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StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Review


Each iconic race gets an energizing upgrade in this first expansion for an industry leader

Posted by Evan Witt (FiverBeyond) on Mar 19, 2013 - 7:59pm EST (Mar 19, 2013 19:59)

If media were superheroes, then the chief superpower of games would be ‘interactivity’, but a close second would be the mystical and otherwise untouched wonder that is ‘expansion’. Don’t get me wrong: you can always release a director’s cut of your film, or maybe rewrite sections of your best-selling novel, but true expansion of one completed work into a new independent entity is where games, even board games, are the real kings of the hill. Good expansion is more than just adding some new skins: it changes the nature of the game itself, takes apart the concepts that make up the original, shifts them around, and then puts them back together to form something just as great. Think of it like ripping apart a Ferrari and using the same pieces to build a Porsche (your call on whether this is an improvement). It’s a tricky task of balance that applies to every expansion: whether it’s new class updates for Team Fortress 2 or a new faction in Civilization 5. But hard as it may seem to believe, a truly great expansion should feel a little unbalanced. A great expansion gives each player some new toy that makes them jump up and down for joy.

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

The StarCraft series has been exemplary in this area: the original StarCraft was a well-balanced game, but Brood War did the unthinkable and gave every race something blatantly unfair: Terrans got marine-boosting medics, Protoss got invisible high-damage assassins, and Zerg got cloaked splashers. Get out of town! While not being an expansion, StarCraft 2 followed in this grand tradition by seemingly giving each race a significant upgrade. Terrans combined medics with their dropships to get medivacs, Zerg finally got the ability to move underground, and Protoss’ new robotics bay toys seemed specifically designed for hosing siege tanks and zerglings. The result is that every race feels turned up to eleven - but as long as everybody is turned up to eleven, the game stays balanced overall. This is the secret of truly enticing expansionary gameplay. So, does Heart of the Swarm carry on? In a word, ‘Yes’. In three words, ‘Awww, heck yes!’

Each race’s additions feel not only well designed, but even just a touch overpowered. The Protoss gain a new spell caster in the form of the Mothership Core which comes onto the battlefield early and provides, like the Sentry, a host of useful non-damage spells. Real time strategy spells tend to fall so easily into simple area-based attacks that it’s a real pleasure to deal with a unit which is mostly devoted to positioning: the Mothership Core can recall all nearby units back to a nexus, or place a blocking Time Warp field that slows ground units. The Zerg also get a lovely new spellcaster in the Viper, which similarly has a unique approach to combat with its Abduct ability. Abduct pulls a single enemy unit toward the Viper. That’s all it does, and yet, this ability turns out to be incredibly useful, letting you drag away important pieces of your opponent’s forces straight into the loving arms of your waiting army.

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

Possibly my favourite of the new additions is the Terran Widow Mine, Terran’s only burrowing unit, which fires off a splash-damage rocket at any approaching enemy and, joy of joys, resets itself after a short rest. It’s not uncommon for first-time widow mine defenders to take hit after hit to their army as they walk around the battlefield, wondering where those nasty rockets are coming from. This unit is incredibly annoying, and ‘annoying’ is precisely what we want our army to be. There are other additional units that fill in well-needed positions in their army, but these three in particular shine in their roles.

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StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm screenshots

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm screenshots

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm screenshots

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm screenshots

SpectralShock - 7 days ago
Next up, the big show - E3 in June!
SpectralShock - 13 days ago
PAX East this weekend
Captain_Mark87 - 38 days ago
Titanfall has eaten all my spare time!!!
SpectralShock - 48 days ago
Lots of reviews coming this and next week!
with_teeth26 - 53 days ago
The first great challenge of Dark Souls 2 is determining the PC release date
Captain_Mark87 - 61 days ago
Titanfall was super fun. Strider review coming at you soon.
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StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm box art
Platform:
PC

Our Score
We Said
86
Great
"Each iconic race gets an energizing upgrade in this first expansion for an industry leader"
Game Ranking
StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm is ranked #105 out of 708 total games.

104. Mass Effect 3
PC

105. StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
PC

106. Far Cry 3
Xbox 360
Screenshots All

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
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