StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Preview – Here’s Everything New
Page 1: The Narrative
Page 2: Singleplayer Mechanics
Page 3: Multiplayer
Wings of Liberty shook up the original Starcraft’s campaign design by introducing a more involved campaign structure. Rather than progressing along a linear path of missions with no customization between them, the player is given a mercenary ship and told to take missions when they want and how they want. In addition, units and technologies are upgradeable rather than static, allowing players to customize their expeditionary force. In essence, it gave a strategy flair to the tactical combat of Starcraft.
In this same sense, Heart of the Swarm is poised to blend RPG elements into the mix. Where Raynor researched technology and upgraded units, Kerrigan evolves and changes as she completes missions. She is more of an RPG heroine with a party at her back than a mercenary commander with limited resources, after all.
This focus on more RPG-styled mechanics almost guarantees the return of hero units from Warcraft 3 — it would be very surprising if Blizzard didn’t toss in some hero mechanics. The code is already there, as anybody who has delved into the wide world of Starcraft 2 mods can attest, so expect some more hero involvement compared to Wings of Liberty.
The other major mechanical shift is that of units. Terran units in Wings of Liberty were unlocked and given neat abilities through research and resources, but that doesn’t fit the Zerg. Instead, players will be given options to mutate and evolve units. Mutations are stat shifts and minor functionality changes – faster attack speeds, moving while burrowed, things like that – which can be changed between missions. In contrast, evolutions are permanent changes that make a unit into a new sub-type with unique properties. Want a faster zergling that spawns in groups of 3 instead of 2? You got it.
These mechanics emphasize the true nature of the Zerg swarm. They are there to consume and evolve, not gradually improve themselves through research or mysticism. The Zerg are only improving with each challenge they tackle head-on, and Heart of the Swarm will undoubtedly feature that style of gameplay prominently. You are here to eat the bad guys and get their cool stuff.
Besides the tonal shift from strategy to RPG, Heart of the Swarm is shaping up to be very similar to Wings of Liberty. Unique missions, lots of single-player-only units, and an emphasis on variety over the classic “destroy the enemy base” objective are all guaranteed to be a part of Kerrigan’s story. It’s one of the strongest points of Wings of Liberty, and if Heart of the Swarm maintains that menagerie of mission styles then it’ll turn out just as good.