StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Campaign Review: Tasty gameplay, not enough filling

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

By on March 20, 2013 at 5:25 pm

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is a huge beast, and that’s why we decided to pair up and take it on from all angles. In this single-player video review, we explore where Heart of the Swarm fits in the overall storyline, what Kerrigan gets up to when left to her own devices, and whether or not there’s enough of a storyline there to justify a full expansion.

If you’re after more information on the multiplayer side of things, read our massive in-depth review by our resident Grandmaster League-player, Alex.

You can download the video below from our file library, or a YouTube mirror is also available if you’d prefer to watch it there.

The video player is not available in the viewing method you are currently using. Please visit the article on games.on.net to watch.

Good:

  • Still the best RTS gameplay in its class, by a long shot
  • Typical Blizzard polish and attention to detail
  • Huge variety of missions showcases an impressively powerful engine
  • Great cinematics
  • Being able to mutate and choose between breeds is excellent
  • The return of some old Brood War favourites (Hell yeah, Lurkers)

Bad:

  • Takes literally 20 missions for the story to begin
  • Dialogue is occasionally Red Alert level of cheesey
  • Some missions are clearly just padding
  • Feels somewhat unnecessary in the overall storyline

Product for this review supplied by Blizzard.

21 comments (Leave your own)

“Some missions are clearly just padding’

You mean the one where we have to kill 4 raid bosses from Diablo 3/WoW?

 

Sounds a bit like the first game tbh. All the side missions felt like nothing more than pointless filler. I think it’s clear (again) that Blizzard took a single games campaign and spread it across 3 games so they could charge more.

 

exe3,

I’m assuming, as usual, your opinion is not actually based on playing the game?

Not sure I agree with the review so much…. if you’ve ever played SC for the storyline, I don’t see why you wouldn’t like this too. It’s always been a giant bundle of cliches, from the design of the races onwards. Sure, Kerrigan spends most of the missions amassing an army and new strains (probably the best storyline integration of introducing a unit per mission in the series), but isn’t that also 90% of the story of ME3, DAO and countless other games?

I’d say Kerrigan’s return to the Swarm is literally part of the story. That’s the second mission, not the twentieth.

Personally, I’m not a fan of endless echoing demon voices and naked winged demon women, and yeah the story is pretty meh. It’s the presentation I’ve always played it for, and I’m not convinced you can argue that this is any worse than any other SC game.

Definitely agree that some of Kerrigan’s abilities are pretty OP, but you can always turn it up to brutal difficulty. Kerrigan is suddenly a whole lot less invincible. If you find brutal too easy, I have no idea why you’d be playing single player at all, rather than winning billions of official moneys in some Korean tournament.

Free, endlessly spawning, cliff-jumping zerglings with the +200hp and attack speed boost from Kerrigan? Thank god you can’t use that in MP.

 

ooshp:
Not sure I agree with the review so much…. if you’ve ever played SC for the storyline, I don’t see why you wouldn’t like this too. It’s always been a giant bundle of cliches, from the design of the races onwards.

Oh, for sure! And I love it, and I like this too, but it really feels like a lot of the inclusions in this one are strictly unnecessary. That Hyperion mission towards the end for example is almost entirely pointless.

ooshp:
Sure, Kerrigan spends most of the missions amassing an army and new strains (probably the best storyline integration of introducing a unit per mission in the series), but isn’t that also 90% of the story of ME3, DAO and countless other games?

The difference is that those are RPGs which focus on a single character and so that’s fine, because you can actually make a difference in choosing the way that character acts. Here, in an RTS game where you’re capable of controlling entire armies, you instead spend heaps of time not doing that. And it’s fun anyway, but it’s just not the same.

ooshp:
I’d say Kerrigan’s return to the Swarm is literally part of the story. That’s the second mission, not the twentieth.

It doesn’t advance the overall Hybrid/Amon story at all though. It’s just 20 missions of “and now to change things back to the way they were, only a little bit different”.

ooshp:
Free, endlessly spawning, cliff-jumping zerglings with the +200hp and attack speed boost from Kerrigan? Thank god you can’t use that in MP.

I love those zerglings <3

 

ooshp,

i found brutal too easy and believe me im no “pro” player at all (well i never got into multiplayer so)
anyways kerrigan IS indeed OP. on most levels you can start clearing the enemy base while you grow up your base and get ultralisks out or whatever. just make sure to get mend and the AoE charge ability (cant remember name) along with kinetic strike and youre more or less done
anyways since blizzard goes to the trouble of including FOUR difficulties the hardest one could be way harder. i dont think i ever had to restart a single level in brutal (except for achivs and whatnot)

i agree with the story part though, starcraft was never too good / deep on that regard (i do love the starcraft universe and its lore though)
however i gotta say that in HotS the story is cheesier than ever
*SPOILERS*
the last scene in particular was so lame. kerrigan walking alone into mengsk trap and despite having millions of zergs around she goes on her own and seems unable to even call them for help when she gets trapped
also what was mengsk plan? even if he did kill kerrigan what the hell would he do about the millions of zerg invading the planet is another question that shall remain unanswered
and then of course she gets saved by raynor (why was he alone up there is another good question xd)

 

ooshp,

A lot of people had a similar attitude as yours around Wings of Liberty. I played it and very much found it full of filler. It’s silly that you expect that people have to play a game to understand what it’s about especially when you can read others opinions and learn about the game that way. Yes there’s nothing quite like experiencing it for yourself but you can get a good idea of something from listening to those around you.

