StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Review

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StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Review

Grab it if you're really into the competitive side of multiplayer or looking to see how the StarCraft saga continues to unfold.

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In before: "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! They cut up the game! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

OT: Haven't played it yet, but I can't wait to see how these units change the game for some of my favorite SC2 players.

Capitano Segnaposto:
In before: "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! They cut up the game! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

OT: Haven't played it yet, but I can't wait to see how these units change the game for some of my favorite SC2 players.

But people have been playing the beta competitively for quite a while already.

would it be trolling if i asked you if you ran into some major bugs.....?

Denamic:

Capitano Segnaposto:
In before: "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! They cut up the game! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

OT: Haven't played it yet, but I can't wait to see how these units change the game for some of my favorite SC2 players.

But people have been playing the beta competitively for quite a while already.

Oh, I know. However a few of my favorite SC2 players barely touched the Beta for some reason or another.

Capitano Segnaposto:

Denamic:

Capitano Segnaposto:
In before: "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! They cut up the game! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

OT: Haven't played it yet, but I can't wait to see how these units change the game for some of my favorite SC2 players.

But people have been playing the beta competitively for quite a while already.

Oh, I know. However a few of my favorite SC2 players barely touched the Beta for some reason or another.

Fair enough. Can't say I'm not excited myself.

rhizhim:
would it be trolling if i asked you if you ran into some major bugs.....?

The Zerg aren't insects.

There was still payoff from Raynor's actions in WoL because Kerrigan has returned to being Kerrigan, albeit a zergy one. She has her own thoughts whereas before she was a pure evil Queen of Blades who only wanted what's best for the swarm.

What the... how did you play the Kaldir missions with Prime QoB? Can you really put that mission off long enough to become upgraded? That's... surprising!

So when are we going to get the Prince Valerian/Matt Horner spin off game? That mission was one of my favourites in the entire campaign.

I think it is an enjoyable game, but it saddens me a great deal seeing the design choices Blizzard has made. Before, Blizzards three franchises, Diablo Starcraft and Warcraft, used to have a very distinct design and feel to them but now all share basically the same cartoony look.

I mean when did the Zerg go from being inspired by insects with nice use of few colours and darkness: http://i.neoseeker.com/n/1/hydralisk.jpg

to looking like over-designed colourful dinosaurs?
http://60s.com.vn/image/32008/21/GAMEGATE_9565039.jpg
or
http://divinity87.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/23351_ultralisk2_normal1.jpg

When did this happen?

http://www.tribbleagency.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/starcraft-sarah-kerrigan.jpg
vs
http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/7628/starcraftqueenofblades.jpg

Sigh I want to play Starcraft again but 60 dollars is just too much of an investment these days for me. I simply can't afford it.

Kekkonen1:
I think it is an enjoyable game, but it saddens me a great deal seeing the design choices Blizzard has made. Before, Blizzards three franchises, Diablo Starcraft and Warcraft, used to have a very distinct design and feel to them but now all share basically the same cartoony look.

I mean when did the Zerg go from being inspired by insects with nice use of few colours and darkness: http://i.neoseeker.com/n/1/hydralisk.jpg

to looking like over-designed colourful dinosaurs?
http://60s.com.vn/image/32008/21/GAMEGATE_9565039.jpg
or
http://divinity87.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/23351_ultralisk2_normal1.jpg

When did this happen?

http://www.tribbleagency.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/starcraft-sarah-kerrigan.jpg
vs
http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/7628/starcraftqueenofblades.jpg

You can't compare marketing/concept art to in-game units. All units in-game have to be color coded for obvious reasons, it was the same in the first Starcraft.

Lvl 64 Klutz:

Kekkonen1:
I think it is an enjoyable game, but it saddens me a great deal seeing the design choices Blizzard has made. Before, Blizzards three franchises, Diablo Starcraft and Warcraft, used to have a very distinct design and feel to them but now all share basically the same cartoony look.

I mean when did the Zerg go from being inspired by insects with nice use of few colours and darkness: http://i.neoseeker.com/n/1/hydralisk.jpg

to looking like over-designed colourful dinosaurs?
http://60s.com.vn/image/32008/21/GAMEGATE_9565039.jpg
or
http://divinity87.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/23351_ultralisk2_normal1.jpg

When did this happen?

http://www.tribbleagency.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/starcraft-sarah-kerrigan.jpg
vs
http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/7628/starcraftqueenofblades.jpg

You can't compare marketing/concept art to in-game units. All units in-game have to be color coded for obvious reasons, it was the same in the first Starcraft.

But thats just nitpicking. Anyone can see, regardless what kind of art you compare, that the design philosophy of Starcraft has changed in a big way between the original and now.

