Jumping back into Starcraft II when Heart of the Swarm was released a few days ago felt somewhat odd to me. It had been so long since I’d played the game at all, let alone the campaign. I had totally forgotten the nuances of story, but the overall experience was still retained.
I’ve always been a firm believer in the old adage that one should always try and ‘stop and smell the roses’; the phrase being just as relevant in video games, as it is in any other aspect of life.
Firstly, I’d like to preface with the fact that I am, deep-down, a member of the Swarm. I’m a Zerg player through and through and as such, my experience with the new campaign could be considered somewhat biased. That is not to say that the campaign is only enjoyable for Zerg players but, let’s be honest, we’ve been waiting for our Queen’s time in the spotlight to come for some time now, and it feels great to have our options and overall narrative expanded greatly.
With that in mind, I can say with confidence that I believe the overall presentation of the campaign has been greatly improved in Heart of the Swarm.Things seem more streamlined this time around. This can be seen as a negative – and I’m sure a lot of people will take the aforementioned viewpoint – as this approach naturally simplifies things quite a bit. The pre-mission screens offer more in terms of dialogue and character development, an approach that refines everything and removes a lot of the gimmicky (for lack of a better word) features that did nothing to add to the overall feel or narrative in the Wings of Liberty campaign.
A lot of players are going to miss these little things, but personally, I think the sacrifice is smart and rewards players who wish to really immerse themselves in the campaign.
As an inevitable result of the new cast of characters that support Kerrigan throughout her story, her character is given a good degree of room to develop. In Wings of Liberty, Jim Raynor never really had a consistent sense of authority. He was never truly in control of things, and naturally as a result, a great sense of the ‘badassery’ that should come with the main character was lost.
Kerrigan, on the other hand, is in control of the Swarm from the very start, and continues to grow in power, becoming a terrifyingly dominant force. Kerrigan’s supporting cast – even though they have great, unique character – are always overshadowed quite noticeably by Kerrigan. This is especially apparent in the dialogue, as well as the sections of the campaign where Kerrigan’s power is momentarily questioned. This leads me to believe that this was a very conscious decision on the development teams part, and is great improvement on what I felt was quite a comparatively stale cast that Wings of Liberty offered.
Another great element that complements the vast character development of Kerrigan is the customization options given to players throughout the campaign. It takes me back to the days of Warcraft 3 and other similar RTS games that gave player choices in how they wanted to play and evolve their hero unit(s). This was a component that was sadly missing from Wings of Liberty.
Kerrigan – given how the story and her character progresses – is definitely better suited for player customization, although that’s not to say Jim Raynor couldn’t have received the same treatment in Wings of Liberty. With Terran technology being so extravagant already, it’s not farfetched to imagine Raynor in a pimped-out marine suit of badassery.
There are a whole lot of features in Heart of the Swarm that majority of players will argue overshadowed the campaign. For anyone like me, who felt the original Wings of Liberty campaign was underwhelming, or could have been better, all the new additions to the Heart of the Swarm campaign make all the difference when it comes to playability.
For anyone who felt like the original Starcraft II release didn’t quite meet their expectations, I’d highly recommend giving Heart of the Swarm a chance. If you didn’t enjoy the last campaign, there’s a good chance this one will redeem the game for you. If you didn’t enjoy the Wings of Liberty campaign, I’d still urge giving this new addition a chance.
If you have no interest anything but the multiplayer, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the amount of work and new features that have been incorporated into that aspect of the game too.
Overall, Heart of the Swarm has gone above and beyond the expectations that I had for the game, and has rekindled my love for the series once again. Hopefully it’ll have the same effect on many others, presuming they still possess the patience to even consider playing it again. It has once again given me hope for the franchise, and has me incredibly excited for subsequent releases and the Starcraft II as an eSport from here on out.
There has been plenty of speculation and debate on the internet among people regarding the so-called impending death of Starcraft II as a game, and the subsequent rise of MOBAs such as League of Legends and DOTA 2. As far as viewer numbers went, stats were definitely not in favour of Starcraft II.