The expansion StarCraft II players have been waiting for.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty launched nearly three years ago and whilst the multiplayer still gave access to the three races that players have come to know and love in the StarCraft universe, the single player campaign was focused almost solely on the Terran story. In the usual Blizzard style of making the players wait for their fix, the recently released Heart of the Swarm expansion finally lets the player take on another race in solo play, this time the delightful Zerg.
StarCraft still remains the most popular RTS in the world, thanks to the highly developed multiplayer game, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything here for the single player. As with Wings of Liberty, the single player campaign tells a story, this time revolving around Sarah Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, and her attempt to rebuild the Zerg swarm.
Blizzard’s talents don’t so much lie with telling a story as they do with creating an incredible gameplay experience. The campaign will have players going through the usual missions involving a healthy dose of sneaking around, escorting and heavily involved boss battles. Overall, the campaign serves to introduce a slightly easier to control Zerg force whilst showing off the rather nice upgrade system.
The upgrades come in a variety of flavours, with units having a choice of basic upgrades that can be changed as needed, Evolution missions that give rise to much more impressive upgrades, and the RPG-style upgrades for Kerrigan herself, which can easily turn the tide of a game.
Of course, what most fans will be excited about are the new units to take into battle. The addition of new units is probably the most important aspect of an expansion for a game like StarCraft II, as the give both new players and veteran pro players something new to learn and strategise with.
So, seven new units have been added and the rest have been tweaked. Each of the races has something new, such as the Tempest, Viper or Widow Mines, and old favorites now work ever so slightly differently. It will be a while before we know the full effect of the changes in the units. Old strategies may no longer work, so veteran players will have to go back to the drawing board and come up with new ideas and tactics. It will be quite exciting over the coming months to see just how the use of the new units, and the old units that have been tweaked, has changed the game.
There are some other new additions to the multiplayer game beyond the new units. In an attempt to get more player trying out the multiplayer game, which has a reputation for being very competitive and, frankly, quite scary to anyone who hasn’t mastered the art of hotkey ballet, Blizzard have provided a selection of tutorials that will hopefully go some way towards setting new players minds at ease, and at least giving them an almost fighting chance of not being wiped out in under a minute.
Another very cool addition comes in the form of replays. Not only can you watch replays with your friends, but you can even “Take Command” and pick up a game from a replay. This function will prove very handy for players wanting to refine their strategies.
Heart of the Swarm brings a focus on the Zerg race, and an enjoyable campaign which will please the single player fan of StarCraft (wherever they may be). For the multiplayer game, which is likely where most fans would be happiest, we have new units and encouragement for new players. It is not the most ground-breaking expansion, but then it seems like nothing has been broken, so even the little additions are welcome. Heart of the Swarm may be more of the same, but when “the same” was so good to begin with, we can’t really complain. Now we just have to wait for the next expansion – see you in a few years…