Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft BETA

While I was in Nashville for the inaugural Wizard World Comic Con, I got an email from Blizzard welcoming me to the Hearthstone BETA.  I am still recovering from the Convention, which was the 2nd biggest Con I’ve been to (the largest so far, and my first, was WonderCon).  Be looking for several articles about Wizard World Nashville and, once I’ve tested through Hearthstone, a review of the Beta.

I eagerly await this game coming to iPad, but will suffer through it on my MacBook Pro for now.  All joking aside, it is one of the most exciting games, for me, to come from Blizzard in years.

The Primal Zerg of Starcraft (and what they could mean)

In StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm, we are introduced to the Primal Zerg of Starcraft’s fictional universe.  The Primal Zerg story paints a more in-depth origin of the Zerg species and gives rise to some speculation for the remaining Protoss story line.

Primal Zerg Origins

As the Heart of the Swarm story unfolds, the Protoss Dark Templar Zeratul reveals the origins of the Zerg to Kerrigan and encourages her to seek them out to make herself stronger.  From games past we know that the Xel’Naga, a mysterious alien race presumed extinct, created both the Zerg and the Protoss.  These two races were created with two very different focuses; the Zerg were focused on physical perfection, while the Protoss were focused on mental perfection.  Players have seen the Zerg evolve and get stronger and more specialized against their enemies, but always at the direction of a hive mind.  In the original StarCraft that hive mind was The Overmind, but before being mostly destroyed by the Protoss Templar Tassadar, it had created its successor; The Queen of Blades.  Anyone familiar with the StarCraft universe knows all too well the story of Sarah Kerrigan and her transformation into The Queen of Blades.

The planet Zerus is the newly discovered home world of the Zerg, inhabited by the Primal Zerg who have never known a hive mind.  They are free from the influence of Amon, the Fallen One, the Xel’Naga that created The Overmind.  In appearance the Primal Zerg of StarCraft resemble dinosaurs, much more so than the chitinous almost insect-like Zerg players are accustomed to.

Primal Zerg of StarCraft

 

What does this mean for the Protoss?

This forgotten sub-race of Zerg could mean a likely parallel in the Protoss expansion.  Long time players are very accustomed to the various dislocated tribes of Protoss.  Some of these are very maligned against the greater Protoss force, but still share the common roots we know from Protoss lore.  Could there be a lost world of mystic Protoss even more telepathic than those we have encountered?  Maybe.  I’m not entirely sure I expected to see Primal Zerg in StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm, but I did.  It was a large chunk of the story and some of the most interesting gameplay.

Primal Zerg of StarCraft: More questions than answers.

For me, Heart of the Swarm raised more questions than it gave answers.  Which is to say, it did everything that a middle chapter should.  My own preferences aside, I am more excited for the next StarCraft game than I was before. Another question to ponder:  Will Blizzard stop with the Protoss expansion, or will there be more?  Leave your thoughts as a comment below or on my FaceBook page.  Also, what did you think of the Primal Zerg of StarCraft?

 

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft Announced!

Today, Blizzard Entertainment announced Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft.  Blizzard has also set up a YouTube channel with some videos giving you a glimpse into this new game.

Hearthstone: Trailer

In the next video from Blizzard, you’ll see the game being played.  I’d like to point out that it appears that the game may be available for multiple platforms.  With two views of the video I’ve noticed it being played on a PC via an Intuos and what appears to be an Apple iPad.  The tablet could, of course, be an Android tablet.  The gaming communities hope would be that it’s available everywhere; PC/Mac and iOS/Android devices.

Hearthstone: Gameplay and Behind-The-Scenes

Hearthstone is a fast paced online collectible card game.  It’s geared for the beginner as well as the advanced card player.  Chris Metzen explains the impact that other such games, like Magic: The Gathering, had on the early development of Blizzard’s company culture.  For the development of this game, Blizzard took a more low key approach.  Bringing together a 15 man team of do-it-all experts, they worked to create something Epic in play, but not size.  Hearthstone’s mechanics will be familiar to players of TCGs and CCGs and spells, items, and monsters will be familiar to previous Blizzard gamers.

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft

The artwork for the game is a major selling point.  With a card game being such a visual sport, it’s nice to have a huge library of fantasy art to pull from.  On a personal note, I’ve been wanting to get into the World of Warcraft TCG for years, but haven’t had the time or space to do so.  I think Hearthstone looks very promising and I’ll be patiently awaiting a Beta invite.

