|Genre: Strategy & War|
|Min OS X: 10.7|
The game itself has also received a graphics upgrade, but not one you'll see. For whatever reason, Heart of the Swarm runs like lightning on a MacBook Pro that occasionally chugged for Wings of Liberty. Whether it's an optimization previously done or a recoding for the expansion, it's a welcome upgrade. The game also looks just as good as ever, with death physics, fluid animation, clear and distinct GUI, and little details everywhere. You won't see more than a tiny bit of it if you turn the graphics detail down to minimum, of course, but even that tiny bit is quite good.
So then, should you buy Heart of the Swarm? Ordinarily, it'd be a simple matter of saying "It's a Blizzard game, so definitely!" but there are a few things you have to think about before this particular purchase. For one, do you think $40 is a fair price for an RPG-style campaign and a few new units? This is a loaded question, as there's no way to get a usable used copy of Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm. Once a code for the game is attached to your account, nobody else can use that code anywhere else. As a result, nobody can resell a copy of the game unless they didn't activate it in the first place. Unless Blizzard itself decides to lower the price as part of a special deal, you won't be able to get a discount.
In addition, you can't unlock achievements in the single-player unless you play while connected to Battle.net. It does make sense from a cheating-prevention point of view, but this also means that a lot of people won't be able to play through the campaign the first time unless they're on the internet. This is at least a bit better than Wings of Liberty's initial always-connected requirement and Diablo 3's current always-on requirement, but it's still very annoying if you want to play while traveling. Still, if you don't really care about achievements, you can play through everything without much of a hitch.
And then there's the lack of Local Area Network multiplayer. This is obviously to prevent piracy more than anything else (even though the game was cracked quickly anyway), but that still isn't much consolation to the people who enjoy lag-free LAN parties. This has been an issue since Wings of Liberty, and it seems to be a major bugbear going forward. As Diablo 3 proved, Blizzard seems to be moving as far from a standalone game as they can. Every new release forces you to go through Battle.net to do anything, even when the players clearly want to be able to play offline. It's going to be an issue for a long time, so you do have to think about whether you want to support that attitude.
Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm is darn fun, though. Even with all of the above, it's really hard to just sit back and not buy the games as they come. So, in the end, you just have to make a choice. Will you support Blizzard and buy a great game, or hold your money back and spend it on a game released with your views as a gamer fully represented? Most people would say buy it. $40 is at least cheaper than a likely less-fun game from another major publisher. You could do much worse than one of the best strategy games released in the last year.
• Varied missions
• New campaign composition
• Entertaining new units
• Lack of replayability
• Still no Local Area Network
Franklin Pride is a game development graduate and professional programmer/consultant for the Unity development engine. He is currently developing Chainsaw Ninja In Space in addition to numerous projects for his clients.