|Genre: Strategy & War|
|Min OS X: 10.7|
Mac OS X: 10.7 | CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo | RAM: 2 GB | HD Space: 20 GB | Graphics:(ATI): Radeon HD 2600 Pro; (NVidia): GeForce 9400M; Intel HD Graphics 3000
It's that time again. Blizzard Entertainment has released another game and people are lining up in the millions to buy it, if they haven't already. Still, with the recent always-on issues with Diablo 3, people are starting to throw a little dirt Blizzard's way. These may be great games, but the business decisions behind them are still making many people balk at purchasing them. With the polarized atmosphere surrounding any Blizzard release, the question is: "Does StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm justify its cost, or is it just not worth your time?"
Unless you are the most die-hard Blizzard hater, Heart of the Swarm is worth every hour and penny spent. There are a few major differences between the Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm campaigns, though. For one, there isn't a money system for progression in Heart of the Swarm. All upgrades are done through story sequences and the ability choices for your hero unit, Kerrigan, can be switched in front of every mission. In addition, the achievements feel much easier to complete this time around. Completing the final mission in Wings of Liberty on hard, for example, is crazy difficult the first time through. The one for Heart of the Swarm, however, is rather routine and easy by comparison.
This ends up leading to a lack of replayability for the campaign. You may find yourself replaying a mission for an achievement or two along the way, but replaying the campaign itself tends to feel boring. There aren't any branching missions to pick an alternate side of, all your abilities and upgrades for your units feel exactly the same, and the difficulty isn't that high even on Brutal. (Zergling Reconstitution + Raptors = easy win) What ends up making it the most boring, though, is the story. After spending the entire campaign of Wings of Liberty with a brooding and reasonably-complex Raynor at the helm, it's not very interesting to spend the entire campaign with a one-dimensional "gotta kill them all" Kerrigan. The ending of the first campaign is even mostly negated by the end of Heart of the Swarm, ruining the impact of that initial charge into Char. In the end, it just felt hollow.
Why would you buy the game with that in mind? The first time through the campaign is still loads of fun. The missions are widely varied albeit stupid sometimes (She destroyed our doomsday machine? Send three more, one at a time!), the side characters reveal loads more information about the Zerg's organization and internal squabbles than ever before, and the missions tend to be quite entertaining. There are also boss battles throughout the campaign which tend to require more twitch mechanics and less unit control. They are a pleasant distraction from the usual mission focus of building a base and spamming units, but those bored with World of Warcraft raid bosses will likely not enjoy them.
You'll also find that the new multiplayer units are loads of fun to play with, even if they do make it more complicated to plan out a good build. The new mine is quite balanced, but devastating when used properly, the viper pulls in high-value targets for destruction and renders tanks helpless, the mothership core turns a Protoss nexus into a giant raygun, and the new custom maps popping up around their use are getting better and better. Even if you ignore the campaign entirely (which you shouldn't), you'll likely find hundreds of hours of fun through the additions to the multiplayer.
As an added benefit, Battle.net has been upgraded to use a lot of community requested features through Heart of the Swarm. You'll find chat rooms, an easy-to-use list of custom maps currently popular (you won't likely be able to find enough players to start a map that isn't), unranked matchmaking for people that don't want the stress of league play, and an overall cooler look. When compared to the spartan nature of the Wings of Liberty Battle.net, it's a gigantic improvement. You'll be able to get the upgrade without buying Heart of the Swarm, though, so you may want to forgo the purchase if that's the only thing you're excited about.