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|StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm|
Heart of the Swarm cover artwork,
depicting protagonist Sarah Kerrigan
|Release date(s)||March 12, 2013|
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is an expansion pack to the military science fiction real-time strategy game StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty by Blizzard Entertainment. Heart of the Swarm is the second part of a planned StarCraft II trilogy, with part three titled Legacy of the Void.
The expansion includes additional units and multiplayer changes from Wings of Liberty, as well as a continuing campaign focusing on the Zerg race, following Sarah Kerrigan in her effort to regain control of the swarm and enact her revenge on the Terran dominion's emperor, Arcturus Mengsk.
The game has 20 missions in the campaign (plus 7 evolution missions which determine how the capabilities of zerg units get upgraded), and continues the story from Wings of Liberty.  The player plays from the perspective of Sarah Kerrigan, recently returned to her human state by Jim Raynor.
Unit and ability changes 
At Blizzard's 2011 BlizzCon conference, it was revealed that Heart of the Swarm will feature 7 new multiplayer units, while removing 3 units and changing the abilities of existing units and buildings. The exact modifications have since changed.
In a blog post, game director Dustin Browder explained the current status of the units announced at BlizzCon:
- The Terran race was originally expected to feature two new units: the Shredder and the Warhound. Internal testing revealed the Shredder was too flexible and powerful, and it was therefore replaced by widow mines, mobile spider mines that fire missiles at the target, causing splash damage. The Warhound had an autocast ability which launches missiles that target mechanical units. During the closed beta, Blizzard agreed with pro gamers that it does not work in its current state, and the Warhound was removed from the game. The Hellion will have a new battle mode added, which allows it to transform into a heavier and more powerful unit. In battle mode the Hellion will do increased damage but in an arc in front of it instead of in a line. The name of the Battle Hellion was changed to Hellbat. It is also notable that Hellbats count as both biological and mechanical, and can therefore be healed by Medivacs. The Medivac will gain an "Ignite Afterburners" upgrade which acts as a cooldown-based speed boost. Lastly, the Reaper will undergo extensive changes; its special building attack will be replaced by a passive health regeneration ability when out of combat. Additionally, the Reaper's extra damage vs Light units will be removed, this damage decrease will be compensated for by the removal of the requirement for the Tech Lab Add-On on a Barracks to train a Reaper. Reapers can now be trained two at a time using the Reactor Add-On.
- The Protoss Replicant has been cut due to its tendency to stifle unit diversity, but the Oracle and Tempest remain. The Oracle is a fast energy based flying unit. When first used in the beta, the Oracle focused on slowing down economy, by blocking off mineral access for a short period of time. After that, it was decided that the ability was too powerful, and replaced with an ability that causes mining to slow, instead of stop. In the end, the developers focused the Oracle on quickly killing workers instead of slowing them. Attacking consumes the Oracle's energy, and is designed for killing the opponent's workers. The Oracle also has two other abilities: Revelation, which reveals enemy units and buildings within an area; and Envision, which grants the Oracle the ability to detect invisible or burrowed units. The Tempest's role has changed since Blizzcon. While originally designed to provide large amounts of air splash damage, it is now an extreme long-range siege unit capable of hitting both the ground and air. A new caster called the Mothership Core has been added. The Mothership Core is a slow moving, flying unit that has three abilities. Photon Overcharge (previously known as Purify) allows a targeted Nexus to gain a single target, long range energy attack, similar to the Photon Cannon. Mass Recall warps Protoss units around the Mothership Core, and the Core itself to any targeted Nexus. Time Warp slows down enemy ground units' movement in an area. Once the Fleet Beacon has been constructed, the Mothership Core can transform into the Mothership. Additionally, the Void Ray's prismatic beam became an active ability that temporarily increases damage against armored units only, while the original effect of gradually increasing damage over time has been removed.
- For the Zerg race, the Overseer has been re-added since Blizzcon while the Viper and the Swarm Host also remain. The flying Viper has several abilities: "Blinding Cloud" which reduces the range of enemy units to 1. "Abduct" pulls a unit to the Viper's location. And the "Consume" ability allows the Viper to regain energy by siphoning health from a friendly structure. The Swarm Host, when burrowed, periodically spawns slow-moving units called Locusts. Locusts have a ranged attack and only hit ground targets. Ultralisks did gain a "Burrow Charge" ability on a cooldown, which would have allowed them to quickly reach battle sites, but this ability was removed from the multiplayer game (it is still an upgrade option in the campaign). The Hydralisk will have a researchable speed boost when traveling off-creep once the Lair is built. Additionally, both burrow and the overlord movement speed boost will be researchable at the hatchery, no longer requiring a Lair to be built.
