Community Review — Starcraft II: Heart Of The Swarm

Community Review — Starcraft II: Heart Of The Swarm
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

So Starcraft buddies — did any of you actually play the new Heart of the Swarm expansion pack, or did you just spend the weekend watching MLG. Be honest with me!

Because I understand that. I would totally understand if you did that. I ‘played’ Halo for the longest time but for the longest time ‘playing’ meant watching other people play. But surely, with Heart of the Swarm being released, plenty of you actually spent a lot of time playing — what did you think of the new expansion?

Let us know in the comments below.


  • Did not watch.

    I waded through the placing matches (1v1 through 4v4) to get put into the leagues and in the campaign I have caught up with Zeratul.

    Loving it so far, I can’t search for groups? I want to find particular groups but I can’t work out how to look for them.

    I’m not usually a MP person, but yeah I’m dipping my toe in the water. Everybody is being so nice to me. Really.

    • There’s a button next to your friend list on the bottom right that’s your groups/clan tab. There are two buttons at the bottom of that tab, “find” and “create”, so from there you can search based on categories or just input a keyword search.

      And yeah StarCraft 2 has one of the nicest in-game communities I’ve ever encountered.

  • I’ve finished the campaign but instead of diving into the ladder, like I had originally planned, I did watch MLG instead. No regrets there.

    The campaign itself is far too easy on Normal difficulty for anyone even slightly familiar with SC2. I’m going to have to replay on Brutal to see how things go. That being said, the campaign only units are a lot of fun (splinter Banelings, Roaches that spawn mini-roaches when they kill things, Raptor Lings that respawn and regenerating Ultras). You can get away with some truly insane unit compositions and the unlockable changes to units and Kerrigan mean you can really muck about with how things are done.

    There’s a fair bit of variety in how the missions are structured. Some of them boil down to just “build base, kill enemy”, other times you do things like piloting the Hyperion from Wings of Liberty.

    The new units in multiplayer look like great fun, although this is mainly from watching Beta and MLG streams. Oracles make Skytoss look so damned inviting, Widow Mines and speed Medivacs make map control a lot more interesting for Terran and Vipers just look like a shitload of fun.

    I’ll hopefully do some laddering this week as Protoss.

  • Not much I can say about the game without spoilers and to be honest I didn’t enjoy the campaign that much or maybe it was because I was forced to play it on a laptop which is uncomfortable.

    If your buying this game anyways it should be for multiplayer reasons anyways.

  • Only played part of the campaign so far. I think it’s pretty good but not as good as Wings Of Liberty. Stand out is the improved unit animation, especially when you’re attacking with a swarm of zerg units.

  • I’ve just finished the campaign on brutal, haven’t found time to play multiplayer yet.

    As others have mentioned, the story isn’t as logical or captivating as the first game, but it nonetheless had its entertaining moments here and there.

    As for the structure of the campaign, some of the missions seemed interesting (the new “boss” fights and the missions that aren’t just “build a base and attack”). However, a lot of the missions seemed to be based off a similar counterpart from Wings of Liberty; I won’t spoil which missions match up with which, but the ideas for the missions seem really stale, they just recycled missions from Wings of Liberty, changed the map and made you play for the other team (ie Zerg)

    In terms of difficulty, this time round, brutal seems a little easier than the brutal mode in WoL (either that or I got better as a player). Most memorable for me was the last mission, which was way easier than the last survival mission from WoL (or the last Protoss one from WoL). A lot of the time I could get through the mission on brutal in my first run, and ocassionally reloading autosaves to get achievements that I missed.

    As for the new features of upgrading Zerg units, a lot of them were interesting and unique; and most of them were quite balanced, it wasn’t clear which strain of the unit was better and which one was worse – it was situational, which is good (we tend to try and find this “optimal build” thing and that creates a lack of diversity in play). Some of the upgrades for Kerrigan were very similar to some research upgrades from WoL (which made things feel more like copy+paste) but otherwise her new set of skills were quite diverse and balanced, allowing an incentive to replay missions and choosing different skill sets for Kerrigan.

    Cinematics and music again were wonderful, but the storyline didn’t do justice to the quality of animation. I’ll leave it here for now as this comment is getting long.

    • In terms of difficulty, this time round, brutal seems a little easier than the brutal mode in WoL (either that or I got better as a player).

      I played the WOL campaign for the first time a week before HOTS and it was on brutal. The difficulty of that was far better than HOTS on brutal.

      HOTS difficulty was very very disappointing.

  • I regret playing it through on normal, it was far too easy! That is the only negative thing I can think of because the rest of it is amazing! That’s all I can say without spoilers lol.

