Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nitpickery Extreme -- Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

Hey y'all.  Spoilers do here abound.

It just occurred to me the single biggest reason why the plot of Starcraft 2 ultimately failed.  The thing all the fans loved about the earlier games was all the political tension.  Lots and lots of it.  As the game stood at the end, few could be trusted.  Protoss authority was almost entirely annihilated, in both the loss of the Conclave, Raszagal, and Aldaris, as well as the disappearance of Zeratul.  The UED's hand in the K Sector has been destroyed, and there's no real telling what Earth will do next.  Mengsk, the main human leader, is clearly mad with power and unable to be trusted.  Every single person in Brood War ultimately failed because they never, until the very last mission, realized that the ZERG are the real bad guys.  And by that point, you've already done the secret mission and found out that the Zerg/Protoss hybrids exist, and that they're even worse.

So what that boils down to is that the hybrids and Zerg have to be dealt with, with the possible interference of Mengsk and the UED.  Four distinct threats, two of which absolutely cannot be ignored.  The hybrids and Zerg are the worst, as the UED isn't a race of murderers and their influence may or may not happen again for some time, or in the same way.  Mengsk is stupid, and if Raynor's treatment of him in BW is any indication, he's easily manipulated.  However, all four are still threats, and the addition of Valerian means a total of five.

What does this have to do with Starcraft 2's plot?  Simple.  For all of SC2, every action taken has been to eliminate threats, and thus eliminate tension.  In Wings of Liberty, this wasn't a big thing.  Sure, Raynor's conflict with Mengsk was handled very clumsily, but in the end he chose to realize that the Zerg are a bigger threat than Mengsk.  However, this is where it began.  The elimination of two threats commenced by turning Kerri into a human, and by making it look like Valerian was genuinely trying to be a good guy.  This could still be a facade on Val's part, but the point remains that he's not actively antagonizing the player.  Down with the tension.

Where the annihilation of tension really begins is in Heart of the Swarm, where things just utterly fall apart.  Not only does Valerian continue to be boring, spineless, and generally ineffective, but Kerrigan is made far more sympathetic, Duran is killed, and my special demento Mengsk is killed in a really underwhelming way.

But that is to get ahead of myself.  Shall we start at the beginning?  It begins with Kerrigan trapped in a science facility, with Valerian testing her to see how much Zerg is left in her.  She has no memory of her time as a Zerg ruler, and is angry at her circumstances.

- Why does Valerian care?  I know in the previous game he said he wanted to be a good emperor, but being kind to Kerrigan in no way proves that.  Sparing her life is controversial, with or without her memories.  After all, is your empire going to love you for sparing a mass murderer?  So if that's not the reason, why is he?  Is he doing it to please Raynor or to use her to come up with a cure to the Zerg mutagen?  It never says.

That's the real trouble.  When writers forget that they are writing people who do not have the all-encompassing perspective of the audience, they start to use the audience's motivations to move their characters.  Most of Starcraft's audience, by my estimate, would be willing to allow Kerrigan to be de-infested, but that's only because we know her history and that she's a poor girl who's been manipulated by too many people.  Valerian doesn't know her like that.  So what's his motivation?

- Kerrigan's outfit is slutty.  It's not even hot-slutty, but awkward-slutty.  It makes her proportions really skewed and unnatural.  Do people find this attractive?  Is she at all comfortable wearing that in front of dozens of scientists, the crown prince, and Raynor?  If she's going to destroy lots of things in Valerian's science facility, surely she'd demand some decent clothes.

- not one person in all of Blizzard capable of remembering that Raynor swore he'd kill Kerrigan someday?  Seriously?  A sappy love story?  "I never gave up on you"?  Does Raynor seriously believe he can be with a woman who was once a Zerg, murdered Fenix, manipulated him into serving her whims, and murdered more people than he can comprehend?  Is his "love" really strong enough to overcome all that?  If it is, then quite frankly Raynor has got a mental disorder, as his "love" is making him do really stupid things, and there's no guy at the Hyperion cantina telling him to wise up this go round.  Were Kerrigan to somehow become fully human, he might logically be able to forgive her, but to want to be with her or marry her is just out of the question for any sane man.

I better not get any creepy comments about how "hot" infested Kerrigan is...

- Honestly, it's a really cheap plot device to make Kerrigan forget her past as the Queen of Blades.  It's a cheap technique in general, and also too convenient a way for Blizzard to explain certain changes in the Zerg -- like why the cerebrates have been replaced by brood mothers (calling anything Zerg "mother" undermines the disgust intended for the player to feel for the Zerg), or who this Izsha creature is supposed to be.