Heart of the Swarm starts at a research facility run by Crown Prince Valerian Mengsk, who is performing tests on Sarah Kerrigan to determine how much of her skill at controlling Zerg remains from her time as the Queen of Blades. Jim Raynor is desperate to get Kerrigan away, and shortly after the last round of tests, the facility is attacked by Dominion forces. Valerian and Kerrigan escape to Raynor's flagship, the Hyperion, but Raynor himself is left behind. Dominion reinforcements press the attack, despite Valerian's presence onboard the Hyperion; Valerian recognizes that his father, Emperor Arcturus Mengsk, will sacrifice anything - even his own son - to ensure Kerrigan's death. While Hyperion captain Matt Horner gives the order to retreat, Kerrigan remains behind in an attempt to locate Raynor, only to hear a Dominion newscast announcing that he has been captured and executed by the Dominion.
Enraged, Kerrigan vows revenge against Mengsk and his Dominion, and she returns to Zerg space where she meets up with Izsha and Abathur, two of her former lieutenants, and plots to reunite the Swarm. At Char, she intends to reclaim the homeworld, reclaiming and "reeducating" brood mother Zagara and driving off the Dominion forces led by General Horace Warfield in the process. In the destruction of Warfield's fortress, he is fatally injured. Dying, he confronts Kerrigan, attempting to convince her to allow the wounded to evacuate and asking what Raynor would say if he saw her now. After a rage she finishes him off, but commands the swarm to back off, allowing the wounded to evacuate.
On the frozen world of Kaldir, she annihilates the Protoss forces stationed there, reclaiming the brood of the fallen brood mother Na'fash in the process and evolving her swarm to survive in the harsh climate. After using the Protoss researcher Lessara to implant a brood mother and destroy the final protoss ship, Kerrigan is confronted by Zeratul, who tells her to travel to Zerus, the original homeworld of the Zerg, where the primal Zerg are in a constantly evolving state. Kerrigan, initially reluctant, is convinced after Zeratul tells her that it will give her the power she wants to kill Mengsk.
On Zerus, Kerrigan awakens the oldest living Zerg, Zurvan the Ancient One, and learns from him that a fallen xel'naga named Amon stole a large portion of the Zerg from Zerus and bound them to a single overriding will, making them Amon's slaves as part of his plot to destroy both the Zerg and Protoss and remake life in his own image. Kerrigan enters a chrysalis in the first Zerg spawning pool and emerges, transforming again into the primal Queen of Blades. Before leaving Zerus, her swarm kills and absorbs the essence of the three primal pack leaders and Zurvan himself. One of the primal packleader, Dehaka, and his followers join her, provided that she gives him "essence" to collect. Afterward, Kerrigan receives a transmission from Mengsk, who informs her that Raynor is still alive as a bargaining chip against Kerrigan attacking the Dominion capital world of Korhal.
Kerrigan is contacted by a Zerg-infested Alexei Stukov. With Stukov's aid, Kerrigan assaults a Dominion research station that houses several Protoss-Zerg hybrids, which could imperil her chances at revenge against Mengsk unless they are destroyed. The two decide to try to kill Emil Narud before he can revive Amon. Kerrigan, Stukov, and the Swarm destroy the hybrids and fend off a last-ditch effort by Narud to use Xel'Naga powers to kill them. Kerrigan then confronts Narud in a final battle. Morphing first into Raynor and then into Kerrigan's pre-infestation form, Narud gains the upper hand and impales her with a psi-blade. Kerrigan manages to use her wing-spikes to fatally wound Narud. As he dies, Narud reveals to her that Amon is alive and that she will encounter him soon.
After recovering from the battle Kerrigan then contacts Valerian and Horner to inform them that Raynor could be still alive. They then plan to hack the Dominion network to locate Raynor, but the only one with the expertise to do so is Colonel Orlan, a mercenary leader who is held captive by rival merc Mira Han. Mira refuses to surrender Orlan without Raynor's permission, even in spite of his imprisonment. The Hyperion thus assaults Mira's mining operations before she finally surrenders Colonel Orlan. With his aid they are able to locate Raynor onboard a prison ship that constantly changes location. Kerrigan tells them to wait as she personally assaults the ship, and rescues Raynor while the ship is refueling. Raynor is shocked and revolted by Kerrigan's reversion to her infested form. Kerrigan is willing to let Raynor kill her but he cannot bring himself to do so, but he tells her that they are done.