  • The almost direct rips of Diablo 3 bosses for the Prime Zerg boss fights was fucking lazy. The dude you feed was basically Belial reskinned.

  • Campaign Review:

    One thing that the campaign has actually done that hadn’t in previous games in the series is have a strong emotional attachment to Kerrigan, especially now she turned human again. You begin to understand why she does what she does and how corruption of any source can cause anyone madness and I don’t just mean self corruption. There are a lot of unanswered questions that have been answered and guest appearances also which was a nice change. Certain decisions from Wings of Liberty carry over which results only in minor dialogue changes. As stated by others, the campaign only units and missions are diverse and fun. Yes, sometimes you think the story is aimed for 10-15 year olds but nevertheless it has definitely lead up to the concluding Protoss expansion quite well.

  • As one of the only people on the planet who can’t stand starcraft multiplayer but enjoys the campaign (sort of), can I get a bit of review advice on the campaign?

    I found that the Wings of Liberty was plagued by missions in which circumstances were forcing you to rush to beat some kind of timer. Enemy waves escalating, evacuation timer, alien ship blowing up civilians, the trains running, escorting Tychus, the expanding sun wall of fire, kerrigan hunting for artifacts, etc, etc.

    Yes, I am aware that this is done to get people up to speed with the multiplayer mindset where you DO have to rushrushrush. But my favourite type of RTS gaming is where you can turtle up. (You used to be able to do that in most of the original Starcraft.)

    Is HotS’s single-player campaign more turtle-friendly? Less reliance on timers and deadlines?

    • Missions where you’re racing a timer are few and far between and I don’t think there are any that deal with base building.

      There are also a lot of missions where you aren’t base building but instead running around with a hero unit (normally Kerrigan) and whatever spawns the game throws at you. So yeah, you can turtle in most missions. I didn’t.

      • Awh, base-building is a critical part of turtling! Huddling up inside your impenetrable defensive layer finally building your overwhelming horde. 🙁

        • At least half the missions involve serious basebuilding. More than half even. He just meant the timed ones tend not to.

          • Oh. Yes. I can see how he meant that now. Reading comprehension fail.

            Thanks to everyone for informative responses, too!

    • There were a few missions without timers that still forced you to move forward. Once specifically had ships flying over that had to be killed by your progression. Anytime you killed one the next would arrive – forcing you to move fast enough to clear the map but slow enough to allow you time to get to the next one.

      Most though allowed you to build a good squad of banelings and then roll on over the opposition.

  • Liked the campaign; though not as much as WoL.

    I’m not sure what I think about multiplayer. I know I’m only gold, but I haven’t seen the Widow Mine, Swarm Host, or Viper used in any meaningful way.

  • Both. 😛 The campaign was far more engaging than WoL, imo, which may have been caused by the intriguing characters, Kerrigan in particular. I always felt Raynor felt a little generic, but the events that mould Kerrigan’s attitude make her a genuinely interesting character. She knows exactly what she wants to achieve, and will do anything to achieve it, while accepting the consequences of her actions. As far as mission structure, there’s a fair bit of variety which keeps things interesting, and the evolution options, by and large, are amazingly fun. Can’t comment on multiplayer, except that from watching MLG, Zerg seems to be having a lot of trouble dealing with Terran medevac boosters.

  • I’ve only touched the first few missions of the campaign but so far I’m liking the mission design and hating the characters and story. My sister’s always hated the StarCraft 2 story and basically skips every single cutscene but she’s enjoying the gameplay too. Having a persistent hero character reminds me of the WarCraft 3 campaign but I’m having to get used to it a bit. At first I got too over-eager and got Kerrigan killed quite a lot because I thought she could handle a few enemy units solo.

    I played my placements but I’m terrible since I never played the beta and scraped into Gold league. The new units are great and I love how a lot of the old units were buffed, too. I don’t think anything has been nerfed (although the Reaper has changed so much you can’t really say if it’s been buffed or nerfed), which is great since it makes everyone feel more powerful without being imbalanced.

  • Finished the Campaign on the weekend. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Long enough to have some substance but short enough not to overstay it’s welcome. Just don’t dissect it – the plot holes are huge.

    I’ve never been one for multiplayer but I’m seriously tempted to jump in – the new format works well and is really inviting.

  • Played and finished the campaign on normal. (like others here I think it may have been on the easy side… I’d level the same criticism at WoL)

    I’ve always played Starcraft for the story, but without giving too much away or coming off as a big pansy, I really am rooting for Jim Raynor here. I hope he gets a ‘second shot’. I definitely felt the emotional heartstrings being pulled at times – hell, I grew up with these characters. I do give a damn what happens to them.