You know what I would have loved?  A now human Kerrigan having to deal with the pain of her past, knowing full well what she's done.  Or, alternatively, a Kerrigan who is human in appearance, but her mind remains as evil as before.  Thus, her memory loss is a trick to ease Valerian's suspicions before her attempt to escape his facility.  Or some combination of both, with a dash of regret toward Raynor.  Basically anything that doesn't cheapen the character and remove one of the most compelling things about her nature.

- Why does Raynor need to "suit up" to get Kerrigan out of the science facility?  Can't they just sneak out?  It's not as if they were expecting Nova to attack, and Valerian is kind of an idiot.  Shouldn't be that hard to get past him.  Besides, would Raynor really want to get her out of there?  Can't she somehow be helped?  Or does he have a better idea of where to go to get her fully deinfested?

- Valerian is kind of an idiot.  I probably should have brought this up in the previous game rant, but whatever.  In any case, I don't find him appealing as a character.  He's fairly boring, and his voice actor is meh.  Thing is, he's not properly developed.  While it's extremely clear that Blizzard is holding back on us as far as his backstory and motive go, we should still have some idea of his character, like in the sense that we knew Duran was crafty and secretive even before we knew he was the bringer of the hybrids.

Perhaps Valerian's lines would have worked if his voice actor wasn't so mediocre.  He's not the worst in the game (that "honor" is reserved for every single Protoss actor, plus General Warfield's), but unlike the professionals who voiced the characters in the original games, as well as Tychus' actor, he did not put any sort of emotion, drama, or believability into his lines.  Maybe Blizzard doesn't know where they want to go with Valerian, and thus the actor has less direction than needed.  Maybe.

In any case, Valerian just says and does things that make no sense to me.  He tests Kerrigan by making her control Zerg?  Anybody can see the inevitable result: Kerri attacks his facility.  His words, when speaking to Kerrigan, are often wimpy and without any attempt to assert his control over the experimental situation.  He lets Kerrigan walk all over him, and human or no, doing so is a risky business.  And makes him look stupid.  There's even a line where Valerian goes "Kerrigan...I'm glad you're alive."  And this is after she's torn up his facility during the inevitable experiment results.  Why is he glad?  Is he afraid of her?

Sheesh.  And this kid thinks he can be emperor.  Also, it's pretty odd he's hanging out with Raynor for most of this game, and that Raynor's crew appears to trust him.  Blizz, that don't make no sense, especially since we've established that many of Jim's crew freaked out in Wings of Liberty when faced with an alliance with Val.

- When Nova is attacking the base, why would the writers make her mention Tosh?  They should make it easy on the player and refer to only to his past, not to how the player chose in the previous game.  I suppose that Blizz has the right to make either choice the player made canon, and I'm fine with that. It just has so little impact on the story that it's sort of pointless to make the choice significant.  Also, I'm sure Nova would be willing to attack Raynor anyway, even if he did help her in the past.

Okay, all of the things I've mentioned happen in the first fifteen minutes of the game.  Seriously.  It's clear from the beginning that those currently in charge of Starcraft's plot are going to do whatever they want to do, whether or not it matches up with the rest of Starcraft, including Wings of Liberty.  Seriously, did a lot of the guys who worked on WoL just up and leave?  To me the beginning feels very awkward, not only for the reasons listed above, but simply due to the fact that Kerrigan isn't breaking out of the prison by choice.  Instead her return downfall into the swarm is entirely the result of her situation with Mengsk.

But more on that later.  For now, let's talk about our favorite evil emperor.

- Arcturus Mengsk is still making dumb decisions.  Guess I see where junior gets it from.  First of all, he attacks his son's science facility?  While we all know that Mengsk will kill anybody for his own purposes, a lot of Mengsk's activities were initiated by the death of his own father.  Is he really going to risk hurting the one member of his family still alive?  Besides, there's lots of other ways to kill Kerri.  Mengsk could send in some undercover operatives pretending to be scientists, or just send Nova in to assassinate Kerri.  Nova's a ghost, ain't she?  Point is, there are far simpler ways to kill Kerrigan than to just throw a bunch of soldiers at a science facility.

