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Video Game: StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

The second chapter of StarCraft II, focusing on Sarah Kerrigan and the Zerg.

After the events of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, Sarah Kerrigan, formerly the Queen of Blades, has been mostly de-infested, leaving her with her original personnality back, but only fragments of her memory as the leader of the Swarm and remains of zerg abilities. The Zerg Swarm, now leaderless, has fragmented into splintered, unorganized factions. While Kerrigan is now hungry for revenge against Mengsk, Raynor tries to convince her to move on. Unfortunately, Mengsk comes after them first. Using what remains of her abilities, Kerrigan goes on a quest to reclaim the Swarm and use it to crush Mengsk once and for all.

Descriptions below may contain unmarked spoilers for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty.


Tropes appearing in Heart of the Swarm include:

  • Action Insurance Gag: One of the evolution missions has you wrecking a city with Ultralisks that can resurrect. You can kill (step on) a car, in which case a Marine pops out of a nearby house and whines "My car, man, I just paid that thing off!"
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • General Warfield. Granted, he doesn't really fit the definition of a villain, but he still was opposing Kerrigan. And his death is absolutely heartbreaking.
    • All the Dominion forces inside the ship Mengsk blows up in an attempt to kill Kerrigan. As you run to save Raynor while it's falling apart, you hear them panicking, horrified that their emperor is sacrificing them in such a way. Calling this a Kick the Dog for Mengsk would be an understatment.
    • Subverted with Mengsk himself. When at the end of the game he is trapped in his palace, with Zerg invading his city and Kerrigan coming for him, you might feel sorry for him... and then, he does a last Kick the Dog moment by torturing Kerrigan with the Xel'Naga artifact. After this point, you definitely feel relieved to see Kerrigan kill him once and for all.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Town halls now display how many workers are gathering resources vs. how many is optimal. The same applies to Vespene Geysers (because You Require More Vespene Gas)—worker count visible without clicking (previously one had to select the geyser-building to see harvester counts while town halls had no count shown at all). This feature was also ported back to Wings of Liberty, and applies to both multiplayer and the campaigns.
    • Some features intended to reduce frustration may cross into Stop Helping Me!, depending on the player. Fortunately, for some of these (such as interface options) the player can go into the settings and set them back to the old style, if they are more comfortable that way.
  • Anti-Hero: Kerrigan, while no longer the Villain Protagonist Queen of Blades, still ends up destroying entire worlds on her Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the current Big Bad, Arcturus Mengsk.
  • Ascended Meme
    • A common Zerg tactic in multiplayer prior to Heart of the Swarm was using 4 infestors in an overlord to harass enemy bases, which was often called a "Four 'Festor Hit Squad". The mission where you gain infestors in the campaign starts you off with... 4 infestors.
    • Another common tactic (usually considered a cheese) for Zerg is what's called a "6 pool" build: with the initial six drones, create a Spawning Pool and try to get a handful of zerglings out the gate before your enemy has any defenses deployed. In the very first mission in HotS, you're instructed to create a hive, six drones, one spawning pool... and use nothing but zerglings for the rest of the mission.
    • On the final Char Mission, a random soldier might call out "So many Banelings!" if you attack with enough of them.
    • The mission where you control the Hyperion is very much inspired by the fan-made Custom game Star Battles.
  • Asshole Victim: With all his Kick the Dog moments over the course of both Wings of Liberty and this game, it's hard not to feel relief when Kerrigan finally kills Mengsk.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Kerrigan has to prove herself fit to rule to other Zerg leaders by showing she's stronger than them.
    • The pack leaders of the primal Zerg, who, thanks to their capacity for horizontal adaptation, also result in Authority Equals Asskicking.
  • Asteroid Thicket: The mission where you control the Hyperion.
  • Asteroids Monster: One of the upgrades for Banelings allows them to do this (by killing an animal that had this ability), becoming two smaller Banelings that do less damage. Abathur notes that doing this further results in sentient slime.
  • A Taste of Power: The Evolution Missions, which allow you to test the campaign-only mutually-exclusive upgrade sets in a controlled environment before committing to picking one.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: Pretty much anytime in the campaign that you're rolling out to destroy the enemy opposition on the map, expect that awesome music from the trailer to play.
    • The best example, however, comes from the Hold the Line mission halfway through the campaign, where it builds up to the very end.
  • Back from the Dead:Alexei Stukov, The UED admiral killed by Samir Duran during the Brood War mission "Patriots Blood", makes a surprise reappearance as an infested terran at the start of "Infested".
    • Some of the actual campaign units can do this as well. Ultralisks have the choice of gaining an ability that resurrects them on death, and Zerglings can do the same if Kerrigan has the appropriate ability.
  • Bad Boss
    • Arcturus Mengsk is disdainful of his soldiers and citizens in a manner that would make Darth Vader uneasy. Vader at least cared about his son; Arcturus ordered his men to kill Valerian just because he was on the same ship as Kerrigan.
    • In one mission where Kerrigan attacks a Dominion ship (Raynor is a prisoner onboard), Arcturus detonates the whole ship, with thousands of his own people still aboard. The panicked and horrified reactions of his men are pretty jarring, even while you’re in the process of fighting them.
      Arcturus: Everyone aboard this ship is willing to give their lives to stop you, Kerrigan.
      Bridge Crew: Wait, what did he say??
      Bridge: [self-destructs]
    • Arcturus goes even further during the invasion of Korhal, where he calls down nukes inside a major metropolitan area with no concern for collateral damage. When he said "I'll rule this sector or see it burnt to ashes around me!" it was not hyperbole in the slightest.
      Valerian: My father is willing to sacrifice any piece on the chessboard, so long as he takes the queen.
    • It is implied that General Warfield could have defeated Kerrigan on Char, if the Xel'Naga artifact hadn't mysteriously gone missing (given its power in the final mission of Wings of Liberty, this is very likely). It's revealed at the end that Mengsk had it in his palace the entire time, meaning he deprived Warfield of his only chance to survive just to protect his sorry hide.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Even after becoming a Noble Demon, Kerrigan still has access to her previous creepy Horde of Alien Locusts Organic Technology Body Horror powers.
