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StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Review

publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
developer: Blizzard Entertainment
genre: Strategy

ESRB rating: T

release date: Mar 13, 12
» All About StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm on ActionTrip

Last year, Blizzard stepped back onto the scene of action-RPGs with Diablo 3, which was one of the biggest releases in 2012 (The staying power of the game however…. –Ed. Vince). This year, with StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, they continue their sci-fi themed real-time strategy series with another major addition to the story and more multiplayer goodies.

It must be said; we always thought Blizzard ought to have given us more than just the Terran campaign in the previous game, but Blizzard made some compelling arguments why the factions had to be split into their own standalone releases. To some of you the may seem as an exaggeration, but when you think about it, it really isn’t too much to ask. Real-time strategies included campaigns for most of the factions or races in single-player modes. We’re not saying that this was always the case, but a lot of strategies in the past allowed you to experience a full story campaign with most of the key races or factions available at the beginning. In that sense, we were disappointed with the SC 2: Wings of Liberty and with StarCraft 2 in general. While I’m sure many of you disagree with the notion of a full campaign featuring all three races in a single release, you have to admit it would’ve been a damned solid package if they had the brass to do it (instead of stretching it into three separate release solely for the purpose of franchise milkage).

Building upon the foundation of its predecessor, Heart of the Swarm offers the same slick and easy-to-use mechanics Blizzard’s RTS was always recognized for. Unlike the previous game, this one puts players in charge of the devastating and ever-evolving alien race called the Zerg. Prince Valerian Mengsk has Sarah Kerrigan trapped in a remote research facility to discover what sort of powers she still retains from the time when she was the Queen of Blades. Terran Jim Raynor is eager to set Kerrigan free. However, Kerrigan and Valerian end up joining their strengths against relentless Dominion Emperor Mengsk. Valerian realizes that the Emperor will use any means to get what he wants and he would even sacrifice his own son (Valerian). When the Dominion attacks the research facility, both Valerian and Kerrigan escape, but Raynor is left behind, which infuriates Kerrigan and she heads out to search for him.

The entire storyline in the Heart of the Swarm will reveal a few cool things about the Zerg. Kerrigan will have to visit some remote places in galaxy, discovering powerful and long-forgotten species of Zerg. Blizzard has shown its true storytelling potential here. It’s a shame that they haven’t focused more on these new species of Zerg and their origin. The characters depicted in this chapter of StarCraft 2 may be enough to entangle the average gamer, but I’m not so sure they will keep fans happy. Kerrigan has already been established as one of the most awesome villain/hero characters in the series. Now, there’s nothing wrong with her keeping her inclination towards the Terrans, mostly thanks to her relationship with Raynor. It’s also cool to see how she fights to preserve some shred of humanity is actually a cool aspect of the character. However, there are inconsistencies along the way. Kerrigan is the central character of this chapter, albeit you find that as a hero she feels severely underwritten (Most forgive this since the game focuses on her tight fitting body suit more than her character development – Ed. Vince). More explanations need to be given in order for us to be able to understand her actions. Maybe that’s something Blizzard’s still saving for the next installment in the series. We can only hope. What we’re given here is that the Zerg destroy and kill and evolve and Kerrigan is pissed off at everything, but she loves Raynor, so she has a soft heart. It’s a cliché, to be sure. The least they could’ve done is spiced it up with more dialogue and more character background or more details about the mysterious genesis of Zerg.

The gameplay in Heart of the Swarm retains the basics of its predecessor. The game encompasses a range of elements that will be sufficient to satisfy RTS players. One of the things we appreciated the most is Blizzard’s effort to keep things fresh by changing the mission structure constantly. As a result of their work, no two missions are the same and every task feels like a new and unique challenge (Thank God – Ed. Vince). The missions were shrewdly incorporated into the storyline to keep you interested all the way. There’s a neat new addition to the campaign with the so-called ‘Evolve’ missions, which has the player completing a few basic tasks on relatively constricted maps to ensure the improvement of a particular unit of Zerg. If the mission is successful, the new-found abilities will be woven into the certain unit to make it stronger and more efficient on the battlefield. The best bit is that there are usually two missions to play and each one will uncover a new skill. In the end, the player chooses between the two new abilities and decides how the species will evolve. It’s a fun addition to the game and it prolongs the campaign slightly

Using the Zerg in combat is a different experience than fighting alongside Terran forces. The Zerg depend on numbers and relying on these numbers is typically your best option to overcome your foes. However, we also enjoyed the variety of units that open the door to other cool battle strategies. The Swarm Host is a great addition to the Zerg ranks when you want to reinforce defensive lines. They are basically huge shell-like bugs that spawn endless units when burrowed – ideal for defending your base against unexpected attackers. Familiar units were given new abilities. Ultralisks, for instance, were given a new skill to charge while burrowing.

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8.6   Very Good

Exciting and diverse single-player mission structure, a beautiful and overall engaging real-time strategy with that traditional Blizzard glimmer that gives it a terrific epic feel, the brilliant art, cool-looking graphics and awesome sound create a fine atmosphere;

Some character and story inconsistencies, relatively short story campaign, friendly AI not as alert as it should be


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