Mengsk's main stupidity revolves around Raynor.  When he attacked the science facility, Raynor was separated from everyone, and eventually arrested by Mengsk.  Mengsk does this stupidest thing ever by reporting that Raynor is dead on the news.  This promptly causes Kerrigan to believe she has nothing to live for, so she might as well go back to the swarm and have her revenge on Mengsk.  Great job, Arc!  Good thing you didn't use Raynor as bait to a trap and lure in a still human Kerrigan to die in the attempt to rescue him!  Stupid.

In another move of complete stupidity, Mengsk tells a now fully Zerg Kerrigan that Jim is in fact alive, as if she wouldn't come and rescue him the second she discovers this.  Great way to make the Zerg attack the Dominion, stupid!  Or were you expecting her to cry like a little girl and surrender herself to you?  I mean, wow.  Way to make the worst things happen.

- It doesn't make any sense for Kerri to want more revenge against Mengsk, especially in the light of of the hybrids.  Mengsk is penny-enny compared to the end of all things.  Granted, Mengsk made really stupid choices.  However, those choices never would have been made if the writer had been consistent with Mengsk's character, so we'll just go on.

Kerrigan has already gotten her revenge on Mengsk.  She spared his life to make him witness her power over him, and how he may be emperor of Korhal, but he's absolutely nothing compared to her.  She doesn't need any more revenge against him.  At one point she mentions that the fight on Korhal will be the fight of her life, but wasn't that her fight against the three fleets in Brood War?

One of the problems with the whole stupid revenge plot is that we aren't learning anything about Mengsk in this game, and why he deserves to die.  Newcomers to Starcraft who play Starcraft II wouldn't have learned much by playing Wings of Liberty, and in this game all he acts like is a wimpy bully, only a vague shadow of the monster he was in Starcraft.  He has no cool lines that make the player love to hate him.  He doesn't do much of anything that has an emotional impact.  Thus, the player automatically can't fully sympathize with Kerrigan.

Problem is, the main antagonist in this game isn't Mengsk.  The game spends so much time going on about "Narud" (gag) and some twerp Amon that the player has little chance to understand why Mengsk is such a problem.  Sure, Mengsk should be brought down, but he's a comedic farce.  Amon, on the other hand, can apparently destroy the universe.  Is Kerrigan really willing to risk letting everyone die to this Amon mofo so that she can get revenge on Mengsk for pretending to kill Raynor?  No point in rescuing Raynor if the hybrids kill everybody.

In an utterly bizarre cinematic, Kerrigan kills a bunch of marines in a psionic blast (we can't really see because it was behind a quarantine door) and then, appalled at what she has done, goes "the killing will never stop until Mengsk is dead."  What exactly does this mean?  I could have sworn that she would have said something more to the nature of "the killing will never stop until I am dead".  Kerrigan is the one who killed those marines, regardless of who sent them.  And even if Mengsk does die, does that mean all violence in the K Sector will stop?  Are all the humans in the sector willing to forgive her?  What about the Protoss?  Aren't they going to at least put her on trial?

Hey wait, why didn't Valerian install some sort of psionic dampers on her mind just in case she went overboard?  Oh wait, he's stupid, right.

As the game goes on and Kerrigan recovers more of her memories, as well as learns about Amon, the really stupid thing that is supposed to be the new bad guy, she really should at some point decide that attacking Mengsk is low priority.  He's stupid, weak in comparison, and can't destroy everybody.  Besides, even if Mengsk is dumb enough to capture Raynor, Jim is safe enough as long as he's a bargaining chip.  And that's assuming the Raiders don't try something, or Mengsk doesn't decide to free Raynor in the attempt to get him to do something.

In any case, I have to watch Kerrigan act like a moron for Raynor's sake, much like in Wings of Liberty except the roles are reversed and it's much more cheesy.

- One person on made the comment that Heart of the Swarm was feminist, full of evil men and protagonist women.  This is a weird statement, and upon watching a let's play, I had to conclude that he was wrong.  HotS is not feminist.  However, it did forget that its target market was men.  Men like to have really cool, masculine protagonists like John Marston, Master Chief, and Solid Snake, and they like to have war adventures about the meaning of war and manhood.  Starcraft used to be all about this, with rough redneck characters duking it out to save the day.  While having Kerrigan as the major protagonist doesn't alone make this game less masculine, a totality of several things contributed to skewing the aim of this game.  It's sort of a minor point, but I'm going to bring it up anyway because that's what I do.