  • Battle Couple: Deconstructed between Raynor and Kerrigan. At first it's shaping up to be this, but when Raynor saw her after her trip to Zerus, he felt that Kerrigan was just reverting back to the old Queen of Blades and angrily ends their relationship. Eventually after Raynor overhears the extreme lengths Kerrigan is going to avoid civilian casualties in the invasion of Korhal, he eventually decides to join her at the last minute and ends up saving her when Mengsk tries to reactivate the Xel'Naga artifact. While both of them know they cannot be together anymore due to what lies ahead regarding the prophecy of the Dark Voice, they still do love each other.
  • Beam-O-War: Kerrigan engages in one with Narud during the infiltration of Skygeirr Station. There's a convenient beam-o-meter at the top of the screen during the mission!
  • Berserk Button: Do not use Kerrigan's love of Jim Raynor to attempt to manipulate her, unless you want to die a very ugly, very violent death, very quickly.
  • Big Bad: Mengsk, Emperor of the Dominion and the man who left you to die years earlier.
  • Big Damn Heroes: At the end of the game, Jim Raynor bursts in and destroys the trigger for the Xel'Naga artifact Big Bad Mengsk is using to torture Kerrigan. Raynor crushes the remote in his power-armored fist (while it's still in Mengsk's hand) before grabbing Mengsk by the face and hurling him a good ten feet across the room.
    Raynor: CHANGE OF PLANS!
  • Bigger Bad: Like in Wings of Liberty, the Dark Voice is pulling the strings behind the scenes. This game, we get more detail: He is Amon, a fallen Xel'Naga dead for countless centuries before Narud brought him Back from the Dead.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kerrigan gets her revenge on Mengsk and the Swarm is free of Bigger Bad Amon's influence. However, Kerrigan is forced to leave Raynor behind to prepare for the coming war with Amon and the Hybrids.
  • Black Comedy: While Raynor's prison ship is blowing up, you can find a squad of Marines fleeing. One calls out "get to the escape pods", only for the Medic to correct "it's the prison level, there aren't any escape pods!"
  • Blue and Orange Morality:
    • Zerg don't act out of malice towards other races; they just have difficulty understanding any morality beyond "Everything that is not zerg is a threat and as such needs to be assimilated or destroyed." No news for those who paid attention to the story before (the original, pre-Brood War zerg campaign, as in BW Kerrigan did really act out of malice), but still, good to know that the writers remember this.
      Kerrigan: It's that simple?
      Izsha: For a zerg, it is.
    • In fact, it's suggested that they see assimilation as a good thing to do to other species. In one dialogue, Zagara, who at this point has become as smart as a human, mentions she pities the humans for being "alone inside" due to lacking a Hive Mind and want to "help" them through assimilation.
    • Same goes for the Primal Zerg; they see nothing wrong with devouring each others to evolve because they live by a Social Darwinist-like code, and consider the concept of devouring or being devoured to become more powerful as their inheritance.
  • Book Ends: The game begins and ends with Kerrigan saying I am the Swarm.
  • Boss Battle: Several. Complete with associated sub-tropes.
  • Brick Joke: In Wings of Liberty, Donny Vermillion reports about lemon juice possibly being useful against zerglings. In Heart of the Swarm, Abathur makes an off-hand comment about solving the zerglings' allergy to lemon juice.
  • Call Back: A number of events from previous StarCraft works play a role in the plot of Heart of the Swarm
    • The Odin turns out to have been re-acquired by Mengsk for palace defense after Wings of Liberty, along with the Xel'Naga artifact.
    • Colonel Orlan, who Raynor spared in Wings of Liberty, ends up hacking the Dominion network to find out where Raynor is being held. And he's being held by Mira Han, whose dysfunctional marriage to the reluctant Matt Horner is brought up again (Played for Laughs).
    • Alexei Stukov from Brood War shows up Back from the Dead to help Kerrigan in the endgame of Heart of the Swarm.
    • Additional elements of the Brood War secret mission "Dark Origin" feature in Heart of the Swarm.
    • A few missions utilize this as well: in Wings of Liberty, the mission "Outbreak" involved the player cycling between defending a base while waves of Infested Terrans spawned from buildings and attacked, and destroying the infested buildings while an environmental effect removed all of the enemy units from the field for a short time. In Heart of the Swarm, the mission "Infested" presents the same scenario, but with the roles reversed; now it's the player infesting buildings which spawn waves of units to attack an enemy's base, and every few minutes an environmental effect comes into play, removing all of the Infested Terrans and requiring the player to defend them against enemy attackers. Some of the same lines will even be used in both missions, as well as the Infestor being the featured unit both times.
    • For the first time since Brood War, Jim has finally mentioned Fenix, and Kerrigan reminds him that he swore to kill the Queen of Blades after she killed Fenix - a vow he seemingly forgot about during Wings of Liberty, a cause for much of the Broken Base that Wings of Liberty introduced.
    • Nova has different dialogue in "Back in the Saddle" depending on if you sided with her or Tosh in the previous game. Likewise, during the briefing for "Conviction", Tosh makes a cameo and Matt has different dialogue depending on if he's present or not.
    • After you recruit Zagara, she will talk about either the Nydus network or the space platform being destroyed, depending on your choice of the penultimate Wings of Liberty mission.
    • Behemoths have been mentioned in the novels as the vessels used for interplanetary travel by the zerg, and the Leviathan was a boss in Wings of Liberty. They've been combined here.
    • On Korhal, Mengsk shows that he kept some traditional squadrons and relics from the Confederacy intact under his Dominion. Notably, an elite marine and Goliath commando squad are known as the Sons of Korhal, and the Battlecruiser fleet that defends Augustgrad is known as Alpha Squadron.
