Two weeks ago, way before the long weekend thanks to holy week and way before BioShock Infinite blew my mind, I was playing a game on my PC. A game that just went live with it's expansion. Thanks to it updating your game client to the most recent version of the game, all I needed was an account that had already activated that expansion. Thankfully a friend graciously offered me to try it out when he's not online, so I took the chance and started playing Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm's Zerg campaign.
I'm pretty grateful a friend of mine Moe, gave me this opportunity since with the crazy 1st quarter line up of games coming out, I wanted the expansion but it wasn't my priority. Heart of the Swarm expands the Starcraft 2 game with a continuation of the game's story and added units for both campaign and the crazy famous multiplayer that is all over E-Sports right now. My focus is the campaign mode. I enjoyed what Blizzard did in the Terran campaign, so I was quite curious how the Zerg would play out.
The gameplay is nothing new. Everything is quite familiar and that's a good thing. Minor visual aids are added into the game such as showing the number of harvesters you have in a given hatchery, but aside from that, same game, just different skin.
If you haven't finished the Terran campaign, then playing the Zerg campaign will be an instant spoiler for you right off the bat. Heck, the new menu screen is spoiler enough. So if you have no idea about the story, skip the paragraph below, or simple read at your own risk.
With Kerrigan no longer the Queen of Blades, she regains her memories and actually has no recollection of her ever being the Zerg queen. It's as if that part of her was ripped out of her when you activated the Protoss device. Apparently her ability to control Zerg is still there, but nowhere near as her old self. Through the course of the game, you slowly see Kerrigan regain her control as the Zerg queen, placing all her focus in getting revenge from Mengsk, the Dominion leader.
From what I'm told, I am halfway through the story and its pretty much straightforward really. A bit of Kerrigan romance with Jim Raynor here and there, and her getting a grip of the Zerg swarm once again. The story has nothing fancy or anything that would make your head hurt. It's a personal vendetta for Kerrigan to kill Mengsk, and that's mostly the main angle. The real overall threat introduced in the Terran campaign still lingers in the story's background, which made me to believe that part in the story will conclude during the Protoss campaign, or Blizzard says otherwise and adds more expansions to extend the game's lifespan.
The missions in the game play out very similar to the Terran campaign. you are usually given two planets with different variety of missions, each having a new unit introduced and unlocked for the player to use. A bit of player choice was given there but its more of what you prefer doing first than anything else. One planet and mission introduces the Mutalisk unit, while the other unlocks the banelings.
Just like the Terran's upgrade feature, which allows you to add a certain upgrade to improve or add an added effect to the unit, the Zerg has evolution and strains that change certain zerg units to your liking. each unit in the game has three abilities you can pick from which can be changed at any time outside of a mission, like giving zerglings increased movement speed, or more health regeneration to roaches. But since you have to pick one out of the three available, it boils down to how you want to play that unit.
Customization becomes a bit deeper with evolution. As you progress through the campaign, you are given two choices to evolve that given unit permanently. The choice you make on this one disregards the other evolution. Some are pretty hard decisions since both come out strong, while some are just a no brainer. It's a good addition and encourages an additional playthrough to try different evolutions.
Hero leveling is something new in this campaign. With Kerrigan slowly getting her powers back, doing side objectives or moving forward into the campaign gives kerrigan levels which improve her damage and health. Reaching a certain threshold like level 10 for example, allows you to pick a new ability . There's always two choices when you reach a certain point, and you can only pick one at a time. But there's room to experiment since you can change her abilities anytime outside a mission.
Missions in the game is quite similar to most RTS. Some are full on base against base, while some are limited unit missions with Kerrigan, or survival missions that require you to hold off for a given amount of time, the usual seen in RTS games. I'm playing on brutal difficulty because I like giving myself a hard time, and I'm definitely getting the challenge. It felt like a refresher course for me since I'm originally a Zerg player and playing on that level kept me at the edge or my seat. The computer is relentless.
The added evolutions and the mix of old and new units make the campaign worth playing. As you upgrade and evolve your units, you might feel a bit overpowered, but it's really just another angle on how you play that certain unit. I still think the drop pods of the Terran in the first campaign is one of the strongest upgrades, and I'm still on the lookout for something as strong.
I don't plan on touching the multplayer exclusively anytime soon though, sad to say. I was completely addicted to the MP when Starcraft 2 first went live and I just don't have time to get used to the meta all over again. Starcraft 2 can be complex, and believe it or not, it involves a lot of practice and skill to rise up. I've done it, and again, I just don't have time. Maybe ill do a few rounds just for fun, to try out the new units on each side, but my reaching the top division days are over.
The campaign is fun but nothing groundbreaking is seen here. But one thing is for sure though - As much as Starcraft 2 is the same game way back when the first game came out, the game is still so much fun for any RTS fan. It's formula is so simple that a casual or new player can pick it up and have fun, but at the same time complex and deep that it can also satisfy the professional and hardcore. Blizzard really struck gold with Stacraft, and they maintained it so well that the sequel and its expansions will have the same, or even longer lifespan as the original. be it campaign or multiplayer, Starcraft 2 is still the king of the RTS genre. It's that simple