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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 Battle.net.
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