If you have played Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft, then leave a comment or send a message!

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Story Reviewed

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Reviewed

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm

Opening cinematic shows Kerrigan leading the Zerg in the fall of Korhal, but it’s only a dream.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Raynor smuggled Sarah off of Char, but the Xel’Naga artifact has mysteriously disappeared.  Mengsk is still hunting for her!  Rebels are doing research on Sarah in a secret facility to ensure that she is actually human.  Kerrigan is initially tested by controlling Zerg units in a tutorial fashion.  Kerrigan proves how dangerous the Zerg are by destroying a large portion of the base.  Kerrigan apologizes to Raynor for his having to choose between her and Tychus.  Before she can leave with Raynor, Dominion forces storm the base, led by Ghost Agent Nova.  Raynor and Kerrigan have to blast their way to freedom after sharing a brief, intimate moment.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Kerrigan and Raynor get separated and Kerrigan takes Raynor’s ship to escape.  At the rendezvous point, Kerrigan learns that they were unable to retrieve Raynor and becomes furious, attempting to kill Valerian.  With the Dominion forces closing in on them, Kerrigan leaves to find Raynor on her own.  After discovering a canon meant to shoot down any returning or escaping rebels, Kerrigan uses some Zerg to destroy the canon.  She realizes that she is slipping into old habits and leaves after destroying the canon.  She watches a propaganda message that Mengsk is broadcasting, stating that he has captured and executed Raynor.  Hearing that she has lost Raynor, she flies into a rage and ventures forth on a mission of vengeance to reassemble the Swarm.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm
StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm
Kerrigan raging after hearing that Raynor is dead.

Kerrigan finds the Swarm divided, with some of her Brood Mothers vying for control.  On the frozen planet Kaldir she fights a Protoss research outpost.  Afterward, the Dark Templar Zeratul shows up and a small fight ensues.  He psychically shows her an ancient Zerg world and tells her of its power and how it could help her.  Kerrigan wonders why Zeratul is helping her to become more powerful, and in his usual fashion he spins a mysterious tale of prophecy.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

After getting to the planet Zerus, Kerrigan awakens the most ancient of the Zerg.  This ancient, primal Zerg instructs her how to harness the primal power of Zerus and the Zerg there.  She follows his instructions and abandons her human form via chrysalis chamber.  The ancient, primal Zerg tells Kerrigan that if she defeats the primal pact leaders, then all the wild Zerg of Zerus would bend to her will, but after defeating them and taking their essence, the most ancient one decides his time to evolve is now and battles Kerrigan.  She defeats him and takes his ancient essence for her own evolution.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm
StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm
A primal Zerg of the planet Zerus.

After Zerus, you head for the planet Char.  On Char, Kerrigan fights an old Brood Mother until she surrenders and rejoins the swarm as Kerrigan’s lieutenant.  After this, Kerrigan sets her sights on the large Terran military installation currently under the direction of General Warfield, from Wings of Liberty.  After crushing their base and finding Warfield trapped and dying, she allows the escaping wounded Terrans to leave after Warfield attempts to appeal to her humanity.  However, during the battle, Terrans fired holo-communicators at the Leviathan Zerg ship.  Using these communicators, Mengsk delivers a message to Kerrigan.  Raynor is alive, but he will kill him if she comes to Korhal.

Kerrigan enters Dominion space to attempt to rescue Raynor.  She initiates communication with Matt and Valerian of the Hyperion to persuade them to hack into the Dominion network so they can track down where Raynor is being held.  After a side mission to obtain a Terran capable of the task, they discover that Raynor is being held on a prison ship that jumps to random coordinates regularly.  They intercept the ship while it’s on a scheduled refueling stop.  After fighting through the defenses and securing Raynor’s cell, Kerrigan is rejected by Raynor for turning her back on her humanity and embracing the Zerg.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Afterwards, Kerrigan received a mysterious transmission regarding Mengsk’s breeding of hybrids, half Zerg half Protoss warriors.  After traveling to the world where these experiments are being conducted, Kerrigan meets an infested Stukov.  Alexei Stukov is one of the humans from Earth who traveled into the Koprulu sector, during Brood War, to retake it in the name of Earth, but failed.  His true motives are unknown, but he agrees to help Kerrigan attack the research facility.  Narud, a shapeshifting servant of Amon the “Fallen One”, seems to be the one creating the hybrids.  Narud is very ancient and very powerful.  Kerrigan kills a few of these overpowered hybrids, which are able to psionically attack Kerrigan from a distance.  With Stukov’s help, Kerrigan repels Narud and kills him, but discovers that the fallen, godlike Xel’Naga Amon is indeed alive.  However, Kerrigan’s sights are still set on Mengsk.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm
StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm
Kerrigan verus Narud (shifted into human-Kerrigan)

