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BlizzCon 2011: Heart Of The Swarm Tweaks StarCraft II Formula

At the Gamasutra-attended BlizzCon 2011 on Friday, Blizzard unveiled details for the StarCraft II expansion, Heart of the Swarm, with noteworthy changes to both single and multiplayer modes.
On Friday at the Gamasutra-attended BlizzCon in Anaheim, CA, Blizzard ramped up the hype machine for the upcoming StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm expansion by announcing a hefty 20 mission campaign, new maps and units, and expanded functionality. The story appears to continue immediately after the events of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, the 2010 real-time strategy hit that sold over 1 million units in its first day of release. The critically-acclaimed title went on to sell over 4.5 million units worldwide in its first six months. Heart of the Swarm -- the first expansion for StarCraft II -- has players taking control of fan favorite Sarah Kerrigan as she slowly reclaims control of the Zerg Swarm and rises back to prominence. For many, Kerrigan is the most intriguing character in the series, as fans watched her transform from a Terran special ops Ghost unit to the all-powerful Zerg Queen of Blades. Along with brand new maps and locales, Blizzard revealed that Heart of the Swarm will also introduce a number of new unit types and (for the first time ever) allow players to level and evolve their units. Players will gain access to upgraded evolution options for units via experience they earn in the game, where Kerrigan will play much like the Hero characters of Blizzard's 2002 RTS Warcraft III -- with access to high-level spells and abilities (along with infinite respawns). This evolution system will add an all new element to the classic StarCraft formula and it'll be interesting to see how fans take to it, though it's important to note that the evolution system will be limited to the single player campaign, keeping the balance of multiplayer intact. And that's a good thing too, considering that StarCraft II is currently the flagship series of professional eSports across the globe. But this doesn't mean that multiplayer will be untouched in the upcoming expansion as Heart of the Swarm will introduce new maps and unit types for multiplayer. Just announced today are new units for each of the three races, as well as modifications to existing units. Zerg players will gain access to the new Viper aerial unit with three unique abilities, and the Swarm Host, a slow-moving ground unit that has no standard attack but when burrowed spawns a continuous stream of slow-moving melee units called Locusts that can be used to lay siege and pressure entrenched enemy positions. Even more important is Blizzard's decision to cut certain units from each race, something that is surely set to shake up the world of competitive StarCraft II multiplayer and pro gaming worldwide. Of particular note for Zerg players should note that the Overseer has been cut, with its detection ability replaced by the newly announced Viper and its Ocular Parasite ability. Heart of the Swarm should inject even more life into the already thriving competitive scene as players across the globe start to tinker and experiment with new unit combinations, tactics, and build orders. While no official release date was announced, it's expected that the expansion will launch sometime in early 2012.

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