StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Review – Amazing Cinematics, Gameplay and Plot

Check out the in-depth StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm review. Read all about the gameplay changes, the amazing campaign and StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm tournaments.

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Breaking down the storyline of StarCraft 2 into three chapters was a gamble that Blizzard Entertainment made, but as it frequently happens when the famous company is involved, it paid off lavishly. Fans immediately fell in love with the singleplayer of Wings of Liberty and have plenty to look forward to in StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm.

Jim Raynor’s perseverance and his willingness to put everything on the line for a chance to save Sarah Kerrigan were in the end worth all the pain and effort. The few questions left unanswered by StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty are going to be solved in the second installment. Heart of the Swarm debuts in a truly magnificent way with a cinematic that allows the fans to catch a glimpse at what the future might bring.

As the dream quickly turns into reality and Kerrigan continues her personal vendetta against Arcturus Mengsk, Jim Raynor and his rebel forces are thrown into the mix. New characters step into the spotlight with Mengsk’s own son aiding Raynor in an attempt to prove himself and elusive Protoss leaders warn him that an ancient evil has returned.

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm. © Blizzard Entertainment
StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm. © Blizzard Entertainment

Key facts about StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm

  • Macro management still dwarfs micromanagement but the firing rate of units was decreased while the damage bumped
  • Throughout the campaign players get to use new and classic units that are not available in multiplayer games
  • Zerg players rejoice as new air units were added, addressing one of the major shortcomings of this race
  • The campaign features the same number of missions as StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty but more cinematics and cut scenes
  • StarCraft 2 fans can play custom games, regular matches against AI opponents and ultimately ranked games against real people.

The StarCraft games

The seemingly simple premise of StarCraft grew into a fully fledged storyline, with the three warring races representing just the background for an intricate narrative. What’s interesting about StarCraft games is that most of the key characters have survived, while certain Protoss leaders sacrificed themselves for the greater good. Some iconic characters return in StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm, while the final installment Legacy of the Void is rumored to shed some light on the fate of Tassadar.

The single player campaign is at the core of StarCraft games, but what differentiates this RTS game from its counterparts is the multiplayer. In Heart of the Swarm all three races benefited from the addition of new units, but it is the new special abilities that make a bigger impact. Over the course of time, developers paid close attention to what the community of gamers had to say about balance issues.

They took most of these suggestions to the drawing board and in both StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm balance was maintained. Patches only have the role of tweaking existing units but the differences are negligible and the impact is mostly acknowledged by pro-gamers.

What is StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm?

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm is the second chapter of the sequel and according to many reviewers, the best StarCraft game yet. It features the same dazzling graphics of Wings of Liberty, augmented by better visuals and stays true to the fast-paced and perfectly balanced gameplay of the original.

Screenshot of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm. © Blizzard Entertainment.
Screenshot of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm. © Blizzard Entertainment.

Narrative-wise it picks up exactly where StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty left and follows the transformation of Sarah Kerrigan into a formidable killing machine. Those who were hoping for Sarah to embrace her humanity and forsake the Queen of Blades forever, will be terribly disappointed. On the bright side, as Kerrigan pursues her destiny to become the uncontested leader of the Swarm, she works with Jim Raynor rather than against him against a common foe.

Gameplay of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm

  • Sensible adjustments were made to encourage micromanagement once again, by making troops more valuable, therefore worth saving.
  • Players can train several units simultaneously, without even moving the screen back to their base
  • In StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm players are informed about how many workers are actively collecting resources and also the ideal number for maximum productivity
  • Zerg players are more likely to succeed in air battles, thanks to the addition of specialized units that attack both air and ground troops
  • Secondary bases are now easier to defend, particularly on official StarCraft 2 tournament maps

The StarCraft gaming community is one of the most demanding and it has always been since the release of the original game. The changes brought by Wings of Liberty were generally embraced by fans but there were some who frowned upon some key changes. Blizzard Entertainment developers were quick to respond and came up with a quick fix for the dramatic shift from macromanagement to micromanagement.

In the first chapter of StarCraft 2, saving units on the battlefield was far less important than back in Brood War when micromanagement frequently saved the day. StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm players will still have to focus mostly on the economy output, but they will be provided with the impetus not to neglect battling units. The hit points of some units were increased, the rate of fire slightly decreased and instead they inflict more damage.

The ability to construct multiple units at the same time by selecting several buildings of the same type is also simplifying macro management. Players can now switch from one building to the other and train troops while they are commanding their troops on the battlefield on the other side of the map. In conjunction with the better rate of mineral and gas collection, these tools are supposed to make the gameplay more intense and exciting in StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm.

Screenshot of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm. © Blizzard Entertainment
Screenshot of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm. © Blizzard Entertainment

Plot of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm

Just as the name suggests, Sarah Kerrigan is at the cornerstone of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm and the Queen of Blades is stronger than ever before. The StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty campaign concludes with a heartwarming scene in which Jim Raynor rescues Sarah and carries her out of the cave. Despite doing everything he can to keep her out of harm’s way and prevent her relapse, Kerrigan reemerges as the leader of the Swarm.

Driven by her desire to exact revenge on Arcturus Mengsk she travels to distant worlds, to acquire new abilities and special powers. Unlike the previous installments and the original Starcraft, in StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm the central character is also a formidable unit in game. Much of the campaign is centered on Sarah Kerrigan and the unit is blessed with outstanding powers that allow her to single-handedly defeat entire armies.