After a lengthy siege of Korhal, letting Valerian rescue as many civilians as possible, she assaults Mengsk’s stronghold.  When Kerrigan breaks into Mengsk’s chamber, we find that he has taken the Xel’Naga artifact that Raynor collected during the events of Wings of Liberty.  Mengsk purposely lured Kerrigan into his chamber so he could use the artifact to kill her for good.  However, before Mengsk can finish her off, Raynor comes to the rescue and together they finish Mengsk at last.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

We are left with Kerrigan pulling the Swarm away from Korhal in preparation for the coming battle with Amon.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

All in all, not the story I was expecting, but I think it made the game that much better.  I’ll definitely want to play through Wings of Liberty again before the Protoss expansion hits.  There are going to be a lot of things to tie up in that game, but it shouldn’t disappoint.  As far as gameplay goes, I’m not sure if I’m getting better or if Heart of the Swarm is “easier” than Wings of Liberty.  I didn’t have to repeat any missions, unlike Wings of Liberty.  I swear I played that last mission about four times before I beat it.  Hence I give the game a 9 out of 10.  It just felt too simple during some parts.  Keep an eye on my YouTube channel for some video highlights of gameplay specifics.

 

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Collector’s Edition Unboxed

Blizzard’s Collector Edition games have become a staple of the Blizzard fanboy’s library.  StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm should be no exception.  With last year’s release of Diablo 3, the digital goodies have gotten more plentiful.  In-game character aesthetics, banner sigils, and banner accents are added to the exclusive in-game World of Warcraft pets and mounts and StarCraft 2 portraits and decals.  With different items appealing to different people based on preference or collecting habits, WoW pets are to me as Beanie Babies are to little girls, some prefer the physical items included in the Collector’s Edition.  To date, every Collector’s Edition has included an art book showcasing the amazing talent of the design team.  These art books sell for a premium by themselves, due in part to most collectors not willing to part with them.  Most editions include another special item made especially for the collector’s edition, such as a cloth map, mousepad, or custom USB drive.

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Collector’s Edition

The construction of the box alone helps me appreciate spending the extra money for the collector’s edition.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Everything is very carefully arranged and packaged inside to keep things together during shipping.

My personal de facto standard on a Collector’s Edition, the art book.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Some of the illustrations are breathtaking.  Maybe a little scary, but breathtaking all the same.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

The behind-the-scenes DVD / BluRay.  These usually have some pretty interesting segments in them.  I usually only watch them once or twice though.  I tried to sell my Wings of Liberty DVD on eBay and wound up meeting Neil Kaplan.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Honestly, I’m a little better with the soundtracks, but not much.  These do sell after the fact pretty quickly.  I suppose it’s because Blizzard doesn’t sell a physical version in major retailers.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

The StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Game DVD.  The game itself is the same disc as a standard edition.  It’s the activation code that makes it special and gives you the digital goodies.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

The Zerg Rush Mousepad.  I like the Blizzard mouse pads fine, but I don’t usually use them.  However, today I think I will since I’ll be doing most of the campaign at the kitchen table on the laptop with headphones on.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Video

If you want to see the unboxing unfold via video, here’s a link to the short video I shot of the actual unboxing:

YouTube

The Call of Koprulu

Now that this thing is fully unboxed, it’s time to get it installed on my Gaming PC and laptop.  I plan on tacking as much of the campaign as I can in the next 24 hours.  Hopefully I get the game conquered before the weekend.  Sign up by email, using the box to the right, to be updated when I post the spoiler-rich, in-depth review of Heart of the Swarm.

