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"I am the Swarm. Armies will shatter, worlds will burn. Now, at last, on this world, vengeance shall be mine. For I am the Queen of Blades."
Sarah Kerrigan

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 personality 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 separate Broods, disorganized and fractured, easily cleaned up by the Dominion. However, Kerrigan is still haunted by her crimes and desires vengeance against Arcturus Mengsk. When Arcturus pushes Kerrigan too far, the former Zerg Queen abandons Raynor's men to retake her Swarm, rebuild it bigger and stronger than ever, and unleash its full fury on the Dominion and its Emperor.

Compared to the story of Wings of Liberty, which focused on Raynor and his men as they fought the Dominion and helped those in need, Heart of the Swarm takes a more personal focus on Kerrigan, examining her identity and moral struggles. Her amnesia provides a story engine through which Kerrigan must learn what it means to be Zerg and what they are to her and her to them. If the Swarm is to be a tool to carry out Kerrigan's will, she must decide what she wants that will to be and rebuild the Swarm in that image, redefining herself and her minions together and showing players the "heart" of the Swarm.

The player utilizes a Zerg Leviathan as Kerrigan's mobile base of operations, moving from planet to planet for mission chains. As the Zerg geneticist Abathur locates possible sources of useful evolutions for the Swarm, Kerrigan is able to integrate these genes into a strain of Zerg to permanently augment them. Kerrigan takes the field personally in almost every mission, leading the Zerg from the frontlines as a hero unit. She evolves by collecting essence that augments her powers, letting her express her control of the Swarm in a different way or giving her new powers for fighting in the field.

Initially released as an expansion pack for Wings of Liberty, but with the release of Legacy of the Void, the entire game engine was overhauled and made modular, and as a result the game is now episodic- one can now buy and play Heart of the Swarm without owning Wings of Liberty. However, the recommended play sequence is by release date due to the story progression, and to be able to fully comprehend and enjoy the story.

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

Followed by StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void.

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: At the end of the game, 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 versus how many is optimal. Previously, this had to be checked manually.
  • 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.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • One delivered by Warfield to Kerrigan on Char.
    Warfield: How many innocents have you killed? How many more have to die? What if Raynor could see you right now?
  • 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.
    • A common strategy 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. This is a reference to a famous moment in a pro game where one player exclaimed the same line after their opponent attacked with a ridiculous amount of Banelings.
  • 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 Leads to Leadership:
    • 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 Rank Scales with Asskicking.
  • Asteroid Thicket: The mission where you control the Hyperion has you navigate around an asteroid field.
  • Asteroids Monster: Abathur discovers a species that is able to split into two when damaged, and provides this ability as one of two options for the Baneling upgrade. Splitter Banelings will split into two smaller, weaker Banelings the first time they detonate.
  • 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.
  • 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".
    • 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 even Darth Vader uneasy. Over the course of the game, he detonates a prison ship with numerous Dominion soldiers and prisoners still aboard it in an attempt to kill Raynor and Kerrigan, kept the xel'naga artifact in his office for his own personal defense instead of deploying it to help his men defeat Kerrigan, and launches nukes in his own city streets to try and stop a few Ultralisks. Finally and perhaps most damning of all, he orders his fleet to open fire on the Hyperion while Valerian, his son and heir, is on-board, because he wants to kill Kerrigan who is also on-board. Valerian says in that cutscene that Arcturus will do anything to kill Kerrigan, and by the end of the game it's clear he wasn't exaggerating.
  • 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 Kerrigan to die years earlier.
  • Big Damn Heroes: At the end of the game, just as Big Bad Mengsk is about to hit the trigger to kill Kerrigan with the Xel'Naga artifact a power armored hand reaches out of the shadows and crushes the remote (while it's still in Mengsk's hand) before grabbing Mengsk by the face just as Raynor's skull pattern visor opens and he hurls him a good ten feet across the room. Then he pulls his pistol on him just to be sure he can't pull any more tricks out of his bag.
