StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

I haven't played any actual video games in a long time partly due to having a pretty old computer, lack of consoles, and mainly lack of time. I have been amusing myself with flash games in attempts to pass the time. During this week off from having to go to the computer labs to work on projects I picked up StarCraft II: Heart of the Swam and I was ridiculously excited while playing. While I'm not a big RTS game player, I do love the plot in Warcraft's and StarCraft's campaign mode. I've played Wings of Liberty and was looking forward to this next expansion but had completely forgotten that it has been released already. My favorite unit of Zerg are the Spiders. I just find them hilarious in that they can move and attack while burrowed underground. Burrowing means invisibility and I've evaded annihilation before with games between friends just by having a couple spiders run around while burrowed so no one could find me and end the game. Unfortunately the original spiders are no longer in StarCraft II but the system in campaign mode was really interesting. As with the loss of the Queen of Blades, the Swarm has all scattered and so Kerrigan has no strong Zergs under her command. Through missions the player finds other hives and integrates them back into the Swarm. However, it doesn't just end here. The specialty of the Zergs is that they can integrate the abilities of other species into themselves so on our journeys there is an Evolution Pit where not only can units obtain not only new abilities but after completing evolution missions, the unit can evolve with new traits!

I love cinematics. They're all fancy and flashy with actual high res textures, real shaders, actual lighting, and beautiful renders and composites. At the same time they make me kind of sad, particularly when cinematics are used as trailers, as they make me think the actual game will look as beautiful as the cinematic and then when actually playing the game I become somewhat disappointed. However, what was even more horrifying here in StarCraft II were the dialogue cutscenes. They use the really low res ingame textures and flat shaders so everything looked really blurry and pixelated. The eyebrows were particularly funny in that they are drawn onto the face but because of the lack of resolution they were even worse and all blurred. Lack of lighting made me sad. Since there's no lighting, there wouldn't be any eye specular highlights but that could have been solved with a cheat by painting it in. Without the specular highlight in the eye, the faces just looked really dead to me and as if there were no emotion to any of the dialogue. I even saw parts of the mesh, such as Kerrigan's hair/tentacle things, clipping.

I was disappointed with Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades. When a character gets a transformative powerup I want a new look! When Kerrigan went to receive the primal Zerg power to transform back into the Queen of Blades I was expecting some new fancy powerful look but instead she just looked the same as previous. I do love the design of the Queen of Blades, though. Particularly the silhouette created with the large bone wing protrusions. What I felt was off putting though was the color scheme. In game, her body is this weird bright mauve color and her face is a bright yellow green color which is just completely strange. They are complimentary colors but it is just this weird stark contrast between the head and the body that doesn't work. It looks like the head and body are two separate entities and disjointed. I feel like the yellow green needed to be brought down past the neckline into the chest and back and some of the mauve needed to be highlighted on Kerrigan's face to integrate the color scheme together. Even stranger was why she was that color in game. In the cinematic cutscenes, Kerrigan's tended to lean more towards the purples. The mauve was desaturated and not as red, and her face was towards the purple tones. Partly it may be due to the lighting but Kerrigan's face was definitely not yellow green.

It's always exciting to see a name that you recognize in the credits of something and I happen to know someone who worked on this game. I found Lana Bachynski under the interns! She got an internship at Blizzard a year back, I believe, as an animator and got to animate some dances for the Zergs and some other animation cycles.

I am looking forward to the last expansion of the game, Legacy of the Void. The ending of Heart of the Swarm leads right up into the next plot with a greater evil lurking in the darkness that must be destroyed. Additionally, it will be the Protoss chapter and the Protoss are my favorite race to play as, particularly due to the carrier unit.