StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm – PC
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: Mar 12, 2013
Genre: RTS
Reviewed by Jason Flick

Review Score: 5 of 5 (Editor’s Choice)

Attention minions…err loyal StarCraft II players, the expansion Heart of the Swarm is finally out and this player has never been happier. I’ve played StarCraft from the beginning and I’ve always loved the story of Sarah Kerrigan. For those who don’t know, Kerrigan, the psychically gifted Terran assassin was left for dead, by her commanding general and was infected by Zerg DNA. In Wings of Liberty, she changes mostly back to human form and is brought back to safety by Raynor, the hero in the first part of what is to become the first part in StarCraft II’s trilogy setup.

Much to my satisfaction, Kerrigan is the hero unit and center of the aptly named title of this new expansion. Right from the get-go in this 20 mission long adventure, you are treated to a basic lesson on how to build up a base of operations and create Zerg troops to do your bidding. It was in this moment where I was commanding Zerglings to wreck an entire research floor freeing more of them as I went just to prove a point that I knew that this expansion was going to be fun. Kerrigan actually takes a more direct role in this title as she’s almost always on the battlefield along with her eager insect followers. After the first few missions our favorite bad girl goes off on a revenge filled warpath as she will do anything to destroy Arcturus Mengsk, the man who left her to die.

The folks at Blizzard definitely decided to mix things up make the game more accessible to newcomers while still retaining the much of the same as Wings of Liberty. For starters, most levels already have your base already available where you only have to set up a steady resource to create troops to command. Though it’s not like the levels don’t give you access to an assortment of willing creatures like the Banelings, Roaches and the ever terrifying Zerglings. I have to say that that despite Zerglings being one of the more terrifying little blighters (actually the size of wolves) in the gaming world; it’s absolutely amazing to see a massive horde of them tearing apart Terran structures and troops.

One of my favorite things about Heart of the Swarm is the RPG elements in place. As you progress, Kerrigan gains vast powers beyond her starting Psychic Blast. As she learns abilities you can switch them out as you need to depending on the situation. Some of Kerrigan’s powers like her ability to call drop pods in at a moment’s notice to spawn an army on the spot. Kerrigan can also change the abilities of her horde via the Evolution Pit like altering the Zerglings damage resilience or their attack speed. There are even some non-optional evolution missions to complete that don’t count towards the 20 story ones so you’ll be busy.

Now I know that while an extensive single player campaign is fun, StarCraft II’s biggest appeal is its online multiplayer. Now I’m not even remotely going to try and discuss tactics when any seasoned pro could speak me under the table any day of the week. What I will cover are the newly added units that have changed the way the fast paced multiplayer functions. Fear not as none of the current units have been removed just altered a bit like the Terran Medivac who has gained a speed boost. Now each race gets a new unit or two this time around. The Protoss get the Tempest and Oracle units. The Oracle is a floating orb that can attack units with lasers. There’s also the Mothership Core’s ability to recall entire armies if they’re on the verge of destruction which is a useful and a time saver. Terrans get the flame-spewing Hellbats, but as this is a Zerg oriented expansion I would be remiss if I didn’t mention their additions, both the Viper and Swarm Host units. The Viper is an awesome winged terror that can pull enemies right into a swarm of charging Zerglings. The Swarm Host on the underhand is a four legged that takes the fight to the frontlines allowing you to release Locusts on your enemies.

No matter if you enjoy the faster paced multiplayer or the lengthy single player campaign, the one thing that they both share is the graphical excellence that Blizzard fans are accustomed to. Players are first treated to the sharp and clinical appearances of the research facility. After that it’s off to see plenty of disgustingly pretty insects and slime to be viewed. My favorite part of the graphics revolves around Kerrigan and her head followers. Each of Kerrigan’s lackeys is more gruesome than the last but Kerrigan’s transformation herself is the pure jewel of this expansion. The cut scenes are beautiful as ever and everything I expected in a Blizzard title.

Heart of the Swarm also has a good voice cast full of B-movie lines but it’s still entertaining while adding depth to the characters. This is definitely true for Kerrigan as she progresses down her path of revenge. The fact that she shows restraint against the innocent one moment only to carve a bloody batch through the Dominion the next is unnerving. It also shows through the cut scenes that she doesn’t really want to be descending into her former role. StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm also features an awesome score that you may not notice amidst all the action as you plug away at the campaign. There are some really good tracks and if you’re one of the lucky or loyal fans you can hear them outside of the game if you picked up the Collector’s Edition.

I’ve been waiting for the Heart of the Swarm expansion for StarCraft II for almost as long as the main game and it was definitely been worth it. Kerrigan is easily the coolest character in this franchise and it’s awesome to see her in a main role. The campaign is long and will aid newcomers to the StarCraft universe in learning the ropes well before diving into the hugely competitive sport of the online community. Blizzard once again has once again done a great job at keeping things fresh and interesting and I’m sure that the newbie and pro alike will love the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm expansion.