StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm – Is it Enough of an Expansion to Make it a Worthy Purchase?

It’s fair to say if there is one thing that Blizzard Entertainment gets right it’s creating games that garner a dedicated fanbase. We’ve seen that in the Diablo series of game, World of Warcraft and StarCraft. StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty may be around three years old now but fans have always known that there were two more instalments coming, even if somewhat annoyed that it felt as if the games was separated into three parts.

StarCraft: Heart of the Swarm now concentrates on the insectoid Zerg troops and their leader Sarah Kerrigan the hybrid human and Zerg Queen who in the first part of the game lost her memory but looks to reclaim it before leading her troops onwards. Fans will of course want to know just how the story continues, but also what multi-player elements have been added. Also, just as importantly is it worth the extra money after all this time?

Storyline
As mentioned above where Wings of Liberty focused on the Terran (humanoid) troops we now look to the Zerg forces to continue the story. Sarah Kerrigan, although at the end of the first game was left without her memories of being the Queen of the Blades at the start of the game in the tutorial missions. This is so that battles can recommence with her in full command once more. This means to rebuild the swarm and focus on defeating Arcturus Mengsk the Terran dictator, and lets not forget the Protoss of course.

Gameplay
In the game you take control of Kerrigan and her forces with the aim of collecting resources, scouting the surrounding area, building up forces and preparing for battles which inevitably come as the enemies swarm your bases. The Zerg strategy during warfare is to build up strength in troops as their organic method of production means that they can build basic battalions relatively easily as long as you have the resources to provide the required materials. It’s pretty standard RTS style gameplay in true StarCraft 2 style already cemented in place in Wings of Liberty. With a few refinements to the user interface and AI though and fans will no doubt notice subtle improvements.

Single-player
It’s arguable that the weakness of Wings of Liberty was the single player mode and little can be said to have changed here. Some of the missions are quite linear in style but with a new perspective to fighting as the Zergs have a different way of entering the battles and managing their troops. The single-player missions will continue the story side of the game, but it will always be the multi-player side that is the strength of StarCraft 2.

Multi-player
The single-player missions in StarCraft 2 are never said to be a focus of long term gameplay, most players will likely rush through it so they can get back to playing against their friends, or foes. New units that have been made available liven things up in gameplay and after three years this is only to be expected if they are to liven up the game. Each team (Terrans, Zergs and Protoss) have new units and weaponry to play with including the Zergs Viper, Terrans Widow Mines and the Protos Oracle Units.

The ranking system for multi-player games has also gone through an upgrade to not only keep the seasoned players happy but also help newer players to find their place in a multi-player world that has had a few years to form. Players will find that they aren’t pushed into unfair battles with people way above their level.

Verdict
After three years there are obviously going to be questions as to just what improvements have been made in the game. For the hardened fan expecting big things they may feel disappointed, but for fans looking for something to just refresh StarCraft 2 for them it may be enough. Then of course there will be the new fans who will also have to buy a copy of the first StarCraft 2 game too (as this is being sold as an expansion) who will just enjoy the overall experience. So to sum up for StarCraft 2 it’s a worthy expansion but one that could have gone a little further. Now just to see how long it takes until the final part of the game is released, which will of course also mean even more money will have to be spent.