    One thing which I can say, completely spoiler-free, is that HoS gives me the same impression that Dawn of War II, Warcraft 3 and Wings of Liberty left me with: the feeling that the ‘big battles’ have already happened, and they are now part of an ‘epic mythos’ that may not come again.

    In HoS I found the notion of the ‘swarm’ was playing second-line to a Kerrigan-centric force of elite units with more focus on micromanaging a small number of pieces, rather than the feeling of grand strategy that came in the first game (Starcraft 1, and especially its expansion – Brood War).

    The giant, grand battles of the series lore haven’t really feel present to me throughout Liberty and Swarm. Even in the final chapters – they didn’t have the same sense of scale that Starcraft and Brood War did – when I had Raynor’s Raiders and Tassadar’s protoss assaulting the Overmind, or the sense of the ‘pivotal moment’ in the UED’s invasion on Korhal.

    Maybe it’s because the game was simpler, and didn’t have to over-present itself, but I remember those battles making me genuinely nervous from a story perspective. A lot hinged on them.

    I haven’t felt that in sequels of late, and I find that sad. I hope it’s just set-dressing and foreshadowing for the events to come, but the thing which is annoying me most about “Real Time Strategy” games these days is that the aspect of actual “Strategy” has been removed, and replaced with “tactics.”

    Tactics win battles
    Strategy wins wars.

    On the plus side… this game had more polish than the Pope’s fine china. The story remains good enough to keep me impatiently counting down the months (lets be honest: it will be years) to Legacy of the Void, and I can forgive the minor plot fails (Nova vs Tosh… the outcome apparently didn’t matter – HoS recognises only one of those two decisions from Wings of Liberty.) I will probably play this again, and if anything, it’s inspired me to replay the entire series again – from Rebel Yell all the way to Heart of the Swarm.

    Final note… Blizzard’s mission design of late is ticking me off. If there is one thing I hate in an RTS game, it’s being rushed to complete objectives. The amount of time mechanics in Starcraft II so far has been ridiculous, and the missions where you can actually focus on just taking your time, building a base, getting comfortable, and crushing the enemy in your own way are feeling fewer and farther between. Even if there isn’t an actual ‘death clock’, there is almost always an outside element that is literally forcing the mission forward – be it the ‘zombie horde’ that will win the mission with or without your help, or the tram that eventually stops whether you want it to or not.

    Seriously – I’m playing a game with base building because I like to build bases. It’d be nice if they actually let me spend a little bit more time on that.

    Bring on Legacy of the Void!

  • Finished up with the Campaign, and agree with the consensus that the Difficulty is pretty easy on Normal. I pretty muched 1-A’ed my way through all the missions (I did instant Zergling with jumping banelings instead) and barely had any trouble.

    Story-wise, it was generic but engaging enough that I wasn’t too bored while playing it. There’s more plot holes than Swiss Cheese, but honestly I wasn’t really expecting much. The way HotS ended…. like really? Big Bad talking to our heroine and then it ends like that? What a stupid Big Bad.

    One thing I’d like to ask the community this: Where did the Guest Account/Offline mode button go to? Have installing HotS made SC2 into a always-online game?

    • Yup always online, incase you didn’t notice everytime it loads a single player map the data gets streamed from the blizzard servers.

  • Marketing failed to me. I didn’t know it was released until I go to local EB Games shop. Not much ads on this, I love the campaign. Love the story line. And beautiful animation and CGI. But Primal Zerg more like Comodo. They could do better model

  • Played on Normal-
    Yes I never felt Challenged but I had a lot of fun.
    I never thought I could lose and that’s fun.
    When it’s winding up to her most difficult battle yet I was kind of like how?

    Content- Although enjoyable was rushed. There was not extra’s (like the arcade game)
    We got a single mission with the Battleship and again that seemed rushed. They could of expanded on that and I’m actually looking forward to mods developed from there.

    Would I recommend this game?
    Hell no.
    I’ll never recommend always online games to anyone. I told my friend not to buy this game.
    But, like me, he bought it anyway. Makes us feel dirty..

    If just for multi player? As protoss I’ve now moved to air and they seem way OP.
    Terran there’s no difference to my game play. New units either done use or appear useless.
    Zerg again, no big difference but I’m not great and mico managing.
    I’ll have a few goes and its fun but I’m not going to spend hours practicing..
    I work full time and have a wife etc.. If I needed to work at something it would be my fitness.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!