    • A number of the biographies to campaign-exclusive units make reference to strains and characters forgotten since Brood War, the Hydralisk evolution mission especially, where the Impaler is based on the same strain as the Sunken Colony, and feral Lurkers are located at one of Daggoth's former breeding grounds.
    • An amusing one in the second mission that doubles as an Easter Egg; if you start the mission and do nothing for a full minute, Kerrigan comments to Raynor that, six years on, he's still a pig! A callback to their very first conversation in the original StarCraft.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You:
    • The reason Kerrigan doesn't kill Abathur despite his role in her initial transformation into the Queen of Blades.
    • This is presumably also the reason Jim Raynor doesn't kill Kerrigan after she's re-infested herself, despite how angry he is with her; if Kerrigan dies, the galaxy is doomed, and he knows it.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Downplayed. The intro of the game has Kerrigan twitching away quite violently after having a Nightmare Sequence involving the Swarm invading the Terran capital world of Korhal, but her looking around and sitting up is a bit more subdued.
  • Character Development: While no longer as evil as she was in Brood War, Kerrigan still starts out as a Villain Protagonist obsessed with revenge against Arcturus. The whole point of the game is to gradually develop her into a more heroic character.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Dehaka. Both Zagara and Izsha question Dehaka's presence on the Leviathan, but Kerrigan strangely allows it. Dehaka does little more than seek new excuses to say "essence" for the second half of the game. When Kerrigan later calls on Dehaka to destroy a Psi Disruptor on Korhal, it shows just how much of a Magnificent Bastard she is, knowing to keep this partiuclar ace up her sleeve.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: While Kerrigan has had this in the past, she actually averts it this time around. The rest of the Zerg, however, have this as their nature.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Newcaster Donny Vermillion's ridiculous claims in Wings Of Liberty that zerglings are vulnerable to lemon juice and that Raynor had teamed up with the Queen of Blades to overthrow Mengsk turn out to be true in Heart of the Swarm.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Sarah learns of Jim's "death" precisely at the moment where she's getting desperate, waiting for him to show up.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Zerg units can be upgraded into one of two forms, with a predominantly green or purple look. The green ones tend towards brute force (Ultralisks with more damage and an auto-damage attack, Banelings that split into smaller Banelings, Brood Lords that pound the enemy and Spawn Broodlings, Swarm Hosts that release flying locusts, Impalers that ram a very unfortunately-colored spike through enemy armor), purples tend towards sneakiness (Ultralisks the resurrect, Banelings that jump over the heads of melee units, Vipers that abduct the enemy and prevent them from attacking, Swarm Hosts that teleport anywhere there's creep, Lurkers that damage multiple light-armored units).
  • Combat Stilettos: Part of Kerrigan's Primal form.
  • Continuity Nod: One of Stukov's lines is "Those who are about to die, we salute you." This is basically the English translation of the first line of the Brood War Aria, which is playing in Admiral Du Galle's quarters while he and Stukov have a nice chat.
  • Convection Schmonvection: the Boss Rush level where you fight three Zerg pack leaders (IE final Zerus mission) has still pools of water within a few yards of leaping pools of lava. Though it is the Zerg's homeworld so they could be spawning pools.
  • Crosshair Aware: There are full-fledged boss fights now, not merely battles against units with a bit more HP. They each project red lines and crosshairs showing where they're about to attack so you can avoid them.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: In the cutscenes, Kerrigan smashes whole groups of Humongous Mecha instantly. She can't quite do that during game play, however she's not too much less powerful (several missions can be won with her alone) it's not as noticeable as usual.
    • After the bossfight with Zurvan, Kerrigan flies up in the air to deliver the final blow. Likewise, at the very end of the game she's seen flying up on nothing but her psychic powers, which she never does in-game.
  • Curbstomp Battle: The "evolution" missions. Abathur sends Zerg evolution strains to other planets to wreck havoc on "test subjects". The Ultralisk one involves raiding laboratories at Korhal, the second one involving regenerating Torrasques that get powered up by Mengsk's initial nuclear missile.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory: Kerrigan's active abilities are mapped to Q, W and E on the keyboard, and her strongest ability to D. Hands up how many MOBA players keep trying to hit R instead (and burrowing their entire army as a result)?
    • For that matter, the hero icon is in the top left of the screen (where it was in Warcraft III), when Wings Of Liberty shifted it to the bottom right. Confusion may ensue.
  • Darker and Edgier: Has a much darker story than Wings of Liberty, putting the player in control of former Villain Protagonist Sarah Kerrigan as she tries to reunite her Horde of Alien Locusts to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Except for a few missions with the objective "Kerrigan must survive" (which is usually there if you have no base on that particular map), whenever Kerrigan dies, she is automatically resurrected at the hive cluster a little while later.
    • Same goes for secondary heroes in missions where a base is available.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Subtle, non-romantic example with Kerrigan towards the Zerg. At the beginning of the campaign, she is rather cold and aggressive, almost abrasive, toward her subordinates. She gradually warms up a bit toward them as the story goes on and starts treating them more human-like. By the end of the campaign, she express satisfaction about Zagara being her potential heir if she dies, and even express sympathy for Abathur, of all people.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Several.
    • During the first Char mission, Zagara will rant at you if you do certain things which especially impress or anger her, such as forcing her to retreat while not including Kerrigan in the attack force or not even using her to defend your base from attack.
    • It is possible to do several missions before others, resulting in characters being absent or present at different times and reacting appropriately to Kerrigan's increased power after the Zerus missions. Normally, Zagara will command the swarm while Kerrigan undergoes metamorphosis on Zerus, but if you have not done the Char missions and acquired Zagara, Izsha will command instead. Dehaka also has dialogue for if you if you recruit him before going to Kaldir or Char and talk to him once you do. Blizzard even rendered two separate versions of an FMV depicting the same exact scene (where Kerrigan kills Warfield), one with the human-looking Kerrigan and one with the primal Kerrigan. The dialogue the protoss executor has upon first encountering Kerrigan on Kaldir also differs based on whether or not Zerus was visited first. After you finish the Zerus missions and the first two mission chains, you view a cutscene advancing the story, and there are three versions of that scene depending on which of the three mission chains you saved for last. Zerus and Kaldir's scenes mention a device retrieved from Char and relayed to you by a Broodmother, but if you did Char last then you just retrieve the device yourself.
