I can't believe I did this. This was by far one of the worst gaming experiences I've had in a long time. Hots is a conan-level bad game.
This campaign is dull. If you look past the juvenile and painful dialogue you end up with a lot of recycled overprocessed garbage and no content. Once again Blizzard forgets their campaign AI in WoL didn't have a defend function and it still doesn't defend in hots. So they forcefeed more triggered events and spawned waves instead of making real B&D maps.
This campaign is brutal. Brutally easy
. Half of my reloads were due to being entirely clumsy, especially in the areas where I wasn't able to actually see enemy units because all of the disproportionate shapes kind of meshed together with the terrain objects rather easily. Sc2's washed out, ugly graphics really played against it when there was anything involving terran or zerg (aka everywhere).
There are four RPG bosses largely built on the telegraphed attack design(the archangel doesn't count to me, it was far too generic and easy). I felt the first one, the penis, was a fairly decent boss fight. The second one was untested - burrowing your roaches causes the boss to attack them instead of Kerrigan, making him even more of a joke. The third boss is a bit gimmicky, all you need to do is dash around and chisel him away. If you run out of mana you're dead, though, should you get caught. Not too bad, but not as good of a fight as the first guy.
The fourth boss, Zurven, seems to give some casuals on TL a lot of problems. He took me around a half dozen or more tries, probably the most difficult thing of the entire game. What made it hard for me was that the collision indicators for the tentacles were kind of inaccurate and a bit lagged. That and I found it impossible to manage more than kerrigan on those fights, probably because I haven't played any sc2 in well over a year.
I don't really have any predisposed opinion on the lore butchering like Primal zerg or stukov. I have no attachment to starcraft and I think Blizzard can do whatever the fuck they want with it. After all, the Primal zerg have banelings, roaches, and other things they should never have had since the zerg didn't start with it. But, hell, Auir had Stalkers trapped on it from the overmind battle and colossi in the lake right beside the overmind, so at this point those wounds don't have nerves anymore.
Narud was portrayed incredibly poorly. The mission was of the more challenging sort, as I had to reload once due to accidentally pushing stukov onto a platform before I was ready, and at least twice more for semi-related fuckups I think. The CGI was horrible. Great, you threw some money at some high schoolers. Psionic battles shouldn't just be about people throwing each other into walls ad infinitum. Kerrigan falls for the stupidest, dumbest "trick" in the book like a sad sack of dead puppies. What a fucking joke. Every time Narud opened his mouth I felt I was 10 watching some Saturday cartoon. Oh, wait, the cartoons I watched still had better writing.
The campaign was very much casualified. Infestors instant mind control everything. Overpowered beyond words, of course. So many indicators for things the dialogue is already telling you about. I especially did not like the indicators in the boss fights. I think arbitrary red circles for "run away" should be avoided at every possible costs. They break the immersion. Have shadows for missiles/tentacles, etc. Even if the shadows are a bit unrealistic, that is literally a thousand times better than "lol! Red indicator! Walk away from here!"
The campaign's gameplay felt like some random wc3 campaign from sear.ch. Amateur, improperly balanced. Some maps had interesting ideas, but were very poorly executed because they relied so much on triggered events. Unbelievably, the very same problem that plagues the FPS genre has come to the RTS genre.
Where would we look to find a more suitable reflection for a campaign? Probably Exigo, minus RPG maps. I don't like RPG maps. I'm glad sc2 kept those boss centric but they were still a trial of patience. Personal preference there, by the way. I realize everyone is bad at melee and wants every map to be a attack-move raynor the marine through hours of endless installation corridors. I'm glad Blizzard showed restraint. The RPG missions gave me the most trouble, though.
I was sincerely hoping for genuine multi-base gameplay and not "expand here and defend against automated waves" or "no you will never have enough money for some big 200/200 fighting". The enemies have these huge bases and don't make any effort to defend themselves. Most of the last map is just trudging through wall after wall of hero units and bunkers right next to all of their production you just nigh-effortlessly blew up. WoL was like this, too, but the mission design felt more... tested. Dehaka's grab doesn't aggro enemies. I stood in front of a pack of guys grabbing them one by one with zero response. I'm sure that's a data editor flag. Interns.
The game has both ingame cinema and ingame cinema that they frapsed and then encoded with very bad quality. Just like WoL and diablo 3, their cinematics have macroblocking up the alley and a lot of bad colorspacing due to low bitrates. They didn't bother to fraps high-quality cinematics, the Zerus forest cinematic is easily one of the worst pre-rendered videos I've seen in the last decade, with aliasing and blurry textures everywhere. What a fucking mess. The background for Zeratul is a blurry disaster because of the skybox depth of field bug. The textures everywhere look like they came out of the n64. Holy fuck that entire string of scenes was like goff puking rainbows. I am astonished that got past even Blizzard's non-existent QA. How can anyone live with themselves after releasing something that busted? I know I couldn't.
The main reason I got hots is just to bypass any difficulty getting the assets. The campaign was the price I paid for that. I felt obligated to play it after WoL being my very first LP. It's not an experience I care to ever have again. Are there useful assets? Yes. There's some decent new doodads, including what I believed to be a new space platform pipe asset that could replace all of those disgustingly badly animated cables from WoL. The ice tileset looked decent and a lot of the new protoss assets would look pretty cool once I reskin them. The primal zerg were a huge disappointment, all based on the same base models and hideously badly animated. Some nice new Terran stuff. Can't win them all, I guess, but there's definitely some cool things custom content producers can make use of.
All in all, HoTS continues down the downwards spiral diablo 2 set up that wings of liberty bottomed out in. Some day they'll reach Hell, and form a pact with apple. Then, and only then, can Titan be released.
I'll post my audio review for this here soon.
Here, I recorded this when I was really tired and had just finished it last night.http://www.gameproc.com/meskstuff/hotsreviewp1.mp3