StarCraft II: Heart Of The Swarm Starts Beating

By Craig Pearson on March 12th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeech!

“… and over to Craig, who you might say is at the ‘heart of the launch’. Ahahah! Craig?”

“Thanks, Cara. I’m reporting live from the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm launch. You might say I’m at the ‘heart of the launch’.”

“I just said that, Craig.”

“I know you did. I was just, er, vamping. You know? Okay. Look, I’ll admit. I wasn’t paying attention. Someone just told me Heart of the Swarm had been released. I was asleep 10 minutes ago, dreaming about helping Vince McMahon’s daughter choose survival clothes. It wasn’t even Stephanie. So, yes: Heart of the Swarm, the second game of the second StarCraft, went live just over eleven hours ago, and the always-on-the-ball RPS have a barely awake Scotsman telling you all about it.”

I just watched a trailer to get me in the mood, but I found it confusing. The trailer made it look like Mass Effect, but this is an RTS. After consulting with an expert (press release), I discovered that this was “the next chapter in the epic saga of StarCraft II. Kerrigan has arrived, and with the help of her brood, she aims to take down Arcturus Mengsk once and for all.”

It’s like Rachel and Ross all over again. We need more kissing and hugging in RTS games. Why won’t these two just get together and make babies?

Wait! I have facts! There are 20 new missions, better tutorials, some nicer clan implementation, and the stat-tracking fixes and UI polish that they really should have included in the first game. I will say that the spectator and e-sport additions seem pretty smart.

It’s out now, on the Battlenets. Are you playing it, or will you be too busy with the many other games that have recently been released. I’m all over Arma 3.

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98 Comments »

  1. BobbyDylan says:

    The postman still has my copy….. =(

  2. Brosepholis says:

    But surely the RPS coverage of this game should be uniformly negative, since it has always-on DRM?

    • Azdeus says:

      Surely, you can’t be serious?

      • guygodbois00 says:

        “I am serious and don’t call me Sirley.”
        Edit:
        Bah, saw that too late down the thread. “When I arrived at the scene my Boss was already there.”

        • Screamer says:

          He is serious. Mine hasn’t worked offline since patch 1.03, and Blizzard doesn’t seem to give a shit. I’m apparently playing a Starter Edition and are not allowed to play offline :/.

    • HisMastersVoice says:

      I’d make up some random complaints, but I don’t care about SC, or Blizzard for the matter, and I don’t want my negativity sound hollow. Or something.

    • emorium says:

      It doesn’t have always-on DRM. You can play it in offline mode after you activate the game by logging in once. It doesn’t track achievements but playing the campaign or vs the AI is definitely there.

      • Phantoon says:

        Well, most people can.

      • Squishpoke says:

        You are WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG!

        If you don’t log in to Battle.net once every month, they DEACTIVATE your offline mode and you won’t be able to play AT ALL.

      • benkc says:

        The always-on requirement for achievements, combined with the extremely flaky server connections, was one of the reasons Starcraft 2 left a bad taste in my mouth.

        (Another major reason was the extremely poor support for custom maps — the searching, rating, etc had a fundamentally broken design at launch, and they had made it impossible to get maps from anywhere outside of the game, so third party websites couldn’t solve the problem the way they had with Starcraft. I don’t know if they ever fixed that; at one point I heard that fixing it had been pushed back to HotS. At this point, I don’t care enough to find out.)

    • Groove says:

      Okay, firstly, no it doesn’t.

      What it actually has is online activation plus, going by WoL, you have to login once each month after that to keep offline mode enabled. Which is more of a pain than really neccesary, but hardly world breaking.

    • Milky1985 says:

      Doesn’t have always on, they DID break the offline a while ago for 2 months but its fixed now (after a lot of complaints since it went unfixed for a long time). You log in and have a working guest account for offline for a month like steam does steam.

      Azdeus , I am serious, and don’t call me shirley

    • DigitalParadox says:

      Steam and StarCraft are the two things that seem to get a free pass from RPS for always-online systems.

    • realitysconcierge says:

      Could someone please properly detail the DRM for HotS? It’s so muddled at this point for me, especially after the release of D3 and I can’t find anything about it on the interwebs.

    • mouton says:

      The only time RPS coverage is uniformly negative is when the game in question does not work because of it, like the new sim city. RPS is one of the most nuanced sources on the internets and claiming they will just murder a game due to a controversial feature is an insult. They will murder it for other poor things it includes.

