Death Swarmed Over – Starcraft 2:Heart of the Swarm Reviewed

30 Mar
Blizzard's really running out of expansion ideas...

Blizzard’s really running out of expansion ideas…

I admit it – I sometimes watch those Major League Gaming tournaments (yes, that’s a thing). There’s something about the manic enthusiasm of the announcers and the cheers of the crowd while two people in sound-isolating booths throw pixelated armies at each other that I find utterly mesmerizing.

And much like a NASCAR fan itching to speed home after watching a race (which oddly happens to be the worst time to drive on any road near a track), I found myself very, very pumped to play StarCraft Two’s new “expansion”. In fact, I was a little afraid I could only be disappointed once I actually got my hands on it. So, was I?

Not at all.

Heart of the Swarm is the second “part” of a three-act sequel set in the immensely popular StarCraft universe. It starts off where the original Terran story-line (Wings of Liberty) ended – the Queen of Blades has been defeated and Kerrigan’s humanity has been “restored”. Of course, things are never simple in the SC universe, and since you know you’re playing the zerg you can kind of guess where this is going. Emperor Minsk provokes Kerrigan into an all-consuming, blood and vengeance-filled quest to end his reign once and for all.

You play the campaign as Kerrigan, looking to restore the scattered swarm and take on the seat of Terran power. Along the way, though, you learn of a new threat – one that makes the Dominion look like a minor pest and that is most likely the focus of the third, Protoss-centric campaign to come.

The new story-line is on par with what you’d expect from Blizzard at this point, and the missions are varied and fun. While there are some choices you have to make that can’t be undone, most of the perks you get along the way can be changed at any point – so you don’t have to go through the campaign again just to try out a different power or tech.

All three sides get some new units, but one fact stands out above the rest – this is still fundamentally the same game as Wings of Liberty. And that’s a good thing. If it ain’t broke…

There are some flaws that keep the game out of perfection’s reach, though. The campaign is short. Very short – I finished in about two evenings, though your mileage may vary. It’s also perhaps a bit too easy (at least on normal). I made it through the campaign without ever having to restore or restart a mission – something that never happened in Wings of Liberty – and I’m pretty sure I’m an average RTS player at best. I think the heart of the problem is that every mission includes a hero unit (almost always Kerrigan). As long as you keep them in your main army, you pretty much can roll over all obstacles.

And what the hell, Blizzard? Boss battles in an RTS? I was getting Diablo 3 flashbacks.

Overall, though, those are minor gripes compared to what the game gets right. Some may argue that this campaign should have been included to begin with, but to me Heart of the Swarm is in that nebulous region between DLC and a full-blown game, closer to an MMO expansion than anything else – so the $30 price tag seems about right to me. If you are an RTS fan, Blizzard fan, or especially a StarCraft fan, I whole-heartedly recommend this game.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some 1v1 skirmishes to lose…

8 morphing zerglings out of 10

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