Now, I like masculinity.  I like to sit back and watch men do dorky, manly things.  I don't expect them to be overly sensitive or "get in touch with their feminine sides".  Which is why the change of target market annoys me.  There are lots of brood mothers, who have taken the place of cerebrates in controlling the swarm.  While it makes sense that something needs to control the swarm, I like the idea of cerebrates better than brood mothers, as cerebrates have better names, are more disgusting, and are better opponents to Kerrigan.  Having a rival for the broods would have been fun.

So yeah, the brood mothers are there.  Kerrigan's there.  Nova's there.  There's also Izscha, Kerri's personal aide.  And Lessara, a female Protoss prisoner.  Also, Zagara, the brood mother who Kerrigan is grooming for leadership.  Plus the whole plot is based around Kerrigan's personal drama, where she chooses to deal with her own problems with her "true love" and personal enemy in lieu of dealing with what actually needs to be done, a common theme in stories directed toward females in modern media.  Uh huh.

As for the male characters, Raynor is reduced to a romance novel male: everything a woman wants, nothing she doesn't.  Mengsk and Jr. are stupid as crap. General Warfield is dull.  Zeratul reaches his highest level of herp derp yet.  Duran is killed off in a boring way, without Kerrigan finding out who he really is (though I suppose since he can shapeshift, his gender is questionable).  One dude I don't care about, the primal zerg, is insanely boring.  Abathur the Zerg genetics weaver is reasonably interesting, so I won't complain about him.

Honestly, a personal drama in space isn't exactly unsalable.  Despite all the female characters, nothing about this game has an anti-male message, especially since many of the female characters were also boring. However, when you turn a gritty, dystopian science fiction into a badly acted sci-fi romance novel in game form, the target market may find itself put off.

- General Warfield is the most boring dude ever.  Apparently this dude was an altered character from the failed project Starcraft: Ghost, which may explain his lack of personality.  He first appeared in Wings of Liberty, and it's amazing that  Blizzard could create such an interesting persona in Tychus Findlay, and yet have such a boring character in Warfield.  First of all, his name.  A general named Warfield?  What a bad pun.  You might as well call him General Gun-Rifle NeoPatton Mark III, which would have at least been funnier.

Besides that, there's nothing really to draw us in with Warfield.  In WoL, he turns out to be not all that great a leader, in which he initiates, against the advice of more experienced men, a frontal assault on Char.  This extremely simplistic tactic of course fails.

My main problem with the guy is his dialogue and voice acting.  His voice is just too nice.  He doesn't sound at all like a soldier concentrating on battle.  He sounds like a nice uncle telling some rowdy kids to not play in the street.  His dialogue had very little personality, and it sounded like he was given lines to say, just things that any generic good guy soldier would say if they were saved by Raynor, or, in this game, on the verge of death and trying to get Kerrigan not to kill his injured.  He's just so generic.  His personality isn't clear or dynamic in any way.

I don't know.  Maybe if he had been in Starcraft: Ghost, he'd have been interesting.  Maybe that's why Blizz killed him off -- they didn't have any more use for him.  Kinda sad, really.

- The dialogue and voice acting were terrible.  Absolutely atrocious.  This applied to the past game as well, only most of the Terran characters were interesting in and of themselves, and their voices didn't require computer modulation.  Unlike the Zerg and Protoss characters.  Granted, both Warfield's and Valerian's actors were underwhelming, but the others....ew.  Most of the Zerg sound like generic monsters, not the disgusting filth they're supposed to.

The Protoss on the other hand?  It's like Blizzard isn't even trying anymore.  Zeratul, in the original games, sounded like he was gargling rocks.  Aldaris' voice was pompous and magnificent.  Tassadar's actor put soul into every word he said.  Artanis sounded like a little adorable follower.  Raszagal was pretty good too.  The only voice I didn't particularly care for was Fenix's, and that wasn't so much bad as unpolished and had a weird echo effect on it.

Instead, we are now greeted with Protoss who sound like Nickelodeon voice actors prepping up for their next villain role on Spongebob Squarepants.  Zeratul's is absolutely the worst.  His actor takes too much time to say things, and when he does talk, I just want him to stop.  But that's not just due to the actor.

- Everything about Zeratul has gone wrong.  From his looks to his lines, to his hand-holding and actions, it's like the guy's character has been completely erased and replaced with some dude who just conveniently does whatever Blizzard wants because he's the most popular Protoss.  Now, I have to cut them some slack for changing Zer's voice actor.  Apparently his original actor died, and well, there's nothing as can be done about that.  Though I will say they could have done better on the replacement.