  3. yandexx says:

    A Polish UI, nice!

  4. Milky1985 says:

    Played some of the SP last night, the changes to the zerg for single player are a bit…. confusing for people who played multiplayer before :P

    Make it a lot simpler as you don’t need to worry about things like larva injects to get extra larvae from the look of it , but there also seems to be no way to get extra larva, i just very confused when i got my first queen, instantly went to inject and “wait, where the ability gone. Hang on , why did this cost gas”

    Fun so far tho, and quite challenging.

  5. Jarenth says:

    Man, remember when the three-Starcraft-II’s were totally not going to be three full-price games, and that you’d totally be able to select which one you’d prefer with regards to race and campaign without impacting multiplayer compatibility? Yeah, me neither.

    Thanks for the excellent coverage, RPS. You’ve matched my own level of enthusiasm quite well.

    • Groove says:

      Damn them….for not doing…what they didn’t say they would do? I guess?

      The storyline may be terrible in WoL but the campaign is legitimitly 2-3 times longer and a whole lot more varied than the first game. Also it’s not like they’re turning off the WoL multiplayer now that HotS is out. It’s still there and it’s still excellent, it’ll just be underpopulated.

      • Werthead says:

        The original STARCRAFT had 30 SP missions and skirmish. STARCRAFT 2 had 29 SP missions (26 achievable in a single playthrough), skirmish and an interesting number of ‘challenge’ missions. These and the addition of the ‘dicking about on your battlecruiser’ sections between missions did make SC2 a bit longer than the original game, but very definitely not ‘legitimately 2-3 times longer’, and especially not when you throw in the 26 SP extra missions from BROOD WAR (since for about a decade you’ve only been able to buy them together).

        Blizzard did clearly hugely exaggerate a lot of claims about this. They originally said that when they mapped out the full storyline for STARCRAFT 2, they came up with about 90 missions, so they divided it into three games, each with 30-ish missions. WoL coming in at 29 backs that up. HEART OF THE SWARM coming in at 20 doesn’t. Then Blizzard said that they would charge “Expansion pack prices” for the second and third games, which sounded great exactly up to that point where Blizzard decided to redefine PC gaming prices by their own standards, rather than the market’s, which doesn’t really wash.

        Or to put it another way, we’re paying full-price for an expansion with one-third less content than we were originally told was going to be in it. It’ll still be a good game, I have no doubt (it better be, as after sighing disapprovingly I bought it anyway), but it’s fair to say that Blizzard have talked an awful lot of bollocks about the whole situation.

        • pkt-zer0 says:

          “one-third less content”

          That seems awfully cynical, as if any game’s just some amount of non-descript “content”. Quality over quantity, and all that. If the game’s at least as awesome as any other game I’d pay $40 bucks for, I won’t be complaining. WoL was great, so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here.

          • Werthead says:

            Sure, if HotS’s storyline is excellent, well-written, with great gameplay and makes for a solid experience lacking filler (which was a probelm with WoL), that does eliminate the issue.

            However, if a company says, “This title is going to be expansion-pack priced and be as big as the last one,” and it’s neither of those things, it is fair to point it out. It doesn’t stop it being a good game, though.

          • Vorphalack says:

            ”Quality over quantity”

            If it’s anything like its predecessor then 19 of the missions will be so easy you can sleep through them, and only the finale will require you to pay attention. Insofar as massing 100 damage siege tanks or vikings counts as paying attention…..

            Anyway, it could provide 20 missions with superb objectives and interesting maps, but I really doubt Blizzard have the intent of making something really challenging on brutal. Combine that with the premium price and the god awful writing coming out of Blizzard these days, and I don’t feel motivated to take a risk on HotS.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            Because difficulty equals quality. *sigh*

        • Groove says:

          I actually misspoke, I meant that the terran campaign is 2-3 times longer than the original, so the Terran campaign alone is the same size as the original Starcraft. So comparable prices is fair.

          • Werthead says:

            Oh yeah, SC2 actually has more content overall compared to the original SC, and paying full-price for it was reasonable (even the slightly-more-than-standard-price that most of us ended up paying for it). I’ve never believed the whole, “It’s a third of a game!” argument, which never made any sense.

        • Groove says:

          On the rest, I didn’t know about the 20 missions bit. That’s pretty damn cheeky, but it could still wash if there aren’t any short story/tutorial missions (The original SC had about 5 missions like that and WoL also had 2) and they keep the quality up.

