StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm – It’s about time!

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At last, the long awaited expansion pack to StarCraft 2 is here! It’s Heart of the Swarm!

If there’s one thing Blizzard does and does well, it’s hype. From the release of the first cinematic onto Youtube to the Super Bowl ads, Blizzard has been getting people so energetic and excited for this game, but was it worth it?

Short answer: Yes.

Long Answer: ERRMAHGAWD!!!!!!

Let me elaborate on that.

Let’s start with the story. A tale of love, loss, acceptance and new purpose. It picks up where Wings of Liberty left off: It’s been 3 weeks since Jim Raynor rescued Sarah Kerrigan and changed her back to her human form. I won’t dare spoil the rest of the plot because it’s just that damn good. While Blizzard does have a tendency to cause storylines to go hand in hand with their other series (the Zerg always needing a hive mind/queen and in World of Warcraft “there must always be a Lich King”) thankfully has been kept out of this storyline.

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm (Expansion)
Platform: PC
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: March 12th, 2013
MSRP: $39.99 regular, $59.99 deluxe, also available digitally, need “StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty” to play

The graphics have thankfully been kept intact while still looking absolutely gorgeous, and even on the 5-year-old PC I’m using it managed to run it at 60 frames a second on medium settings and hardly had any hiccups at all. So those of you who think you may not be able to run the game or see the in-game cutscenes won’t have to worry about having to tone down the graphics settings. Not to mention those full screen cinematics, it almost makes you wish you could stop playing and just wish that it was a movie you were watching.

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Paid for by World Of Warcraft subscriptions.

The RTS style gameplay is the same from Wings of Liberty; a simple point and click interface with a plethora of hotkeys that can all be customized to whatever you want, and even if you forget the major ones, like one of your units abilities, it’s always onscreen in your HUD. There’s also been quite a lot of additions to this expansion, such as new control tutorials and hints, the SVC/Drones/Probes auto gathering at the start of a match and new units such as the Mothership Core and the Hellbat. The multiplayer has been expanded so that you can play competitively in ranked matches, custom matches that you can make between a multitude of combinations of you, your friends, other people and A.I. bots. The difficulty ranges from “Very Easy” to “Cheater (Vision/Resources/Insane)”, with a huge assortment of maps that even have user ratings so that you can get a good idea of what’s a good map and which ones need to be avoided entirely. There’s even an “Arcade” section where you can play custom games and maps made by the community, where even now you can see a lot of creativity just bursting out the seams.

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And the posters don’t look half bad either.

However where the gameplay really shined out for me is the campaign mode, giving you plenty of achievements and side missions to upgrade your campaign units while going through the story as Sarah Kerrigan. One mission I found myself enjoying the most is where you control the Terran ship, Hyperion, in the middle of an asteroid field and fighting other ships. It honestly felt like a completely different game but at the same time kept it simple so that you didn’t get confused by the new perspective of it.

The sound is a bit of a mixed bag. All of the music is pleasant, dramatic and fits the mood, however, I found myself never really noticing it was there half the time. The sound effects for all the units and action is music to anyone’s ears, but at times there can be so much action happening on screen that some of the unit responses and voices get cut off completely. The voice acting on the other hand, WOW. It’s been a while since I have played the campaign mode for Wings of Liberty and I had forgotten how good of a job the voice actors/actresses do. You really get a feel for the characters right from the get go, ranging from pity of Jim and Sarah being so close yet so far apart, to utter disgust and distrust towards one of the Broodmothers, always having this feeling that she’s going to betray you throughout the entire campaign.

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Hearing this thing tear apart an animal on a pair of headphones at 3 a.m., words cannot describe…

If there’s one thing I have to say as far as a negative is the somewhat always on DRM, because sometimes you just want to jump right into the game and not have to wait for news and community boards to load up. There’s a fix where you can play it offline, but you have to “re-authorize” your account/computer every 30 days which is annoying.

Grade: A-

Pros

  • $40
  • Don’t need that powerful of a machine to run the game
  • Can be downloaded directly from Blizzard at any time in case you lose your physical CD
  • Balanced multiplayer matchmaking system that bases it on your skill

Cons

  • Always-On DRM
  • If playing the campaign mode the constant “squish” sounds of your units can start to get repetitive
  • Some voices get cut off because of mass action on screen
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