The emphasis of Heart of the Swarm is on the Zerg.

The emphasis of Heart of the Swarm is on the Zerg.

Dedicated StarCraft players would have pre-ordered the long-awaited expansion pack Heart of the Swarm months ago, relishing the opportunity to experiment with seven new units and 26 multiplayer maps.

For the rest of us unlikely to ever appear on a televised StarCraft tournament in South Korea (where professional players are treated like rock stars) this fast-paced strategy game can seem daunting. But don't be intimidated - there's fun for all skill levels.

The entertaining, 20-mission solo campaign is accessible and wonderfully varied, offering interesting objectives, introducing new toys and constantly shifting play styles. You'll enjoy infiltrating ships, commanding a battlecruiser, and battling some truly epic bosses.

The emphasis is on the swarming Zerg, whose mutating forces are swift and constantly grow new organic horrors.

The Zerg are a thrill to command, but you do also get to dabble with the Terrans and Protoss.

It's a pity the campaign's story is weak, with former Queen of Blades Sarah Kerrigan's motivations particularly hard to fathom.

Fortunately, Kerrigan is wonderful in combat: her devastating power able to quickly turn any battle. 

The upgrade system has been improved, and allows players to radically evolve units and craft an army that best suits their individual style. 

Blizzard has also made pleasing tweaks to the game's interface, but playing skilled opponents still remains a hugely demanding test of micro management.

A new training mode helps equip novices with some of the skills necessary to play competitively, and the artificial intelligence of computer opponents in practice matches automatically adjusts as players improve.

It's still a big jump to multiplayer, though. 

If you are brave enough to delve into competitive play, you will discover a game of astonishing strategic depth with forces that are impeccably and intricately balanced, yet have terrific new offensive options.

Some might bemoan the game hasn't changed significantly, but it is clear that Blizzard's goal was evolution rather than reinvention. 

What have you been playing lately?

- Jason Hill

twitter Jason Hill is on Twitter: @thatjason