StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Review

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Blizzard’s expansion to Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty is swarming onto gamers’ hard drives everywhere, and now it’s time to take a look at what’s in store for fans of the series. This time around, StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm aims to focus on the Zerg campaign instead of the Terran. Gamer’s can expect to follow the path of Sarah Kerrigan, the former Queen of the Blades, as she embarks on a new conquest. So, does this swarm have any heart or will gamers let out one last desperate beat to survive?

The Good

Upgrades are fun: As you progress through StarCraft 2 you will be able to level up Sarah Kerrigan and choose certain abilities. Fortunately, her skills are not permanent and you can switch them around after each level. As you can imagine these upgrades come in a huge variety, which can range from brutal attacks to spawning overlords instantly.

Don’t leave our Zerglings hanging: You can also mutate and evolve your units throughout the game. When you want to mutate your unit you can choose from the distinct abilities that can easily be changed between levels. These mutations can include attacking faster, more armor, or increased movement speed.

However, when it is time to evolve you must choose a more permanent change to your unit. This really adds to the decision making to the game and you must choose wisely. Of course either unit evolution isn’t necessarily bad, but they really change how some of the Zerg can interact with their surroundings and attack the enemy. For example, you can either make your zerglings jump over cliffs and do more damage or you can choose to have them spawn instantly to build up your army faster.

I can play quite a while with this expansion: The StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm adds around 8-10 hours of gameplay on top of the previous Wings of Liberty campaign. While it may seem a bit shorter than the previous game, you certainly get your money’s worth out of this expansion in terms of the single player portion of the game.

Units and balancing: Each race went through quite a few tests to ensure that they were balanced. In fact, some units specifically dealing with the Terran and Protoss were cut from the game just to ensure everything was balanced. However, in the end each race had at least two new units available. The Terran have Hellbats and Widow Mines, the Zerg have Vipers and Swarm Hosts, and the Protoss have the Oracle, Tempest, and Mothership core. Of course beyond the new units a lot of the older units managed to get tweaked quite a bit as well.

The Bad

Frustrating Replayability: In Wings of Liberty I found myself wanting to go back and do some of the additional achievements for the campaign. However, in Heart of Swarm some of the challenges thrown your way can seem like more of an annoyance than a challenge. It would have been nice if some of these achievements were a bit more enticing.

I wish they could have added more: You do get your money’s worth out of the game, but I do wish they could have added more multiplayer units into the mix, and change things up a bit instead of removing some of the new units before launch. Blizzard had quite a bit of time to try and balance things out before the game launched, but it just seems like there was some missed opportunities for the expansion. However, on the flip side you do get a well balanced game with a decent story.

Not as many impactful story decisions The story of Heart of Swarm is okay, but you don’t get those Mass Effect-like choices that can cause serious changes to the storyline where a character would die or you play an entirely different story arch mission. In Wings of Liberty you had those tough choices specifically when dealing with Nova and Tosh, which added even more replayability to the game.

Conclusion

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm is a must buy for any StarCraft 2 fan. The game successfully transitions the story to Sarah Kerrigan and the Zerg. While there aren’t a lot of new units on the mulitplayer side, the single player campaign is around 8-10 hours and that is more than other games that are asking for a higher price tag. In the end, StarCraft 2′s Heart keeps on beating for the swarm.

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Review by FacTor-X