          • Mokinokaro says:

            It’s 27 total according to the mission replay feature. Six are the missions used to test out upgrades before you use them and one is a bonus level.

            First mission was a tutorial, but the game picked up right after. The second mission might actually be a bit too long.

          • Groove says:

            I remember hearing about that actually. Nice. I’ve been looking forward to the big evolutions.

      • Jarenth says:

        I seem to remember them actually saying these things at some point in the unspecified past. I have been wrong before, though, so take my total lack of sourcing as the warning light that it is.

        • Werthead says:

          They definitely said that the expansions would be expansion-pack priced

          “You’ll need Wings of Liberty to play Heart of the Swarm, but Blizzard says the price will reflect the game’s limited content and expansion pack branding.”

          http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-06/01/heart-of-the-swarm

          Obviously that never happened.

          http://www.edge-online.com/features/blizzard-were-not-milking-starcraft/

          “In StarCraft II, we’re going to have a campaign that focuses strictly on the Terran. It’ll be 26-30 missions long, and you’ll play as Jim Raynor. When we release first expansion set, that’s going to focus on Zerg. So that’s going to be another 26-30 missions strictly focusing on Zerg. When we go to the final expansion pack, it will be the Protoss experience, probably another 26-30 missions…Well, if you want to say “one game” is 90 missions long, then yeah.”

          Hmm.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      HOTS is $40, compared to the $60 of the base game. Been standard Blizzard pricing for the last decade or so, IIRC. So, nothing surprising on that front.

      • Jarenth says:

        While I immediately believe that that’s true, you’re still not making me happy about it.

      • Werthead says:

        In the UK the going rate for a brand-new PC game is £29.99. Blizzard shipped SC2 with a RRP of £39.99, but the retailers refused to sell it for that. I picked it up for £32.99 and most shops sold it for about £32-35. HotS’s RRP is £29.99, though a few places are selling it for £25 or thereabouts (far fewer than those who reduced the price for SC2 itself though).

        It is expansion-pack priced, but only by Blizzard’s own internal pricing structure, not the market’s. By the market price it is a full-priced game, without the additional benefit that almost all PC games drop in price in the UK to £20 or thereabouts after just a few months on sale, whilst Blizzard’s never do. I can kind of see the value in not devaluing your product (and certainly the likes of Blizzard and Apple have benefitted from that), but it’s also annoying when companies use their size and popularity to charge way above the going rate for things. Of course, people are prepared to pay.

        • Schmudley says:

          It’s currently going for £22-£25 on amazon, on release day. Although to be fair that might be more than a non-Blizzard expansion would get.

          The economist in me would legitimately be fascinated by a study on prices for games, looking at things like the fact they have a negligible unit cost (if a digital download).

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          Blizzard’s own prices will always be the highest. You don’t undercut your own vendors.

  6. mrpier says:

    I was only interested in this for the single-player, but since the terran part was a bit naff, I don’t think I’ll bother with this.

  7. sophof says:

    Blizzard’s games appear to be more and more for a niche audience. I hardly know anyone playing them nor anyone excited for this release. Although it could just be the people I know I guess.

    I feel like they should be worried a little, having so many eggs in such a small basket and everything.

    • Werthead says:

      This is going to easily be one of the top five selling games of year, and almost certainly the biggest-selling single-platform game of the year. I don’t think Blizzard have anything even remotely to worry about commercially. Certainly creatively they should really start doing some more varied and interesting things (and perhaps hire some new writers for their ‘CRAFT games), but I don’t think anyone there is worried about the company going bust any time soon.

    • Chalky says:

      It’s just the people you know. It’s easily one of the biggest releases that we’ll see this year.

      Their eggs are in a small number of extremely large baskets.

    • Mister_Donut says:

      I don’t know anybody who voted for George W Bush, either, but he got elected twice.

      I, for one, am champing at the bit to play this game.

  8. Hirmetrium says:

    She’s dead Jim.

    Except you wouldn’t let her die. And now shes crazy, and wants to be all Zerg up in your arse again.

  9. solidsquid says:

    Was excited initially, but I think I’m just gonna wait on this one for a bit. Got plenty of other games to be playing and it’s not like it won’t be available in the near future

  10. Rao Dao Zao says:

    The thing that annoyed me about the WoL campaign was that they promised a 26-30 mission campaign… But we got five or six 5-mission campaigns because it’s all bloody side missions. Where did the epic 30-mission story go? Wouldn’t have minded one or two side-quest missions, but the central story itself seems no longer than any one-race campaign from the original game.

