Spencer Keane ’14 / Emertainment Monthly Writer
Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm multilayer is an entirely different animal compared to the single player campaign. There are no characters, no missions, and no unit customization abilities. Multiplayer is Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm at its RTS basics, and they can be brutal.
Where single player devises interesting situations and mission parameters the HOTS Ladder multiplayer is all about one thing – utterly destroying your opponent(s). Each player selects their race of choice – Protoss, Terran, or Zerg – and begins the match with a handful of workers and an HQ structure nestled around a mineral patch and two gas geysers. From here, the player must build up their economy, build structures, amass an army, and destroy the opposition in whatever way they see fit. This basic setup allows for a consistent, bloody, and strategic battle to unfold across the Multiplayer Ladder systems time and time again.
This Multiplayer Ladder in HOTS works off of a raking system of escalating Leagues to place players of relatively equal skill against each other. These leagues rank from Bronze (low level / new players) all the way up to Grand Master (professional). As players ascend the ranks of their League, they can eventually qualify to place in the League above them, making sure that players can grow their skill and find suitable opponents.
Players can take part in Ranked matches ranging from the classic 1v1 mode, all the way up to 4v4 modes. There are also unranked Free-For-All modes with up to four players, as well as Custom Games that allow players to host and play standard games on specific maps just for fun or practice. The fundamentals of all of these modes remain the same though – destroy your opponent(s).
As players battle with each race they gain experience and level up. Each time a player gains a level they inch closer to unlocking achievements, new portraits, and game rewards. These are mostly aesthetic but can be flaunted to show your expertise of the game to other players or your loyalty to one particular race or strategy.
All of these hyper-competitive modes may seem daunting, but Blizzard does their best at making sure that players are ready for what they are in for. There are a series of Player vs. AI challenges that help new players understand the fundamentals of HOTS online play. It is far from the reality of playing the Multiplayer Ladder against a human opponent, but it does help new players familiarize with the game.
If the hyper competitive scene of HOTS gets to be too grueling, players can also take part in player-made games via the Arcade. These games are typically heavily modified mini games created using the Starcraft II: Map Editor included with the game. Die-hard fans of the series make these games to wildly deviate from the standard way HOTS is played and share them with the entire online community. It is one of the most unique features of Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm and it is one that keeps the community strong and involved with the game for years to come. Popular game modes include the classic Tower Defense, where players must team together to build rows of defensive structure to stave off an approaching horde, Tug of War games that pit endless spawns of units against each other, and Hero Battle / Arena modes where players take control of one powerful unit and duel to the death. Impressive new styles of games have begun to emerge ranging from Starcraft Bejeweled, to the Star Strikers Starcraft themed soccer game, and even a playable third person MMORPG.
With these custom games, the Battle.net Arcade is constantly growing and changing its content allowing for a myriad of entertaining mini games to be enjoyed by all players. Although the games can be shallow and simple at times, it seems like there is always something new in the “Up & Coming” feed to catch the community’s attention. All of these features are sure to keep players hopping online to battle their friends, take on the competitive Ladder, or goof around on fun Arcade games and keep Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm relevant and fun for years to come.