Cut to the chase, Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm is a worthy successor to Wings of Liberty. Is it perfect? Nope. But it's really damn good.

Install/Collectors Edition

Ok so I bought the Collectors Edition and made the video above to show it off a bit. I nabbed the ol' Blizzard battle chests back in the day and then the collectors editions for Starcraft II, Diablo III and now Heart of the Swarm. I have never felt like any Blizzard collectors edition wasn't worth it and this is no exception. It is very similar to the Wings of Liberty Collectors except Heart of the Swarm contains a few more digital goodies and the Zerg Rush mouse pad. Looking forward to tearing through the art book and making of videos.

Since the game came with a DVD install disc I decided to use that to save myself a bit of bandwidth. After you click install the disc spins a bit, a few files install and then you start the 6.1G download for what I assume is most of the game itself. Same experience on Windows 7 and the Mac. I imagine what Blizzard did is provide a minimal install base and then just points you to battle.net for the rest of the game. Kind of a waste of a install disc but it seems to be the way of things. If you didn't have internet there would be no way to play this game.

The download was REALLY quick and battle.net delivered the files as fast as my internet connection would allow. I lost connection to battle.net while I played the game and the the single player wasn't effected by it. At one point battle.net alerted me I wouldn't get achievements for a while. After an hour I started getting them again. Not a huge deal but it happened.

Single Player Campaign

Blizzard has a style of storytelling all its own that takes a bit of getting used to so after a few starting missions I was back in the swing of things. The starting missions were a bit jarring in that Raynor kept referring to Kerrigan as "darlin'" and somehow that just never sounded right to my ears. Blizzard has a few nice visual set pieces awaiting you and so far its a great campaign. That said, Blizzard's style of story telling isn't hard to guess and something big happens right away and I kind of know how its going to end up. That doesn't mean the game isn't interesting, its just not very subtle.

I think a few elements make a great story and some are at play here but one of them is missing out that could really make Heart of the Swarm and other Blizzard titles a bit better off. Character arcs. Typically in a great story you have a character that makes a journey or arc. They learn something, get stronger or overcome some fear to win out in the end. It seems to me, from playing Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, Diablo III and now Heart of the Swarm, Blizzard characters have no arc. They are typically one note from start to finish. They might get stronger, but they are the same person from start to the end. I guess from time to time they become a prime evil without choosing it or something, but that's not really the same thing.

**edit** I provide more context on the character arc point in the comments.

That said, the game is beautiful and it also showcases some amazing art design in the new Zerg characters Blizzard created for the story. Some of the new characters are so well designed I find myself looking at them quite a bit.

The missions are varied and found them challenging enough but nothing I couldn't take care of.

Score

I will most likely come back and analyze the score in another post but I wanted to write a few words about it in this post. After one listen of the soundtrack from start to finish I wasn't immediately grabbed by it. Some of the arrangements in a few songs rubbed me the wrong way on the first listen. That said I never got that impression in the game itself, so from the scores first goal of working in the game itself, it totally succeeds. I will listen to it on its own a few more times and highlight a few of the stand out tracks in an upcoming post.

Fin

So to sum things up, the game is very well done. Its not perfect and I wasn't keen to a few beats, but I am enjoying the ride and am looking forward to finishing it.

Travis   Admin   Member wrote on 03/13/2013 at 01:08pm

In terms of character arcs, I kinda felt that the main characters of Diablo 3's story were Leah and Tyrael. You were just playing the powerful friend. The two of them had stronger arcs.

jdodson   Admin   Member   Post Author wrote on 03/13/2013 at 01:52pm

Hmmm Tyrial I could see. But Leah? I don't know. Was thinking about this last night. Blizzard often has a character change into something evil without their consent. I don't know if that's an arc.

jdodson   Admin   Member   Post Author wrote on 03/13/2013 at 02:24pm

The more I think about character arc's and games the more I think I realize that most video games don't do that. Its hardly a Blizzard thing really.

And you are right about Tyrael, he really does have one and its actually a cool one too. After playing a few more missions, Kerrigan is changing, but its more like she is going from Angry => More Angry. That's an arc, but its pretty one note. They have some in game conversations that seem to give her some humanity but it was pretty clear she would move the direction they wanted and I saw it a few missions in. Id talk more about it but spoilers and all that.

Anyways, so I want to backout on my Character arc thing a bit as with more reflection it seems most games I play with a story don't really use them either. And after playing the game more, yeah there is one here its just not amazing. BUT you know, by the end it might have changed.

PS this doesn't mean the game isn't fun to play or the story isn't good, it is.

Travis   Admin   Member wrote on 03/13/2013 at 04:07pm

Nah, Leah went through an arc, from being incredibly skeptical and dismissive about her uncle (somehow), to losing him, and then becoming steadfast in helping along her uncle's work. I mean, it wasn't an amazing arc or anything, very little about D3's story was, but I'd call it an arc. I don't even count being a vessel for Diablo as part of her arc, really.

Travis   Admin   Member wrote on 03/13/2013 at 04:09pm

Combine with that her lack of faith in her own abilities, finding her mother who trains her, and then betrays her as she's getting confident. So I guess in that way being the vessel for Diablo *could* be part of the arc.

jdodson   Admin   Member   Post Author wrote on 03/13/2013 at 04:13pm

I don't count that Diablo III spoiler you mention as being an arc because she didn't choose it. And yeah, you are right she did have an arc.

I think I am confusing a few points in my mind about Blizzard games. I guess you have a few kinds of characters in the Blizzard verse. Good people and then everyone else that murders babies and wipes out entire continents and civilizations. Again, its a broad stroke but its fairly prominent in HoTS and D3. Maybe its just a over reaction or something, I don't know.

But again, the game is good I am just taking a stab at a few things that rubbed me the wrong way. But then again, if I want fuzzies and rainbow happiness I shouldn't go to Blizzard. :D

AdamPFarnsworth wrote on 03/13/2013 at 07:53pm

Well, Tauren, Worgen and Pandaren are fuzzy.

I know, that added nothing to the discussion. You're welcome :P

jdodson   Admin   Member   Post Author wrote on 03/13/2013 at 08:19pm

They are fuzzy and warm. But so much murder.

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