Valerian understands that his father is beyond redemption, and along with Raynor's Raiders, accepts Kerrigan's decision for a full invasion of Korhal. Valerian urges Kerrigan to slow down her invasion to minimize civilian losses, and she reluctantly accepts the delay, understanding that Valerian is not like his father. After the Swarm disables the air defenses in the capital city, Kerrigan moves to weaken the Dominion defenses surrounding Mengsk's palace. With the aid of Dehaka and his pack, she destroys Mengsk's Psi Destroyer device protecting the city. She then sends all her forces to assault Mengsk's palace. Midway through the final battle, Raynor and the Hyperion arrive to assist Kerrigan, much to her surprise. The joint Raider-Zerg assault succeeds in breaching the palace, where Kerrigan confronts Mengsk in his office. The emperor reveals that he has the Xel'Naga device, which had previously been used to de-infest her. Mengsk uses it to weaken Kerrigan, taunting her in the process. Before Mengsk can deliver the final blow, Raynor intervenes, destroys the artifact's remote control, and throws Mengsk across the room - leaving him to the mercy of Kerrigan. With a burst of her psychic powers, she vaporizes Mengsk and destroys his office. As the dust settles, Kerrigan thanks Raynor for everything before joining her swarms again. Raynor's reply reveals that his feelings for Kerrigan remain strong in spite of her transformation.
In the final scene, the camera pans around space and galaxy while Kerrigan states that with her vengeance completed, she now departs to face her true enemy, after renouncing everything she once was or had and embraces her role as the heart of the Swarm. The camera focuses on a dark cloud in space, as the stage is set for the final battle.
- Tricia Helfer as Sarah Kerrigan
- Robert Clotworthy as Jim Raynor
- Karen Strassman as Izsha
- Steve Blum as Abathur
- Brian Bloom as Matt Horner
- James Harper as Arcturus Mengsk
- Fred Tatasciore as Zeratul / Swann
- Grey DeLisle as November "Nova" Terra
- Josh Keaton as Prince Valerian
- Rachael MacFarlane as Kate Lockwell
- Kath Soucie as Mira Han
- Frank Welker as Zurvan/Ancient One
- Courtenay Taylor as Lasarra
- Gary Anthony Williams as Horace Warfield
- Victor Brandt as Alexei Stukov
- Armin Shimmerman as Emil Narud
- Nika Futterman as Broodmother Zagara
The development of StarCraft II was announced on May 19, 2007, at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in Seoul, South Korea. At the June 2008 Blizzard Worldwide Invitational, Blizzard Executive Vice President Rob Pardo said that StarCraft II was to be released as a trilogy of games, starting with Wings of Liberty, focused on the Terrans, followed by Heart of the Swarm, revolving around the Zerg, and finally Legacy of the Void, devoted to the Protoss. Blizzard's storyboard team was already working on Heart of the Swarm in early 2010 while Wings of Liberty's gameplay was refined. Wings of Liberty was released July 27, 2010 to much critical acclaim.
A few updates will be made to the game's graphics engine, including upgrades to the look and behavior of Zerg creep, as well as some improvements to the rendering of game environments. However, the expansion will have the same hardware requirements as Wings of Liberty.
On April 30, 2012, Blizzard announced that the latest multiplayer build of Heart of the Swarm would be playable at the MLG Spring Championship (June 8–10) ahead of a planned beta release. No actual release dates were specified.
As of June 15, 2012, the game was primarily complete. The only unfinished thing is "tuning and polishing".
On August 15, 2012, Blizzard announced that the multiplayer beta would be beginning soon. As of September 4, 2012, Blizzard began closed beta testing of the multiplayer beta, releasing it to select Pro-gamers, members of the press, Arcade contest winners, and shoutcasters. The beta testers were not under a non-disclosure agreement, so they were free to stream their games, release pictures, etc. The Heart of the Swarm beta closed on March 1, 2013.
Blizzard officially released Heart of the Swarm for PC and Mac systems in multiple countries on March 12, 2013.
|StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm|
|PC Gamer (UK)||91%|
In addition to the standard game, Heart of the Swarm is offered in two special variants for purchase: Digital Deluxe and Collector's Edition. These versions provide items in addition to the game itself.
Digital Deluxe 
The Digital Deluxe provides the following:
- A special in-game skin for the Ultralisk unit, three portraits, and three decals for in-game use in Heart of the Swarm
- A Baneling pet for in-game use in World of Warcraft
- A Heart of the Swarm themed apparel item and banner for in-game use in Diablo III
Collector's Edition 
The Collector's Edition provides all of the items of the Digital Deluxe, as well as the following:
- A 144 page artwork book
- A "Zerg Rush" themed mousepad
- A behind the scenes Blu-ray/DVD set
- An 11 track soundtrack CD
Physical Retail Box Version 
DVD versions of Heart of the Swarm require an additional content download of approximately 8 gigabytes of data before the game can be played for the first time.
The game sold approximately 1.1 million copies worldwide in its first two days on sale. PC Gamer gave the game 91%, calling it "A traditional RTS essential for anyone interested in competitive strategy games, and highly recommended for anyone who isn't." Among fans there is an ongoing debate about the quality of the story and the way it is told within the game, which is perceived to be immature and trite by critics and roughly one third of the players. 
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: StarCraft II|
- StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm at Blizzard Entertainment
- Heart of the Swarm FAQ at Blizzard Entertainment