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OXCGN’s Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Review

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OXCGN’s Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Review

Go forth and swarm!

by Ben Cadwallader

© 2013 Ben Cadwallader

StarCraft-2-Heart-of-the-Swarm_oxcgn1.5When gamers learnt that Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty would feature a campaign that was exclusive to the Terran race; many were left disappointed.

They knew that years would pass before for the sequels would release as future expansion packs.

Now after more than 2 years and a lot of anxious waiting….Blizzard has finally released its  long-desired sequel/expansion to Starcraft 2‘s original game: Wings of Liberty.

Heart of the Swarm has finally been released!

Zergling Rush!

CAMPAIGN:

StarCraft-2-Heart-of-the-Swarm_oxcgn1Heart of the Swarm (HoS) throws players into the drivers seat of the Zerg race where they will conquer galaxies by spreading the swarm from planet to planet.

And to some surprise, regardless of Wings of Liberty‘s cliffhanger ending, the campaigns narrative revolves from the perspective of Brood Queen Kerrigan.

Why? Well you’ll just have to play it.

The campaign itself I personally found to be a bit of a mixed bag. HoS follows the traditional Real Time Strategy (RTS) campaign pattern that we have seen time and time again in Warcraft, Starcraft 1 and many other RTS games.

And this is where Heat of the Swarm falls.

Each mission takes baby steps to introduce players to the buildings and units featured in the Zerg race.  Normally this wouldn’t be a issue.

StarCraft-2-Heart-of-the-Swarm_oxcgn2The problem here is that Wings of Liberty gave us ONE Terran campaign, and then gifted us 2 years to learn and compete in the highly skilled world of the Starcraft multiplayer to experience (and perfect) the other featured races of Protoss and more importantly for this review: Zerg.

Because of this many players will have a deep knowledge of the Zerg race already. And as such may find frustration during the first half of the campaign before players are given access to the majority of units and structures.

Expect to experience the first few levels where you can only build zerglings and have the tutorials guide you step by step.

In traditional RTS games where players play through each race in quick succession these learning tools in early campaign stages are valued. But with many gamers coming into this with vast experience with Zerg, you may have to be patient before you truly find some of the campaign levels exciting.

Once the campaign does get going however players get to experience a lot of fun missions that you will never see on the multiplayer battlefield. You will see boss battles,  Hero characters that level up, and more.

StarCraft-2-Heart-of-the-Swarm_oxcgn3One particular mission has you defend your base  where players must protect yourself from wave after wave of enemies. This is one of the more challenging missions where even skilled players may have trouble if playing on higher difficulties.

Campaign is a lot of fun especially using lots of units that are unique to the the campaign.

With each zerg unit, players can evolve and can choose from one of two game-changing evolutions - the decision is permanent. This leaves campaign replay-ability at a high as players can eventually complete a second run with completely different units and game play technique.

One disappointment is that Protoss are barely existent in this campaign–expect to primarily wage war with Terran and rebel Zerg throughout your campaign.

StarCraft-2-Heart-of-the-Swarm_oxcgn5Narrative aside, this is disappointing purely from a gameplay perspective; somewhere around the halfway mark I found myself really wanting a fight with a different race.

Pre-mission sequences are back again which feature long chats with NPC characters, and I personally found them to be a little boring, especially compared to the Terran campaign (the Zerg tend to stand around a lot more). But as lots of people have said, these sections of the campaign are a love/hate thing.

If you love your traditional RTS campaigns you will love HoS; it’s totally old school it really is refreshing to see again.

MULTIPLAYER:

StarCraft-2-Heart-of-the-Swarm_oxcgn6Multiplayer is better than ever and for one simple reason: workers harvest minerals automatically from the moment a match begins! Oh and I suppose there’s some other stuff that’s good too…

The adjustment period:

From the 30 or so online matches I played I realised that many of the new and wonderful features such as new units and many other gameplay tweaks really aren’t being used very often… yet.

Once again it’s hard to change gamers strategies after developing consistent gameplay maneuvers from over 2 years of training by playing Wings of Liberty competitively.

For example, Protoss now has a unit called the ‘Mothership Core’.  This unit comes with mass recall and can instantly restore units energy!

StarCraft-2-Heart-of-the-Swarm_oxcgn7Have I seen it used? No, have I used it myself? Not really. Taking a gamble and trying out new units in ranked battles is a risky one and from what I’ve found currently people are sticking with their tried-and-true methods.

What I do believe is  that given time over the next few weeks and months gradually players will bring these wonderful new units into regular action and will greatly spice up and introduce some new strategies to counter what players often use in competition battles currently.

Currently I say multiplayer is as good as it has ever been. And its exciting to see how these new units will incorporate into gameplay as gamers start to experiment.

TECH:

StarCraft-2-Heart-of-the-Swarm_oxcgn9Heart of the Swarm brings a lot of subtle new eye candy features that honestly only the graphic addicts will notice.

There is some improved lighting and rendering but the best thing is a MUCH better physics engine that really makes large battles so much more fun to watch on screen.

Watch those marine legs fly across the battlefield!

Speaking as a ATI/AMD graphics user, If readers have a high-end Nvidia graphics card I can only imagine how the Physx engine would improve this further!

VERDICT:

StarCraft-2-Heart-of-the-Swarm_oxcgn8If you are looking for an excuse to get back into the RTS genre; the Starcraft series has once again set the bar.

The introduction of Heart of the Swarm expansion has no doubt brought refinements that benefit the entire series.

Whether you are a single player or multiplayer fan, there is a huge amount of content to experience for a relatively low price.

Now to wait for the final chapter: Legacy of the Void… Fingers crossed it wont be 2 years or more!

8/10

© 2013 Ben Cadwallader
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About Ben Cad (65 Articles)
Ben Cad - Freelance Photographer and Writer. www.bencadphotography.com

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