StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Hands-On Preview
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Box Art
System: PC
Dev: Blizzard
Pub: Blizzard
Release: March 15, 2013
Players: MMO
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p
Peeling Back The Veil
by Jake Valentine

Recently, we published a preview of what you can expect overall with StarCraft II Heart of the Swarm. While the continuation of the story of Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan is no doubt on the minds of fans, everyone is wondering what’s in store for the bread and butter of the franchise: multiplayer.

As the March 15th release rapidly approaches, we’re here to give you our thoughts on how the multiplayer beta is going and what you can expect come launch day. Here’s a running log of my experience with the beta:

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Screenshot

8:57 PM - Shaking off the dust; the first two games I play tonight don’t count for much of anything. Hey, I haven’t played StarCraft II in ages.

First up comes my favorite race, Protoss. They have three new units to play around with, which is more than the other two playable races in StarCraft. The Mothership Core is essentially a stripped down and cheap Mothership, the Oracle is an airborne harassment unit, and the Tempest is an airborne long-range tank, essentially.

8:58 PM – In queue. Dethklok starts playing on Spotify. I’m pumped.

9:05 PM – So much for being pumped. My first game is a Protoss vs. Protoss match against someone who’s level 33. See, in Heart of the Swarm, everyone has a level. It’s not indicative how good you are; that’s what your division is for. You’ll gain experience during your matches, and if you get enough experience, you’ll level up. Higher levels give you access to various cosmetic awards. It’s an incentive to keep playing.

So how’d the game go?

It didn’t end well for me. My opponent effectively harassed with the Mothership Core. It has this nifty ability that places a force field on the ground where units inside it move slower. This means probes move slower, meaning my income is reduced, not to mention my attention was distracted in attempting to thwart his harassment. Before long, I had an army on my doorstep filled with Zealots, Stalkers, and an Immortal. Not even the nifty defensive ability for my Mothership Core, which activates a gigantic turret on my Nexus, could help me.


9:16 PM – As I re-queue, I notice I gained XP for spending resources and destroying enemies. Nice to know that even if I get slaughtered, I’ll still gain XP.

9:26 PM – Once again, PvP. This one is a much more even match. As I harass to help set up my attack, my opponent is harassing my base with an Oracle, which is extremely effective against my probes. So even though I charge full force to his base, I have no method of reinforcing my army. My probes are slaughtered and my supply line is decimated. Despite a successful initial attack, I can’t keep up the pressure.

GG again.

Protoss is a lot more fun, though, and we should see some pretty interesting builds. Mothership Cores seem to be the weapon of choice early game, and I look forward to seeing how they’ll be shuffled into build orders come retail.

9:29 PM – My favorite song is playing, which, for the record, is “Citizen Erased” by Muse. Hopefully this means I can get a Protoss win under my belt before I see what’s new with the other races.

9:30 PM – Oh! I leveled up! I get a new decal! Seriously though, the decal that level 33 guy had? I loved it. Will it be enough to keep people playing just for cosmetic rewards? Probably not.

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Screenshot

9:37 PM – I Lose yet another PvP match. This guy has the same exact idea I have for a build, only he does it faster. As I begin to warp in Stalkers to prepare an attack, his army is already in my base. I guess it’s time to try the other races.

9:40 PM – I decide to try the Zerg next. After all, this is their expansion. They have two new units. The Viper is an air unit who excels at taking down massive ground troops. The Swarm Host burrows underground and summons Locusts to do their attacks.

9:45 PM – As I’m looking up popular Zerg builds online, my ESPN app tells me my Blackhawks have scored to tie the game 1-1 with the Canucks. I hate the Canucks. With a fiery passion.

Also, these peanut butter patties are absolutely delicious frozen. They almost make losing bearable. Almost.

9:52 PM –I’m discussing all of this with friends. It seems that Zerg build orders haven’t changed all too much. I’m saddened by that. At least it looks like I’ll get to play with the Terran’s new units a lot.

9:54 PM – I finished an entire box of cookies already. That didn’t take long. I should probably take note that gatherers now automatically move to minerals. No more having to lasso and direct them manually. There is much rejoicing.

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Screenshot

9:57 PM – As I finally re-queue, Blackhawks take the lead. Booyah!

10:22 PM – During the game, the Blackhawks score again, so it’s now 3-1. That’s the silver lining though, as I’m now 0-4 tonight in StarCraft. But I did get to enjoy the Zerg’s Swarm Hosts. Holy cow, those things can be fun if placed properly. They ate away at the gigantic Terran army my opponent had until he scanned to reveal their location while burrowed. As I feared, Zerg plays a lot like it did before. This isn’t something I’m personally happy about. Let’s give Terran a shot.

10:38 PM – My complete inexperience with Terran is proving to be my downfall. While I enjoy dropping in some Hellbats to wreck complete havoc, it seems I’m far too late. Hellbats are one of two new units the Terran have at their disposal, and they’re incredibly effective at wiping out ground units. Their second new unit, Widow Mines, dig underground and fire missiles. This is supposedly highly effective when combined with Siege Tanks. Let’s see if I can’t try that out…

10:46 PM – Nope. Getting rushed with Marines. Lame.

10:47 PM – Something about Heart of the Swarm just feels different than Wings of Liberty. I like this different feeling. A lot. Will it re-invigorate the community? That remains to be seen. But personally, I’m very interested in StarCraft II once again. I’ve also finished my second box of cookies. I’m a total fatty.

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Screenshot

11:06 PM – After playing with some quitters, I get into a legit game again. TvZ and I get to enjoy some nice Hellbat drops. Those things absolutely wreck. Sadly, my opponent has a Baneling squad roll into my expo and wipe out my secondary supply line. I never fully recover from this, and he stays one step ahead of me as my rustiness seals my fate.

I think getting my butt handed to me for two hours straight is enough for one night. Still, it’s a testament to how enjoyable StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is shaping up to be when I actually want to keep playing.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have some issues. For example, compared to the new units for Protoss and Terran, the Zerg doesn’t look terribly appealing on paper. I wonder just how well the XP system will work for retaining players, and the accessibility for newcomers remains questionable. But StarCraft fans can look forward to enjoying a new and improved multiplayer. Time will tell how well it holds up, but I’m not afraid to be optimistic.

11:10 PM – Vancouver ties the game. Crap. I can’t even win via proxy.

Jake Valentine
Contributing Writer
Date: February 25, 2013

Game Features:

  • The first expansion for StarCraft II.
  • Campaign with about 20 new missions.
  • Design your swarm's individual units and skills.
  • Improved graphics.
  • New units and multiplayer maps.

  • X
    "Like" CheatCC on Facebook