Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm
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Game Reviewed: Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Platform: PC, Mac
Category: Real-Time Strategy (RTS)
ESRB Rating: T
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Heart of the Swarm is an expansion for Starcraft II that picks up where the first piece of the trilogy, Wings of Liberty, left off. (To find out more about the initial game and backstory, check out our review here.) Heart of the Swarm begins with the newly rescued Sarah Kerrigan, formerly the Zerg Queen of Blades, recovering in a containment area. She and Jim Raynor, mercenary leader and Kerrigan’s rescuer, must escape the clutches of the Terran Dominion and Arcturus Mengsk, the conniving dictator who left Kerrigan to become captured and turned into the Queen of Blades by the Zerg. Kerrigan’s desire for revenge and realization that Mengsk will ceaselessly hunt her drives Kerrigan to build an army of Zerg with one goal: to bring down Mengsk once and for all.
The second part of the Starcraft II trilogy adds a few new units to the multiplayer scene. The single player campaign is a bit more flexible than the first, allowing you to change some choices that were previously one-time selections, such as choosing certain unit types or abilities. The game generally is played in the same way outside of the campaign, although several achievements and challenges have been added. Starcraft remains one of the more balanced and competitive online games available, and is one of the more significant games in professional competitions.
What Parents Need to Know
Violence remains a primary part of the Starcraft franchise which, as I said in the review of the first part of the trilogy, is not a surprise for a game based on intergalactic war. Improved physics in the game engine actually add an additional element of gore to the game, with bodies and parts sliding across ice or realistically burning up in fire. The Zerg, who players spend a bit of time with through the campaign, still die in bloody pieces and explosions. Humans and Protoss also come apart bloodily at times when killed. Several fights in cinematic sequences are rather brutal.
There is a fair amount of profanity within the game consistent with the previous editions of Starcraft. A--, h---, b---h, and d--n are all present and accounted for. As with all multiplayer games, there’s no telling what you may see or hear in an online match.
Human Kerrigan sports a skin-tight body suit. Kerrigan and Raynor kiss. One of Raynor’s officers has conversations with an acquaintance that involve some innuendo.
Though not particularly spiritual, several characters in the story have psionic abilities (this is a made up ability, just for the game).
Some individuals are seen smoking. The Zerg and their forerunners thrive on a “survival of the fittest” mentality where weaker creatures are killed or otherwise assimilated in order to benefit the stronger. On a positive note, Kerrigan begins to show some restraint as she regains control of the Zerg swarm. At one point, Kerrigan allows the remnants of an enemy force to limp home where the previous Queen of Blades would have mercilessly slaughtered them. Kerrigan also gives Raynor and his crew time to evacuate some civilians when she begins an assault on Mengsk’s capital.
When it comes to gameplay, Starcraft II is still the king of real-time strategy. The new units help keep things interesting in multiplayer. The story and cinematic sequences are engrossing. The game looks great, but this also adds some realism and additional gore to unit deaths. Families should consider the violence, blood and language in the game when making their decision on whether to play Starcraft.