StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm – hands-on preview

According to Blizzard's Dustin Browder, the StarCraft II team has not settled on exactly how many Battle Focuses will be available at launch. The placeholder user interface featured during the demo left spots for four focuses. But according to Browder, that number is not final and could be increased to six.

What's important to take away from the customization options for Kerrigan, is that she will be leading the charge in almost all of the roughly twenty singleplayer campaign missions planned for Heart of the Swarm. Unlike Wings of Liberty, where the Terran protagonist Jim Raynor only made cameo appearances as a playable hero unit, Kerrigan will be at the frontlines, leading the Zerg into battle and crushing world after world as her brood and infestation level grows and evolves.

Above: Expect to do multiple missions on each planet as Kerrigan conquers the sector

Above: Like the Armory in Wings of Liberty, the Evolution Chamber is where you'll choose how to upgrade new units

Above: A closer look at Abathur

Back on Char, we have two more zergs of note to click on in the meta game before we move onto our first mission. Our first stop is Abathur. Created by the Overmind, Abathur is your evolution master – and will help you facilitate various upgrades for all your new units. Like the Armory in Wings of Liberty, Abathur will be the one you turn to when it's time to decide how to strengthen your units with genetic upgrades from mutagen collected during missions. With nothing but zerglings to choose from this early in the campaign, our options were limited. It should be noted that the names and descriptions for these upgrades are not final. However, they will give you a good first-look at the direction that Blizzard is taking with unit upgrades in the Heart of the Swarm campaign.

Metabolic boost increases the already fast zergling movement speed. Posthumous Mitosis gives zerglings a 20% chance to respawn as two broodlings on death. But Rapid Genesis (our personal favorite), fixes it so that zerglings hatch instantly.

You'll also get to choose from two final evolutions for each of your new units. Evolve your zerglings into swarmlings, and you'll now hatch three zerglings from each egg instead of two with no extra cost. Or, you could evolve your zerglings into raptors, granting the ability to leap towards nearby hostiles with the added bonus of 10 extra life points.

With Kerrigan's Battle Focus set to Corruption and our zerglings upgraded, we turn to Izsha, Kerrigan's advisor of sorts. In practice, Izsha is the Zerg in the know, the one who'll give you your mission objectives and background lore about the planets you'll soon be conquering.

Your first step in establishing a foothold on Char will be to kill a rogue Zerg queen, who refuses to acknowledge Kerrigan as the Queen of Blades. Kill the renegade queen, and her brood will submit to you. The mission starts you off with a spartan base on a map with dormant batches of zerg eggs spread throughout the match. Far from the usual build-up-your-army-until-you-can-take-over-the-map objective, the mission pits you against the enemy Zerg queen in a race to collect the dormant eggs.


  • augdog - October 5, 2011 11:39 a.m.

    Awesome nonetheless, but I can't help but fell like I've done this before,
  • BigBrother - June 1, 2011 5:18 a.m.

    Can't say im too terribly excited to wield the Zerg, being a Toss player, but I've played all the zerg missions in the original and brood war and was not disappointed story wise so i guess i can "suffer" through and do my best to be control the swarm. (who am i kidding, i enthusiastically look forward to any SC game!) Also, in WoL there were a number of protoss missions included in the terran campaign, will there be another tangent of perhaps terran origin?
  • ConorMDR203 - June 1, 2011 2:39 a.m.

    Yay, I play Zerg usually in SC2, so I can't wait for this to come out. P.S. Thank you so much for the "So Many Banelings!" reference.
  • 510BrotherPanda - June 1, 2011 12:40 a.m.

    This is most likely going to be T-Nag's preferred expansion, since it's Zerg-based...
  • LordZarlon - May 31, 2011 11:24 p.m.

    On another note, it was always Jim Raynor who was so deeply in love with Kerrigan. As a result of the limited story telling capabilities of the time or not, we never saw Kerrigan reciprocate the love that Jim Raynor showed her in the original StarCraft. She liked him, was even fond of him, but there was no evidence that Kerrigan was truly in love with Raynor. Maybe Raynor thought she would want to be with him and that simply wasn't the case. We'll see.
  • LordZarlon - May 31, 2011 11 p.m.

    If the expansion follows suit then we will see cameos of the WoL characters in this campaign. I too am curious how Kerigan comes to leave Jim Raynor and go out on her own. Don't forget that, in the original StarCraft she told Jim that she liked being zerg so maybe they had a parting of the ways.
  • Sniped50 - May 31, 2011 10:08 p.m.

    This looks interesting. I always sucked at playing the Zerg, so it'd be nice to get some extra pointers in the campaign. Are Raynor and the other Terran characters going to be seen within the campaign as well? I'd miss them otherwise.
  • Y2Ken - May 31, 2011 6:37 p.m.

    Really looking forward to this. Some of the final mutations in campaign sound ridiculous. Banelings which split into two, then four when they blow up? And supposedly Roaches whose maximum health increases with every kill? That would be ridiculous. WoL has a phenomenal campaign (probably the best I've ever seen in an RTS) so can't wait for the Zerg installment. Also I'm still watching GSL pretty much every day so... yeah multiplayer StarCraft is pretty good too.
  • Jaces - May 31, 2011 6:29 p.m.

    I finally bought my dream computer (rather laptop), and I'm going to enjoy the hell out of SCII. Zerg are by far my favorite race, this will be epic.
  • bigwill1221 - May 31, 2011 6:12 p.m.

    The only thing is what I want different in campaign for unit upgrades is have the ability to get them all (besides the one where you have to make decisions protoss/zerg tech was good idea).
  • aleksandarwh7 - May 31, 2011 5:45 p.m.

    StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void 2020 ?
  • VMPSaberwolf - May 31, 2011 5:34 p.m.

    "During the time between the ending of Wings of Liberty and the demo for Heart of the Swarm, former Queen of Blades and leader of the Zerg Sarah Kerrigan has gone through some kind of change." I'm a bit confused, is the game taking place after WOL, or before? Jim is seen carrying her off at the end of WOL so either she escapes somehow or the game is recalling events from a Zerg standpoint during the Terran campaign?
  • Spacegrass - May 31, 2011 5:18 p.m.

    I don't really care for the Zerg, but this looks intriguing. It looks like, with more than one unique individual, they'll have more personality in this expansion. Still, what I'm really looking forward to is Legacy of the Void, because I love the Protoss; however, for the Protoss to win they have to be last in the series.
  • NelosAngelos - May 31, 2011 5:08 p.m.

    Finally details on Heart. It looks really interesting. I haven't touched starcraft lately...this might make me interested in playing again.
  • Joaovpo - May 31, 2011 4:56 p.m.

    Heh, can't wait, my favorite race are the Zerg

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