    • When Kerrigan "dies", she tunnels back to base and enters a cocoon to regenerate. If at any point during the mission she's scripted to talk, her portrait is changed to show her in the cocoon, with a distortion to her voice. Putting off early missions until she becomes the Primal Queen of Blades also uses the appropriate portrait and voice effects for her dialogue in the same manner.
    • During a mission in which Infestors feature prominently (creation of "virophages" on platforms) while being equipped with permanent mind-control, Blizzard locks out creation of terran buildings should an SCV be captured via Infestor. So yes, a player can amass a terran army by stealing units, but s/he can't build an entire force of terrans and use them to sweep the platforms. (The SCVs can still repair mechanical units, though.)
    • Blizzard finally fixed the bug where if you are playing one race in another race's interface, the race calls out for the wrong supply type. (I.e. it used to be if you were playing Zerg but had a terran interface due to a custom game, being supply-blocked would ask for supply depots when it was really overlords you needed.) Now all 3 races can call for all 3 supply types.
    • Post-mission summaries vary by mission and often list statistics that are either helpful in evaluating how well the player did in regards to an achievement or simply interesting if one tries to play the mission in a specific way.
    • During the opening mission, you get three types of units to control. You're supposed to use zerglings for combat outside the temporary hive cluster, and any attempts to move the Overlords outside the initial test chamber are blocked by the game. You can, however, choose to send drones into combat, and if they manage to kill a unit in a certain part of the labs, Valerian will comment on that with an implied Flat "What.".
    Kerrigan, call off your-! Drones. You're attacking with drones.
    • Even funnier is the fact that you can win using nothing but drones.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: One of the Zerus missions involves Kerrigan doing this no less than four times. And she absorbs their power then to boot.
    • And then she does it again by killing Narud, though she barely survives this one.
    • Considering that she ran herself through, she is punching out herself.
  • The Dragon: When viewed as Villain Protagonists, Zagara becomes this to Kerrigan.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: The story opens with Kerrigan having a vision of herself marching on Mengsk's stronghold in her new primal form at the end of the Zerg campaign.
  • Drop Pod: One of Kerrigan's ultimate abilities is to call in several drop pods worth of troops. While temporary, the pods contain enough Zerg to bowl over a decent-sized base or two.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome/Staring Down Cthulhu: Warfield's dying speech to Kerrigan saves what's left of his men.
  • Easily Forgiven: Averted with Kerrigan; the Protoss, when finding out she is back, immediately attempt to call their fleet to eliminate her, Mengsk wants her dead no matter what even when she is not leading the Swarm, and even Raynor, who was willing to forgive her as her regular self, loses it when she turns back into the Queen of Blades, to the point it takes until the end of the game for him to finally forgive her once and for all. Zeratul does help her by guiding her to Zerus, but he makes it clear that he doesn't forgive her crimes toward his people and only helps her that much because of the Prophecy.
  • Easter Egg: One of the levels has Warcraft characters in holding pens.
  • Elite Mooks: The whole of the enemies final mission Reckoning Day, consisting of the elite of the Dominion army, which are stronger than the usual Terran units.
    • Though Raynor's Raiders have elite units of their own when they join Kerrigan.
    • Two of the Primal Zerg are beefed-up versions of the primal Ultralisk and the Swarm Host respectively (where the Host spawns tiny attackers, the primal one spwans Banelings).
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While she is obsessed with revenge against Mensgk, and willing to slaughter entire armies of Terran to reach him, Kerrigan's attitude while doing so is a stark contrast to what she did in Brood War. She tries to avoid unnecessary casualties as much as she can, even agreeing to give Valerian time to evacuate Korhal's civilian population before her attack, even though this makes it more difficult for her, stops backstabbing her allies and orders Abathur to stop experiments on human subjects, amongst other things. Whenever she does something that could be considered immoral, she is usually forced by the consequences and doesn't particularly enjoys it. Of course, given that she is leading the Zerg, immoral circumstances tend to be a frequent occurrence.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Invoked; in the first mission of the game, Valerian has Kerrigan "test" her control over the Zerg. Kerrigan instead grows an army of zerglings and wrecks the lab, before sending the Zerg she created into holding cages, to show Valerian the dangers of trying to control a chaotic race like the Zerg. She does deliberately avoid civilian casualties, and Valerian is smart enough to take the point.
    • She also chooses not to control them in the following mission and is rather reluctant to do it in the third.
    • Also invoked when it's revealed Arcturus is helping Narud to create Hybrids. He apparently hopes to use them against Zerg and Protoss, but Stukov is pretty much convinced he would never be able to control them.
  • Expansion Pack: The first of its kind released into the mainstream market for a very long while. Heart of the Swarm features a ton of new content, and a new campaign just as long and involved as the first (i.e. way more than your average modern DLC package) for less than the cost of Wings of Liberty. On the other hand, it can't be played without the base game.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: While wondering how Narud could hope to get enough power to resurrect Amon, Kerrigan and Stukov come to the conclusion he may already have by using the power she lost after being deinfested.
  • Eye Lights Out: Used symbolically rather than literally during the death of General Warfield. Already fatally wounded, Kerrigan kills him and leaves him lying where he fell. The camera remains on him as she walks out of the shot, and after a few seconds the headlights on the chest of his Powered Armor flicker and die out.
  • Fantastic Nuke: Kerrigan's Apocalypse power is functionally identical to a Terran nuke.
    • Except Zerg are Friendly Fire Proof when it comes to Kerrigan's Apocalypse - more than Terran units can claim where nukes are concerned.
