Well... one benefit of the restrictions due to Coronavirus is the fact that I can finally get some games off my backlog of unplayed games! The Starcraft 2 trilogy along with the Nova Convert Missions is one such game! I've been having a great deal of fun in the evenings playing a mission or two and just indulging in the Zerg/Terran/Protoss story... and the love between James Raynor and Kerrigan (aka The Queen of Blades) that is split apart by universe spanning catastrophe! Really, the love interest part... it's worse than Star Wars (Ep 1-3), and that really is saying something!
Still... I LOVE IT!
The 2nd installment of the epic Starcraft 2 story starts off where the Terran campaign: Wings of Liberty left off. Kerrigan (no longer the Queen of Blades) wakes up in the research facility with James Raynor and the rest of the Terran rebels from the first campaign. They think that they have "cured" her of the taint that led to her being the leader of the Zerg, also known as the Queen of Blades. However, the Terran Dominion forces (led by Arcturus Megsk) attack the facility... Sarah Kerrigan escapes, but James Raynor is captured... and presumed executed.
Consumed by vengeance, Kerrigan reclaimsto the mantle of the leader of the Zerg and once again becomes the Queen of Blades... hell bent on visiting destruction and death upon the Terran Emperor.
Zerataul (the renegade Protoss prophet) pays her a visit (just as he had visited the Terran rebel, James Raynor) trying to warn her of impending galactic doom... however, for the moment, the galaxy ending nightmare will have to take a back seat to her personal vendetta.
Along the way, she will need allies, both old, new and unexpected.... before reaching her goal of exacting a final vengeance on her old nemesis. Will she retain some semblance of her lost humanity?
At a tactical level, there is very little different mechanically to the Terran campaign that started the trilogy. The same complaints that I had there hold true here as well, a bit of floatiness to the way that the units move and interact with the terrain, and more annoyingly a very close level of zoom...
The main difference is the style of play that Zerg have in comparison to the Terran forces. The Terrans excel at turtling up and building slowly from a stronghold. The Zerg are rushers... with fast producing early units, you are looking to hit an early advantage with the strength of numbers to hinder the growth of the enemy team. However, that sort of tactical play on really starts to make much of a difference in the multiplayer competitive games.
In the story campaign, like the Terran version, it is basically an introduction and tutorial to the units and tactics that are available to the Zerg... with the missions sometimes following a heavily scripted path to emphasise the strengths and weaknesses of the Zerg tactics and units.
In this installment of the Starcraft 2 trilogy, there is a much heavier emphasis on the hero character of the Queen of Blades. She appears quite often as a playable hero unit with some pretty devestating special powers. In many ways, when combined with the Zerg meatshields and the low difficulty of the single player game... she is really quite overpowered! Still, it is really a great way to put across the power of the Queen of Blades, in the cutscenes she is showing off some pretty killer moves and attacks!
Those powers are linked to the completion of extra mission objectives in the campaign, which can be used to level up the Kerrigan/Queen of Blades hero. In the picture above, you can see some of the skills that are available for the Kerrigan hero, which has two choices for powers at each power level.
Later, when Kerrigan morphs back into the Queen of Blades and takes her rightful place as the leader of the Zerg, she gets three choices per level. The choices aren't hard-locked in, which is a little bit weird... but it does mean that you can switch things up to suit the particular mission that you are playing, however, in practice you will find a favourite combination and generally stick to it. For me, it was having mostly passive effects with a couple of active powers as I hate to micromanage!
On the metagame level, there is a option for a soft mutation of your Zerg units. Each of the units has three slightly different mutations that can affect some basic stats of the unit... nothing really that fancy. However, the difference with the Terran campaign is that these are not hard-locked into the unit and can be changed at will between missions.
During the Zerg campaign, you will unlock some Evolution missions. These are short demonstration missions which showcase a HARD and irreversible evolution of your Zerg unit. This will drastically affect their abilites and playstyles, so it is really wise to choose carefully the mutation that will best suit your playstyle... otherwise you could find yourself at a slight disadvantage.
Visuals, Sound and Performance
For a game that is relatively old by computer game standards, The Heart of the Swarm has aged pretty decently in the visual department. The in game visuals are nothing to write home about.. but it is functional if a bit annoying in the zoom level (too close!). The static scenes and pre-rendered cutscenes were never heavily reliant on hardware and so these still look great... and do a great job of conveying the epic space soap to the gamer!
To be honest, I preferred watching the cutscenes to playing the game... but if you are real hardcore competitive RTS multiplayer gamer then you will definitely feel differently!
Sounds were appropriately different to the Terran campaign.. there is more biological squishiness to the units, compared to the clanky metal sounds of the Terran soldiers. Sadly, the funny unit barks aren't really present in most of the units, as they don't "speak"!
2013... that was when Heart of the Swarm launched on the PC. 7 years later pretty much anything that has a power button can run this game! Performance is definitely not an issue!
From a gaming point of view, most of the drawbacks of the Starcraft 2 gaming engine that I had in the Wings of Liberty review still hold true here. That said, it must be remembered that this game debuted in 2013... and the hardware and gaming landscape was vastly different to what it is now! So, from a gaming point of view, the single player game is functional if not very challenging!
However, competitive multiplayer is the real focus of the Starcraft 2 games... and that continues many years later with a wildly popular professional scene in Korea. Balance is critical in these situations, and it is a real testament to Blizzard's skill in the genre that Starcraft 2 is still held up as THE model for competitive RTS gaming.
What grabbed me was the continuation of the epic Starcraft 2 story... and the continuation of the Raynor/Kerrigan romance! I'm a nerd, and I love these terrible cringy space operas! The cut-scenes are great... and story leaves one really hanging on for the Protoss conclusion of the trilogy. Which leads me to say that I'm really glad that I'm playing all of these years after they launched... and not waiting 2 years for next installment! It's like being able to binge watch all your favourite TV series!
Played at 1080p (144Hz) on:
Intel BX80662I76700 Core i7-6700 Prozessor (3,4GHz)
6GB EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 SC GAMING
Ballistix Sport LT 16GB DDR4
Samsung 960 EVO M.2 512GB
S4 Mini Case (NFC Systems)
Splinterlands (aka the best blockchain game out there!)
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