The occasional interferences of Protoss and Zerg units proved to be nothing more than a nuisance for the Queen of Blades as she inexorably draws closer to her arch enemy. Jim Raynor jumps to the rescue once again and together they overthrow Mengsk while crushing once and for all the Sons of Korhal. As the single player campaign inches closer to its inevitable end, it becomes clear that the final and most difficult war will be fought against Amon.

Development of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm

StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty made it easy for players to get fully immersed into the gaming atmosphere and met the high expectations set by StarCraft. Heart of the Swarm feels more like a standalone expansion than a sequel, with a complete set of missions and significant changes to the gameplay.

The new units introduced brilliantly counter each other, while playing largely a support role for the troops already available in the first chapter of StarCraft 2. The development team made the needed adjustments to make the multiplayer games even more balance, by preventing exploitative strategies. Terrans still have a clear edge when it comes to dropping troops into enemy bases, but both Zerg and Protoss players now have a couple of effective counters.

Where can I download StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm?

Blizzard Entertainment now allows players to download StarCraft 2 free of charge and only limits the number of missions that they can enjoy for free. It is more than enough to get familiar with the basic plot of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm and fall in love with the single player campaign. Those who land on the official website and download the game will also be allowed to watch a few cinematics.

Screenshot of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm. © Blizzard Entertainment
Screenshot of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm. © Blizzard Entertainment

Even more important is that a free download StarCraft will make them eligible to play custom games against AI opponents. There are significant differences between the single player and multiplayer gameplay, with multiple units being only available in the campaign. There are plenty of incentives to actually purchase StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm, including the possibility of playing ranked games against better opponents.

What are others saying about StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm?

Those who are new to the StarCraft universe would be better off starting with StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty, to fully enjoy the single player campaign. The beauty of this sequel is that even if you’re not familiar with the basic plot, the narrative is so engaging that it’s impossible not to get hooked.

While non-StarCraft players are in an overwhelming majority impressed by the game, some complaints have been made by a few veterans. They considered the storyline to be a bit too soft for their liking, with clichés scattered all over it and pointing towards a predictable outcome. Even so, they represent only a tiny minority and both reviewing websites and individual players appreciate Heart of the Swarm greatly.

StarCraft 2 tournaments

There is currently a scarcity of online StarCraft 2 tournaments, but Blizzard has announced that more will be available in StarCraft 2 Legacy of the Void. For the time being, players have to settle for ranked games and take it one step at a time, more precisely to improve their position in the leaderboard. Unlike the aforesaid tournaments which are all-in competitions where the winner takes it all, in ranked games you can mitigate the effects of occasional setbacks and return to your winning ways.

Those who attain Grand Master status can hope to win invitations to exclusive land-based tournaments hosted in various countries. The prize pool of these StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm tournaments are more generous than ever before, not to mention the prestige of winning these events. A lot of money is at stake, but competition is also crushing and the only thing that hasn’t changed yet is that Korean players are still dominating the tournaments worldwide.

My rating of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm

Truth be told, I’ve always had a soft spot for Sarah Kerrigan and decried the manner in which Arcturus Mengsk left her for dead on Tarsonis, while taking his flagship Hyperion to high orbit. I’ve been also secretly rooting for Jim Raynor even when he was pit against seemingly crushing odds and admired his commitment to redeem Kerrigan. The StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty was mostly about his quest, but Blizzard somehow found the time to squeeze in the seeds of a new and exciting mission.

Screenshot of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm. © Blizzard Entertainment
Screenshot of StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm. © Blizzard Entertainment

That’s why maybe I’m a bit biased when I give StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm 9.5 out of 10, just as much as Wings of Liberty. I didn’t find the single player campaign cheesy and the occasional clichés never had a deterring effect on my resolve to play it on brutal difficulty. The cinematics are the best in the entire StarCraft series and in my opinion some of the best ever made by the videogame industry. They make the entire campaign more consistent and I frequently returned to the video archives to watch them again.

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm doesn’t fail to impress when it comes to the multiplayer either and the manner in which Blizzard Entertainment preserved the balance while adding new units is nothing short of amazing. I would’ve rated the game 10 out of 10 hadn’t it been for the still clear emphasis on macromanagement at the expense of micromanagement. It is refreshing to know that the developers are trying to make adjustments and plan on balancing things out in this regard, in Legacy of the Void.

StarCraft 2 expansion Legacy of the Void

The StarCraft 2 Legacy of the Void release date was announced and the opening trailer sends shivers down the spines of not only Protoss players but all StarCraft fans. Blizzard is further shifting from macro management and promises to return to the roots of StarCraft, by bringing individual units and their survival back in the spotlight.

The third and final chapter of StarCraft 2 is right about the corner and everyone is anxiously waiting to see how the story ends. Almost 20 decades after the events at Mar Sara and the other planets ruled by the now-defunct United Earth Directorate, the celebrated storyline will conclude.

StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm were mostly about Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan fighting internal conflicts while seeking revenge. Now that Arcturus Mengsk is out of the picture and his empire has fallen, a new threat has emerged and Amon makes all the previous conflicts seem petty and insignificant. The ancient evil will require the three races to band together and fight him as one or face oblivion and total annihilation.

Will Kerrigan hold on to her fading humanity and march her Swarm against Amon, or will she succumb to her newfound powers. Will Jim Raynor stand by her once again and will the Protoss forces and their Golden Armada be enough to stop the ancient evil, or will the galaxy burn as it was foretold? All questions will be answered in StarCraft 2 Legacy of the Void, the last and most important milestone of one of the best real-time strategy games ever made.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall Score
9.5
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