Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Release Date: 2013 

Developer / Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment

Story:

The Starcraft saga takes place in the XXVth century in the Koprulu sector of the Milky Way. Starcraft is about the war between the Terrans (humans), the Zerg (somewhat Alien looking hive minded alien insects) and the Protoss (martial alien philosophising race with advance technology and psychic alien powers). The 1998 Starcraft release is still played casually and professionally to this day. After a twelve-year hiatus, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty marked a triumphant introduction of the game to a new generation of still drool prone gamers (rather than the near toothless old video gamers of Starcraft). Familiarity with Starcraft lore is a requisite to make sense of the plot. A short recapitulative of the Jim Raynor – Sarah Kerrigan love letters would have been a welcome addition. It had been a few years since I played Starcraft II, and I could only recall Jim saving Sarah at the end of Wings of Liberty. I had forgotten a good half the cast. In summary: Emperor Arcturus Mengsk (Dominion), really bad ambitious guy, typical banana republic leader but with near endless ambition and serious firepower; Sarah Louise Karrigan (Zerg), good girl played by you; Jim Raynor, love interest of Sarah, good tough guy played by you in the previous instalment. Plot: Sarah wants revenge (to get even with Arcturus).

Playability: Efficient gameplay

The Zergs may not be the easiest race to play in the Starcraft II universe, but Heart of the Swarm makes them accessible to even novice gamers. The in-game tips are tailored to each mission and available at a key stroke. The brood advisor provides useful vocal tips (more drones needed to extract gas etc) without being annoying. The online multiplayer has a bevy of trainings, tips, tournaments and challenges for casualists and would be e-olympians alike.

Annoyance: Melodramatic Brood Mothers

The plot rambles along a single straight tale of revenge. Kerrigan is out to get even with Emperor Mensk, and she believes the dish is best served piping hot. One can only feel sorry for the Zergs. They’ve just found their Queen again, but only to be taken on a rampage across the galaxy. Millions of Zergs will die. The Brood Mothers are fittingly a brooding lot. The Heart of the Swarm is not a page turner, its plot pulls out polished though predictable clichés from dusty old tales.

Beauty: Purple, bluish, dark darkness

Tricia Helfer (of Battlestar Galactica fame) was not given the most refined lines to read. Each time you give Sarah Louise an order, she dutifully complies with the same repetitive punch lines. This gets sometimes incongruous as the poor Zergs get pummelled by superior forces. The cinematic of the Heart of the Swarm are beautiful, but the Real –Time Strategy graphics are clearly a notch below the cut scenes. The purple, bluish, dark darkness of the Zergs do not do justice to their fully modelled characters. Mini Zergs on the maps are ugly looking, while their counterparts in the Evolution Pit are gloriously rendered (and even worryingly cute).

The Old Video Gamer’s Prattle: Swarming with polish 8/10

Heart of the Swarm is a polished classical Real-Time Strategy game, and a worthy addition to the Starcraft II trilogy. The classic plot is sometimes soppy (though bloody). The gameplay is fun and has features for pro players and inoffensive gamers alike. Of course few old video gamers will ever make it to the Korean e-sport leagues or to Wimbledon, but it is still nice to have a casual Starcraft II or game of lawn tennis with friends over the weekend.