Kekkonen1:

Lvl 64 Klutz:

Kekkonen1:
I think it is an enjoyable game, but it saddens me a great deal seeing the design choices Blizzard has made. Before, Blizzards three franchises, Diablo Starcraft and Warcraft, used to have a very distinct design and feel to them but now all share basically the same cartoony look.

I mean when did the Zerg go from being inspired by insects with nice use of few colours and darkness: http://i.neoseeker.com/n/1/hydralisk.jpg

to looking like over-designed colourful dinosaurs?
http://60s.com.vn/image/32008/21/GAMEGATE_9565039.jpg
or
http://divinity87.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/23351_ultralisk2_normal1.jpg

When did this happen?

http://www.tribbleagency.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/starcraft-sarah-kerrigan.jpg
vs
http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/7628/starcraftqueenofblades.jpg

You can't compare marketing/concept art to in-game units. All units in-game have to be color coded for obvious reasons, it was the same in the first Starcraft.

But thats just nitpicking. Anyone can see, regardless what kind of art you compare, that the design philosophy of Starcraft has changed in a big way between the original and now.

Well it's been more than a decade since the original games, so of-course there is going to be a change in design philosophy and software capabilities have increased. Of course they're going to want to do more with them.
I get that the zerg look more cartoonish now, at least isn't consistant with the design changes they made to the other races.
And I kind like the redesign they did with Kerrigan, more like a full on demon than a green zombie with vines on her head.

I'm liking the expansion a lot, at least until the point I've played the campaign, and the new matchmaking system may finally make me try my hand at the multiplayer again (I dabbled in MP with the original Starcraft, but I'm quite the noob). Also, there are many interesting things in the arcade, so although this is not from HotS I'd say the game is quite better now than it was at the time Wings of Liberty released.

In terms of the campaign it seems to me that WoL had more maps in which the objectives were somehow different and unique and not just "turtling" until ready to make a big push against the enemy base, but HotS has more of a "zerg rush" feel to it, the first levels especially have parts where the game explicitly asks for you to do a zerg rush. But I'm 1/3rd in, so it may change ahead (no spoilers please).

I really loved the campaign. This game has boss battles! Boss battles where you have to dodge attacks like it was a raid in WoW! Not many startegy games can say the same. And really just every mission had some new twist to gameplay or a new unit to play with, usually both. Also the leveling system in multiplayer is nice as it rewards you even if you lose.

Alar:
What the... how did you play the Kaldir missions with Prime QoB? Can you really put that mission off long enough to become upgraded? That's... surprising!

Master Archives let you replay levels with the maximum possible upgrades that you could have on that level.

Soods:
I really loved the campaign. This game has boss battles! Boss battles where you have to dodge attacks like it was a raid in WoW! Not many startegy games can say the same. And really just every mission had some new twist to gameplay or a new unit to play with, usually both. Also the leveling system in multiplayer is nice as it rewards you even if you lose.

Yes! I thought the campaign was awesome. Great story, but yes, cheesy dialogue. And the boss battles took my back to my old WoW days. Don't stand in the fire!

Kekkonen1:

Lvl 64 Klutz:

Kekkonen1:
I think it is an enjoyable game, but it saddens me a great deal seeing the design choices Blizzard has made. Before, Blizzards three franchises, Diablo Starcraft and Warcraft, used to have a very distinct design and feel to them but now all share basically the same cartoony look.

I mean when did the Zerg go from being inspired by insects with nice use of few colours and darkness: http://i.neoseeker.com/n/1/hydralisk.jpg

to looking like over-designed colourful dinosaurs?
http://60s.com.vn/image/32008/21/GAMEGATE_9565039.jpg
or
http://divinity87.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/23351_ultralisk2_normal1.jpg

When did this happen?

http://www.tribbleagency.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/starcraft-sarah-kerrigan.jpg
vs
http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/7628/starcraftqueenofblades.jpg

You can't compare marketing/concept art to in-game units. All units in-game have to be color coded for obvious reasons, it was the same in the first Starcraft.

But thats just nitpicking. Anyone can see, regardless what kind of art you compare, that the design philosophy of Starcraft has changed in a big way between the original and now.

My neon-pink Zerg swarm eating the electric blue swarm while being attacked by lime green Terrans in Starcraft 1 disagrees with you and accuses you of nostalgia-goggles.

OT: Looks good. I may have to pick this up before it goes on sale.

(COME ON, PAYDAY! YOU CAN MAAAAKE IIIIIIT!)

Soods:
I really loved the campaign. This game has boss battles! Boss battles where you have to dodge attacks like it was a raid in WoW! Not many startegy games can say the same. And really just every mission had some new twist to gameplay or a new unit to play with, usually both. Also the leveling system in multiplayer is nice as it rewards you even if you lose.

