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

It's a pretty humdrum affair at first, with you pushing into enemy territory past defensive structures, like spine crawlers and infested Terran bunkers, to collect the eggs as fast as possible while building up more units for the next strike. But once you finally manage to collect enough eggs, the mission climaxes in one of the most explosive and corrosive events we've ever seen when the eggs hatch into about 150 baneling units. With our army standing at about 170 units worth of zerglings before collecting all the eggs, our now 300 supply plus sized army quickly crushed the rogue queen's base with our banelings spilling in through every crack in defenses, crackling as they burst against enemy structures, clearing a heavily guarded quarter of the map within seconds.

Above: So many banelings!

Had this been the full game, we would've had the opportunity to play several more missions on Char, chronicling Kerrigan's warpath as she conquered the planet. But at this point, the demo led us to another mission on the icy moon of Kaldir. As with your mission on Char, the first mission on Kaldir also charges you with defeating a rogue queen in order to regain control of another brood. Na'fash, the rogue queen, had hoped to create a stronger brood in the harsh conditions on Kaldir.

The first half of the mission finds you steering Kerrigan through a series of valleys and ravines with a small pack of zerglings as she searches for the traitorous brood mother. As you continue exploring, you're introduced to Kaldir's infamous flash freezes, quick storms that instantly drops temperatures to extreme levels, freezing all units in place. Abathur observes that the indigenous (and hostile) yeti population seems to be immune to the effects of the storm. Kill enough yeti to complete the mission objective, and Abathur will be able to incorporate the DNA of the creatures into your brood, allowing them to push forward even in the midst of a flash freeze.

Above: Kill the yeti to consume their DNA and your brood can evolve to become immune to the effects of flash freeze storms

Eventually, your squad comes across the corpse of the enemy queen. It seems that someone has already taken care of your target. Push forward further, and you will discover several protoss strongholds. After claiming Na'fash's old base for your own, the mission turns into a race to build up your forces and clear out all the Protoss bases before the they can warn the Shakuras of Kerrigan's return.

While we're still left with questions as to what led up to the events witnessed in the two campaign missions we sampled, it seems like Heart of the Swarm is off to an excellent start. We love the idea of powering-up Kerrigan's Battle Focuses and taking her into battle in most missions. We're also looking forward to more missions on each planet as we conquer them to strengthen the brood – instead of hopping from planet to planet as we did in Wings of Liberty. It all sounds so perfectly Zerg-like with Kerrigan questing to reclaim her Zerg abilities and dominance over the brood.

Above: Once the Protoss discover you, you'll have twenty minutes to wipe them out before they can transmit a distress signal

Although we didn't see any new multiplayer units or unique singleplayer units exclusive to the campaign, Blizzard promises that they will be there when the game launches in addition to new features for

If you're wondering if you need to own Wings of Liberty in order to play Heart of the Swarm, the answer is yes. If you're wondering how much Heart of the Swarm will cost, Blizzard isn't ready to discuss details. However, the company made it clear that it views Heart of the Swarm as an expansion set, suggesting that the retail price will be lower than StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty.

As for the expansion's release date, Blizzard is sticking to its "it'll be ready when it's done" mantra, saying, "As with all Blizzard games, our ultimate goal is to provide the best possible experience for our players, and we will take as much time as is needed to ensure that Heart of the Swarm meets the expectations of our players, as well as our own high standards.” Expect more details on Heart of the Swarm at GamesRadar as BlizzCon 2011 draws nearer.

May 31, 2011

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  • 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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