  • Five-Man Band / Five-Bad Band: Kerrigan gets her own during the events of the campaign.
  • Foregone Conclusion: When Raynor shows up on Korhal with Kerrigan, You -know- he's going to pay the Emperor a visit. Saving Kerrigan was just the very delicious icing on the cake.
  • Foreshadowing: During the cutscene where Mengsk is staring at a storm from his palace, the camera backs up and the Xel'Naga Artifact briefly comes into view.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors
    • As the Queen of Blades in Wings of Liberty, Kerrigan's Glowing Eyes of Doom were yellow-orange, as were her abilities. In Heart of the Swarm her eyes still glow orange at first but her abilities are blue and upon becoming the primal Queen of Blades her eyes glow purple, showing she's been fully cleansed of Amon's influence.
    • The same applies to the Swarm in-game. At first your army will be orange but after Kerrigan achieves her primal form thus cleansing herself of Amon's influence, your army will be purple from that point onward.
    • Narud's eyes and psi blades are red.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Kerrigan's primal form, sort of (her face is green, the rest is brown or purple).
  • Grey and Grey Morality: Everyone is a deep shade of grey (the only redeeming factor in most cases is that everyone is looking out for their own), with only Raynor or Valerian's factions being close to white. Mengsk on the other hand, slides closer and closer to black as the story goes on. This gets discussed when Kerrigan talks to a Protoss prisoner early on and gets asked why she attacked what were essentially researchers and colonists minding their own business.
    Lasarra: Kill thousands to save yourself? Is that how you justify this?
    Kerrigan: I justify nothing. There is no moral high ground here. Your people have killed billions of Zerg. We are all covered in blood; there may be more on my hands than yours but in the end we are both killers.
  • Guest Star Party Member: Some missions involve controlling a hero other then Kerrigan, such as a Broodmother, the Hyperion, or Alexei Stukov.
  • Harmless Freezing: Occurs for Kerrigan, Zerg and Protoss on the first Kaldir mission (which is noted to be only slightly less cold than space). When frozen you are vulnerable to creatures who can resist the flash freezes, whose essence you seek so you and the Swarm can also resist it. In reality, such an environment would kill you or at least seriously maim you (i.e. lost extremities) from severe frostbite, even if you are a powerful psionic entity or have a Healing Factor.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Kerrigan's broodmothers aren't particularly smart, not really being able to think of tactics more complex than "send everything we've got at them." Kerrigan, annoyed at this, orders for their intelligence to be upgraded to compensate. When told this might make them dangerous to her, she insists she needs her minions as dangerous as possible.
  • Horrifying Hero: Kerrigan is a former Brainwashed and Crazy Fallen Hero Omnicidal Maniac turned back to good (partially), leads a Horde of Alien Locusts, possesses rather creepily powerful psychic powers, and basically becomes a Humanoid Abomination Physical God after re-infesting herself. She's still the protagonist of the game, a much more sympathetic character than Mengsk, and on her way to save the Universe from Amon by the end of the series.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen:
    • Kerrigan has gone from the most powerful being in the sector with entire armies at her beck and call to a half-infested terran with nothing.
    • The Zerg swarm has gone from nearly conquering known space to dozens of fragmented broods hiding on backwater worlds now that Terrans have crushed their primary hive cluster on Char.
  • Hufflepuff House: Finally averted with regard to the Umojan Protectorate; the first couple of missions are set in one of their science facilities before a Dominion attack forces Kerrigan, Raynor and Valerian to flee.
    • The Kel'Morians also show up in a minor role later on.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Raynor and Kerrigan. Not too dramatic out of combat, but his armor adds about two feet while she uses a Spy Catsuit.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Kerrigan's explanation to Raynor for why she became Zerg again to rescue him.
  • Idiot Ball: Mengsk grabs a huge one in the final missions. He has the xel'naga artifact, which could pretty much make his base impenetrable if he, ya know, actually used it in the field. But instead he keeps it locked up in his office and waits to use it until his defenses are shattered and Kerrigan is standing in front of him before he reveals it. What could possibly go wrong with this plan? Needless to say, when Raynor intervened, it's really hard to deny that Arcturus had it coming for being so titanically stupid. But even without a third party arriving to help, there are countless ways his plans could have screwed up, first and foremost being Kerrigan ripping the remote for the device from his hands before he could bring it out.
    • Actually him waiting for Kerrigan to come to him makes sense from his point of view. Twice now he's tried to kill her through a third party, first the zerg then Tycus, and both times it failed, not to mention the first time the artifact was used it just depowered her rather than kill her outright. This time he couldn't take the chance that it would fail again so he had to see her die in person, not just hope it happened again.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: Abathur succeeds in making this trope real for Zerg by having Ultralisks draining energy from an expermimental nuclear strike to evolve into Torrasques.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Kerrigan does this to Narud.
  • I Need You Stronger: Non-villainous example, Zeratul assists her in seeking more power (after she's just finished slaughtering a colony of basically peaceful Protoss civilians, no less,) so she'll be strong enough to counter Amon.
    • Similarly, on Zerus, Zurvan helps Kerrigan to ascended to Physical God status and absorb the pack leaders So that she will make a meal strong enough to spur his evolution.
  • It Amused Me: One of Kerrigan's reasons for trashing the lab in the first mission; the other was to teach Valerian a lesson. (For bonus points, you can use Drones instead of Zerglings to do it.)
  • It Can Think: Heart of the Swarm introduces several other zerg intelligent enough to speak, including Kerrigan's Voice with a Hive Mind Connection, The Primal Zerg and the Brood Mothers.
    • A wide variety of the Primal Zerg are able to speak; since they don't have a hive mind it seems that intelligence is more of a survival trait among them than the swarming Zerg.
  • Justified Tutorial: It's implied in said tutorial that Kerrigan isn't even sure if she can control zerg minds directly anymore, so the first few levels where the player learns zerg base management is Kerrigan learning to exercise her powers again and becoming more comfortable with her control over her forces.
