The next part of the StarCraft II trilogy is here.
It’s been almost three years since we last saw Jim Raynor in StarCraft II: Wings Of Liberty, after he saved the former Queen of Blades, Sarah Kerrigan, from an assassination attempt. Finally, we get to see the second part of the StarCraft II trilogy. Blizzard doesn’t like to rush things, and Heart Of The Swarm is proof that good things come to those who wait.
StarCraft II: Heart Of The Swarm picks up where Wings Of Liberty left off. Kerrigan has been deinfested, however she still retains the ability to control the Zerg to a degree. Regaining her humanity, Kerrigan decides to bring the Zerg swarm back together and gain revenge on the Dominion emperor Arctutus Mensk and all others who have betrayed her.
The main campaign takes place across over 20 missions, all bookended by incredible cinematics and Blizzard’s knack for telling an interesting story. Kerrigan is a more interesting character than Raynor, as the clash between her regained humanity and the mindset of the Zerg is explored, along with Kerrigan’s ruthless determination to get revenge on Mensk. The missions themselves are nice and varied. You’ve got your occasional ‘build a base and destroy the enemy’ type missions, but most of the missions offer something different. You can be trying to destroy a Protoss ship from the inside by evolving a Zerg larvae into a fully formed brood mother, or you can be racing to try and awaken anti air defence units in order to take out a series of enormous warships heading to obliterate you. It’s never a dull moment.
Heart Of The Swarm sees the return of a feature that was a big part of WarCraft III in the form of the ‘Hero’ class. In most of the campaign missions, Kerrigan is a controllable unit on the battlefield with high health and power and unique abilities. Completing certain objectives on missions awards you ‘Kerrigan Levels’ which, once built up to certain numbers, unlock new abilities that you can access from Kerrigan’s ship. You get a selection of abilities to choose from and you switch them around when you’re not in a mission.
As well as the main story missions, you also unlock ‘Evolution’ missions for your main units. Each mission will demonstrate two new evolutions for a unit, and you will get to utilise both of them. Once the mission is over, you must choose one of these evolutions which will then be permanent for the rest of the campaign. For example, the Zergling evolution mission has you choose between the ability to jump up cliffs or spawn more Zerglings when you build them. This evolution an addition to the three mutation powers you can choose from between missions.
Despite the game being 3 years old, everything still looks crisp and clean, and won’t trouble any PC that’s even a few years old. The main menu interface has been given a nice overhaul as well, with everything being less cluttered and sorted a bit better. All game modes are accessed from the main list, and any profile and achievement related options can be accessed by going through your profile box at the bottom of the screen.
Multiplayer has been changed around a little bit. Matchmaking presents you with a bunch of options, such as the training mode, which gets you used to building a base and optimising you to produce a lot of units and defend against attacks. You can just take on the A.I. in a skirmish as well, with the A.I. adjusting to fit in to your level of play and give you a challenge without overwhelming you. All of this is a nice idea to attempt to ease you into the multiplayer aspect of the game, and while it’s no real substitute for human players, it at least means you aren’t thrown in at the deep end trying to figure things out. There are now unranked matches as well as the ranked matches, and you can switch your region to allow you to play against and with friends in other server regions, which is a nice addition.
The multiplayer features a bunch of exclusive new units, with the Terran getting the Hellbat and Widow Mine, the Protoss getting the Mothership Core, Oracle and Tempest and the Zerg getting the Swarm Host and Viper. They seem to balance quite well with everything else in the game and add some new strategic elements to the game for the experienced player to play with.
StarCraft II: Heart Of The Swarm is an expansion that contains more content than some full priced stand alone games, although the fact that it is an expansion means you’ll need Wings Of Liberty in order to play it. Blizzard have hit a home run with the story once again, and the variety in the missions means you won’t get bored and you’ll always be kept on your toes. The steps that have been made to ease people into the multiplayer are welcome, and the new units add a new challenge. It takes everything that was great about Wings Of Liberty and builds upon it without changing the foundations. Whether you want to play alone or with others, you simply need to pick this up.