    Raynor: CHANGE OF PLANS!
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kerrigan gets her revenge on Mengsk and the Swarm is free of Greater-Scope Villain Amon's influence. However, Kerrigan is forced to leave Raynor behind to prepare for the coming war with Amon and the Hybrids — which can pull everything Jim and Kerrigan have worked so hard to build up utterly downhill in Legacy of the Void. Even with a new war, the Dominion was nonetheless a better place under Valerian than his father.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: While nowhere as bad as they were in the first game, Kerrigan and the Swarm still get in some pretty vicious deeds during the campaign. It's not until she joins the Raiders in trying to rescue Jim Raynor that she gets a chance to do good along the way. That said, Mengsk is a sociopathic monster and Amon is an Eldritch Abomination God of Evil intent on destroying the cosmos.
  • 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.
  • Broken Aesop: Kerrigan saying that the Protoss Lasarra has no moral highground due to her people killing billions of Zerg rings hollow considering that the Zerg were infamous to the Protoss and Terrans for their aggression against their worlds. It's hard to fault the two races for taking the offensive against them due to their history of invading and infesting worlds, and generally acting as an invasive species.
  • Call-Back: A number of events from previous StarCraft works play a role in the plot of Heart of the Swarm or are simply mentioned.
    • Near the start of the game, Kerrigan apologises to Raynor that saving her life caused the death of Tychus Findley.
    • 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. Also, once again, Stukov is part of a force to invade the Dominion Throne World of Korhal, this time with the Swarm instead of the United Earth Directorate. He even cites DuGalle just above the planet.
    • 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.
      • Likewise, the first mission of the last campaign arc "Planetfall" is a complete reverse of what happens in the same third to last mission in the Wings of Liberty Campaign "Gates of Hell". Here, instead of being the Terrans invading the primary Zerg hive cluster of Char, you instead control the Zerg Swarm who are invading the Terran Capital of Korhal. Rather than rescuing the downed cruisers full of Warfield's men through hordes of Zerg creatures, you instead try to save the scarce few Bile Launchers that make it through Korhal's air defense networks from the Dominion's ground troops who are trying to deny you a foothold. To top it off, in "Gates of Hell", there are 5 Spore Cannons for you to destroy, while in "Planetfall" you have to try to at least save 5 Bile Launchers to complete the mission.
    • 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.
      • Likewise, If you click on her enough, she comments about how you're still easily amused, which she also said if clicked-on enough in the first game.
    • Remember the unit upgrades you got in Wings of Liberty? The Dominion now has them. In this campaign you will know what it is like to be on the receiving end.
    • The final mission is named "The Reckoning", which is the same name of the penultimate Zerg mission in Brood War.
  • 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.
    • Similarly, this is clearly Zeratul's motivation for not killing Kerrigan even though protoss justice demands that he do just that. Bringing her to Zerus to become the Primal Queen of Blades is for the same reason: If he kills her, Amon will use the Zerg Swarm and his zerg/protoss hybrids to wipe out all life in the cosmos, which Zeratul knows because he witnessed the vision with his own eyes. He makes it clear in Wings of Liberty that if she weren't essential to stopping Amon he wouldn't be so easy on her.
  • 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 intelligent she is, knowing to keep this partiuclar ace up her sleeve.
  • Chess Motifs: When Horner tries to tell the Dominion to cease firing on the Hyperion because Crown Prince Valerian is on board, Valerian remarks that his father will sacrifice every piece on the board to take the queen (possibly alluding to the Queen of Blades, since Kerrigan was also on board). For anyone with a passing knowledge of chess, and maybe as a bit of Fridge Brilliant Foreshadowing, this is an absolutely terrible strategy that is guaranteed a loss, because it's not the queen that's the most important, but the king... Arcturus himself.
  • 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.
  • 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. However, the stilettos are actually just a long spike from her heel.
  • 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.
