Starcraft has been a running for some time now with its most recent Terran based Starcraft II ”Wings of Liberty” title so we all knew it was only a matter of time until there was more to the story, and today we take a look at just that in the new “Heart of The Swarm” release.[review_ad]
Introduction – Starcraft II – Heart of The Swarm
Blizzard has always had a very good thing in the Starcraft titles with it spawning a whole esports scene and avid fanbase around the very game. Still to this day there are pro players who play Brood Wars which is an expansion to the original Starcraft in 1998. Yes we are talking over 15 years ago at this point, actually 15 years ago to the date just a few days ago 3/31/98. With atht game franchises usually either thrive or fail when giving that chance and usually from what we have seen games tend to fizzle out or grow wary as you simply run out of content and the game simply goes stale.
This is where Starcraft has been different as a actively updated RTS game and Blizzard’s ability to product lifelike animation for the cinematics means that the storyline is sure to drag you in. Much like many Blizzard games whether we are talking World of Warcraft, Diablo or Starcraft you get an amazing storyline or an attempt at one which can make you identify personally with the characters and helping you vest yourself in the game and ensuring you get the real feel or as best it can from the gameplay.
The Starcraft II franchise has shown maturity and refinement, and it definitely comes out in the polish and feel of the game from the time you start it to the final moments. Here you can see that the title screen itself is excellent and is fully animated with the main character “Kerrigan” or the queen of blades as you will come to know her.
The story starts where Kerrigan has been reclaimed by the Terran (Human) population and they are trying to heal her from the Zerg influence over her. After the rescue is where the story takes off and you take control of Kerrigan and the Zerg swarm, and this is where we jump into the game and see what exactly it offers.
Gameplay and experience
The game starts out with a cinematic showing Kerrigans rescue by Jim Raynor the lead role in the Terran campaign. Their past is a bit troubling as Raynor and Kerrigan were romantically involved before she had been captured and infested by the Zerg swarm which led to her eventually rising up to the figurehead position for the Zerg species as the queen of blades.
Upon placing her in the holding cell the Terran leadership was doing tests on her to see to what level the Zerg still had control of her and to try and see how the Zerg are controlled. This is where you jump in as yous tart to learn the basics of controlling the Zerg Drone units. Of course that could have been well enough but as we know humans inherently always push too far well they asked you (Kerrigan) to make some Zergling units which are small attack units and from there all hell breaks loose.
Once your Zerglings break loose the campaign starts to throttle up as you now are tasked with the job of clearing out the Terran base and freeing all of the imprisoned Zerglings. From there you escape with Jim Raynor and start on your Journey as Sarah Kerrigan (Queen of Blades) in an attempt to find yourself and also solve the internal struggle to keep humanity while also controlling the swarm in an effort to beat back the opposing dominion forces and find Jim Raynor all at the same time as he was left behind during the effort to free Kerrigan from the facility.
Once in the game we were a little surprised as the macro of a normal RTS is kind of in the back seat with more control based around the single character of Kerrigan. As avid gamers, we also play many games such as Diablo III and we can definitely say that this felt a bit more like a RTS with some RPG tones than just a straight build and attack RTS. This does not take away from the gameplay at all but it is worth noting as the Wings of Liberty campaign definitely had a different feel to it.
We will not give away any spoilers to the ending or storyline, but we will say that just like in Wings of Liberty, there are so many units we would love to see available in the multiplayer as we think it would add so much variety to the builds that it would add a lot more opportunities to not follow some of the cookie cutter builds out there just to climb the ladder.
Those who are fans of the storyline for Starcraft will love this game for sure but you definitely do a feel a bit lead through each level toward the piece of cheese at the end of the puzzle. All in all it is a rich experience enhanced with simply amazing cinematics, speaking of that we really think with the ability Blizzard show here there is no reason they should not make a animated film as the quality alone could easily attract those who are not gamers to see it.
The Multiplayer is what Starcraft has been all about as you can jump into the ladder and play from 1v1 to 4v4 or anywhere in between in a all out war to control the battlefield. This is one of the aspects that really put Starcraft on the map is the sheer mix of units that can be made and the strategies that can be used to go out and simply destroy your opponent.
With Heart Of the Swarm, many new units were added:
- Hellbat – A upgrade to the standard Hellion unit as now you can transform to a vertical attack unit which looks to be more for defense than offense as a wall can be made of these units with a shorter reaching but much wider flame attack. transformation on this unit takes 3-4 seconds from my timing which means if you have a mass of lings at your gates yit may be too late but with a wall of these at your ramp I can see things going very badly for any light unit trying to run up your ramp thats for sure.