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm, Blizzard’s follow up to StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, will be released around the world tomorrow.  Last weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting Neil Kaplan, the voice of Tychus Findlay from Wings of Liberty.  Which is a humorous story all by itself.  But first, here’s a video discussing the upcoming release:

Neil Kaplan, the voice of Tychus

I occasionally sell some things on eBay.  Things just sitting around the house collecting dust, things for friends, things I pick up at secondhand stores, or things that might be under-appreciated by the locals but would be a treasure to someone somewhere.  For the last month or two I had the behind-the-scenes DVD from StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty sitting out there waiting for someone to bid or buy.  Last weekend, I receive an email from a buyer asking if I would bring the item to the local comic book / anime convention going on.  That buyer happened to be Neil Kaplan.  The family had plans already so I initially declined.  Along came some snow, and those plans changed, so I hopped in my truck and made the short trip to Oak Grove, KY.

Mr. Kaplan explained to me that he likes to buy a few copies of the behind-the-scenes DVD to sign for fans.  Not a bad idea at all.  So, I traded an item I was trying to sell for a one of a kind experience.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

I talked with Mr. Kaplan for quite a while.  When asked about the upcoming expansion, StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm, he didn’t give me the usual “Sorry, I can’t say”, instead he explained why he won’t say.  Before personalizing the picture above, he made sure I had completed the campaign mode of Wings of Liberty.  Neil Kaplan hates spoiling things.  He told me that when he was a teenager, he had the opportunity to go see The Empire Strikes Back.  Upon his return home from seeing one of the most popular sequels in movie history, his mother asked how it was.  Of course we all know now that at the end of the film it’s revealed that Darth Vader is Luke’s father.  We take that for granted now, but that was a huge reveal at the time.  Neil wouldn’t give up the goods other than to tell her that she had to go see it.  Even with the threat of being grounded, he wouldn’t spoil the movie.

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm ?

Needless to say, he would not confirm or deny ift Tychus makes an appearance in StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm.  I’m ok with that, because what he did say was much more interesting.  He has been discussing the future of the character with Chris Metzen, Senior VP of Story and Franchise Development at Blizzard.  They would like to do more with the character.  Perhaps working on some of the early story of Tychus and Raynor or maybe bringing the character back from the dead.  It is a sci-fi universe after all.  The Protoss character Fenix had a similar treatment within the scope of the original StarCraft, with only a few missions between his fall and return.

With the game releasing and launching tomorrow, March 12, across the globe, I’m pretty excited.  Be looking for more video and articles about StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm in the coming days, including tomorrow mornings unboxing of the Collector’s Edition!

starcraft 2 wings of libertystarcraft 2 wings of liberty

Diablo 3 – From Beta to Patch 1.0.2C

Diablo 3 very quickly became the best-selling game of May.  It broke Amazon.com’s Pre-sale records and set the PC Game Launch record by selling more than 3.5million copies in the first 24 hours of it’s release.  It was met with some criticism due to Blizzard’s unpreparedness with it’s servers.  Personally, I had almost no issues connecting to the servers.  Diablo 3 took the best of it’s predecessors and streamlined the game experience.

Diablo 3

The most noticeable difference between Diablo 3 and Diablo 2 is the skill system.  You gain new skills, and new ways to alter previous skills, as you level up.  It feels like a well thought variation of the skill and rune system in World of Warcraft. With the skill system, quest check points, and constant barrage of bad guys, this game feels very fast.

Since the initial release of World of Warcraft, Blizzard has offered a premium “Collector’s Edition” of their games.  Diablo 3 was no exception.  Included with the game is what has become standard offerings in the premium editions:  Art Book, Behind the Scenes DVD, and Soundtrack.  New to Diablo 3 is the addition of a Blu-ray disc with the DVD.  Also included is a USB Soulstone containing Diablo 2 and it’s expansion, Lord of Destruction.  For more information including in-game aesthetic items go to Blizzard’s Diablo 3 site.

The biggest disappointment I had with the game was the removal of the Necromancer class in favor of the Witch Doctor.  I’m not very impressed with the aesthetics of the Witch Doctor, but have discovered a random event in Act 2 that contains a Necromancer.  This warrior claims to be the student of the Necromancer that fought the three prime evils in previous games.  That’s the closest you’re going to get if you’re a fan of the Necromancer.  The biggest plus, as far as classes go, is the Demon Hunter.  A vast improvement over the complicated Assassin from Lord of Destruction.  Of course, if you play World of Warcraft, you will notice that a lot has been borrowed for Diablo 3.  Remember, WoW borrowed a lot from Diablo 2 when it was first released.

If you enjoyed the video review (overview) of Diablo 3, let me know.  I’m currently playing the Mists of Pandara Beta and will be sure to get some great video and screen shots for a review once the game releases.