The real trouble with Zeratul, however, are his words and actions.  Most of his lines are so trite and cliched that it's painful to listen to him for any amount of time.  I've covered that before, and bring it up again only to mention that it goes on in Heart of the Swarm too.

We're first greeted by Zeratul as he gets the crap beat out of him by a half human Kerrigan.  Okay, it's questionable that a fully infested Kerri can beat him.  If a human can, then Zeratul should just go home and tell stories to young people; he's finished.

What's even more insulting to the player is that Zeratul gives Kerrigan power by sending her to the birthplace of the swarm, Zerus.  This power he knows she'll use to kill people and conquer worlds, both human and Protoss.  Way to involve yourself in mass murder, Zer.  That Blizzard would force Zeratul to do something like that is insulting.  I miss the Zeratul that was rough, aggressive, and made snarky comments.  I don't want a Zer who is passive, foolish, and living under a spell of a plot that I'm not even sure I get after multiple viewings.

You know what would have been great?  This --

Zeratul: I brought you here to Zerus because you would become more powerful and able to destroy the oncoming doom that awaits us all.

Kerrigan:  What, really?

Zeratul:  Yes, of course.

Kerrigan:  This isn't a trick or anything?

Zeratul:  No.  Not at all.

Kerrigan:  No?

Zeratul:  No.  Just speak with the ancient one, and you shall learn what you need to know.

Kerrigan:  Um, okay.  Well, I suppose it would be nice to absorb the power....what?  I'm surrounded!  Where did all these primal Zerg suddenly come from?!!

Zeratul:  By the way, Kerrigan, it was all a trick.  Goodbye. *teleports out*

Dehaka:  ESSENCE!  *eats Kerrigan*

*back on his ship, Zeratul sits down at the weapons console*

Zeratul:  Is the cannon ready?

Aldaris:  Yes.  Commencing planet cleansing.  *pushes button, unleashing hell on Zerus*

Zeratul:  Hey wait, why are you alive?

Aldaris:  Some human nerd writing a blog demanded it.

Zeratul: Oh.  *pauses*  Want to go burn all the words seeded with hybrids?

Aldaris:  Why not?

And everyone lived happily ever after.

- What's the deal with Zerus?  Wouldn't it be impractical to return to a place that the Zerg haven't been in millenia?  Surely they've come so far through space that returning there would take forever, unless stupid Zeratul set up some kind of warp, in which case he'd be the one taking forever.

Also, why are there Zerg still on Zerus?  Surely the Overmind wouldn't have left any behind.  The idea that some remained "in a constant state of evolution" is every bit as cheap a writing device as the "prophecy" -- it's clearly just there to enable the game writers to give Kerrigan power and turn her full Zerg again, as well as give her glowy purple eyes.  You know, most people don't associate glowy purple with Zerg.  More like gooey, dull purple, blood red, or pulsing brown.

To be honest, I've lost the will to nitpick the plot on Zerus.  It's just so boring, concerning some mofo named Amon who tried to take control of the swarm, only to be destroyed.  Or some crap.  Watching this part of the game is like watching the Star Wars prequels: your mind won't let you full absorb it, because you just don't care enough.  I sure as heck don't.  It's so boring.  Maybe I should go look up a plot summary on the internet.

- I dislike the Zerg designs.  The brood mother looks too much like a Protoss, when Protoss cannot be infested.  Also, many other Zerg designs are likewise boring.  It's as though someone at Blizzard just up and decided that lots of horns, eyeballs, and claws automatically make something gross and fearful.

It's not really about that.  It's more about being, about the spirit of fear -- about a single idea that gives shape to the particular Zerg in mind.  For example, the cerebrates are gooey worm creatures without a single horn or spine.  Yuck.  The overlords are bag of flying flesh with tentacles.  The hydralisks are a combination of snakes and skeletons.  See, adding random details to a thing doesn't do anything to make it better.  Using specific details to create an overall image is much more disgusting.

Also, some of the newer Zerg don't have great textures.  They don't feel slimy enough.

- As far as the Zerg go, I understand why speaking characters were necessary.  Kerrigan, at the beginning of the game, is the only Zerg we know about who can communicate by words, and thus in a way the player can understand.  I just object to the character created.  Izsha, besides having a dumb name, isn't that bad.  She's sort of boring looking, but in the end her existence makes sense.  She's there to be Kerri's servant, and she serves her role.  I just wish she were more interesting.

