StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Common Sense Media says

"Stellar" sci-fi strategy expansion wows fans of the series.

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Despite some story sequences that involve the various human characters, this game is a straightforward sci-fi strategy game that has the humans blasting creatures on alien worlds. It could be argued the humans are defending humankind. 

Positive role models

While you're in control over multiple military units, in the single-player campaign you play as Sarah Kerrigan, former Queen of Blades, who must plot her escape from imprisonment and reclaim her empire. She's a warrior, no doubt, and filled with vengeance.

Ease of play

This game can take a few minutes to get the hang of, but the mouse-centric controls and some optional keyboard commands will be mastered within an hour or two. The game starts players off gradually.

Violence

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is a real-time strategy game rooted in combat. Three races are pitted against one another in the story mode, and in order to succeed, gamers need to use the right units in the right way at the right time. While played from an angled top-down view, there is animated violence, red blood splatters, and some gore while the aliens or humans take damage during combat. Some of the cut-scene sequences show violence, too.

Sex

The game has some suggestive scenes, including a kiss between the main characters, plus there's a drawing a half-naked woman on the side of a military uniform.

Language

The game has some profanity in the dialogue sequences, including the words "s--t," "bitch," "damn," "hell" and "ass." 

Consumerism

This is an expansion pack to extend the gameplay of StarCraft II.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

In some sequences, you can see a character drinking from bottles at a bar (one clearly says Cognac on it), as well as a pack of cigarettes on the table. Another character has a cigar in his mouth (even while wearing his spacesuit helmet!).

Privacy & safety

Creates privacy and safety concerns. The game's online service, Battle.net, delivers an amazing multiplayer experience. But parents should be aware players can challenge strangers in matches, chat via text or voice, and also add friends to an instant messenger-like buddy list. This chat is not moderated.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is a "Teen"-rated military strategy game set in the future. It is a strategy game that you can play against other players in real time. You mostly kill alien species from a top-down "isometric" view, opposed to a first-person perspective in games like the Halo or Call of Duty series. Still, there is blood and body parts strewn on the battlefields. Also be aware that this game supports open online text and voice communication. The multiplayer aspect, with players earning ratings based on how well they play, makes this a compelling game that is hard to quit. Families will want to pay attention to the addictive nature of this type of game.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • following directions

Science

  • engineering
  • geology
  • rocks and minerals

Social Studies

  • exploration
  • geography

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • investigation
  • strategy
  • applying information

Creativity

  • making new creations
  • brainstorming
  • developing novel solutions

Self-Direction

  • set objectives
  • time management

Collaboration

  • cooperation
  • meeting challenges together
  • teamwork

Tech Skills

  • digital creation
  • using and applying technology

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

Kids who like strategy games will likely be very engaged in this title. StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is an engrossing game with both a solo campaign and multiple multiplayer options. 

Learning Approach

Players learn strategy and tactics by playing and trying new things. This game provides an environement of kids to learn to cooperatte with others.

Support

The game offers plenty of instruction and feedback; and there are outside resources for kids who want to learn better strategies.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • following directions

Science

  • engineering
  • geology
  • rocks and minerals

Social Studies

  • exploration
  • geography

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • investigation
  • strategy
  • applying information

Creativity

  • making new creations
  • brainstorming
  • developing novel solutions

Self-Direction

  • set objectives
  • time management

Collaboration

  • cooperation
  • meeting challenges together
  • teamwork

Tech Skills

  • digital creation
  • using and applying technology

Kids can learn about strategy and tactics, as well as creative thinking and cooperation while battling aliens in this real-time strategy game. Players micro-managing units, each with their own specialties, when fighting against other races. They learn about mining resources to fuel growth, exploring on the maps, and strategizing to be victorious. When played online against others, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm lets kids learn about cooperating and strategizing while saving the universe.

This Learning Rating review was written by Marc Saltzman

Parents say

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Kids say

What's it about?

As the first official expansion to StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, STARCRAFT II: HEART OF THE SWARM starts with an imprisoned Sarah Kerrigan, once Queen of the Blades, deep in a research facility run by Crown Prince Valerian Mengsk. While being tested to see if Kerrigan still has psychic control over the Zerg race, the facility is attacked by Dominion forces, which helps Kerrigan escape -- not before an embrace with her former lover, Jim Raynor, the hero from the first game. So, just how will Kerrigan reclaim her power and exact vengeance on her captors? Without giving away much more of the purposely campy single-player tale, StarCraft fans will once again take control over the Terrans (humans), as they battle the tech-savvy Protoss and the swarming Zerg. These three powerful and well-balanced races face off on alien worlds, each with their own tactics, technology, units, and weapons, as well as unique characters and motivations. Players will also mine resources to fuel their military might during both the solo game and multiplayer head-to-head and cooperative (co-op) modes playable online.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Yes, indeed. Along with the all-new story-driven sci-fi single-player campaign with more than two dozen levels and cinematic sequences to help push the tale along, you'll gain access to devastating new units across dynamic battlefields, unlock Kerrigan's latent psionic powers, and planet hop aboard your moon-sized Zerg Leviathan. 

Fans of the multiplayer modes from the first game will be able to experience all new enhancements to the online games, including new co-op games with friends, custom-made mod downloads from the StarCraft II Arcade, and engage in multiple competitive modes for bragging rights on the global leaderboard. There isn't much to complain about with this game -- unless you don't like Blizzard's "if it ain't broke" design philosophy -- plus be aware you need StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty to play this stellar strategy expansion.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about sequels. Blizzard Entertainment takes a long time between games -- too long, many gamers and industry folks argue. Is this expansion worth the wait or are they "over-polishing" the game? Do the long periods of time between titles build your excitement or do you forget about the sequel or expansion altogether?

  • This is a game where the multiplayer aspect is a big draw. Do you play games to interact with others or do you prefer games you play alone? Why? Do you like cooperative games or ones where you go it alone?

Game details

Platforms:Windows, Mac
Price:$39.99 ($79.99 for Collector's Edition)
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Blizzard Entertainment
Release date:March 12, 2013
Genre:Real Time Strategy (RTS)
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Science and nature, Space and aliens
ESRB rating:T for Blood and Gore, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence (Mac, Windows)

This review of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byAquaila2000 November 19, 2013
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

If you think this game shouldn't be a teen game look at call of duty.

I dont play Starcraft but i do play world of warcraft and i think all blizzard games have certain learning qualities if your kid uses them. My friend plays Starcraft though and see thinks it is appropriate for teens of the age 13+ it is a game that if on multiplayer mode has in game friend making possibilities good for bullied kids who need a little support.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Safety and privacy concerns
Teen, 13 years old Written byBob The Zealot July 18, 2014
AGE
13
QUALITY
 
LEARNING
Teen, 14 years old Written bygeorgeyhere May 10, 2014
AGE
14
QUALITY
 
LEARNING
This is a very deep real time strategy game. It is not an action game, but instead requires quick thinking and multitasking to be good at. DO NOT BUY FOR young children as they will not be able to handle the depth of this game and may become frustrated.

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