StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Review

It’s been a long time since we last visited the story of Jim Raynor, in fact it has been over two years since StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was released. In this time, the game has changed a good bit from balance changes to just random features, but there hasn’t been anything substantial. StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm attempts to make those changes by following StarCraft: Brood War’s formula of a few units for each race, a new campaign, and a few minor changes to the interface.

Is this expansion worth the price tag ($39.99 at launch) or can SC2 fans safely ignore the expansion? Let’s find out.


StarCraft II: Heart of the Swam has been rated T for Teen by the ESRB. It contains:

  • Blood and Gore
  • Language
  • Suggestive Themes
  • Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
  • Violence

Gameplay - 87 / 100

Well this boils down into two categories, the new units and the new campaign, because there isn’t a lot new to the gameplay. Hilariously enough, for a game like StarCraft, saying there isn’t a lot new is like an instant 100 because no one really wants anything new. Heck, from what I feel like, this expansion almost emulates Brood Wars (Hellbats feel oh so much like Firebats because I mean, they are).

So let’s go over the new units. Terran gets Hellbats (Firebats) that are Firebats because well Firebats and Hellbats are pretty much the same. Firebats are a hilarious unit because they’re so oddly balanced in StarCraft. In the original they were pretty much super powerful and complained about all the game, so in SC2 they just took them out and put them in the campaign. In custom games they are usually hilariously overpowered because they have the heartiness of a Marauder with an OMG flame attack.

So how do you balance it out? Well, require an Armory to build Firebats, which puts at the late mid or early late game, which traditionally is like the Firebat free zone. Problem solved, they work, they’re cool, and late game mass Zealot vs. Terran isn’t a thing anymore.

Terrans also get Widow Mines because I guess someone decided to upgrade the Spider Mine. They’re overpowered, in a sense, since they burrow and “cloak” then fire missiles into people’s faces as random. Your dudes are walking around then BAM there is a missile to their face thanks Terrans.

Moving on, Protoss get a three whole new units, even though this is called Heart of the Swarm, and they’re all really Protossy. Mothership Core which is a casting unit that gives them Mass Recall (Jaina Proudmoore personally taught the Protoss how to do this) rather early and for less, although it’s sort of like a Queen for the Protoss. Then there is the Oracle which is a harrasement unit to move away from “deathballs.” The Tempest is sort of a Carrier replacement and acts as a powerful capital ship for the Protoss.

All neat stuff so far, but I’m really kind of eh about the Zerg. They get Swarm Locust which spawn Locusts which is neat, I guess, not that great to me. Then there is the Viper, a caster, that can lock down units and pull units (friendly or hostile) to itself which is cool too I guess, but eh. For an expansion all about the Zerg, the Zerg units are so underwhelming.

I’m not in love with the new units, they’re all similar to Brood Wars in certain ways, which is cool and all and works for SC because no one wants to change anything and new units should be designed to patch holes in the balance, but I don’t know. Not that great.

So the next part is the campaign, which is fantastic. You get twenty missions at about 20 minutes each, which comes out to be about 7 to 10 hours, but you also get the Master Archives which lets you replay missions with more powerful upgrades which, for me, gives me a lot more out of the campaign. Our previous review of SC: WoL mentioned that there wasn’t a lot of replay value but the Master Archives really fixes that, so big kudos to Blizzard there, lots and lots of extra DKP.

The campaign is a bit on the easy side though, like, really easy. The game gives you step by step instructions, side quests, and such but it holds your hand throughout the entire process. Harder difficulties are harder, but you can tweak it to remove the difficulty. The hero system is neat and if you work hard to do the bonus objectives you can melt away the difficulty of later missions.

Otherwise I’m not sure to say, there isn’t a lot new here and most of the changes were rolled out in a free patch anyway, so I really can’t count them. The game is fun, but there isn’t a ton of substance, but it’s also not a full retail box price.

Graphics - 90 / 100

There is new unit physics available to show units falling down cliffs and other neat effects. I haven’t noticed the advantage of it, but the game was already graphical superior in 2010 and is still rather sharp and crisp. The expansion didn’t modify the graphics much, but since they are dating a bit, I’ve taken some points off from our previous score to reflect that.

Oh and the cinematic are gorgeous and stunning and the new units fit, although I really, really, dislike Kerrigan’s model, but that’s a personal thing and I’m not going to say the entire game is dumb because she looks kind of weird.

Sound - 90 / 100

Um, hrm, this is a tough one. There is a lot of new music and it’s all great, but it’s still the same. To that extent, I’m going to copy the previous score over because it’s only fair to say that, it’s pretty much the same. There isn’t much iteration here; it’s the same Blizzard classical pieces.

Multiplayer - 97 / 100

This is a hard section to cover because there isn’t anything new here other than the units and maps, which I covered in gameplay. The game is still StarCraft 2 and has not changed so for that merit, it still rates very high on the charts because the multiplayer is so good. HotS hasn’t really added much or changed much in the multiplayer formula, outside of 26 new maps.
So I don’t have much to say! The multiplayer is great! As great as SC2: WoL! So yeah! I’m giving it the same score we gave it before, because… it’s the same! It’s just as good, I guess, and well, yeah!

Value - 60 / 100

The game is $39.99 and will probably be $29.99 or $19.99 within six months. So it’s not a full retail box price, but it’s still… pricy I guess for what you get. You don’t get NEARLY as much content as a World of Warcraft expansion, since we’re talking a single short campaign, lots of eye candy cinematics. I’m going to give this a so-so score because I don’t feel like I got my monies worth right now, but whenever the price drops it’ll definitely be worth the bucks.

I’m just reviewing the expansion here… not the full game, which is worth every penny. So make a quick note of that.

Lasting Appeal - 90 / 100

The master archives and multiplayer make this a long term game that you load up anytime you want to play for almost anyone. There is a lot of long term gameplay here that’s enjoyable, so once again I’ll copy our previous score over and add 3 points for the master archives, a major enhancement to the campaign’s enjoyment and replayability.

Pros and Cons


  • New units, maps, and more to enhance your StarCraft experience.
  • Master archives clears up a lot of the issues with replaying the campaign.
  • Tons of content for the map editor.


  • The campaign is rather short (20 missions plus the really short evolution missions).
  • The new units are hit & miss, they serve to patch holes in each race but community reception is varied (nerf this buff that).
  • Not a ton of new content, especially if you don’t like the campaign or if you’re not into the map editor.


The expansion is pretty awesome, I like it, but there are some faults and most of it boils down to a lack of content. The campaign is short, there are only a handful of new units, and most of the other changes came with a patch before the expansion even launched. To top it off, some stuff is kind of just not really interesting like the XP for killing units in multiplayer unless that’s your cup of tea.
However, it’s still StarCraft II and StarCraft II is an impressive game. This doesn’t change that or alter it much, since there isn’t a lot there to alter or change it with. To that extent, I’m going to rate the expansion a bit lower than the original, but still suggest that you play it if you love StarCraft II.

Overall 88/100 - Great


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Game Page.

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