Abathur the genetics weaver also makes sense.  His design is sufficiently disgusting, and he actually has a distinct way of speaking.  I think it was a cheap convenience of Blizz to make him the very guy that turned Kerri into a Zerg in the first place.  It feels very emo kid for this coincidence to exist.  But other than that, Abathur is fine.

The Zerg I really object to is Dehaka, the primal Zerg from Zerus who is following Kerrigan to go out and collect "essence".  For one, essence is never explained, and has no really purpose to the story or gameplay.  Essence would seem to have some sort of genetic meaning, only it would make more sense to just say "genetic material".  And it would sound less dumb.

But back to Dehaka, he can't speak of anything besides essence.  He does little in the plot.  He helps Kerri in one mission, but spends much of the single campaign just standing there, saying really boring, repetitive things.  Also, I can't imagine how someone with a shrunken claw and several glowing holes in his side could ever be all that great a fighter.  Honestly, Dehaka is just so dull.  He adds to neither the story or the gameplay.  Should've been cut entirely.

Overall, the Zerg in this game are just sort of there.  There's some potential in a few of them, but none of them are as intriguing as the Overmind, the cerebrates, or Duran.

- Kerrigan tells her minions to do stuff on planets, but it's not really necessary for them to respond audibly.  It makes the game more goofy.  Remember the days when Zerg answered with just growls?

- Why is Stukov in this game?  Actually, it feels like he's not even there.  He has no personality.  He doesn't seem to feel much -- not distrust with Kerrigan, sadness to his past, or even hatred of those that did experiments on him.  Sure, he mentions some of these things, but his dialogue and acting are so weak that it feels like a rubber mask of Stukov, not Stukov himself, is talking to us.  This is ironic, considering that part of his face is torn off, exposing glowing light underneath, rather than nasty Zerg guts.  It's like Blizzard really is trying to say that it's a mask.

Other than that, this game actually mentions that Stukov was once de-infested before becoming an experiment.  This is a reference to a secret mission in Starcraft 64, where in fact Stukov is made human again.  Why then did the Dominion do experiments on him?  Couldn't they just pick some other humans as guinea pigs?  After all, they'd need to infest Stukov again to experiment on him.  Heck, it was Raynor that saved Stukov, so why isn't he hanging out on the Hyperion?  Sheesh, Heart of the Swarm, if you're going to retcon, at least make it make sense.

Also, why the heck is Stukov still wearing his UED uniform?  Surely it would have rotted or been replaced by either Zerg armor or Dominion clothes.

- Duran.  Oh my Duran.  They took your name and turned it backwards.  They forgot your characterization.  They changed your voice actor.  They made you go from independent and at a new stage of your plans back down to being a servant again, this time of the Dominion.  You didn't do anything interesting.  You were made to influence Kerrigan's personal feelings, reducing the plot to generic schlock.  You died the death of a scrub, without doing anything powerful or interesting.

Duran, I'm so, so sorry, you evil scumbag.

Hey wait a minute.  If Dr. "Narud" of the Mobius Foundation was secretly allied with the Taldarim, and the Taldarim were the ones holding the Xel'Naga artifacts, why didn't Duran just get them to give him the artifacts so that he could bring back Amon?  There would have been no need for the whole Wings of Liberty thing where Raynor was off getting the artifacts.  Or was Amon already back by that point and the Taldarim just holding on to the artifacts again?  If that were the case, why didn't the Taldarim just kill Kerrigan?  They had the artifacts, and apparently some "prophecy" says Kerri is the only person that can save everyone.  So if they kill her, the hybrids win.

I know, I know, stop asking perfectly legitimate questions...

- Okay, why is Matt Horner cooperating with Kerrigan?  Doesn't he know that she'll overreact and kill people?  Also, why the heck does Mira Han not help out Horner until he attacks her?  Does she really need Jim's permission to free someone who she imprisoned for both Raynor's and Horner's sake?  Doesn't she care that Raynor is in trouble?  Cheap excuse for a Terran mission.

Although I will say that I love the part where Mira calls Valerian "princess".  That made me smile.  Also when homeboy called Valerian "scooter".  I still think it's a bad idea to make Valerian such a wimp, but at least it's entertaining.  Entertaining mistakes are forgivable.

- I really wish Raynor had shot Kerri in the face.  I wish it so bad.  I don't hate Kerrigan, but it's just getting ridiculous that she could kill so many and he would just let her off like that.  Lame.

