We’ve got the hots for HotS in the office. Our resident RTS guru/creative director Conjurer tells you why.
Fans around the world cheered as servers for the highly-anticipated StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm went online Monday (yes, we got it a day early!), and with good reason.
The latest expansion for Blizzard‘s iconic sci-fi RTS franchise is an impressive continuation of its legacy, penning yet another chapter in the epic tale of Sarah Kerrigan, the self-styled Queen of Blades, and her quest for revenge.
Yes, the story picks up where Wings of Liberty left up, but unlike most games of the moment, which simply rehash old content with visual upgrades and cosmetic DLCs, Blizzard delivers more than just eye candy in Heart of the Swarm. Fresh objectives, kickass storytelling, and brand new twists to the Campaign are just some of the things that make playing it fun.
While Wings of Liberty changed the user interface and menus, Heart of the Swarm cranks it up a notch. Just like before, you get to interact with various characters, modify your troops, and choose your destination.
Kerrigan’s the star this time ’round, and playing with her’s a joy. She’s the linchpin of your army, and completing bonus mission objectives helps you gain levels and a variety of hero skills usable in Campaign missions. Her skill set is fully customizable, and you can change it every mission to suit your play style.
Unlike Wings of Liberty, you can now test both strains of Zerg units in Evolution Missions before choosing one of the two.
On top of evolution strains, combat unit also have interchangeable Mutations which, just like Kerrigan’s skills, can be changed before or after missions.
Heart of the Swarm cleverly blurs the line between RTS and RPG with spectacular mission design.
Other than typical build-and-overwhelm, escort or infiltration missions, you can now get up close and personal with the enemy’s elites in some really challenging boss fights.
Each of these fights require careful tactics, troop placement and movements, and that’s where Kerrigan’s interchangeable skill sets and mutations come into play. There are numerous side quests too, which means the game’s never boring.
Multiplayer gameplay isn’t as significant for casual players, apart from the addition of new units for each playable race. Though this may not sound like much, each addition opens the door to a multitude of tactics when combined with the existing units (we really love the Viper’s ability to Abduct people, for one).
There are some significant unit tweaks too, which will spell a revamp of strategies for competitive play.
In a nutshell, Heart of the Swarm is a stellar expansion. It’s an incredibly polished offering that will keep StarCraft fans occupied for hours (and ladder players likely glued for years).
If the second part of the SC2 trilogy is already this good, then we can’t wait for the finale.
We’ve got a copy of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm signed by Blizzard game producer Kaeo Milker and some Heart of the Swarm posters up for grabs.