  • Kryptonite Factor: The Xel'Naga Artifact in Mengsk's office.
  • Kubrick Stare: A number of characters pull this over the course of the game. Perhaps most unsettling is when Narud, posing as Jim Raynor, greets Sarah with it.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The official website's preview of Heart of the Swarm gives away the ending of Wings of Liberty, specifically, Kerrigan being de-infested.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When breaking into a lab, Kerrigan notes how heavily fortified it is and comments, "Just getting inside will be an achievement." Sure enough, the achievement for completing the ensuing mission is named, "Just Getting Inside".
  • Loyal Animal Companion/Right-Hand Attack Dog: A strange example. In a few cutscenes, Kerrigan is accompanied by a particular zergling with a broken horn. Likely a reference to Scar. Depending on how Zerg reincarnation works, it might actually be Scar himself.
  • Morality Pet: Raynor's influence keeps the zerg side of Sarah's nature in check, preventing her from relapsing into a megalomaniacal omnicidal maniac. Once he's no longer around, she jumps off the slippery slope into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that gives little consideration for collateral damage. Once Raynor is rescued, he, combined with his crew, is able to soften her edges again.
  • Moving the Goalposts: How Abathur regards "perfection", but the chase is all part of the fun for him
    "'Perfection' goal that changes. Can chase. Cannot catch."
  • Must Make Amends:
    • After she kills Warfield at the end of the Char missions, Kerrigan respects his final wishes and spares his men, a marked change from her treatment of Dugalle at the end of Brood War and the Protoss colonists on Kaldir.
    • After cutting a swath of destruction to get to Mengsk on Korhal, Kerrigan also respects Valerian and Raynor's wishes, and gives civilians multiple chances to escape the Zerg onslaught.
  • Neck Lift: Early in the game, Kerrigan uses her psionic powers to lift Valerian Mengsk into the air by the neck.
  • Never Forgotten Skill: Kerrigan is given a ghost gun by Raynor, the same model she had in the original Terran Missions way back in Starcraft I. She has clearly not forgotten how to shoot with it, which is impressive, considering that she had spent four years as a melee character and a human/zerg hybrid. Actually somewhat justified, in that besides muscle memory Kerrigan has very little recollection of intervening events, so it's like she never stopped using the rifle.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • Kerrigan, while still eager to get her revenge, didn't want to go back to leading the Swarm at the beginning of the game, and actually was uncomfortable with controlling them. Had Mengsk not broadcasted fake news of Raynor's death, he would have just ended up dealing with a powerful but lone ghost assassin, who while dangerous on her own, would have still been less of a threat than a revived Queen of Blades leading the entire Zerg Swarm.
    • Had Mengsk not taken the Xel'Naga artifact from Warfield, Kerrigan might have lost while fighting on Char.
    • A minor one: Mengsk gives the order to use an experimental nuke on escaping Ultralisks... which changes them into zombies with the ability to resurrect again and again.
  • Nintendo Hard: The "Mastery" achievements, which require you to perform a task in a mission on Hard mode, can get hair-pullingly annoying. Many turn the level into a Timed Mission, and the timer is not generous in such cases. And many have the objective of destroying an enemy base or key building in a time limit, and as expected, enemies on Hard mode are much more difficult with stronger and more numerous units. For example, the Mastery achievement for the final mission is to destroy the Odin before Mengsk sends it against you. This will occur around the 22-23 minute mark, giving you only a 20-minute window to effectively complete the entire mission, since the Odin waits about ten feet from Mengsk's palace door.
    • There are, however, clever tricks the player can employ to make certain achievements much easier; in the example given, giving your Mutalisks a damage bonus against armor then sending a fleet of them circling around the left edge of the map allows the player to snipe out the Odin long before the 22-minute time requirement, allowing the rest of the mission to be played normally.
  • Not So Different: Kerrigan feels this way toward Alexei Stukov, due to both being infested Terrans who got experimented on.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Kerrigan finishes off Mengsk by turning him into a living psionic bomb that blows up the entire area.
  • Off Model: When Raynor shows up at the very end, his hair has gone entirely back to dark brown.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The main difference between the space-faring Swarm Zerg and the Primal Zerg on Zerus is that the primals compete with one another constantly to keep evolving, while the Swarm only devours non-zerg aliens.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Kerrigan's entire Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Arcturus. All the pain, destruction and death he wrought to build the Dominion is returned as Kerrigan fights her way through the Dominion to get to him. Kerrigan herself notes in a cutscene he's had it coming for all he's done.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Raynor looks a lot less happy in this one, starting with his first appearance. The only time we see him look happy is the very end.
  • Please Kill Me If It Satisfies You: After turning back into the Queen of Blades, after she rescues Raynor, and seeing him understandably pissed, Kerrigan guides his revolver towards her own head, sorrowfully asking if he still trusts her. He unloads the entire clip…deliberately missing, and then walks out of her life.
  • Power Up Full Color Change: In the beginning of the campaign, Kerrigan and any Zerg she controls are colored orange (same as in Wings of Liberty). After her transformation, they go with a purple color scheme. Not only is this supposed to indicate Kerrigan's newfound power, but also signifies her being truly independent of Amon. Which is odd, considering that she and her brood also had a purple color scheme back in Starcraft 1, when she was still under Amon's control.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Primal Zerg society operates on a code of survival of the fittest.
  • Pstandard Psychic Pstance: In the cutscenes, Kerrigan is often seen holding fingers to her forehead when using her psychic abilities.
  • Punctuation Shaker: Played with. During the beta, many of the zerg had apostrophes in unnecessary places. The official release removed most of them (Za'gara became Zagara, for example).
  • Put on a Bus:
    • The entire Protoss faction show up for a grand total of three missions early in the campaign and aren't heard from again. On the other hand, they were already pulling out after the events of Wings of Liberty, Kerrigan's plans would be over before they began if Protoss command got wind of them, and the anti-Protoss missions are explicitly about preventing that from happening, making it a Justified Trope from a story aspect.
