Game #33: Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm (2013)

kerrigan_customizationDirector: Dustin Browder
Language: English
Length: 27 levels
Finished on: 15 February 2016

This game is the first of two expansion packs to Starcraft II, and it includes the Zerg campaign and storyline, as well as a bunch of new units and tweaks to the previous game, but as I never played the previous game when it first came out, I don’t know it well enough to judge which units are new or not.

Content-wise, this game has the same number of levels in total as the Terran campaign, but in general it was a lot more linear. The Terran campaign tried something new with the system of earning credits and buying upgrades, before choosing a new planet for each mission. This game lets you choose between one or two planets to travel to next, and it’s not totally fixed which order you acquire new units in, but you are funneled through three levels per planet. Then you upgrade your character using limited skill points, and you can choose her abilities on an either-or basis, but you can just swap them around freely between levels (this does give the game some replayability). This was simpler but made me feel like less effort had gone into the system.

The story of this game, spoiler alert, is that the great Kerrigan, “queen of blades” and leader of the Zerg, was made human again by her boyfriend Jim Raynor, at the end of the last campaign. But in this game, she has to escape her prison and regain control of the Zerg. Simple enough, but confusing at the start because I expected her to be more fully human, and in some ways this campaign feels like a retread of some previous themes.

Anyway, she goes around and collects other Zerg characters to be her new swarm, and they revisit the Zerg homeworld – that was a very interesting take on the species that hadn’t been done before, and in the cinematic cutscenes they made them look like dinosaur-pokemon, but in practice they were the same units with different skins – a bit disappointing. They do other stuff over the course of the story, and as in the other campaign, there are some interesting levels, like one that freezes over every five minutes, allowing you to cut down the enemies. I also liked being able to “test” the new upgrades to units by trying them out in a mini-tutorial.

My major beef with this game is that I feel like the makers think they’re very modern by having the main character and a lot of the side characters be female (if monstrous), and yet Kerrigan looks like a modern sci-fi update of Lara Croft. She has massive boobs and curvy thighs, even when she becomes her monstrous Zerg form. Maybe I just don’t see the appeal. She also didn’t have much in the way of character – her main motivation in the story was her boyfriend and the rest of it was her posturing and saying pseudo-profound stuff about the power of the swarm. It got boring.

Oh yeah, and the other thing that annoyed me was all the units that were downright missing from the campaign game. Overlords were completely useless, for example, as at no point did it let me upgrade them to dropships or detectors, so I ended up with a pile of them sitting behind my base on every level. I’m pretty sure some other flying units were just missing too, or at least underutilized. Again they put more effort sometimes into reintroducing units from the old game as a campaign special.

That said, I did still enjoy playing it, and I was looking forward to starting the next campaign. Real life, as I mentioned before, got in the way a bit as I got sick and stopped playing. I just haven’t taken it up again yet.

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