StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Preview – Here’s Everything New
Article written by James Murff and CJ Miozzi
Page 1: The Narrative
Page 2: Singleplayer Mechanics
Page 3: Multiplayer
StarCraft 2′s first expansion, Heart of the Swarm, releases in two weeks, serving as the second installment of the trilogy and focusing on Kerrigan’s quest to recapture control of the Zerg in her regained human form. Featuring a new 20-mission campaign with RPG-like mechanics and a host of changes and improvements to multiplayer, Heart of the Swarm is poised to breathe new life into 2010′s StarCraft 2.
Here’s a preview of what you can expect.
Compared to the original Starcraft, Wings of Liberty’s themes were a little more human and down-to-earth. Blizzard has always had a flair for the dramatic and world-ending, but Wings of Liberty filters that intensity through the struggles of Tychus Findlay and Jim Raynor. Betrayal, redemption, and catharsis are all major themes in Wings of Liberty, and they are used to good effect. Now that the redemption of Sarah Kerrigan is over, what is there to do?
Two years later, Kerrigan is still mostly human, but she retains enough zerg in her DNA to be a threat. A number of local warlords have sprung up among the formerly unified zerg in her absence, mimicking the division in the Zerg at the start of Brood War. Kerrigan is thus set to the task of fighting off the murderous Dominion while attempting to reconsolidate her rule after two years away from being the Queen of Blades.
It’s interesting to note that Starcraft did not originally have much in the way of an ongoing arc. Everything wraps up nice and neat at the end of the original game: the Terrans and Protoss team up to kill the Overmind, granting Kerrigan her freedom and removing the threat of the zerg. The first hints of a greater story arc instead lie in Brood War.
There are three important plot threads that begin with Brood War that continue through Starcraft 2. The first is Kerrigan’s struggle between her humanity and her bloodlust. It is unclear whether she is fueled by vengeance, the zerg corruption, or her own rage, but the Kerrigan of Brood War wants to consolidate the Zerg under her rule and will stop at nothing to do so. It’s not that easy, unfortunately, and her attempts during Brood War end up carving through countless Terrans, Protoss, and even Zerg. Eventually she stands triumphant against the forces arrayed against her, and takes the newly reunited Zerg back to their home planet to lie dormant for a few years. It’s a baffling turn of events, but understandable when viewed alongside her struggle to retain her humanity.
The second is the creation of Protoss/Zerg hybrids. This was originally shown during a secret mission involving Zeratul and the rogue soldier Samir Duran, but begins to play a much larger role in Starcraft 2. While Duran is apparently not around, the researcher Emil Narud (Duran backwards, to note) has continued research on Protoss/Zerg hybrids. This ends up biting the Dominion in the ass, as the hybrids escape and start wreaking havoc when Jim Raynor finds one of the secret research facilities. In addition, the future shown to Raynor by Zeratul makes it clear that the hybrids would eventually be the extinction of all life at the hands of the Dark Voice. The visions shared with Raynor also make Kerrigan’s role more clear: she was the Overmind’s escape plan, as the Overmind was programmed to do the Dark Voice’s will. Kerrigan, as an infested Terran and not a full-born Zerg, has free will.
Finally, there is the Protoss exodus. This doesn’t really end too well, as the Dark Templar end up losing their beloved leader and a good portion of Protoss are killed in the process of fighting off the Zerg. These events tie directly into Zeratul setting off to find out a prophecy regarding the future of the universe, and subsequently the revelation that Kerrigan should be saved, not killed. The Protoss are still players in Koprulu Sector politics – as the roaming eradication fleets in Starcraft 2 make clear – but they are far more withdrawn than they were in Starcraft and Brood War. How this impacts Kerrigan’s second ascent to power remains to be seen.
Unsurprisingly, Heart of the Swarm will likely wrap up Kerrigan’s story in the same way that Wings of Liberty wrapped up Raynor’s. Her internal conflict between humanity and Zerg corruption is guaranteed to be a major theme, and her role as the “savior” of the Zerg swarm is likely to be examined as well. This is Kerrigan’s expansion pack, after all. I expect some more on Zeratul (to set up Legacy of the Void) and more on the Dark Voice (to set up the conclusion of the series) but it’s likely these will either be optional side-missions or secrets to be found.
Just don’t expect any clear answers except for those pertaining to Kerrigan’s fate. Heart of the Swarm is the middle of a trilogy, and it is exceedingly rare for such stories to have any sort of satisfying conclusion.