    Anyway, profoundly apathetic about this. Might pick it up once the price drops, maybe if there are any staggering editor improvements… It doesn’t help that zerg are horrible. :(

  11. mrcalhou says:

    I know WoL has a comparable amount of missions to the first game in the series, but I found the missions went by a lot quicker than in the first Starcraft. I’m hoping a few more HotS missions are a bit longer than in the WoL.

  12. Moraven says:

    Could have started campaign on EU or Asia, but waited until it was available for NA. They took down the servers for like 30 minutes and almost exactly had 12am PST you could login right away. Did about 8 missions. So far it seems structured better. You have multiple missions at one location instead almost every mission being at a new location. You still have the here is your new unit and this mission and built around using lots of them. Achievements/Challenges seem a lot more simpler, with none so far requiring the game on Hard or Brutal. Kerrigan as a hero unit mixes things up some. Each zerg unit can have 1 of 3 Mutation equipped (so for zerlings, you can have fast movement, attack speed or more HP), later you unlock an evolution which completely changes the unit. Flying raptor zerglings are fun.

    So really some of the same ole but some new stuff. Hopefully it expands more later in the campaign.

  13. tinners says:

    I think we should be giving kudos to Blizzard for a major game release that has so far (touch wood) not encountered any server issues on launch day? Also the fantastic launch party that was streamed live all day on twitch.tv.

    I feel genuinely sorry for all the people who haven’t been a part of the SC2 phenomenon so far, in my opinion its the ultimate test of skill in multiplayer video games to date.

    • Ysellian says:

      You must be Terran. Because as a zerg player Wings of Liberty was pretty much surviving until you got BL/infestors and then it was pretty much game over for your opponent. Trying any other stategy was like hammering a nail with your fists. Heart of the Swarm promised something different, but so far nothing has changed apart from the fact that Terran and Protoss have gotten more stuff with which to kill you.

      It’s a poorly designed RTS game with the illusion that it’s competitive because of a pro scene that only exists because of it’s predecessor.

      • tinners says:

        “It’s a poorly designed RTS game”

        Oh come on mate. No other RTS game has undergone so much refinement and balance changes over such a long period of time. To balance a game with 3 distinct races must be an incredibly difficult task, but I think we reached a stage with Wings of Liberty where it is pretty close.

        Admittedly though you are correct, brood lord / infestor is very strong in the late game for zerg, and that has been reflected in a lot of recent tournament results.

        HotS is a totally different game, zerg no longer has the strongest late game army but a more mobile force. Will be interesting to see what happens in the pro scene.

        • Ysellian says:

          Thanks for staying reasonable after a pretty unreasonable post of mine. There were just some stuff that during the beta that really annoyed me and it was more rage talking than anything else but I’ll probably be getting HotS in the future, because you are right to be honest.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      “I feel genuinely sorry for all the people who haven’t been a part of the SC2 phenomenon so far, in my opinion its the ultimate test of skill in multiplayer video games to date.”

      Well, opinions and all that. As former SC:BW fiend I got hyped up for the initial launch of WoL, but once I actually got my hands on it I found it mildly tedious and entirely uninspiring. I try to watch big tournaments from time to time to see if things have gotten more interesting, but I’m always disappointed.

      Like most of Blizzard’s efforts since around the end of Burning Crusade, it strikes me as a fundamentally conservative effort. The polish is there, but underlying ideas and mechanics feel restrained, even timid, where they were expansive and bold in Brood War, Warcraft 3, and early World of Warcraft.

      Obviously we’re both espousing highly subjective views here; best we just agree to disagree, I suppose.

  14. c-Row says:

    Is it just me or has StarCraft really slipped from “OMG, it will be out on this and this date!” to “Oh, it’s released already?” territory these days? It certainly doesn’t arrive with the OOMPH the first SC and even WoL did…

    • nimzy says:

      And people say marketing is a lost cause…

    • Werthead says:

      I think it depends on how closely you’re following. Amongst casual gamers who perhaps only play SP and maybe a bit of MP for a few weeks after release and then move onto other games, it’s definitely been a fairly low-profile release. For those really into the franchise, there’s been tons of previews and beta reviews and Q&As with the developers. A lot of that has been focused on the unit and balance changes for MP and the pro-scene, which is interesting if you’re into that and completely irrelevant if you’re primarily into SP.

