It’s been three years since Blizzard’s highly anticipated release of StarCraft II and Raynor & company are back in this Zerg infested installment. For those real time strategy (RTS) fans who’ve been living under a rock, Heart of the Swarm is the second of two planned expansion packs for 2010′s StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. Each expansion focusing on the other two of the game’s playable factions. Heart of the Swarm focuses on the Zerg race and their human-zerg hybrid leader Sarah Kerrigan; the plot moves forward right were StarCraft II left off. Lucky for players, Blizzard put just as much heart and soul into this expansion as they did with Wings of Liberty. While the game itself hasn’t changed much, there are enough refinements and new units added to improve the overall experience for StarCraft II.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty’s biggest update yet is out now, adding a multitude of new features that enhance multiplayer, introduce new ways to play, and improve the social features of the game. If you’re looking for a quick summary of what’s new to StarCraft II, look no further than our three most recent community videos.
The newest video, “eSports and Multiplayer, “ has just been released and covers features such as Watch with Others (to watch replays together with friends online), as well as Take Command and Recover Game (which allow you to resume an interrupted game from a replay file). New Observer Mode functionality makes it easier than ever to find important information, while improvements to the minimap for observers make it a snap to find important events like new battles or the arrival of nukes and Nydus Worms. A fully customizable Observer UI improves the viewing experience for eSports games as well, as tournament organizers can fully change the look of the interface to better display certain game information. Finally, animproved physics engine makes combat look and feel more visceral, while advanced stats allow players to dissect their online competitive play with race- and map-specific win percentages, and more.
Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. today announced that it will offer a beta sneak peek of StarCraft® II: Heart of the Swarm™ to attendees of Major League Gaming’s (MLG) Pro Circuit Spring Championship event, June 8-10 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA. A large number of public demo stations at the event will allow attendees to try out the latest multiplayer build of Heart of the Swarm in advance of the upcoming beta test. Details on attending the MLG Spring Championship are available here.
Top StarCraft II pro-gamers from around the world will battle for $76,000 in prize money at MLG’s Spring Championship with the first place finisher taking home $25,000. In addition to the MLG competition and Heart of the Swarm demo stations, the Anaheim event will also feature the USA national finals for Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft II World Championship Series. Participants in the USA Nationals will vie for $30,000 in prize money as well as invitations to the upcoming North America continental finals of the StarCraft II World Championship Series. The top finishers in that event will represent their countries in StarCraft II at the Battle.net® World Championship event taking place later this year in Asia.
With two major StarCraft II eSports tournaments and the opportunity to play Heart of the Swarm in advance of the beta test, eSports fans have plenty to look forward to at the MLG Spring Championship event in Anaheim. Those who can’t make it in person can still catch all the action via live streams online. Additional information about the event will be released in the coming weeks at www.majorleaguegaming.com.
Heart of the Swarm is the first expansion set to Blizzard Entertainment’s sci-fi real-time strategy game StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty®. The expansion will feature an all-new single-player campaign that will allow players to evolve their swarms with unique, campaign-only units and abilities. Kerrigan, the former Queen of Blades, will play a major role in each of the campaign battles as a powerful hero. Over the course of the campaign, she’ll grow in strength and earn potent new abilities. New multiplayer units and maps will add new dimensions of strategic gameplay, and the expansion will include new features and upgrades to the Battle.net® online platform.
A few days ago, the long-awaited mods for StarCraft II have become official were announced on their blog. They have been in beta and are Official Mods. So much so, that they have Achievements embedded into the game now as part of being approved by Blizzard. All modes are “Custom Games” and are not ranked, but can be played co-operatively or solo.
Play as a Protoss Aiur…CHEF. There are 3 rounds, and you (and other players) compete to find ingredients to complete the recipe. Each completed recipe gets you points or a bonus item. It’s time-based rounds and movement is like controlling a hero unit. And there’s mild combat to get your ingredients, but the focus is on speed and getting the highest amount of points before the round ends. This is a very relaxing mode as it’s pretty friendly competition, and you’re simply just creating foods.
Now you can simply write this one off as a Bejeweled clone, but it’s a little bit more than that. Not only do you have to play Bejweled for a high score, you have to build defenses in a strategy/tower defense puzzle game. You spend your points earned from matching 3-of-a-kind on defenses and maybe casting healing on your base. Once you defeat all of the opposing team, you win. But the games last a LONG time and are a lot of fun, and very tense as you make progress.
My personal favorite. Based on the Campaign map: Zero Hour. You and your buddies must defend your base during the Zerg attack at night. When daybreak hits, the opposing Zerg are eliminated. Then you must go out and destroy their hives before they can spawn out more enemies when the sun sets. All while you need to be building up your defenses for the next night’s attack. There are multiple difficulties to tackle this with (solo or co-op). This was my favorite map of the campaign, and is one of the best “tower defense” slash “siege” modes you’ll find.
These Official Mods and Maps are off to a great start, I hope we get to see more of these – becoming more and more unique and interesting all while making them co-operative or competitive. If you are an owner of StarCraft II, there is absolutely no reason not to download these mods/maps to your system. To access these maps from the main menu: Multi Player > Join Game > Custom Game > Featured and look for Aiur Chef, StarJeweled, and/or Left 2 Die. You’ll join someone’s game and have the maps newly downloaded for yourself and friends to enjoy.
It would be unrealistic to say to buy StarCraft II just for these newly added maps and mods – but if you were on the fence about StarCraft II: The campaign is fantastic, the online multiplayer is fierce and competitive as can be, and the strong user base for maps and mods are showing their creativity and strength and you would be hard-pressed to find another game of this caliber and range on PC (or Mac).