  • Continuity Porn: The final campaign mission, "The Reckoning". Mengsk's elite marines are called "Sons of Korhal", the name of Mengsk's revolutionary group from StarCraft; his elite reapers and hellions are called "Death Heads" and "Outback Hunters", who previously appeared in the Blizzard-made custom map Left2Die and retain the custom models they used in that map; Raynor fields some of the mercenary groups the player could hire in Wings of Liberty, whose models are also used for Mengsk's elite forces to make them seem tougher; finally, all three of Kerrigan's generals can help out by sending their forces in to bolster Kerrigan's advance — Zagara with her brood of regular Zerg, Dehaka and his primal zerg pack and Stukov leading whatever Infested Terrans remain in the Swarm, including Aberrations.
  • 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.
  • Creepy Monotone: Terran and Protoss units that you have infested and controlled say things like "Awaiting directive" and "For the swarm" with little inflection.
  • 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.
  • Crusading Widow: The game's second mission (or first post-tutorial mission) has Raynor get sniped in the head, establishing and centering the plot around Kerrigan's Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Mengsk. She eventually learns that this was simply propaganda for the dominion, with Jim being locked away as bait for her
  • 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, although she's not too much less powerful and indeed several missions can be won with her alone.
    • After the boss fight 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 can't do when playable.
    • Several missions have Kerrigan summon units and buildings, usually to the sum of an entire base instantly formed, using drop pods. While you can get a drop pod ability in-game, it only summons some timed life zerg, there's no option to freely call down a hive or other structures.
  • Cutting the Knot: A few missions allow you to complete mission objectives in more indirect ways.
    • The first Char mission has you competing with Zagara to collect 100 baneling eggs first. Destroying her base also wins the mission regardless of egg count.
    • The second Kaldir mission has you stopping Protoss shuttles from escaping to warp conduits. Destroying the three shuttle bays they're launching the shuttles from also works.
  • 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)?
  • 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.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • Your first choice of mission is to go to Char or Kaldir. The following cutscene where Kerrigan finds the Leviathan and meets Izsha will show the appropriate planet, and Izsha has different dialogue to refer to the proper planet and which broodmother is on the surface (Zagara on Char and Nafash on Kaldir).
    • 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 using her to defend your base from attack.
    • The first three mission chains (Char, Kaldir, and Zerus) can be done in any order, and Zagara and Dehaka who join you on Char and Zerus have dialogue for the other two planets if you complete that mission chain earlier than the others. On Zerus, if you've recruited her on Char, Zagara will lead the Swarm while Kerrigan is incapacitated, but if you do Zerus before Char, Izsha will command.
    • Dialogue with the Protoss Executor on Kaldir is different depending on if you did Zerus before Kaldir. As for Char, there are actually two versions of the FMV where Kerrigan kills General Warfield, depending on if you did Char before or after Zerus.
    • When you finish the first three mission chains, you view a cutscene to advance the story where Kerrigan receives a communication device. If you did Zerus or Kaldir last, the cutscene has Izsha mention the Terrans launched the devices at their broods on Char and a broodmother relayed one to Kerrigan, but if you did Char last, Izsha mentions the devices were launched at them during the battle.
    • In the first three mission chains, Kerrigan's voice when she's scripted to talk in a scene will be distorted if she's recently been defeated and is regenerating in her cocoon. The same thing happens if you put off missions until after completing Zerus when she gains a Power Echoes effect. Her portrait will also be different in all three scenarios.
    • During the penultimate mission, you're meant to use a hero unit in a separate area to destroy a series of power links powering a field generator that damages your units, and their destruction temporarily disables the field letting you move in to attack. If you use air units to scope out the power links that haven't been destroyed yet, they're inactive and immune to damage, to avoid Sequence Breaking (the units and structures defending them are fair game, though).
    • 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".
    Valerian: Kerrigan, call off your—! Drones?! You're attacking with 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. Of course, there's also Nova to Emperor Mengsk.
