant Queen of Blades, leader of the zerg, Kerrigan was returned to her human form by an artifact. At the beginning of the expansion's single-player content, set two years afterward, the zerg population has divided itself into mutually antagonistic factions.
Kerrigan, the expansion's protagonist and antihero, is tasked with reuniting the zerg under her control so that she may seek vengeance against Arcturus Mengsk, the terran emperor. To make matters worse, the terrans are not waiting for Kerrigan to get her act together—instead, they're actively hunting her and trying to finish the job of exterminating the zerg.
This tense situation sets the stage for an epic campaign through the Koprulu Sector full of close battles and boss fights. Each Zerg faction is led by a queen, and some queens will resist Kerrigan's attempt to reunite the race under her command. Kerrigan also has to track down the eggs she laid in her last days as the Queen of Blades, though another queen might beat her to the task. Another of her projects will be finding a lost zerg brood on the ice-cold planet Kaldir and reintegrating them with the rest of the zerg.
Over the course of the campaign, players will have the chance to upgrade Kerrigan's abilities and her zerg swarm. Her psionic abilities and ghost training, coupled with her penchant for what might be called swarm eugenics—she can choose to "mutate" or "evolve" her followers to meet the demands of each battle—make her a perfect character for intense RPG progression.
The multiplayer game will see dramatic revisions as well. Blizzard has been soliciting feedback from ordinary players and pros alike, adjusting and scrapping units as needed, so hopefully the expansion will launch without any game-breaking balance issues. New units will include Widow Mines (mobile spider mines that fire missiles), the Tempest (a big ship with long-range attacks), and the Viper (which takes on the support role of the zerg Defiler and uses a mist to disable ranged opponents).
Existing units will have new abilities, too. The Hellion can now transform into the Hellbat for close-up combat, and the Mothership Core will be a slow-moving flying ship with the power to move other units around. To help players accommodate themselves to all of these tweaks, a tutorial will be included.