Friday, June 24, 2011

Nitpickery --- Starcraft 2

So, I just watched an SC2 let's play on the net.  I don't own the game yet, as I am a cheapskate, but I wanted to see what happened.  I must say, I'm both giddy and appalled.  Giddy because I love the presentation and gameplay.  Playing the game isn't too different from the first so you don't have to learn a whole new setup.  The presentation is magnificent, and the characters look mostly creative (what is the deal with Raynor's arm?), and I love being able to explore the Hyperion as well access Zeratul's memories.  It's a great game that's got both dark elements, goofy elements, and yet an overall very satisfying experience.  I enjoy it very much.

That being said, my inner writer is going "GRRRRR..." because I like to nitpick.  Some of the writing in this game is absolutely weird.  Starting with:

Zeratul.  Now, in vanilla, Zeratul was great.  He was smart, cool, and hung out with the Templar with no problem.  Then in Brood War he suddenly became kinda stupid.  I mean, if Kerrigan was talking to me and said. "I'll be seeing you again, real soon", the first thing I would do is shoot her in the face.  She's the friggin' Queen of Blades and she's threatening you, and you're just going to ignore her?  Besides, Zeratul never even asked himself why a former human would appeal to the Protoss if her mind was free from the newly dead Overmind.  I mean, wouldn't she try to find her old human friends?  Well, to be fair, the other 'Toss didn't ask themselves that either.  

So now in SC2, Zer seems completely different.  He was previously dark and brooding, and towards the end of Brood War very depressed.  He was cool.  Now he's amazingly generic.  His voice isn't as cool, nothing he says really means anything, and he kinda just comes and goes without speaking much to Raynor.  Raynor is supposed to be his friend, and Zer just shows up, goes "DOOOOMM!", hands him the memory crystal, then disappears.  Can't Zer at least hang around for a mission?  Maybe at least talk to Raynor like a real person would?

It's a good thing the cinematic where Zer and Kerrigan were fighting looked dang awesome, because not a thing they said had any relevance.  It was like "Doom!", "Hope!",  "Fate", and "Prophecy!" without really saying anything the audience would understand or care.  

For that matter, nothing Kerrigan says in the entire game was interesting. In vanilla and BW, she spoke a little melodramatic but always in a more or less human, real fashion.  Listening to her gloat was actually kinda funny.  Now....just more of the Zer disease.  I can't really judge the new voice actor she has, because the lines themselves are just too dumb to really compare her to Glynnis Talken.  It's not her fault.

So yeah, I found those two characters to be the weakest part of the plot.  My other complaints are closer to nitpickery.  Next is Raynor.  Now, I really like the Raynor character.  For the most part, he was really good and enjoyable, and there's a cinematic where he's taking down Tychus that's pure awesome.  For the most part I enjoyed watching Raynor do stuff, and went along with his struggles, protesting, "Hey, Jimmy, don't you drink so much!"

My main complaint with Raynor is the lack of connection between his SC2 counterpart and his BW one.  He's the same character for the most part, only for his behavior concerning Kerrigan.  At the end of BW, we last see Raynor when Fenix has been killed, and Raynor swears that he's going to be the one to kill Kerrigan.  

How does he go from that to being "ooh, I'm gonna risk the lives of all my followers to go save her"?  It's really, really odd.  If they could have made some sort of logical transition, like having Raynor really freaked out about having to save her when he doesn't want to but then later realizing that he does need her to save the universe, that would have been a better way to go.

While this may be a lesser point, it's one I feel the most strongly about.  Mengsk.  While I would never like such a person in real life, as a character I found him strongly interesting in the original.  I loved watching his hypocrisy and how being forced to work for infested Kerrigan started showing off some of his true, more cowardly/crafty/selfish colors.  He was so rich and deep as a character that he was the character so dang fun to despise.

