Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm review

What Heart of the Swarm Got Right

+ Highly innovative missions

+ Customisation, evolution of your Zerg army

+ The feeling of sheer power as the Zerg Queen

+ Enhanced multiplayer with new units

What Heart of the Swarm Got Wrong

– No refresher on the Wings of Liberty story

– Expensive for an expansion

– Some cheesy dialogue in the campaign

Starcraft’s second campaign, Heart of the Swarm (HoTS) puts you in the shoes of Sarah Kerrigan, commanding the Zerg forces, alien creatures that rely on evolutions and strength in numbers.

The campaign features some exciting new innovations in both unit composition, leveling, and continuation of the otherworldly storyline. It captures the heart of the Zerg and Kerrigan’s ruthlessness and sheer power that earns her the title as the Queen of Blades. As she slowly regains her memory and gathers the swarm, we formulate and tailor our Zerg army to help Kerrigan gain revenge against Emperor Mengsk and the Dominion.

Campaign – recapturing the swarm

Following the events of the Wings of Liberty (WoL) campaign, Kerrigan’s humanity has been restored. Jim Raynor appears on a rescue mission and they realise that Emperor Mengsk will stop at nothing for Kerrigan’s death. A sudden turn of events causes Kerrigan to declare vengeance against Mengsk and the Dominion, and she returns to her home planet to gather and strengthen the swarm.

While WoL had you controlling a Terran base, you’ll travel between different planets to recapture the swarm in HoTS. Whether it’s reclaiming Kerrigan’s homeland on Char, to battling the Protoss on other planets, to infecting as many as you can, each mission poses a different challenge. Each mission rewards you with a new unit, giving non-Zerg players a great induction.

What really makes Starcraft 2 excel is the amount of innovation that goes into the RTS gameplay and ability to customize your army however you see fit. Here you’re given access to the Evolution Pit, where you can evolve your attained Zerg units with enhancements such as increased movement speed, attack speed, or more life. Evolution missions will morph your units into powerful fighters – instead of the standard zergling, you can choose between Raptor Zerg, who can fly and jump up onto cliffs to surprise your enemy or Swarmlings which morph in extreme numbers almost instantly.

Controlling Kerrigan on the battlefield gives you the sheer feeling of power, but not to the point of overpowered. She’s got some nifty abilities which will either enhance the swarm or deliver a blow to the enemy’s forces, such as the Crushing Grip, which incapacitates a group of enemies in a target area or the Kinetic Blast which deals 300 damage to a single unit. By completing optional mission objectives, you’ll gain a Kerrigan level to increase her strength, health and eventually new abilities.

The campaign mode has always been an excellent standalone, filled with new units, a great sci-fi story and unique objectives. Although some of the dialogue between characters may be a bit contrived, that’s the only criticism I have about the game. Turned on ultra graphics mode, your senses are in for a treat watching hundreds of units overpower entire planets. Placing the fate of the Zerg in your hands is a rewarding experience – being bad has never felt so good.

Multiplayer – new units, new season

Multiplayer has received an overhaul with 7 new units:

  • Terrans receive Hellbat, an enhanced hellion that transforms into a mech with flame throwers and Window Mine, a cloaked mine that explodes when triggered.
  • Protoss receive Mothership Core, a scaled down Mothership that can teleport entire armies, and Oracle, an agile support vessel with powerful abilities, and Tempest, a late-game unit offering long-range fire power.
  • Zerg receive Viper, a flying unit that can counter ranged foes with a blinding cloud, and Swarm Host, that burrows and spwans free, temporary units called Locusts.
  • Retired units include: Motherships, Carriers and the Overseer.

If you haven’t ventured into multiplayer yet for fear of being crushed by Koreans, the training mode is a great place to start along with unranked mode where you can try your strategies without the fear of early cheese. Clan support highlights players on your friends list who have logged in near you.