This is getting long, and I'm getting tired.  There's just so much nitpickery to be done here.  I haven't even gotten to Lessara's stupid plotline, or the fact that half the missions are timed in one way or another, or how Kerrigan being so important to gameplay reduces the player's practice time in making new Zerg strategies.  But for simplicity's sake, on to the ending.

Okay, so Kerrigan goes to attack Korhal, delaying in killing the civilians on Valerian's request.    She takes down a bunch of soldiers, then finally makes it to Mengsk's office.  His office, in a tall building.  Not in a bunker, not miles underground, not outside of the most obvious place for Mengsk to be.  Mengsk has the Xel'Naga artifact (how did Duran use it for Amon if Mengsk had it this whole time?), which he uses to zap Kerri a few times before Raynor comes in to her aid.  Kerrigan then kills Mengsk, and then she smiles at Raynor and flies away to the swarm.  The end.

Ain't you all warm and fuzzy on the inside?  No.  Thing is, we care about Mengsk, the past fans, and we don't want him to have a really boring, pointless death.  We want it to mean something to him as a character, and be ironic in comparison to his origins.  Like maybe Mengsk, who was propelled into action by his father's death, could have been killed by his son.  Or maybe, in an ironic twist of fate, Mengsk ends up dying to save Kerrigan, perhaps having found out that she's necessary to defeat the hybrids.  Just anything besides being a schlub that Kerrigan and loverboy take down as a couple. *shudders*

The real sin of Mengsk's death is that we the fans love him.  We don't feel the same for Amon.  We don't know who Amon is, or why he matters.  Sure, we "know" that Amon will destroy everything or whatever, but we don't feel it.  Amon is some stranger from somewhere that's going to come do something.  Arcturus Mengsk, to us players, is our very own, the Dr. Robotnik to our Sonic the Hedgehog.  We love to watch him do stupid things.  Instead, he is replaced by a villain with no known personality, no face, and no relationship with the player.  Come oooooooonn.....

This brings me back to tension.  It's now all but gone.  Duran is dead.  The Protoss are hidden and only interact with humans very slightly, except for the tedious and ineffective Taldarim.  Kerrigan is somehow able to control her evil side and show mercy, also able to listen to Raynor and choose to be moral if he wants her to be.  The Zerg themselves don't look so evil.  Valerian is apparently willing to try and be a good leader.  The UED is as distant as ever.  The only real threats left in the universe is Amon, some dude we know nothing about, and Zeratul, whose antics may yet get more humans and Protoss killed.  Everything that made Starcraft a big glut of sci-fi, political tension, has now vanished.

Nothing will ever stop me from loving the original Starcraft games, and I will always be grateful to Blizzard for inspiring me to become a writer -- and, ironically, one of their most serious critics.  While I'll remain fond of the franchise, there is little chance I'll be spending money on Starcraft 2.  I'll watch a lets play on Legacy of the Void when it comes out, but I won't be purchasing the games.  Maybe someday I'll go back to Korea and play it in a PC bang, but for now, in the words of loverboy Raynor, we're done.


  1. Foreword: Hi. On certain sites, such as Google+, I'm known as UnitDCCXXXI, or Unit 731. I can often be found yacking away on Youtube comment strings. I have been reading your blog posts on StarCraft. I know you're on hiatus from this blog, but I hope that one day, you'll return and you'll be be able to see this post.

    Interesting blog posts you have here. I have also followed StarCraft's story for a long time. It was the first videogame I ever played. I have an ongoing comment thread on YT discussing this. It's marred by visits from shallow imbecilic fanboys but I still try to use it as a place wherein there can be intelligent discourse on the strengths and weaknesses of the story. I'll link it to you in a separate comment, but for now, I'd like to go over your blog posts. I'll start with your critique of Wings of Liberty. Unfortunately, my reply is far too long to fit into a single comment, so pardon me if this winds up swamping an inbox or something along those lines.

    I never particularly liked the way SC2 handled "comedy," either. SC1 had a LOT of that stuff, but it was always gallows humor which made you laugh for about two seconds only to wince afterwards. "HAHAHAHA, lookit these stupid fucking rednecks- Oh...God..." Thank God for cold fusion and and cold beers and claws through your head, right? SC2 doesn't have any of that, it's just...comedy for its own sake, and any attempts to make a dark joke are funny first, unpleasant second, rather than the other way around. That being said, I DID still actually enjoy watching Tychus get stabbed everywhere, including the place he needed to be stabbed the most for the sake of the gene pool, but at the same time I'm thankful that that's not the canon choice, because the other choice had much more significance and was one of the only scenes in Wings I liked. The canon choices were helping Tosh, helping Hanson, and listening to Tychus on Char.

