The Rush Of The Zerg Swarm
The decision to make StarCraft II’s campaign a “trilogy” is still somewhat controversial. Regardless, here we are with the release of StarCraft II’s second installment, Heart of the Swarm, which has us playing as the Zerg race and following the story of Sarah Kerrigan. Sure, we’ll come across familiar races and universal plot lines, but this time, they all take a backseat to the Queen of Blades.
When we ended Wings of Liberty, we saw Jim Raynor carrying Kerrigan in her arms as she appeared to be taking back more of a human form. Music softly played, eyes became watery, and everyone lived happily ever after.
Kerrigan is still pretty pissed off about having been abandoned to die on Antiga Prime by Arcturus Mengsk. Heart of the Swarm’s story is one of revenge, as we’d probably expect, but it’s also one of self-discovery. Kerrigan undoubtedly has conflicting feelings. Sure, she’s the Queen of Blades, but she’s developed feelings for Jim Raynor between the two games. While it’s nice to see her have a human side, the result of the “romance”—if you want to call it that—is plenty of cheesy dialogue, which doesn’t necessarily juxtapose well with the mature subject of the game’s narrative.
This is a bit of a shock when you consider the amount of detail Blizzard packed into the game’s story. Virtually every key plot point is presented through cutscene, though for whatever reason, I had some cutscenes appear as if they were in standard definition. The game itself has absolutely fantastic presentation values, so it bothers me a little bit with the substance doesn’t always match up with the style.
While the dialogue hasn’t necessarily matured, it’s nice to see that the gameplay has. Somewhat, anyway. You’ll still be defending a chrysalis, defeating X amount of enemy troops, and holding out for X amount of minutes. But the parts that are new are excellent, particularly when we get to directly control Kerrigan as a hero unit. She’s strong, agile, adept, and, most importantly, fun to play. Hell, I had a lot more fun with some of Heart of the Swarm’s action-oriented missions than I do with most action games.
The campaign is simply a solid, lengthy affair that’s easily worth the time of any RTS fan. But the issue that I have is that Heart of the Swarm is essentially an expansion pack, and, by their very nature, expansion packs are supposed to expand on the original title. Heart of the Swarm doesn’t necessarily do enough in this regard, especially when compared to Blizzard’s other recently released expansion pack, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria. Yes, I do understand that the two games are in completely different genres, but Pandaria is a completely enhanced and overhauled experience for the better, while Heart of the Swarm is simply a re-tooled and refined package. It’s plenty good and all, but I wanted more. It also says something when I enjoy a storyline involving a race of panda people better than one involving intergalactic politics, revenge, self-discovery, and prophecies regarding the future of the universe.
But the campaign isn’t the bread and butter of StarCraft II. No sir, that’s the multiplayer. And boy, what a load of bread and butter it is.
A lot has changed in the world of competitive gaming since the release of Wings of Liberty. StarCraft II isn’t necessarily the big boy in the world of eSports in 2013; the rise of the MOBA has led to games like League of Legends and Dota 2 drawing more and more viewers on a daily basis.
Still, despite their popularity, MOBAs can’t offer an experience that’s found in StarCraft II: two players battling out against each other on an even playing field, starting out with the same resources, not having to deal with teammates hindering or carrying them. Heart of the Swarm is here to prove that, once again, there isn’t any other experience in competitive gaming like StarCraft. The new units absolutely shine when they’re featured in matches to the point where I can’t help but smile even while losing.
I can’t necessarily speak on the new XP leveling system other than the fact that I honestly don’t see it being the sole reason to keep playing Heart of the Swarm. And it’s a little disappointing to see a system put in place for the sole purpose of retaining players, especially when that system doesn’t appear to be good at retaining players.
The bottom line is this: StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is a very good expansion. The campaign is solid, but I can’t help but feel it could have been a bit more robust. The improved multiplayer more than makes up for this fact though, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to queue up and continue to improve my Protoss play.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Gorgeous cinematic cutscenes, though there are times you’ll wonder why they look like they’re in standard definition. The in-game engine may be showing some age. 4.5 Control
Nothing’s changed here, and that’s a good thing. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
It still sounds like StarCraft, which is more than good enough for me. 4.2 Play Value
The campaign is a bit hit or miss for me, but the multiplayer truly shines. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best