That was surprising, but I'd seen it before in Dawn of War II.
Some missions are truly unique, something WOL had too, like the infestation of the protoss ship.....but they always feel a bit simplistic and linear. There are custom maps on battlenet (Parasite, Who is the Alien) made by fans, with the same concept but executed better, or when you take control of the Hyperion.....it feels like a minigame. But I'm nitpicking, the gameplay is solid, the story and dialogue not so much. It starts out very promising, slows down around the middle and then we get that anticlimatic ending...

Hey Mengsk, how about using that fraking alien artefact a little sooner???

From the few hours I've already put in competitive SC2 HotS, I can safely say that the whole multiplayer is changed due to those new units. Not having detection early game is severely punished now with the Terran Widowmines and cheaper DTs. I haven't seen much of the new Zerg units being used multiplayer yet, though the speed upgrade for hydras make them a more common sight on the scene now compared to WoL.

My favourite change so far is the lack of Siege Tank Upgrade. All Siege Tanks start with Siege Mode pre-upgraded, allowing Terran to get a powerful defense against Tier 1 spam quickly.

Peace Frog:
There was still payoff from Raynor's actions in WoL because Kerrigan has returned to being Kerrigan, albeit a zergy one. She has her own thoughts whereas before she was a pure evil Queen of Blades who only wanted what's best for the swarm.

Yep! It's effectively the story like the Lich King.

They took an uncontrollable monster and replaced it with one that can think.

I really enjoyed the story and the game was well worth the money.

Capitano Segnaposto:
In before: "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! They cut up the game! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

OT: Haven't played it yet, but I can't wait to see how these units change the game for some of my favorite SC2 players.

I'm starting to feel like those people exist only to pat themselves on the back for being "righteous".

The content and quality of these games more than makes up for the fact that in 10+ years, Blizzard only added one extra expansion pack to Starcraft. Once the third hits I'll have all 3 CE's up on zee wall and be quite pleased.

I'm terrible at multiplayer, but the AI is entertaining.

I have to question whether the reviewer has ever played Starcraft or Heart of the Swarm given many of their claims.

1) Kerrigan never blurred the lines between truly evil or not; after becoming a Zerg she did what she wanted regardless of who died.

2) Kerrigan chose to become the leader of the Zerg by forcing the Dark Templars to kill the second Overmind, leaving her in control of the swarm.

3) Kerrigan has almost no conflicts regarding humanity and the Zerg, as she's more than willing to kill millions of Terrans and Zerg if it helps her kill Mengsk. While in some cut scenes she does try to help the injured and civilians evacuate this has no effect on the missions in any way.

theultimateend:

Yep! It's effectively the story like the Lich King.

They took an uncontrollable monster and replaced it with one that can think.

I really enjoyed the story and the game was well worth the money.

Kerrigan wasn't an uncontrollable monster before she was unifested and she always able to think. That's why she was able to ally with Raynor and Mengsk in Brood wars against the UED.

I wouldn't say that being unifested changed Kerigan in any meaningful way as she's still willing to wipe out whole planets if it helps her defeat Mengsk.

I only played the campaign and I have to say I consider it okayish.
It tries too smooth over the major fuck up WoL was by reinstating the status quo before WoL with some minor tweaks which still represent a lack of imagination and writing talent.
All in all the way Kerrigan is treated is still an insult to her character from SC and BW. A romance just for the sheer heck of it, recycling the revenge motivation on a lesser plane and negating her history from SC and BW as QoB just to make the Zerg the meat shield of the Terrans in the end is a sucker punch from that this once revered villain (Kerrigan as charcter and the zerg as race) might not walk away unscathed.
The foreshadowing of Zertul's prophecy is still looming like the sword of Damocles above the franchise just waiting to put it out if its misery with either a rushed climax in LotV or, some might even consider worse, a cliffhanger for SC3.
Gameplay is varied and the CGI is nicely done though.

uanime5:
snip

There are 4 states of Kerrigan (so far) after her original infestation. Spoilers for those who haven't played through HOTS.

I think the balancing act mentioned above is what the reviewer was referring to as the blurring of the lines between good and evil. She is psychologically damaged. Suffering from PTSD. She has nightmares and understands that should could have a power that would aid her, but is scared that she will lose herself to it.

(no HotS spoilers in this post)
Heart of the Swarm is easily the worst entry into the StarCraft franchise.

From a gameplay standpoint:
HotS plays a lot like Warcraft 3 but with less hero complexity since you often only control Kerrigan. Since she often respawns in missions, the levels are significantly easier than any other Starcraft game ever made.
The achievements are much easier to obtain as well.
That said the level design and execution is fantastic. Fun and varied levels as you've come to expect from SC2.

