StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Preview
Considered a cult classic by many StarCraft was (and is) an incredibly popular real time strategy game. The sequel was announced a few years ago and during development of StarCraft 2 Blizzard announced that the storyline they had created was so epic that they were breaking the game up into three parts, each one focusing on one of the races featured in the game. StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty launched worldwide on 27th July 2010 and focused on the Terran race with the storyline of Jim Raynor and the game ends with a massive question mark over the future.
It seems only sensible then that the second part of the StarCraft 2 trilogy focuses on the Zerg race, a key characters quest for answers, and a little revenge. StartCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm will be launched worldwide on 12th March 2013, and ahead of the game releases we decided to take a little look at what we can expect from this new expansion.
(Note: Some spoilers for those who have not completed the campaign in Wings of Liberty)
The campaign mode in Heart of the Swarm will pick up some two years after the end of Wings of Liberty. It will focus on Sarah Kerrigan, now returned to human form and her desire to regain control of the Zerg swarm.
Understandably annoyed with Arcturus Mengsk for abandoning her to the Zerg swarm in the first place she sets her sights on revenge. To achieve this she will have to regain control of the Zerg, which in her absence has split up into several broods, each one controlled by a powerful Queen.
Sarah will have to do this while being hounded by the forces of Arcturus, including a team of Terran Ghosts lead by Nova. The campaign mode will take us through the story and will no doubt lead into the final expansion Legacy of the Void which will focus on the final race, the Protoss.
Heart of the Swarm will feature new units that we get to use during the campaign mode and in multiplayer, one of the main features of StarCraft 2.
Each of the races will get their hands on some new equipment. The Tempest is a new Protoss capital ship, designed to counter the Zerg and Terran long range weapons. The Tempest will be able to hurl massive sphere's of highly charged particles over long distances.
For the Zerg we have the Viper, a support unit that carries various biological weapons that will weaken the enemy and allow the Zerg swarm to get the edge in battle.
Finally for the Terran forces Blizzard have added the Widow Mine. This remotely piloted unit can be moved into an area and then left. The unit will then automatically activate when enemy forces are near, launching missiles which will explode in a storm of shrapnel causing splash damage.
As well as the new units some of the well-loved veteran units from Wings of Liberty will be getting a face lift in the new expansion. For example hellions will be able to upgraded to transform into hellbats, allowing them to engage in close combat with enemy forces.
New Maps and Upgraded StarCraft 2 Editor
The maps in StarCraft 2 have constantly evolved since the game was originally launched. In Heart of the Swarm there are a whole heap of new official maps being released for multiplayer play. These new maps will provide new tile sets that will set players new challenges and create new opportunities for strategies.
Blizzard is also using Heart of the Swarm to update the StarCraft 2 editor. The editor provides the player base with a powerful tool to create custom maps and extreme variations on standard gameplay. The editor will be upgraded to include advanced functionality for game cinematics, better UI editing and new animations/models.
Improved Community Involvement
Finally with Heart of the Swarm Blizzard are improving the community experience with StarCraft 2. Two new ways for players to enjoy the multiplayer aspects of StarCraft 2 are being added, Groups and Clans.
Groups will allow a maximum of 20 players to form together and take part in more social activities. Clans are aimed more at competitive play and will allow a maximum of 50 players to compete under a single banner.
In addition Blizzard has added a new 'take command' option on saved replays. This feature will allow us to pick up a game from a saved replay, even re-enacting famous games between the best pro players on the StarCraft 2 circuit today.
Finally Battle.net will have a refreshed user interface that will make it easier for us to find these new features and to use them quickly.
Heart of the Swarm will be available as a digital download direct from Blizzard and will come in two versions, a standard edition for £32.99 or a deluxe edition for £42.99. The deluxe edition will feature exclusive in game content, including a new Zerg baneling pet for World of WarCraft players.
The game will also be available to buy in brick and mortar shops and as usual a collector's edition is available for £54.99 with the standard edition set at £29.99. The collector's edition will feature the same extras as the deluxe digital edition, however it will also include a Zerg rush mouse pad, a soundtrack, exclusive behinds the scenes DVD & Blu-Ray and the Heart of the Swarm art book.
So, StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm is shaping up to be an excellent second edition of the new StarCraft 2 franchise. Soon we'll be able to continue the StarCraft 2 storyline and find out whether hell does indeed have no fury like a Kerrigan scorned.