Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm

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Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm


Competing for the top spot

Most expansion packs come within a year or so of the initial game’s release. Blizzard Entertainment has always taken a “we’ll release it when it’s finished” approach to game development, though. March 12th is the current due date for Heart of the Swarm, the first expansion to Starcraft II, over two and a half years after the main game came out. Regardless of the time period, fans of Starcraft will be itching to get back to the fast paced real time strategy universe.

Fighting for the Top Spot

Starcraft II was at one point the pinnacle of competitive gaming and Blizzard will be desperate to get back to the top of the eSports scene after being surpassed by League of Legends. The multiplayer will be familiar to people who have been playing the original game since release, but plenty of changes have been made to keep things fresh. Perhaps the most notable change is not gameplay related, but will certainly help players improve their skills. This ‘resume from replay’ feature will allow players to continue games from any stage in a replay. Not only will this prevent matches being lost in the event of a server failure at a tournament, casual players will be able to have access to specific situations that they might not be able to create otherwise.

More changes in the back-end of the game come in the form of unranked games for players who do not enjoy the high pressure of competitive matches. Cross-server play is also being introduced, allowing people from different regions to play with each other. More training exercises have been created, expanding on those from the original game, allowing players to practice their techniques. These will increase in difficulty as the player progresses, with tips appearing on screen throughout. Once you have completed a training exercise, you will be put up against an AI opponent in an actual match in order to use the skills you have learned.

New Units

The changes that will probably interest players and spectators the most, though, will be the new units on offer. Terran, Protoss and Zerg are each receiving exciting new creatures and creations of death. The human Terrans have created an incredibly powerful mine called the Widow, which is buried until activated, firing a missile at the hapless troops nearby. They also receive the Hellbat, an improvement on the existing Hellion, which can transform into a walking mech. This combines the speed and manoeuvrability of the tracked buggy with the survivability and firepower of a hulking robot to great effect.

Zerg players are treated to the Viper and the Swarm Host. The Viper is a flying unit which sprays a horrific mixture stored in its abdomen into the air, rendering enemy ranged units useless. They can also snatch up units from higher terrain. If damaged, they are able to siphon energy from Zerg buildings in order to regain power. The abominations continue with the Swarm Host, which burrows into the ground and spawns endless terrifying locusts, which are parasites that attack enemies with their acidic saliva.

The futuristic Protoss get the lion’s share of new units. The Mothership Core is a flying defensive unit which is able to shield bases, restore energy to allies and buildings, and transport troops across the battlefield. The Oracle is another support flying unit, which can reveal enemy buildings for a period, as well as charge its weapons to provide a bit of fire support to ground units. Its most impressive ability is Time Warp, which bends the fabric of spacetime itself around enemy units, slowing their movement speed to a crawl. Finally, the Tempest, yet another new sleek flying unit. A gigantic capital ship, capable of bringing immense firepower at long range in order to counter Terran and Zerg weaponry. It works by overloading the kinetic core, resulting in a volatile build-up of energy. It is slow and fairly expensive though, so must be given military support to bring out its greatest effectiveness.

The Story Continues

Starcraft II also features a deep single player campaign, as well as the competitive multiplayer. While Wings of Liberty had you controlling Terran armies, HotS will focus on the Zerg race. The end of WoL saw the disinfestation of the Queen of Blades, seeing her return to her human form as Sarah Kerrigan. The expansion takes place two years after the events of the first game, and the player will feature Kerrigan as the main character. Her mission is to take control of the Zerg factions once again in her human form, in order to exact revenge upon Arcturus Mengsk, the emperor of the Terran factions. She must reunite the broods, while the Terran are trying to destroy the Zerg once and for all. The new threat of Zerg/Protoss hybrids that were revealed towards the end of Wings of Liberty are also forever a danger.

Excitement is building among fans, some of which are already testing out the changes in the beta. Some people play it for the single player story, others play it for the multiplayer. Some people just want to watch professionals play the game. However you like to enjoy Starcraft, there is not long to wait until release.