  • Dramatic Irony: Mengsk is helping Mobius create the Hybrid under the belief he will be able to use them to be protected from the Zerg and Protoss. But the player knows from Zeratul's mission that the Terrans were the first race the Hybrids wiped out.
  • 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.
  • Dream Intro: See above.
  • 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.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Raynor has spent many years struggling against Mengsk and failing, but with Kerrigan on his side having had a change of heart, he finally gets to overthrow the Emperor and succeed in his revolution.
  • Easily Forgiven: Averted with Kerrigan; absolutely no one has forgotten or forgiven her actions during Brood War. When the Protoss find out she's back and leading the Swarm again, they immediately attempt to call the Golden Armada to eliminate her; Mengsk wants her dead no matter what, even when she's not leading the Swarm; 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 he reminds her that she killed Fenix, and it's only at the end of the game that he finally forgives her once and for all. Zeratul does help her by guiding her to Zerus, but only because he has to — it's clear that he hasn't forgiven her crimes against his people or the part she played in his matriarch's death, and he's helping her because the Prophecy says they're screwed without her.
  • Easter Egg: One of the levels has Warcraft characters in holding pens.
  • Easy Level Trick: Due to Kerrigan being such a massive One-Man Army in the later stages, it's very easy to trivialize some of the missions with just her. She's even capable of cheesing the final level of the game, "The Reckoning," by just rushing her to the front gate objective of Arcturus' palace in the top right (utilizing Mend to keep her healed up). Once Kerrigan nears the gate, Kinetic Blast is used to quickly destroy the detection nearby so that she can Burrow hide next to it, which from then on, the player bounces Kerrigan in-and-out of Burrow in order to Kinetic Blast the gate objective each time said skill is off cooldown until it's destroyed. The result is the final mission of the game being beaten in just a couple minutes.
  • Elite Mooks: The enemies in the final mission The Reckoning, consisting of the elite of the Dominion army, which are stronger than the usual Terran units.
    • Raynor's buildings produce the mercenary units the player could purchase in Wings of Liberty, including War Pigs (marines), Spartan Company (goliaths) and Shock Division (siege tanks).
    • Two of the Primal Zerg packleaders are beefed-up versions of the primal Ultralisk and the Swarm Host respectively (where the Host spawns tiny attackers, the primal one spawns Banelings).
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While she is obsessed with revenge against Mengsk, 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 circumstances and doesn't particularly enjoy 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 and attempts to end the experiment after creating a spawning pool. 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. This bites her in the ass when she and Raynor have to fight their way through the Zerg to escape in the next mission.
    • 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, due to Blizzard switching the engine to a modular design with version 3.0, the game is now episodic and one can buy and play this without buying Wings of Liberty.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • After Kerrigan becomes a Primal Zerg, Izsha comments that she believes Kerrigan will one day rule the universe. Come Starcraft II Legacy Of The Void, she becomes the last Xel'naga and the strongest being in existence.
  • Futuristic Pyramid: Mengsk's imperial palace on Korhal.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • Several of the upgrades allowed for units via the evolution pit are upgrades they normally have in the melee game, such as the Hydralisk's grooved spines and the Zergling's adrenaline overload. Flavor text for these abilities notes that such mutations are often upgraded on the battlefield as needed, but it's possible to integrate them directly into the base strain without the need for individual mutations, which is why such upgrades become permanent and don't need to be re-researched every mission.
    • Cutscenes often show Kerrigan in the company of a pet zergling with a broken tusk. If you did the zergling evolution mission and thus changed the zerglings' appearance, these cutscenes will reflect your choice. The various zerg creatures roaming around the Leviathan also change accordingly.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • During the Domination mission, Zagara possesses Hydralisks (even Ultralisks if you go to Kaldir and Zerus first) but you don´t have access to any of them after you let her join you. You have to go to Kaldir to recover Hydralisks and Skygeirr for the Ultralisks.
