Like many others I was excited to play the upcoming starcraft expansion. Say what you will about Diablo or WoW, but Blizzard knows how to make RTS. I just want to warn people this is a review of the SINGLE-PLAYER CAMPAIGN only. I will not review any extra stuff or multi-player. With that out of the way let us get started.
HotS picks up from the end of the first game, to recap: Sarah Kerrigan is now a human with crazy zerg hair. We first see her in a Ghost outfit with her crazy rasta Zerg hair in a ponytail. Without spoiling too much, in two or three levels you see Kerrigan back on the warpath to become the Queen of Blades, and you can't help but cheer for her. Which is the first thing Blizzard did right. Veterans of the Blizzard-RTS will remember the WCIII: Reign of Chaos campaign, particularly the human and undead campaigns which saw the fall from grace of Paladin Prince Arthas. Many players were upset that you couldn't do anything about the change and that Arthas went from Paladin to full blown out douchebag who will come over drink all your beer, set your couch on fire, shit in your bed, get your fish pregnant and then wake you up by pissing on you while dead lifting your high school crush. In HotS you see Kerrigan keep a side of her humanity and you truly feel that this is a different Queen of Blades from SC1/BW/WoL. The story itself isn't anything new nor is it something to write home about. While Wings of Liberty had a strong sense of redemption and love as we see Jim Raynor do everything he can to try and save Sarah Kerrigan; Heart of the Swarm is all about Kerrigans vengeance and rise to power and then you get hit with a line about how much she sacrificed for love. That being said I really enjoyed the interactions you can have with the other leaders of the Swarm and it could lead to a deeper understanding of what is actually going on.
The actual game play comes in two flavors:
The RTS levels and the RPG in-between.
To understand the RTS you first need to understand the RPG. Back in WoL you could upgrade your units by spending cash you get from missions along with two different talent trees that gave you boosts such as 2 scvs for the price of one, or units such as the science vessel. The problem with unit upgrades was that to get them you needed to get cash and if you enjoyed a marine/maurader/medic/seige army you can at the most only have 1/2 of the total upgrades you need before the game becomes a bit trivial. HotS "fixes" this in two ways:
|1. You get 3 basic options that you can switch anytime between levels. For lings it would be: +health/+speed/+attack speed so you can customize your army and tactics for each level.
2. You get to choose between two mutations. These mutations are permanent and can change up how units are used. To use lings as an example you get the choice between: 3 lings per unit instead of two or lings that can jump over cliffs.
By doing this it allows the player to choose how they want their particular swarm to feel instead of just getting Stim for all your bio armies.
The talent trees you got in Wings of Liberty (one for toss and one for zerg) was thrown out in favor of Kerrigans talent tree. You get 6 tiers and each one has 2 choices at first and 3 after a huge reveal, some of these are passive abilities such as two drones for the price of one or Kerrigan's attacks will chain; others are activated abilities such as a big direct damage spell or spawn some zerglings. All of this goes up to an ultimate spell of which the choices are: lots of nukes/giant fucking zerg or nukes and then giant fucking zerg army. You can switch abilities any time between missions so nothing outside of the evolutionary choice you make for units is permanent. The way you get these abilities is by leveling up Kerrigan which is done in two ways:
|1. Level up her via main missions
2. Level up her by completing side-missions.
The cap is 70 but you only need to hit 60 to grab the ultimate abilities. Which brings me to the RTS portion of the gameplay.
It's warcraft III. Well you get your hero: (Kerrigan) and then you can build armies except it's all played at starcraft speed with starcraft units. So while it isn't directly WCIII, it is what I was really reminded of. Especially since your hero has unique abilities only available to them. As for the gameplay itself, you get a nice mix of BW/SCII and even non-multiplayer units. However this game suffers from Wings of Libertyism. You see I beat that game using only marine/medic stim and +3/+3 upgrades to beat everyone. Here I used ling/kerrigan/queens until I got ultras at which point I just made them along side lings for a retardedly good A-click army. I played the campaign on normal and it felt more like super easy. Especially when you can get auto-mining gas, 2 drones per unit, and you do not need to inject your hatcherys. To me that was the most annoying part of the campaign: They take a HUGE part of multiplayer zerg and just take it out. Now I see why they do it as falling behind on injections is like stopping unit production for terran or protoss; but at the same time it makes the campaign very boring for the normal difficulty. I found myself just spreading creep and just waypointing my untis to the target and spamming queens/lings/ultras. While WoL challenged you with non-stop waves of zerg as you make your final stand, HotS instead gives you an unstoppable army that while fun for a level or two gets boring when it is your 7th time doing this. I tried doing just an infestor/lurker army and it came out to me insta-killing everything that moved. In short my scores look like this:
Execution of Story: 4/5
The campaign was fun, and I had a GREAT time playing it, but the final mission didn't leave me pumped and proud that I was able to pull it off like those of WC3/TFT/SC/BW and even Wings of Liberty. However the promise for Legacy of the Void is there, and I do believe that the final mission of that will make or break the game.
My final score is: 3.5/5