Review: Starcraft II: Heart of The Swarm

It has been a while since I wrote a review and even longer since I recorded a video one, so please bear with me for any editing mistakes. However I really felt that Heart of The Swarm deserved the effort.

When it was first announced that Starcraft 2 was going to be split into 3 parts, well I’m not going to lie I was more than a little annoyed at that. Thankfully Wings of Liberty proved to be pretty good and that set my mind at rest, however what I didn’t bank on was having to wait another 3 years before part 2 showed its Zerg Infested face.

That aside Heart of the Swarm has now arrived and I have to still undecided as to whether this expansion lives up the legacy of its predecessor. There are some bits it has done really well but there are some that just feel ‘off’ for want of a better term.

Obviously with all Starcraft games this is a story of two halves, Multiplayer & Campaign.For me personally I have always been a fan of the campaign and like Wings of Liberty before it, this expansion is focused primarily around one character – This time Sarah Kerrigan. The story follows her as she regains control of the Zerg swarm to get revenge on Arcturus Mengsk for basically screwing her over and causing her to become the Queen of blades in the first place.

Players of the earlier segment will be familiar with the between mission hubs, that allow you to talk to a series of supporting characters. Thankfully this has made a return and shockingly contrary to my previous image of the Swarm there are actually some interesting creatures to converse with.

One of my personal favourites is Abathur, who I guess could be considered the Zerg lead scientist. Even though his sentences are generally clipped and sharp sounding they get across his character. Where he focuses on purity and genetically manipulating creatures to be perfect for the task they are meant for, Kerrigan is looking to bring some of her Terran nature to the Swarm and the interplay between them on that subject is very well written.

This is once again complimented by really well put together cut-scenes, so well done in fact that you don’t even really mind when the pop up mid mission. Likewise the audio is pretty much spot on, at no point does it ever seem out-of-place.

However its the missions themselves that are one of the biggest surprises in this expansion as Blizzard have managed to improve on Wings of Liberty. There are very few missions in this game that revert to simply building your base better than the AI. Most have added mechanics in one form or another and some done even involve base building at all. I never made any of it feel repetitive, something that can happen in RTS campaigns.

Some of my favourites were the missions where Kerrigan herself gets into the fray, running around with the Swarm as a hero character. It felt very reminiscent of Warcraft 3 if I’m going to be perfectly honest.

However bringing this back to what I mentioned at the start of feeling a bit off, there are two issues that hamper the pacing a little. The first is Evolution Missions. When Abathur has created a new strain of creature, you are made to play a small tutorial mission for each type before you are asked to pick which to make permanent. These just bring you out of the game a little too much.

The Second is Story based. Now as this is part two of a three parter, there is obviously going to be things lining ready up Legacy of the Void. Unfortunately at times this appears to have been done fairly ham-fistedly and overshadows what essentially should be Kerrigan’s story in the same way Wings was Raynor’s.

However things are all good over on what people who are not me consider to be the core of the game, the multi-player. Blizzard have effectively just done what they do best and simply rebalanced the game, added a few more units and removed some others. For new users they have added some training modes which will teach you how to handle certain phases of a multi-player match-up.

On top of that there are the AI matches, simple unranked games, ladders and all the usual stuff. They have also dramatically improved the mod scene with the addition of an arcade interface to make it easier find things. For the E-Sports crowd they have even added a load of enhancements to replays such as the ability to recover a game due to a disconnect or even take over command in a replay and continue it as a game from that point.

Overall then the package is very good, I can see myself playing the campaign a few times to take in all the subtleties and I might even pick up a few on-line matches. Basically it is well worth a buy even if they did make us wait longer than they should have – here is hoping Legacy of the Void does not take as long.

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