    • If you pay attention to the sky above the Domininion's fortress on Char, you can see Mutalisks flying around, even if you still don´t have access to them.
    • During the Terran mission where you fly the Hyperion against Mira's mercenaries, Swann is able to use minerals harvested from the asteroid belt to upgrade the ship's systems and cababilities, significantly increasing its overall hitpoints and damage. These changes are never seen or mentioned for the rest of the campaign, and don't show up in ''Legacy of the Void''.
    • It's possible to do the hydralisk evolution mission before triggering the cutscene where Izha tells Kerrigan that the broodmother Kilysa wishes to return to the swarm. This means Kilysa will appear to extract the lurker essence despite not having contacted Izha
  • 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. His Protoss servants who are/were part of the Tal'darim have black and green in their colour scheme.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Like in Wings of Liberty, the Dark Voice is pulling the strings behind the scenes. This game, we get more detail: the Dark Voice is Amon, a fallen Xel'Naga dead for countless centuries; worse yet, Narud manages to bring him Back from the Dead.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Kerrigan's new Queen of Blades form; although not actually green, it does resemble her old Queen of Blades get-up without the "evil" aesthetic and the Glowing Eyes of Doom.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The conflict between the Swarm Zerg and the Primal Zerg on Zerus. On one hand, the Swarm Zerg look down on the Primal Zerg because their lack of a Hive Mind, which in the Swarm's opinion makes them chaotic and unwieldy, facilitates them falling into squabbling and petty infighting and generally denies them the unity and cohesiveness that makes the Swarm a threat — and because their mutations/evolutions only for individual Zerg rather than all Zerg of the same type. On the other hand, the Primal Zerg argue that the same Hive Mind makes the Swarm Zerg into mindless drones who just do as they're told, which among Primals is considered a Fate Worse than Death, and consequently see them as corrupt and broken — and given that Amon, the Token Evil Xel'Naga, was the one who created the Hive Mind and corrupted the Zerg Overmind, the Swarm's original leader, they're actually right about that. Essentially, it's an argument between those who believe in unity and working together to crush your leader's enemies versus those who believe in striving for personal strength and pursuing your own agenda above all else. Note that neither side claims superiority on moral grounds; each just believes theirs is the better way of life.
    • Kerrigan invoked this about her confict with the Protoss on Kaldir when Lassara calls her out for attacking her group of researchers and colonialists, pointing out the Protoss killed billions of Zerg. While the Protoss are (understandably, considering her reputation) worried about her and trying to have her killed, they did decide to attack her unprovoked when she was just here to mind her own business. However, she acknowledges she doesn't have moral high ground either, as she is essentially just trying to kill them out of self-preservation.
    Lassara: Killing thousands to save yourself. Is that how you justify this?
    Kerrigan: I justify nothing. There is no moral high ground here. Your kind 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 by 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. Raynor wasn't having it.
    Raynor: Tell that to Fenix! Tell it to the millions you butchered!
  • 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 Tychus, 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.
  • 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 the first mission 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. The dialogue to guide the player is first provided by a computer overseeing her, and then Kerrigan herself thinking aloud.
  • 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"note .
  • 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.
  • Men Don't Cry: Even when quite a few characters undergo plenty of anguish throughout the series to be expected to shed a whole bunch of tears, the only person to ever shed a Single Tear in the entire series is Kerrigan, a woman.
  • 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 descends into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that gives little consideration for collateral damage. Once Raynor is rescued, he and Valerian are able to soften her edges again.
  • Moving the Goalposts: How Abathur regards "perfection", but the chase is all part of the fun for him.
    Abathur: '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 the UED 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 despite it putting her at a disadvantage.
  • Mythology Gag/Discontinuity Nod: One of Primal Kerrigan's Stop Poking Me! quotes reference the fact that she was colored purple in the first game, but her infested form in the previous entry was orange:
    Kerrigan: I've always looked better in purple.
  • 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. He does the same thing again during the final battle, keeping it back as a personal ace in the hole long past the point where it would have been most effective.