    • The Tal'Darim appear in 3 other missions, in the Hybrid arc. Turns out the Tal'Darim are in league with the Hybrid.
    • The Brood Mother Niadra is a literal example. She's introduced in a mission where you have her conquer an escaping Protoss ship, and then at the end she's separated from Kerrigan and you don't hear from her for the rest of the campaign.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: The main goal of the Zerg campaign is to rebuild the Swarm from the splintered factions that formed following Wings of Liberty.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: Remember the Queen of Blades' classification as a "level 12 psionic waveform" in Wings of Liberty? On a scale that capped out at level 10? In Heart of the Swarm, the Hyperion's adjutant calls Primal Queen Kerrigan "unclassifiable".
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: So the primal zerg are creatures that consume other creatures' genetic code and mix it with their own. Quite a ridiculous understanding of biology... But have you heard about Bdelloids?
  • Redemption Demotion: Played with; at the beginning, Kerrigan had to be de-powered to be turned back to good. However, by the end of the game, not only does she get all her zerg powers back, but she has become more powerful than the original Queen of Blades ever was. Her actions are much more sympathetic as the Primal Zerg than even as a depowered human.
  • Reliable Traitor: Several zerg either betray Kerrigan, or fully admit that they are planning to betray her if she ever weakens. When asked about it, their reaction is basically "Uh...because we're Zerg? You didn't see this coming?" To her credit, Kerrigan usually does see it coming.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Even after finding out that a dark god is planning to use the zerg as a weapon in a galaxy-level extinction event, Kerrigan still insists on fighting Mengsk. However, she gives her underlings orders to retreat and prepare for the real enemy if she dies.
    • Fridge Brilliance: if you're going to have a dark god descending on the galaxy, who do you want in charge of one of the three playable races who can oppose him: an Omnicidal Maniac and former terrorist or his more sensible son and heir? (Of course, none of this is spelled out in-game, so the original trope stands.)
  • Revision: The Zerg origin story as explained in the StarCraft I manual turns out to be missing a few key details. Yes, the Xel'naga created the Zerg, yes, the Zerg turned on their creators. Except the reason they did so was because the fallen Xel'naga Amon forced a Hive Mind on them, as well as the overriding purpose to consume the protoss specifically. Their biological origins are changed as well, from body-snatcher parasites that developed the ability to mutate into host species (the larva were originally the pure Zerg) to creatures that directly gain mutations by devouring prey. Also, Zerus still has life on it, sporting an Avatar-level of predator-infested man-eating jungle rather than the ash planet it was first described as.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Kerrigan's willing to destroy entire planets to get to Mengsk, the man who left her to die in the first StarCraft I. Jim's apparent death after mission 2 as well as Mengsk's subsequent announcement of this doesn't help dissuade her.
    Kerrigan: The killing won't stop until Mengsk is dead.
  • RPG Elements: Kerrigan's in-game unit is conceptually an expansion on Warcraft III's hero units. She gains Experience Points and levels as the game progresses, making her tougher and stronger. Every 10-15 levels, she gets to pick an additional power from a choice of two (three later on).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In the attack on the prison ship, after Mengsk starts a self-destruct sequence, the Dominion forces inside quickly decide there's no point in fighting the zerg anymore. But in a cruel irony, there's no escape, so fighting pointlessly to their deaths is all they can do.
  • Sequel Difficulty Drop: In general, Heart of the Swarm is much easier than Wings of Liberty — the custom evolutions for the Zerg units make them incredibly powerful, Hatcheries produce up to 9 larvae letting the player get an army out very quickly from nothing, and in most missions there's Kerrigan who has an array of powerful abilities that let her steamroll a lot of opposition on her own. Story-wise, this provides a borderline case of Gameplay and Story IntegrationWord of God is that at the end of Brood War Kerrigan was fully capable of crushing Mengsk and the Dominion beneath her heel, she just didn't care to do it. Now she does, at least specifically with regards to Mengsk.
  • Sequel Hook: Kerrigan creates a broodmother to infest a Protoss ship, and then abandons her. Then the broodmother states her only purpose is to destroy Protoss. So, chances are we'll be hearing from this creature in the Protoss campaign.
    • Kerrigan and Stukov discuss the United Earth Directorate at some point and agree that they will be back someday. More to the point, there aren't too many other antagonistic Terrans left, and every campaign to date has had at least some antagonists of each faction.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Surprisingly averted when it comes to Char. It's always been depicted as a volcanic planet but one mission takes place in a festering acid swamp being used as a breeding ground for banelings. Of course, toxic fumes and acid pools are known to be around volcanically-active areas in real life, so it's likely Blizzard realized they could have more than one biome on a volcanic planet.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Intentionally invoked. After all the time, effort, and nearly impossible missions spent de-infesting Kerrigan, one of the first things she does is re-infest herself, and massacre the forces you controlled in the previous campaign. All the stirring heroic speeches, good men lost, and heartwarming moments of brotherhood are all utterly wasted. The effect this trope has on Raynor even becomes a crucial plot point. This trope is triumphantly averted at the end of the game, when Kerrigan clearly demonstrates that she had taken the opportunity to redeem herself and become a hero.
  • Shout-Out: See the page.
  • Start of Darkness: We finally learn the Dark Voice's origin. He's actually a Xel'Naga who tried to destroy all life in the universe and recreate it in his image during a fit of pride and jealousy. The other Xel'Naga put him down for it and now that he's been revived he wants to claim vengeance on them. We even get a name for him—Amon.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: The level "Enemy Within" has you infiltrating a Protoss command ship with a single Zerg Larva that you must hide in steam vents and captive fauna to avoid patrols. It becomes a more standard 'installation' mission after a while though.