Now?  Nope.  In some ways he's just a generic bad leader who uses propaganda, and in other ways he's a replacement for the Confederacy.  While the propaganda storyline was actually pretty good, it tore down Mengsk by making the things he said pretty dull and trite.  He was actually good at making speeches in SC1.  Now he says stuff like "humans are great" and "I love everyone" and blah blah, all that bullcrap.  C'mon, where's he making his riveting speeches and stuff?  Can't it actually look like he's a decent leader so humans don't look like complete idiots for following him?

Now, for the other half, that he's a replacement for the Confederacy, you have to think a little.  Now, in one sense he's a bad leader who replaced a bad government: the Confederacy.  That's entirely fine.  What's not fine is him being note for note exactly like him.  He's his own type of dictator, not a carbon copy of them.  

Specifically, I don't like that he's behind doing experiments with Zerg/Protoss hybrids (which, if you recall one of the maps that came out between SC1 and 2, was actually something the Confederacy was previously doing).  I do expect him to want to fight and to improve the Dominion's standing in the universe, but come on.  I always liked the notion that Duran, the "former Confederate", was the one who initiated the experiments during that government, then abandoned them when the events of vanilla's Terran missions took place.  I really should give this plotline more time, but it really irks me.

And so Arcturus has his son, Valerian, who is okay in my opinion.  I look forward to seeing more of him and whatever he's up to.  However, I read that Valerian was created because "Arcturus' story had already been told".  This says one thing to me: that I liked Arcturus far better than the writers of Starcraft did.

Note how I hate these not as a gamer, but as a writer.  Writing Starcraft fanfiction was what gave me my start at learning to become a fantasy/sci fi writer, and I'm better off for it today.  That being said, I had a lot in my head of potential for all the characters that exist, and the only character in the franchise whose story has been properly told is Tassadar.  We know what motivates him and how his life turned out because of it.  Even characters like DuGalle or my personal favorite Judicator Aldaris probably have really great backstories worth getting into.

Crap, I should write a novel for Aldaris and see if Blizzard lets me publish it....

Anyway, to get to my point, I saw Mengsk with a lot of potential.  Like Raynor, he too had a moment where he hated Kerrigan enough to ally with the UED (his competitors for power) and the Protoss to try to get rid of her.  And she pwned him, allowing him to live only because she wanted him to see her taking over the universe.  This to me leads to a great storyline for him, especially since Mengsk previously allied with her to retake his home planet from the UED.  I see him something like "I sold my soul to give my worst enemy control of the K sector...I really need to ramp things up for when she comes back.  She's not taking my empire away from me again".

I really see this as leading to a change in Mengsk.  He becomes darker, more sensible, and less willing to make mistakes or disregard people ever again.  Honestly, it makes more sense for him to go Kerry-hunting rather than trying to run down Raynor all the time.  That way he could use his anti-Zerg policies for propaganda.  

Another thing about the whole having to have the rebellion, though this might be more subjective.  I always saw Mengsk as someone who would treat his subjects well enough if they just did what he said.  It's like in the first Terran missions: he was cool to Raynor and Kerrigan as long as they obeyed him.  He even showed some measure of grace to Duke by saving him from the Zerg.  Even in Mengsk's megalomaniacal selfishness, he didn't try to harm the people that made him a ruler for no reason.  He's willing to do things to make himself look good, unlike the Confederacy.  They were generic bad guys, and Mengsk isn't.  He's artistically evil.  Like Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat, in a way.

I'll admit that's a personal problem, but it just seems that Mengsk can do more than be a prop baddie.  I just hope Valerian gets to do more later on and isn't treated as shallowly as his dad.

Okay, final rant point.  What's the deal with the Zerg?  I understand Kerry having to be an important character.  But I know I'm not the only person who thinks it's weird that the Zerg "aren't bad guys, just misunderstood".  I mean, at the end of BW everyone finally seems to understand that it's better to fight the Zerg than each other, and oops!  The evil race of critters that infest and destroy any species they come across is really just misunderstood.  How dandy.  How friggin' dandy.  Way to undercut the franchise.  I take it back.  This is the plot point that irritates me the most.

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