    • tinners says:

      There was a 24 hour live streamed launch event that got about 150k viewers on twitch.tv. I’d say that’s a fair bit of “oomph”

      • Moraven says:

        Plus all the people at the 4 global launch event sites.

        But I do agree. There has not been much coverage for the expansion campaign in the past few months. I guess there was not much more to talk about, but does not hurt to get people talking about the same stuff again.

      • Ernesto25 says:

        That to me feels like the COD/ AAA games which are noticed by national media attempts to go “HEY EVERYONE LOOK AT ME LOOK AT MEEEEEEEEEEE IM IMPORTANT” style of marketing. Ill be getting the game but it just seemed needy and unecessary.

  15. rocketman71 says:

    Still no LAN. Still no sale.

  16. Stevostin says:

    39,99 € ? really ?

    Make it 19.99€ and we’ll talk. Oh, Blizzard is never doing sales ? Too bad, then.

    • Moraven says:

      They do sales, just not Steam frequency.

      Base game was 50% off leading up to the expansion. Was a holiday sale. A time or two before that also.

      They just have no need to follow the Steam typical sale trend. Release game. Sale in 3 months for 33%.
      50% off in 6 months. 66% off next time there is the summer/winter/random holiday sale.

      Sure you will wait until its at your buy price point, but it does come around…eventually.

      • Ernesto25 says:

        I so meh about the game even though im going to get it soon. Im actually looking forward to the single player tech tree and cut scene mechanics although the story itself will probably suck after a promising start ala WOL. I hope i dont get into the multiplayer as much due to discovering to my horror that there are3 worse communities than css. Its why i don’t feel sorry for people not into the sc2 scene due to obcious balnce issues and the fact evryone in chat in a GM apparently.

  17. Koozer says:

    Nice trailer for Dawn of War! Fnar fnar.

  18. Ernesto25 says:

    I so meh about the game even though im going to get it soon. Im actually looking forward to the single player tech tree and cut scene mechanics although the story itself will probably suck after a promising start ala WOL. I hope i dont get into the multiplayer as much due to discovering to my horror that there are worse communities than css. Its why i don’t feel sorry for people not into the sc2 scene due to obvious balance issues and the fact everyone in chat is a expert distratcs from the games potential.

  19. Eddard_Stark says:

    Somebody please do a favor to humanity and restrain Chris Metzen from writing already. HotS is hitting new lows right when you thought it cannot get worse than D3 and WoL. Well ok, D3 may have a more moronic plot and unmatchingly horrendous dialogue overall but, boy, is HotS getting close to that. Don’t want to spoil anything but prepare yourself for epic amounts of cheesy and cringeworthy shit. Fucking unbelievable, pardon my French.

    • Werthead says:

      It is interesting. Bethesda and Blizzard both make many, many millions of dollars from their games. They are huge companies. Why, in the name of all that is holy, can they not hire some good writers?

      • PsychoWedge says:

        Because they wouldn’t make all those gazillions of megadollars if they did? Apparently people really dig the word schlock they produce. Or at least they like it so much as not to complain…

  20. Zyrusticae says:

    I just wanted to mention that I’ve run into a crippling bug that sends my entire machine crashing into the Abyss randomly. I’ve already ruled out all the possible machine-related culprits (memory issues, overheating, instability from overclocking). It’s pretty fucking jarring considering, well, I really expect a LOT better from Blizzard. Their games may be many things, but they are usually NOT unstable, certainly not unstable enough to CRASH MY ENTIRE PC.

    I am incredibly bitter right now. Yeah, the changes and additions seem to be pretty interesting, but if I can’t even play the damn game what the hell does it matter? Grumble, grumble, mutter, mutter…

  21. Danarchist says:

    Guys just in case any of you have a limit on your broadband downloads like I do, buying the expansion on disk will NOT get you around downloading the game client. The disk only contains the setup.exe and a few other files.

    I have had allot of downloads on my 4g this month already and now I have to wait to get back to the States to play ><

    It would have been REALLY nice had they warned us

    • Screamer says:

      Its fucking atrocious! What the hell is the DVD for then? I have to download 6 gigs, and the DVD just started the install. There’s 8 gigs of data on the disc that is not used. Why the fuck isn’t the into vids at least on the disc. Blizzard seems to be run by arrogant morons!

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