When we think about a sequel or an expansion pack, we think of a product that bases itself on the original game and adds new things and makes it better. Heart of the Swarm strives to be such a product, and we should expect Heart of the Swarm to give us no reason to go back to Wings of Liberty. Blizzard’s past expansions (Brood War, The Frozen Throne, along with the WoW and Diablo expansions) have all successfully done with they set out to do: make the expansion the best version of the game to play. Will Heart of the Swarm follow suit? Will everyone switch from Wings of Liberty? Is Heart of the Swarm even needed? What is Blizzard trying to accomplish with Heart of the Swarm? At the moment, it’s hard to say.
Expansion packs typically come with new stuff that pretty much have to be utilized. Like in Brood War, medics were absolutely necessary with marines and you almost had to get lurkers in a standard ZvT and ZvP. And then you also had the lesser used units like the valkyrie and devourer, but they still had their uses (and had pretty interesting mechanics). In Warcraft 3, you pretty much had to get the new shops and the neutral heroes and units all their uses.
So far in Heart of the Swarm, only a few things really possibly encompasses that “need to use” feeling. The Mothership Core definitely has a lot of potential for Protoss, being able to provide instant max energy sentries, high Templars, and oracles. The Warhound is also very powerful, as has been widely-documented already. Battle hellions can possibly make mech viable for Terrans. But other than that, the new units and abilities don’t seem all that important. The widow mine has the capability of being kind of annoying in the early game, and can stop harassment pretty well, but it’s not that much of a game changer (the 10 seconds until detonation makes the widow mine lose a lot of potential, it just doesn’t do anything to really help in battles). The long range Tempest seems cool at first glance, until you try using them in a real game. They cost a lot and don’t do enough damage for their cost. The oracle also seems very cool, but then you realize you have to get a Stargate and these things costs 200 gas each and die easily. It’s nice that you can get one or two and do some harass (and cloak), but they don’t really add anything to the core Protoss army and don’t really change the game too dramatically. The swarm host is kind of interesting as well, but really versus Terran or Protoss death balls, they do not really do much since once a wave of locusts fall, the swarm hosts are all idle until next batch and contribute nothing to the battle during that time. Sure they can harass some expansions, but zerglings can do that too. I can see swarm hosts being utilized during a mid-game or as part of a transition, but there’s really no reason to use swarm hosts instead of the currently used Zerg units. The viper has some cool abilities as well, and can help versus death balls, but in the current state of the game, it doesn’t seem like Zerg is totally incapable of dealing with large Protoss or Terran armies. So I’m not saying that the viper would never be used, because it definitely has some useful skills, however, again, it doesn’t seem like it will become a “must-have” for a late game Zerg army.
There are some new abilities in the game, along with the new units. The reaper regeneration upgrade (replacing the reaper speed upgrade) is kind of nice. But it doesn’t make me suddenly want to make reapers. They still don’t do enough damage for their cost. The removal of the special grenade attack on buildings doesn’t help either. The battlecruiser boost is very similar. No one really suddenly wants to make battlecruisers. And besides, I think I would want to use its energy on yamato gun anyway. And by the time you have the hive in order to get the hydralisk speed upgrade, your opponent probably has multiple colossus or tanks ready to melt them. The ultralisk burrow charge is cool, and since some Zerg players already utilize ultralisks, it seems like a good addition, especially as a “skill shot” ability.
In Brood War, you had constant amazing marine/medic versus lurker/zergling battles, corsairs fighting mutalisks, and goliaths being able to kill carriers, things you can never find in the original Starcraft. So obviously Brood War fixed some problems of the original and also created new styles of play. Overall, I don’t see that happening much with Heart of the Swarm. I feel like Blizzard added new stuff, but immediately tried to balance it in a way such that these units aren’t “too powerful” and would cause the Wings of Liberty balance to go out of whack. I believe that is the wrong approach to take. They need to go out on a limb and try something completely crazy and exciting, regardless of balance. They should try to make things that are “pseudo”-imbalanced: imbalanced but only if used correctly (examples: reavers are extremely powerful, but only if used well, as are defilers + dark swarm since they are fragile and use of consume is needed).
Heart of the Swarm has a few useful additions here and there, but it doesn’t really seem to have a goal. It’s hard to find what roles these new units and abilities have. They’re just… there. It’s not that the new units all suck, and while some can change some of the matchups, they’re just not that amazing and exciting. Battle hellions and warhounds, for example, are as boring as they get. They are hellion 2.0 and marauder 2.0. The one thing I really like is the mothership core, because it really adds a new element to Protoss and is definitely a “must-have.” But otherwise, the additions don’t change the game enough, and some of the additions are just little minor things that try to fix problems that aren’t really there. The problems that are currently present in Starcraft 2 (the coinflips, the 1a deathballs, the effectiveness of all-ins and their ease of execution, shortage of long lasting action-reaction abilities, among others) do not seem to be solved by Heart of the Swarm.
I’m also very bothered by the fact that they actually removed a couple of things, most namely the Carrier. This is supposed to be a “sequel” or an “expansion pack.” There is no reason for Blizzard to be removing anything. Instead, they should try to make the carrier better (ie. Make it possible to micro them like in Brood War or possibly add a new ability for them).
Basically, it’s hard to justify absolutely having to play Heart of the Swarm instead of Wings of Liberty. That being said, I still believe that even if Heart of the Swarm would be released in its current state, it would become the standard, mainly for the sake of eSports. However, there would definitely be Wings of Liberty vs. Heart of the Swarm debates. That is not what eSports wants. We want a single community, all playing the best game out there. Blizzard, I feel, has a lot of work to be done to improve Heart of the Swarm, because they want and I want Heart of the Swarm to be the ultimate version of Starcraft 2, the undisputed version of Starcraft 2 everyone plays. But right now, there are doubts.
Hello, I am blabber on TL. On Starcraft 2 and Brood War, I am known as Darrenc. In Brood War, I was a C+ Protoss that competed for the UC Irvine collegiate team. In Starcraft 2 Season 1, I was in most of the NA Top 200 lists and also won a few local tournaments here in California. During the current season, I switched from Protoss to Random, and although my MMR has dropped as a result, I still manage to stay above 1000 points in Masters. I played over 20 games of HotS at MLG, with opponents including the Easy A.I., random people, and friends that range from low Masters to Grandmaster.
edit: lol just read avilo's writeup, i pretty much said everything opposite of what he said. well he's better than me at starcraft so... take my blog for what it's worth :D