All i’m saying is that just like Wings of Liberty i’m not in the least bit surprised that people (in this case Tim) are saying that most of the game is filler.

 

I enjoyed WoL and similarly enjoyed HotS.

However the unfortunate thing is that even though I much preferred the HotS campaign and feel it was better constructed than the one in WoL, it didn’t have much of a lasting impact. Yeah sure it revealed some new characters and closed the story on a few others, but it just didn’t register as something to remember later. I enjoyed it most as I was playing it, but a day later after the end, I couldn’t really put my finger down on anything particularly memorable. It was solidly built, but forgettable.

 

zin33: i found brutal too easy and believe me im no “pro” player at all (well i never got into multiplayer so)

Interesting I found some levels suicidally difficult and my play thru was only on hard however I tend not to have an issue with multiplayer at all or even facing of against multiple bots.

Also Tim you are really, REALLY quiet.

 

spooler: Also Tim you are really, REALLY quiet.

If I talk too loudly I get messy audio, and if I talk too quietly nobody can hear me. Time to splash out on a new mic :/

 

That’s what you said last time!

 

I used a different mic this time! Evidently it was not enough (though I thought the volume was okay? I think it’s just my tone of voice)

 

Played through it on normal and found it was too easy, I will get round to brutal eventually when I migrate back into my room rather than my current “PC attached to television with my legs and the right side of the couch serving as my table” setup, which anyone who has gone this route can probably tell you is not conducive to efficient or high quality performance.

2 things that frustrated me (which may or may not be different in brutal) are as follows:
I could, without exception, build bouncing banelings ad infinitum and 1+A move toward a target objective with a 100% success rate. Kerrigan was in charge of killing flyers.
Also, any time my base came under attack it was little more than a minor inconvenience and I could walk from the opposite side of the map, back to base, long before any serious damage had been done.

Overall though, an enjoyable campaign. I would have preferred that the game alluded more to the Amon side of the story outside of the 2 brief run-ins at the research base and at the end. I would have liked to see Kerrigan struggle a little more with the choice to retake the mantle of QoB. Mostly though, I see the campaign as a bridge to get Kerrigan from “possessed queen” to “independent queen” and to that end it seems a little light on.

 

Tim Colwill:
I used a different mic this time! Evidently it was not enough (though I thought the volume was okay? I think it’s just my tone of voice)

I can’t speak for other people but I could hear you quite clearly just had to turn the volume way up.

 

I still loved it. Played through a few times now, will play through it a few times more. I love the starcraft world, and I have no serious gripe against Blizzard, well except for the D3 debacle… yeah I wont be playing that game again.

 

spooler,

I think his voice just might be naturally soft.

 

get a new mic mate :) please , nice review

 

I agree, I play mostly for the story line and the single player campaign. I really like the new campaign units as they help to define the Zerg and are a lot of fun… But I also felt I never really had to push to create an economy and actually struggle the way I did in the Wings of Liberty. I also just wasn’t attached to the story line and the characters they way I am when I play WoL. On the whole it’s still fun, but the Protoss have always been my favourite race – since I played the original in a house with 4 computers and spent hours playing multilayer…. so while I’m looking forward to the next expansion I’m also praying that it’s as much fun as WoL, which is to say a lot more fun that HotS.

 

Were you trying not to wake up other people in the house while narrating this? I’ve got an image of someone huddled in a corner with a mic trying to keep quiet.

 

I agree with the review, particularly the fact that a lot of the missions are filler. I am also of the same view as exe3, where they split a single game of three campaigns over three separate games. HoTS doesn’t advance the story much, pretty much the same as WoL. The gameplay is excellent though, too bad the missions weren’t that meaningful.

Having said all that though, I think the fact that Blizzard is targeting this for the competitive scene is an important one. I think SC2 is a unique and very well balanced competitive RTS, and they’ve gotta get the money to develop it from somewhere. :)

 

I agree similar to WOL, not that much actually happened to advance the OVERALL lore/story.

However, I felt that HOTS was far better constructed, in that you had a choice of planet, but then played 3-4 missions at that planet – each mission felt like it built on the previous, plot wise, to some extent.

WOL felt extremely disjointed to me, one mission cinematic Raynor is a hero, the next he is an angry drunk.

I’d say that after WOL and HOTS, my expectations of the story and lore advancement for the Starcraft Universe has dropped considerably. Which is disappointing as the original and Brood War got me so into the lore, I read all the novels blizzard has produced (for both SC and SC2). Lets also not forget the drop in actual writing since brood war, which is probably a function of having a better engine for telling a story graphically, as opposed to four talking heads (this required great dialogue to keep players interested.)

Game was still very fun and presentation top notch, looking forward to closing the series out in LOTV.

 
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