StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Review

When you have such a huge community knitted around a title which is more than a decade old and is classified as one of the most successful and important games in the history of PC gaming, you know you are stepping into an inferno of expectations when you are making an announcement of the sequel. When Blizzard made that announcement in May 2007, I must say that I was intrigued, to be modest.

3 Installments for 3 Races

While the initial general response to Blizzard’s splitting of StarCraft II into three different parts, i.e. Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void, was not enthusiastic, I somehow had a good feeling about it. Honestly, nearly 2 years after playing Wings of Liberty and completing my run through Heart of the Swarm, I can say that my hunch was right; StarCraft II needed this split.

Oh, Kerrigan!

Yes, that’s what StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is all about, Sarah Kerrigan. SC2: HOTS covers the Zerg side of the story in the universe and follows the Queen of Blades from beginning to end. In a way, this makes the experience all the more rewarding as Sarah Kerrigan is one character who has been trying to burst through the barrier of undeveloped-characters-in-video-games since ages. And here, she does so in style.

The Queen of Blades

The game’s design and single player campaign has Kerrigan at the center of the action, in each mission. She gains abilities, experience and levels by actively participating in missions with her Zerg army and completing the objectives. Every 10 levels, you have a set of 3 abilities which are unlocked for use. And, believe me, these abilities will have you playing those missions again and again, mostly just to see what would have happened if you would have taken this set of abilities instead of the other. This diversity is something which makes the singleplayer campaign pretty awesome. Oh, and did I mention that your zerg units gain three unique mutations that can be switched between levels?

The only aspect which I found inacceptable about Kerrigan was that her character did not have the essence that paved her way into our hearts in earlier iterations of StarCraft. She feels like a dumb queen, the same Sarah who rose to power in the zerg command through her sheer cunning. The problem, I believe, lies in the fact that her character has not been fleshed out properly in this iteration and the only focus has been on how she plays in the game, and not how she grows as a character. What a pity, she could have grown legendarily.

Oh, Dumb Queen, what is your bidding?

What Clicks, What Doesn’t

While SC2:HOTS has most hits and a few misses, it is an enjoyable journey through the zerg side of the story. The singleplayer campaign is truly a masterpiece, but that does not mean that the multiplayer is any worse. Given the community around the StarCraft universe, Blizzard has ensured that the multiplayer of SC2 stays what it has been over the years, supremely rich and addictive. The multiplayer matches have the same intensity and action that is characteristic of StarCraft and the possibilities are endless. The only aspect which might irk you a bit is that there are only 7 new units and, given the interest in SC multiplayer, that number is on the lower side.

Intense multiplayer is intense

The research aspect of HOTS is another area where the game shines. You are given the option of making new strains of Zerg units and there are special evolution missions where you can test both possible strains. When smartly done, the research aspect can actually tilt the whole game balance. I fondly remember doing a couple of mutations on some Zerg units and laughing my way to completing mission objectives, surprised and amused at what those little mutations could do. While it does give you a lot of power, sometimes, it can take away the whole intensity of the game and make the missions look like a tower of playing cards, waiting to topple at the slightest prod.

Mutations galore!

The writing and overall development of the game is a major miss, my single biggest complaint. The writing feels very plebian and clichéd, and it is obvious that not much effort has been given to it. Taking an example of Kerrigan, if a psychologist were to evaluate her, she would definitely mark her as capricious and borderline maniac.

Conclusion

I would say that Heart of the Swarm is a definite ode to Sarah Kerrigan, the cunning, vicious Queen of Blades. The singleplayer is awesome, the multiplayer engaging and the innumerable things you can do with the game leave a mark. The drop in the story does kill some fun of the game, but in the end, you will remember the game for Kerrigan, her armies and her insane abilities that took you through an impressive singleplayer.
I would rate Heart of the Swarm at 8.5, mainly because I am a little disappointed with the development of Sarah Kerrigan. Oh, what a badass she could have been! Overall, I would definitely say that the game is worth your money and this expansion pack is a must-have for any StarCraft fan. If you think the same, give us a shout here! Particularly liked or disliked any aspect of the review? We would love to hear from you! Until we meet again, happy gaming!


Summary

Expansion Pack for StarCraft 2

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