    • 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 Completely Useless: Roachlings are pathetically weak, to the point most players choose Vile Roaches, but their status as fast moving melee units means they'll at least draw some attacks that would've otherwise hit your more valuable roaches.
  • Nuclear Mutant: Abathur succeeds in making this trope real for Zerg by having Ultralisks draining energy from an expermimental nuclear strike to evolve into Torrasques.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Kerrigan realizes where her power was drained to when the artifact was used against her at the end of the first episode.
  • 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.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome:
    • Swarmlings spawn in trios rather than pairs and have one tenth the build time of normal Zerglings. But Raptors deal extra damage, leap to close on enemies, and can leap up and down cliffs. Worse is that Swarmlings don't have a lower food cost. As such, players generally only use them if they're bad at defending their bases or if they focus heavily on using Banelings.
    • The third column of abilities Kerrigan unlocks are by no means bad, but almost all of them are inferior to other options in the same tier. For example, Drop Pods drops a total of fifty Primal Zergnote  with timed life and seems immensely powerful on paper. But none of the Primal Zerg benefit from the evolutions or mutations your normal troops have, making them weaker than your standard forces. In comparison, Apocalypse is a Friendly Fire Proof nuke that synergizes well with Spawn Broodlings while Summon Leviathan creates a Giant Flyer that can steamroll the enemy with ease until it's timed life runs out.
  • 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 gun... 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.
  • Power Up Letdown: After completing the Zerus missions, Kerrigan is way more powerful and a third column of abilities is unlocked for her. Unfortunately, most of them fall into this trope; Automated Extractors is the major benefit she gains, everything else is either not as good as something in the first two columns or of circumstantial superiority over them. This is most apparent in the mission where you're locked into using her new abilities, where her first two abilities are inferior versions of the two abilities she already had.
  • Precision Crash: In the opening cutscene, a battlecruiser is seen crashing into a city. Less random than most examples, since Korhal is a City Planet.
  • Previously on…: Due to the game being made episodic in nature as of Legacy, each episode now comes with a cinematic called "The Story So Far", which gives a summary of the story of the game to date.
  • Prison Level: After Kerrigan discovers that Raynor is still alive on a Dominion Prison Ship she goes to rescue him. Along the way she infests the other prisoners to use as cannon fodder against the guards.
  • 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 one other mission, 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.
  • Quantity vs. Quality: The campaign only evolutions for various Zerg units tend to be a choice between more units or stronger ones, such as Zerglings that spawn faster and three from a single larva or ones that jump over obstacles and do more damage.
  • 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.
  • Resource-Gathering Mission: instead of the standard minerals and vespene, you kill local lifeforms to harvest big chunks of meat via drones to wake up a local ancient Zerg organism. While the opposing primal zerg will attack your base and drones, they will also deny you by attacking the biomass directly.
  • 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.
    • Note that in this case, while Revenge is Kerrigan's primary motivation, Mengsk's actions including the revelation that he's working with tools of said dark god give plenty of reason for Kerrigan wanting him dead.
  • Revision: The Zerg origin story as explained in the StarCraft 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. 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).
  • Safely Secluded Science Center: The game begins with Kerrigan undergoing tests at research station EB-103, a Umojan facility located on the tiny planetoid XT39323, both for secrecy and to make it easier to contain the Zerg if they lose control of them.
  • 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.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: In the mission Hand of Darkness, the player needs to deal with Hybrid that successively break free from their restraints and attempt to absorb Kerrigan's life force. But, the game doesn't consider the Hybrid and the Dominion forces holding them captive to be on the same team, so with careful maneuvering the player can set the two groups against each other as they move across the map.
  • 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.
  • Single Tear: Kerrigan sheds one early in the game after learning that Raynor was killed by Dominion forces.
  • 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. Also, it was revealed mid-game that something did change- she was freed of Amon's control on her when the artifact activated, and the last of Amon's dark influence was purged with her re-infestation.
