StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Review

Beyond the roughly 27-mission singleplayer campaign, Blizzard has made a number of new design choices to lower the barrier to entry as well as foster a less daunting and more rewarding multiplayer experience for new or casual players. Foremost is a leveling system that offers players meaningful progression regardless of their success on the ladder against other human opponents. Every unit and structure built and destroyed awards XP that goes toward leveling up a player’s Battle.net account and unlocking rewards, such as portraits, dance animations, and unit skins.

Aside from the leveling system, Blizzard has included new and unintimidating training programs to ease new players into Battle.net’s cutthroat ladder. Improved AI allows players to practice against tactics more similar to an actual human opponent than ever before in this series. A new option even allows players to partake in “unranked” games — matches that use their ladder rating to find equally skilled opponents but that don’t affect their standing in the ladder, thus easing the pressure.

Once players do hit the multiplayer ladder, they’ll find that HotS is a more balanced game than WoL was at launch. Aggressive and gimmicky tactics are presently a very strong option, but as players learn to deal with these new tricks, the situation will stabilize. The new units — and modifications to existing units — have evolved the base game in significant ways. Protoss air play is a much more viable strategy than it was in WoL, as is Terran mech play, and Zerg players have new ways to control the battlefield.

What’s more, Blizzard finally brought clan support and shared replays, features the community was requesting since the launch of WoL. While it’s difficulty to award points for adding a feature that should have shipped with the base game — clan support — the ability to view replays in a multiplayer setting and even take control of the replay more than makes up for the wait.

Ultimately, Heart of the Swarm is a much more enjoyable and satisfying game than Wings of Liberty and is superior to the base game in every way. If I may paraphrase “Hey Jude,” Blizzard took a great game and made it better. HotS has a stronger appeal to the casual gamer, a more intuitive interface, upgraded visuals, a more enjoyable campaign, greater tactical diversity, and even the one aspect of the game that I can truly complain about — the story — is better-executed than WoL’s. Speaking as an avid StarCraft 2 player, I feel Blizzard has done right by its RTS community.

Pros:

  • Enhanced visuals
  • Engaging singleplayer campaign
  • New training programs to help players become ladder-ready
  • Lowered barrier to entry
  • Incentives to retain casual players
  • Improved AI
  • New tactical variety
  • Clan support and shared replays

Cons:

  • Anticlimactic final campaign mission
  • Story doesn’t live up to its potential

Final Score: 92/100


Game Front employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.

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5 Comments on StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Review

ted

On March 21, 2013 at 5:16 am

Definitely agree with you that it was the story that felt lacking. Everything else, I really enjoyed in this expansion pack. Hopefully the last one, whenever that comes out, will present the improvements in the storylines.

Mike

On March 21, 2013 at 3:47 pm

You do realize that this isn’t even really an expansion pack, since heart of the swarm is supposed to be the middle part of the Starcraft 2 campaign. The story isn’t supposed to be satisfying, since its technically the second of three acts.

CJ Miozzi

On March 21, 2013 at 4:54 pm

@Mike:

An ending is always supposed to be satisfying. I do not equate satisfaction with tying up all loose ends, or with being “happy.”

Chris

On March 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm

why were wings of liberty and HOTS lacking? because that wasnt the ending .LOTV is techincally the ending. HOTS is the middle.

Drizzt

On March 27, 2013 at 8:19 am

Maybe I’m weird that way, but I wanted Kerrigan to succeed. Sure, HotS is no DA:O or Mass Effect (if you ignore that one’s ending), but SC never was. Anyway, I really liked HotS, including its campaign.