  • Superpower Lottery: Kerrigan practically becomes a PhysicalGod over the course of the game. Guess it makes up for the fact that she will never be a cute redhead again.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The Broodmothers fill the role that the Cerebrates once held. Justified, as the Cerebrates created in Brood War weren't meant to survive without an Overmind. The Queen of Blades needed replacements created to extend her control of the Swarm.
  • Terraforming: When the Xel'Naga started experimenting with the Zerg, Zerus was a volcanic world. By the time of the campaign, it is a lush jungle world with a few volcanic patches.
  • That Man Is Dead:
    • Kerrigan delivers an iteration of this Stock Phrase to Raynor in the first trailer.
      Kerrigan: The girl you remember is dead.
    • As well, when Kerrigan returns to take control of the Swarm, she repeatedly asserts that she is not the Queen of Blades, as she has only the vaguest memories of that time. However, she eventually comes to embrace the role of their new queen.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Dehaka's lack of a connection to the Zerg Hive Mind is used later in the campaign to destroy a device capable of annihilating any Zerg with said abilities.
    • Kerrigan, being The Chessmaster that she is, anticipated that she might have to go up against something that could use the Zerg's hive mind against them, and it turns out that she had kept Dehaka as an ace up her sleeve for that very moment. In dialogue with other characters before that particular emission, she even discusses the fact that in the past the Terrans had used the Zerg's hive mind against them (read: psi emitters and the Psi Disrupter). If she'd ignored the possibility that they would try something like that again, she'd be considered Too Dumb to Live.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Of all things, critters in this game. Ursadons return from the original game and are now enemies you have to fight in a mission, and Elite Mook variants of them appear as bosses. In the evolution missions you often have to hunt down critters that are deemed to have useful genetic traits for the Swarm, and they will fight back (though not well).
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Raynor survives, Kerrigan is re-infested.
  • Transforming Mecha:
    • Heart of the Swarm introduces the Hellbat, which can transform into a Cool Car or a Mini-Mecha.
    • The absolutely colossal Archangel is the big daddy to the Vikings, except armed with massive machine guns, missiles and bombs.
  • Two Roads Before You: After completing an evolution mission, you must select one of the two enhancements to apply to the particular unit, which is permanent for the rest of that campaign.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change
    • A number of segments of Heart of the Swarm have you fighting 'boss creatures' with predictable attack patterns (the first example being the Archangel), more akin to RPGs and platformers than an RTS.
    • Then there's the first space mission, which is like an extremely light space-sim.
    • The missions where you play with only a hero and maybe a couple of backup units play quite like a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.
  • 2-D Space: Played painfully straight in the Hyperion mission, where small stretches of floating debris are too dense to navigate through. Instead of going around, you use a short-range warp jump.
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: During a side mission to upgrade your Ultralisks, Mengsk orders an experimental nuclear device to be used against your Ultralisks, despite his scientists telling him it hasn't been tested yet. Abathur uses the radiation to morph the Ultralisks to allow them to regenerate after dying.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You're playing as the Zerg, so this is a given. The Char missions are particularly notable in this regard, as they're the same forces you commanded last game, and you can slaughter them mercilessly.
  • Villain Protagonist:
    • Kerrigan (and, by extension, the player) become this. She casually orders her broodmothers to infest planets, slaughters innocents to protect herself, and shows little hesitation in her actions. To the contrary, in one cutscene after ordering a broodmother to destroy a Dominion manufacturing world, she gives a Psychotic Smirk. She starts drifting back to a dark Anti-Hero after she finds out Raynor is alive, but she remains a ruthless and mostly remorseless Zerg Queen.
    • To a lesser extent, Niadra. Despite being blindly loyal to Kerrigan, it's implied that she will interpret Kerrigan's last words to her far too literally and try to annihilate the protoss race in the next expansion despite her orders were to only kill those aboard the ship (so the Golden Armada wouldn't be alerted).
  • Weaponized Offspring: The expansion introduces the Swarm Host unit that spawns short-lived locusts. The Primal Zerg Pack Leader Slivan the Eternal Mother resembles a massive Swarm Host that dumps massive amounts of Banelings on you. In another mission the Brood Mother Niadra spawns several zerglings without the use of a hatchery.
  • We Have Reserves: The player, naturally, but Mengsk gets in on the action too. Also, this is one of the major advantages of the Swarm over the Primals; the Primals are more powerful individually but the Swarm is numberless.
    • Now more than even before for the Zerg, as Kerrigan gains several abilities to summon troops for limited time and also one that allows her zerglings to respawn indefinitely.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Broodmother Niadra was spawned and only appeared in a single mission, but the last we saw of her was on board a derelict Protoss vessel with a sizeable Zerg brood, with a singular objective to destroy the Protoss. This is probably to set up a Zerg enemy in Legacy of the Void.
  • Your Head A Splode: Zurvan, with a ground-shaking and incredibly satisfying boom.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • The Zerg get several possible upgrades that make them even rushier. Zerglings can be upgraded to "swarmlings" that spawn instantly, three at a time, and Kerrigan can learn an automatic spell that revives dead zerglings for free. Corpser roaches spawn roachlings from dead enemies, banelings can be upgraded to be an exploding Asteroids Monster, and the Zerg equivalent to the siege tank is a walking hive that spawns locusts. Two of the missions on Char have Kerrigan totally overwhelming her foes with hundreds of zerglings and banelings.
    • Even the Tagline for the game references this:
      "The rush begins..."
    • The achievement for completing the final mission in less than twenty-five minutes is, of course, called "Zerg Rush".

StarCraft II: Wings of LibertyCreator/Blizzard EntertainmentDiablo III
StarCraft II: Wings of LibertyFranchise/Star CraftStarCraft II: Legacy of the Void
StarCraft II: Wings of LibertyScience Fiction Video GamesStar*Drive
StarCraft II: Wings of LibertyReal-Time StrategyStarCraft II: Legacy of the Void
StarCraft II: Wings of LibertyCreator/ActivisionWarCraft
StarCraft II: Wings of LibertyThe New TensStar*Drive

alternative title(s): Heart Of The Swarm
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