- Widow Mines – Widow mines are very cool as they simply burrow and if they find an enemy without detection it will be a bad day for them since these will really cause some issues to a ball of marines, lings or pretty much anything else since they deal some nice slash damage. The reload time for the Widow mine is around 40 seconds which means fi detection is close by you may only get one shot off before the enemy takes it out so you kind of have to hope for the best on that.
- Oracle – This unit is mainly a scouting unit as its primary function is similar to teh scanner sweep of Terran Orbital Command showing visible units for a preset amount of time. Also another feature is the ability to turn itself into a Detector unit to show and cloaked or burrowed units which would likely be very helpful in taking out widow mines before it really puts the hurt on your army.
- Tempest – The tempest is one of those units I never had to play against, as the first time I played against one I didnt even know where it was as it was hitting me from offscreen as it has an obscene amount of range. After looking up the details i found that the weapon range is set at 15 which is huge as long as you have the vision you can use a few of these for some major harass or to even draw out the enemies forces into the clutches of your waiting army.
- Mothership core – This unit is a bit tricky as its like a early game Mothership and carries many capabilities such as Mass recall which will take a large group of your army and drop it in your Nexus. Also the Photon Overcharge allows for equipping a nexus with a cannon type weapon with high range to help avoid heavy early game rushes. And lastly the Mothership core can transform into a full Mothership with the proper minerals/gas and a fleet beacon. This is more as a balancing unit to me as it simply helps in some cases where it may be a really rough time early game as a toss player.
- Swarm Host – This unit is one of the only ones which cannot attack directly and instead relies on the small creatures called “Locusts” which it spawns to do any attacking. The unit can be burrowed without any need for upgrade but the burrowing is only partial and it is still detectable and still can be attacked unlike other burrowed units which require enemy detection to attack. The initial Locusts spawns last only about 10 seconds but can be very useful to tear apart enemy defenses, but with upgrades the time is extended to 25 seconds for the Locusts which really makes them a much more viable option especially in mass to tear apart an opposing army.
- Viper – The viper is a interesting unit as it has some excellent possible usages in multiplayer matchups. the ability to “Abduct” which pulls a target unit friendly or enemy to the Vipers location gives you a chance to either quickly retreat a vulnerable unit or pull a weak armored but heavy firepower unit such a s a colossus into the middle of your army where it can be picked apart. Also the Blinding cloud ability reduces range on biological units within the cloud to 1 and this can severely damage a armies ability to attack and even turn the tide of an engagement with just a few vipers in key locations.
Another aspect of the multiplayer interface which I really like is the tutorials which will help a novice user get used to the flow of the game and what units should be built and when. We believe this is one of the biggest issues is that many times gamers feel all alone in a sea of RTS with nobody to help them understand what they should do next. With the new training missions it should enable new players to pick up much faster and be more competitive.
The Arcade is something we like as 1v1/2v2/so on can get a bit tiresome, and sometimes you just want to play around with the game’s features. For this purpose, Blizzard has the Arcade, which has many custom game types, such as Nexus Wars where you can just go and try different play styles. All in all it just adds a bit more playability to the game beyond a standard head to head build-and-fight match.
Creating a social experience
The Blizzard team has started to notice that a huge part of retaining players is to have a social aspect where players feel they can connect within the game itself. They now have social groups and features that allow a much more communication and connection friendly experience which should definitely help retain many more players and add to a much larger loyal following for future Starcraft titles.
Starcraft has been around for a very long time now and it shows in the refinement of the game. The single player is a hybrid of RPG and RTS styling which makes for a unique gaming experience that feels a bit more single player like Diablo III than it does StarCraft II but we wont complain as we definitely felt a connection to the character throughout the campaign.
The multiplayer is still mostly the same, which is both good and bad. The multiplayer feature of StarCraft was always excellent to begin with, so we are happy that Blizzard decided to keep it as is. At the same time, we know that playing just multiplayer head-to-head matches can get boring after a while, which is why we are happy with the addition of the Arcade mode, which allows you to experiment with the game a bit.
The new units definitely add to the mix and change it up a bit so that the standard old builds used in WOL multiplayer will likely no longer work, but also these new units give a much more unique unit composition possibilities which will lend to a lot more possibilities when it comes to how you want to play a match. Add to this the fact that there are now training tutorials means you will not be stuck watching streams of pro players just to find out what you should build first.
Starcraft II: Heart of The Swarm receives top honors for being a damn good game built to change up some key features and add new ones while not breaking an already winning formula. If you have never played Starcraft, give Heart of The Swarm a shot as it will likely provide you countless hours of good game time and excellent replayability with the arcade and multiplayer options.
|OUR VERDICT: StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
|Summary: Starcraft has had a very long history at this point and Blizzard has enhanced it well with Heart of The Swarm, for this it recieved the Bjorn3D Golden Bear Award.|