From a narrative standpoint:
The game completely falls flat. I was intrigued by the Zerg in the original SC games but this one not only lessens my interest in the race as a whole but gives out some head scratching wtf bits of information about the race. It's not as bad as Star Wars explaining the force but it's equally pointless. As the escapist review mentions this game tries to bring back the status quo rather than explore something new and exciting. The end result leaves a bad taste in your mouth and fails to drive any real hype for the next expansion.

I would recommend SC2 in a heartbeat, but Heart of the Swarm isn't quite worth the $40.00 price point at least from a single player StarCraft players perspective. Here's hoping the Protoss expansion finishes off strong.

It is nice to see I'm not the only one who found the storytelling a bit weaker this time around. I thought that although they did an an admirable job of making Kerrigan a very compelling character, the narrative does a rather poor job at times of pacing her story, which left me with a feeling of inconsistency on her part. Particularly,

I honestly do find Kerrigan to be a very compelling character, but I wish the narrative had better, more consistent pacing, and a better idea of what her character is. Kerrigan is certainly not the old Queen of Blades, but she is far from one of the 'Good Guys.'

uanime5:

Kerrigan wasn't an uncontrollable monster before she was unifested and she always able to think. That's why she was able to ally with Raynor and Mengsk in Brood wars against the UED.

I wouldn't say that being unifested changed Kerigan in any meaningful way as she's still willing to wipe out whole planets if it helps her defeat Mengsk.

Beats me, she seemed different to me. Maybe I'm misremembering.

Either way I really enjoyed the story and the multiplayer.

I feel it is really important to stress that, while the plot/pacing might have had some problems, the actually WRITING and dialogue were outstanding! Some of the best charcater building moments to me were outside of the cutscenes.

To give an example, Kerrigan at one point captures a protoss scientist that you end up having direct dialogue with. The scientist condemns Kerrigan for killing thousands to save herself, Kerrigan's rebuttal was simply-

"and the protoss have killed millions of zerg to save themselves, there may be more blood on my hands but in the end we are all killers."

I felt like that line alone perfectly gave reason to why she hesitated to kill civilians early on but later ordered to kill enemy warriors in masses.

cricket chirps:
I feel it is really important to stress that, while the plot/pacing might have had some problems, the actually WRITING and dialogue were outstanding! Some of the best charcater building moments to me were outside of the cutscenes.

To give an example, Kerrigan at one point captures a protoss scientist that you end up having direct dialogue with. The scientist condemns Kerrigan for killing thousands to save herself, Kerrigan's rebuttal was simply-

"and the protoss have killed millions of zerg to save themselves, there may be more blood on my hands but in the end we are all killers."

I felt like that line alone perfectly gave reason to why she hesitated to kill civilians early on but later ordered to kill enemy warriors in masses.

Doesn't that conflict with her whole revenge plot against Mengsk though? I just can't even begin to see her as in any way relatable. She's not a protagonist. Having watched my roommate play through most of the campaign, I'm glad I didn't drop $40 on this.

Having beaten it, I can honestly say they could've had Kerrigan just NOT revert to the old Queen of Blades body but kept every other plot point the same, and it would've improved the story a lot since it feels like you accomplished SOMETHING in Wings of Liberty. If you're still playing through, go ahead and think about the events of each scene where she's back in the old body and ask "would this have changed in any noteworthy way if Kerrigan still had a human body?" The answer is no in every single case except for right after she reverts which is only notable for its shock value. And even then, I could tell it was going to happen like three missions before it actually did, so the shock value was pretty slim since it amount to "oh, they actually went through with this bad idea."

I'll may get the expansion down the line (yay for Blizzard for unlocking regional language!, I can finally play the game in english! :D), but meanwhile, my question is, will the multiplayer experience be the same if I still don't own the expansion?, or will they separate it like in the days of StarCraft 1 vs Brood Wars.

Great review Justin! I really liked the story/campaign of this expansion and I can't wait to see how they will conclude Legacy of the Void.

I am not really into the multiplayer aspect,but hey that's just me. I liked the lore so much that I started reading all the books/novels/manga's of this universe. Once I finally finish these I will most probably start playing SC1 & Brood War and jump again into SC2 WoL and HotS.

Ah, "nukjelar" missiles. Of course...

I've noticed people mention what she did to the Protoss.

The problem with this is, the Protoss are ultimately fanatical about wiping out the Zerg. That is why the action against the Protoss had to be what it was.

What happens when the Hyperion shows up is a callback to what was mentioned early in the game, really. She was worried about slipping into the old mindset. And when surrounded by the sentient lieutenants with the Zerg, she really was falling back into it, until those aboard the Hyperion shook her out.

Rather sad that it had to be Valerian who did it, but I'm fairly sure it made her realize how far she'd crashed back, and she adjusted. That's what made Raynor see that she was still in there.

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