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Now where would I put the couch..

Jim Raynor successfully brought Sarah Kerrigan back, back to her human form, back to her own consciousness. Only one goal is yet to be achieved; bringing down the emperor covered in blood, who goes by the name of Acturus Mengsk.

Piece of cake you would say, with Jim Raynor’s rebel group and the swarm still under Sarah Kerrigan's command. Nothing is less true, as Blizzard, the masters of lore and storytelling, managed to present a campaign full of dangers, challenges, choices and psychological warfare.

CAMPAIGN

Heart of the Swarm picks up where the original campaign, also known as ‘Wings of Liberty’, left off. Where you were primarily in control of the human race in Wings of Liberty, known as the ‘terran’, you will be leading the swarm (the Zerg, an alien race) in the first expansion of Starcraft 2.

The zerg is known for winning on the battlefield by overwhelming their enemies by appearing in masses (the ‘swarm’), for their animal-like instincts; tag on your enemy and don’t ever let go. Blizzard did a fine job by delivering this vibe to the player. Whilst playing the singleplayer, you play as Sarah Kerrigan herself, the queen of blades. You control the swarm, and most of the times you will work according to the Zerg way of dealing; by overwhelming your opponent.

Due to this, the Zerg really maintains it’s fearsome identity, even though you get to see what happens behind the scenes in the tangle of Zerg trenches, tunnels and hive’s. The player has the feeling he is able to conquer the world, and no one is going to stop Kerrigan, as one does not simply stop a girl who knows what she wants. None shall stop Kerrigan to get Mengsk’s head, all norms and values are history. That is the feeling presented to the player.

As always, Blizzard keeps the story deep and connected to the lore. The plot, which couldn't turn out to be anything else than predictable, took an unpredictable turn and kept the player’s attention from start to end, all the while enjoying great cut scenes, fighting psychological thoughts as well as playing a great RTS game.

But not only does Heart of the Swarm pick up where Wings of Liberty left off, it also presents some great new additions. Whereas the original campaign left you with choices, which resulted in to a slightly different campaign for some, Heart of the Swarm might give you a different campaign based on the choices you made in the campaign of Wings of Liberty. This keeps the player interacted in to the lore, and makes for a great addition overall.

Whereas Jim Raynor settled down on his ship ‘the Hyperion’ in Wings of Liberty, Sarah Kerrigan houses herself up in a comfy and nicely decorated Zerg creature. Not only will you have a new home, but you will also receive new interlocutors, upgrades and even building –and fighting methods. But most notably of all are the newly introduced missions where you either play as the ‘superhero unit’ Kerrigan with her own abilities, fight against scripted enemy ‘boss units’ and the new missions in which you can specialize your Zerg units.

It’s not to say that Blizzard has created a whole new game, as everything still plays and feels the same,  and some innovations regarding the missions does not make this feel like a new game, but rather as a great new expansion, which is what it should be.

All in all, Blizzard once again delivered many hours of singleplayer enjoyment, with pleasantly surprising innovations.

MULTIPLAYER

If one says Starcraft, one says eSports. Starcraft 2 is the home for many professional players, which make a living by playing the game. Tournaments with millions of prize money are hosted monthly, some even weekly, and Blizzard also contributes by hosting their own tournaments, implementing great spectating features and also making casting very accessible.

Now many casual players reading this couldn't care less. Well you have not been forgotten either, as the graphics and physics have also been approved with the launch of Heart of the Swarm, making it look more realistic, and most importantly more bloody!

New units have also been implemented with this expansion. The count is set on 7, which might disappoint some, as each race received about 2 new units, except for the Protoss who received 3. The reason for the lack of new units is the trademark of Starcraft 2: the balance. Implementing more units might hurt the balance, and considering Starcraft 2 is what allows many gamers to feed their children, it seems an understandable decision.

The new units have of course been added to bring some renewal and refreshment to the multiplayer. But what Blizzard very smartly did was using those new units to increase the balance rather than disrupting it. Heart of the Swarm is a more balanced game than Wings of Liberty was, which is a great achievement with the addition of 7 new units.

On top of that, the new units do actually bring renewal in that the games are a lot less predictable. Players now have the ability to choose for different types of builds and units whilst facing a certain type of opponent, who’s going for a certain composition of units. The biggest impact can be seen in mirror matches (Terran versus Terran for example), as players are not forced in to one particular unit composition, but can surprise their enemy with different builds, or counter them with different units.

Despite the low amount of added units, the multiplayer of Starcraft 2 feels a lot different. Blizzard managed to use these units to their full potential, with the result of having a more balanced, better looking and divergent multiplayer.

 

THE PRICE

A much heard saying is that Heart of the Swarm might ‘feel more like a new game than an expansion’. Reasoning behind this is the entirely new and equally lengthily singleplayer, the 3-year development time and the price, which is set at 40 euros.

Having mentioned earlier that Heart of the Swarm, how innovative it may be, does not feel as a new game, I will take the view that Heart of the Swarm should be considered an expansion. A very rich and much-offering expansion, but still an expansion. That being said, I found 3 years of development to be a bit on the lengthy side, regardless of the balancing and extensive campaign.

 

VERDICT

Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm is an expansion worth your money and somehow managed to exceed expectations.

Jim.. YOU FORGOT MY HAIR!