  • Shout-Out: See the page.
  • Smart Ball: One mission on Korhal reveals that Mengsk ordered the creation of the Psi-Destroyer, a weapon designed to kill the zerg via their Hive Mind. Given the hive mind is intrinsic to the Swarm's nature and there was no reason to believe they would find zerg who didn't use it, this is the cleverest thing he does in the entire campaign.
  • 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 Physical God 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.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Kerrigan finishes off Mengsk by turning him into a living psionic bomb that blows up the entire area.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Kerrigan invokes this on herself after she conquers Char and shatters the Dominion forces there, including killing General Warfield. While being returned to human form may have eased the fear and hate many have of her, taking back the swarm and Char will renew that fear and likely destroy any hopes she had of being trusted by Terrans.
  • 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 mission, 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.
  • Tunnel King: The Primal pack leader Yagdra, and later the ash worm.
  • 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.
  • 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 Character: It's probably a safe bet that no one was expecting Alexei Stukov to make a comeback.
    • Nor did many foresee the return of the Odin during the final battle.
  • 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.
  • 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 even though her orders were to only kill those aboard the ship so the Golden Armada wouldn't be alerted to Kerrigan's presence on Kaldir.
  • Violation of Common Sense: While the majority of mission achievements in Wings of Liberty were based on sensible actions that actually benefited the mission/player, many of those in Heart of the Swarm require you to do things so strategically stupid that you'd end up court-martialed and probably shot if you pulled off even one of them in Real Life. Most of these examples involve massive investments in units, resources and time for little to no gain other than unlocking the achievement, usually while you're already hard-pressed for all three due to the unforgiving time limits in every other mission.
  • 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.
  • Wham Line:
    Mengsk: Remember this, Raynor? It was nice of your criminal partner to leave it here for me.
    Raynor: Ah, crap. I'd recognise that signature anywhere. He's sent out the Odin!
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Since Raynor still derisively refers to Valerian as "kid" or "junior", it kind of stands out when he just calls him Valerian.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Stukov admits he can't go back to Earth, even if he'd like to.
  • You Didn't Ask: When Kerrigan asks Dehaka if he knew that Zurvan was going to turn on her, his response is somewhere between this and "I didn't see the point in telling you." More specifically, he figured Zurvan would probably try something, but that putting self-interest first and consuming others to fuel your own evolution through their essence is just what the Zerg do, making Zurvan's treachery the obvious course of action, and that if Kerrigan was really a Zerg like she claimed, she would understand that too.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Like most of the horrible things she did in Brood War, this is invoked and defied by Kerrigan, as the story now focuses on her redemption. After their Enemy Mine in the Skygear missions, Stukov expects her to pull out this on him, only for Kerrigan to not only spare him, but offer him a place in the Swarm since he has nowhere to go. In the Hyperion mission, Zerg ask Kerrigan if they can devour the Raiders now that they have done what they could to help, only for her to angrily forbid any attempt on their life. The trope is still played straight when Kerrigan abandons her own creation Niadra once she is done eliminating the Protoss on the ship she was sent to, but considering she had been used to Shoot the Dog, it is sort of understandable that Kerrigan didn't want to keep her.
  • You Monster!: Lassara the Protoss scientist to Kerrigan, as well as General Warfield, also to Kerrigan.
  • Your Head A-Splode:
    • Zurvan, with a ground-shaking and incredibly satisfying boom.
    • Also Mengsk; the explosion originates from their head, but it takes out their entire body and part of the building they were in!
  • 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". The tactic is impossible to avoid in that level, since your allies send unending waves of reinforcements at the main enemy base.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Heart Of The Swarm


The Zerg Swarm

The scariest thing about the zerg is that no matter how many you kill, they just keep on coming. Full-auto, tanks, gatling guns, and artillery might kill some... but there is always more, they will keep coming undeterred - and for some of them, even the big guns won't cut it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShootingTheSwarm

Media sources: