StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm review - an add-on worthy of the Queen of Blades

Date: 2013-03-19 14:00:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Heart of the Swarm is a real classic add-on - it costs a lot, but offers so much that no self-respecting RTS fan (I do not mention StarCraft freaks, because for them it is a must-buy) should not miss the chance to return to the world of terran, zerg and protoss. At the very beginning, you must learn that these words are written by a man who, during the first years of his adventure with games, looked at everything that was not races or shootouts with the contemptuous eyes of a fledgling teenager. Only the gift of the first StarCraft changed that - it turned out that RTS can be addictive and hellishly fun to play. In turn, Brood War only strengthened my love for this universe and my sympathy for the whole genre. So I am pleased to say now that Heart of the Swarm is an expansion almost as good as the famous expansion pack from 1999.

The Swarm Heart continues the story of terran, zerg, and protoss embroiled in an age-old interplanetary conflict overshadowed by the xel'naga, the ancient race of divine entities behind the development of both the humanoids of Aiur and their insectoid opponents. The previous part focused on Jim Raynor, who was doing his best to restore Sarah Kerrigan, Queen of Blades, to her human form. The main character of the expansion is Kerrigan, initially human, female, cooperating with colleagues from Hyperion, but quickly transforming into ... Well, let's say this: the perfectly realized intro to Heart of the Swarm presented some time before the premiere is not so much a dream Kerrigan what a prophetic vision. The zerg, led by their stylish ruler, are about to kick the butt of bad guys, and Emperor Arcturus Mengsk has an apparently scheduled encounter with multiple cuts, stabs, and lacerations.

The leitmotif of the new game is, of course, revenge : a fictional self-game, which not only provides the appropriate minimum motivation to complete subsequent missions, but is really addictive - the story of the Swarm is a very valuable element of the production and one of its many advantages. Of course, there is no need to jump into the game starting with this expansion. It is worth knowing not only the base ( Wings of Liberty ), but also the first two installments of the series, released in the second half of the nineties.

Heart of the Swarm has 20 standard missions in the single player campaign ( Wings of Liberty had 29 scenarios in total, but thanks to three small forks in the story, it was possible to complete 26 in one go), so it seems to be a lot less . In practice, however, it looks different, because the mandatory set is accompanied by seven optional tasks, after completing which we gain the opportunity to evolve new varieties of our units. This is a very cool and ingenious accessory, perfectly matching the atmosphere of the ever-changing huge cosmic insect family.

The game starts in Terran and not yet RTS. After a short, story-driven tutorial, we have a set of cool, linear missions in the spirit of a simple RPG. Kerrigan and Raynor roam terran Dominion installations together, talking, shooting bad guys, and it's basically like the good old days. Quite soon, a sudden twist occurs and Sarah is forced to return to the Hive and take control of it - the rebel mothers of the tribes claim the slippery throne, so the only righteous queen is in a hurry to restore order. The new StarCraft then becomes a classic real-time strategy, in which the main role is played by collecting resources, expanding the base and training new combat units. However, there is no question of boredom - the people of Blizzard know well how to diversify the proven mechanics of the game. It is true that Heart of the Swarm lacked such a cool mission as "Epidemic" was in Wings of Liberty , but you can not complain about the lack of impressions. Even if a player has to look after a cluster of hives and create assault troops, there is a twist here and there.

There is always a hero (usually Sarah) on the battlefield, i.e. a unit of great strength, whose presence can determine the fate of each battle. Particular missions usually have different types of time limitations - and this will soon be attacked by a blast of harsh winter, and this will soon activate a terrible force that will kill our beloved queen, and we must successively gain new points on the map to protect the area from landing reinforcements. The above-mentioned RPG missions, in which we only control Kerrigan and her little support, also appear in the later parts of the campaign (indeed, there are even boss fights several times). However, I would like to draw your attention to two tasks different from the others: miraculous, marked by a light Alien climate, moving the larva around the protoss ship and infecting other organisms, and a substitute for space battles that take place during the mission with the Hyperion ship in the lead role.

Heart of the Swarm makes a very good impression as a single game. The almost fifteen-hour long, very diverse and interesting campaign is a product worth its price and a beautiful reference to the times when large, boxed accessories were the order of the day. The story, though devoid of any unique surprises or twists, is interesting, well-written and leads to several places that will undoubtedly bring wide smiles to the faces of fans (planet Zerus is one of them). The conclusion also turns out to be very satisfying and is a good starting point for the last chapter - Legacy of the Void . It is true that the appearances of non-linearity were greater (we can choose several times whether we are going to planet A or B now, but there are no mutually exclusive missions like in Wings of Liberty ), and the game itself is even longer, but it's just like strength. From the visual side, the add-on cannot be accused of anything - the gameplay is very fluid, the designs of the units and the maps full of small details are eye-catching, and the cutscenes are traditional for Blizzard top league. The full Polish language version is also flawless - the dialogues definitely do not hurt the ears, and the effects imposed on the voices of Kerrigan and talking zerg do not clash with our native speech. I am not a supporter of full polonization - I prefer subtitles to English voices, but in this case I had nothing to complain about.

Of course, we all need to be aware of the fact that for Blizzard, multiplayer is more important than the loner mode. This is in no way surprising considering the legacy of the first StarCraft and Wings of Liberty . Esports is what drives this franchise, and success in this field will determine how long it will actually live.

But that's not all. With the advent of Heart of the Swarm , Battle.net has been refined even further. First, there is support for clans - players can set them up at will, and the program automatically assigns clan tags to nicknames. Clan members can communicate within the clan, rank them, and so on. Unfortunately, there is no internal system of inter-clan games yet, but the work is still ongoing. In addition, players can also form groups - looser communities focused more on interests or popular topics. These changes definitely affect the sense of connection with others while having fun.

The viewers who like to watch the games of the best have also been improved. In addition to balance improvements and new units to make the game more attractive and diversified, the commentators can also customize the interface. They can adapt the screen almost freely to provide viewers with the best and most readable information. There is also an option to watch replays of games together, and even resume them from any point. This gives you, for example, the possibility of playing your favorite players and checking with your friend whether you can change the fate of the battle in a given situation.

Okay, but what if someone wants to start playing this "real" multiplayer mode? Anyone who has tried it at least once knows what a shock the first game can be, and what a pain it is to learn the rules by getting a nightmare in every game. Someone who just finished the campaign and wanted to prove themselves in multi was generally destroyed without mercy.

There is a bigger problem with the assessment of the balance, so we decided to ask the expert, Tomasz "Tarson" Boroń, one of the best and most famous Polish players.

Tomasz Boroń, known more widely as Tarson, started his adventure with the first StarCraft and was already at the forefront of Polish players. During the beta test, Wings of Liberty was recognized as a player with one of the greatest potentials in Europe. However, he failed to win any major tournament - instead he was struck by the "curse of the 4th place" which he occupied with amazing frequency. Recently, he has been playing less actively, but he is one of the most liked characters and we will definitely hear about him again.

So it is clear that this state of affairs was bothering not only the viewers, but also the players themselves. How does Tarson feel about the changes Blizzard has made? The protoss had the greatest problems with worms late in the game. If the zerg had the combination of Infectors and Brood Lords, he was extremely difficult to defeat. Has anything changed here?

Playing a terran in Wings of Liberty most often boiled down to playing with the infantry - as Tomek mentioned, playing mechanical units was very risky. Has anything changed?

The zerg, on the other hand, had a problem with putting pressure on the entrenched opponent. So the games focused on expansion and the fact that the zerg tried to survive long enough to have enough Infectors and Brood Lords. Now there are new possibilities:

Overall, is Heart of the Swarm optimistic about esports?

From reading this text, you should have no doubts about the quality of the latest game from Blizzard. Heart of the Swarm works great as a single player game. The campaign is diverse, quite long and incredibly addictive (a lot of it is due to well-known and liked characters, as well as the rich universe). Light modifications in the well-known game mechanics work well in washing, and the added value in the form of a very good Polish language version or amazing cutscenes complete the image of a great game.

Well, but there is also a multiplayer, for many it is a much more important element and the thing that will determine the existence of StarCraft II in the world of professional games and tournaments of all kinds. The extension deals with the imperfections of the baseplate: better balance of units, individual races received additional, sensible paths of development, and fun online became more accessible for less experienced strategists. Playing online is now even more fun and bodes well for the future.

The two sides of the coin, which is Blizzard's latest game, clearly show that Heart of the Swarm (as well as the base StarCraft II ) can be successfully played from the position of a lover of stories and well-directed missions, sitting in the shoes of an avid network player who would like to face in a fierce duel with more than one Korean. The big box add-on policy seems to be working. Buying a full-fledged, long-lasting entertainment game for the price of a few DLCs is a great deal and guaranteed positive emotions on the part of players and creators. Bravo!