    I absolutely hated Mengsk in SC2, from start to finish. He was as flat and moronic as any children's cartoon supervillain. So was Kerrigan, for that matter. I don't believe he was a fool in SC1, contrary to your opinion. He was a master manipulator who overthrew the Confederacy and had most people going right up until the end, although the sharper ones may have gotten funny vibes about him starting with his decision to effectively doom Antiga Prime, although said planet already had Zerg, so it was bound to be destroyed by the Protoss eventually anyway. In Brood War, he did about as well as one could expect given what he was up against. His alliance with Kerrigan and Raynor was one of absolute necessity. He REALLY didn't want anything to do with either of them, and Raynor's hatred for Mengsk existed far before SC2: Raynor's Raiders and Matt Horner date back to the SC1-era book, "Queen of Blades," a novelization of Episode II from Raynor's perspective. It also shows how Tassadar and Zeratul met. Plus, let's also recall that despite losing nearly everything, he managed to gather an entire FLEET to go attack Kerrigan at the end of Brood War. Although it failed, that is still an impressive feat. He IS an accomplished tactician and politician, he just never has all the cards he needs. Aside from that, I agree with your criticisms regarding Mengsk in SC2, and I also think Rayonr was spit-shined into a Boy Scout who only made a few moral mistakes and was ALWAYS somehow vindicated, which is bullshit.

    Why was Raynor on Mar Sara? Because shallow callbacks to the first game, that's why. That and Mengsk knew better than to kill Raynor outright because it would make him into a martyr, which is stated during the campaign.

    The adjutant is irrelevant, and even makes sense in the context of the universe in a mundane way: They probably incorporated that artificial boobage for the same reasons they gave her a face: To make her appear more human.

    1. I'm afraid the criticism regarding Raynor's campaign against Mengsk doesn't hold much water. He hates him for commiting genocide at Tarsonis and for leaving Kerrigan there to die, which inadvertently also created an even bigger threat. Not to mention the Dominion, even if it was based on the carrot-and-stick approach, was still a ruthless dictatorship which only treated people well if it also benefitted Mengsk. Raynor's also not after Kerrigan because...she's unassailable, really. Even three entire fleets of the most powerful factions in Brood War couldn't beat Kerrigan while her hands were effectively tied behind her back. Even during the end of SC2, Raynor only managed to succeed because he had half of the Dominion fleet backing him up. Besides, he was resigned to kill her until he found out there was a chance to bring Sarah Louise Kerrigan, the Ghost, back, while still destroying the Queen of Blades, effectively her alter ego. If he can kill two birds with one stone, why not? I think it's a contrived plot device, yes, but against all odds, he made a very rational decision, especially knowing that Kerrigan HAD to survive for the sake of the universe.

      Raynor and Mengsk working together again? That sounds like something Mengsk might do, but not Raynor. He did in Brood War but that was because it was either work with Mengsk, Kerrigan, and the Protoss against the UED, or die while the entire sector becomes enslaved by the Directorate. At least against the Dominion, Raynor could at least leave some scratches.

      I also partly disagree regarding the Tal'darim: They reacted with instant and overwhelming hostility to Raynor despite him trying to negotiate with them to let him go about his business peacefully in "Welcome to the Jungle," Tosh's second mission. It's also made fairly clear, at least implicitly, that the Tal'darim would have reacted the same way during "Smash and Grab" and they left a bunch of Moebius Corpse calling cards for Raynor in "The Dig." By "Supernova" and "Maw of the Void," they have this huuuuge hateboner for Raynor and are willing to die to see him dead, too. You don't negotiate with fanatics like that, you defend yourself against them.

      I do agree regarding the TAL'DARIMS' motivations, however. They need more explanation. You see the Tal'darim in the Dark Templar Saga, the prequel novel trilogy to SC2, but little is revealed about them beyond the fact that they aren't part of the Khala or the Nerazim and they serve some shadowy, immensely powerful master later revealed to be Amon. I would be okay with this if they lampshaded it somehow, maybe included Jake Ramsey or Rosemary Dahl, the two lead characters from the Dark Templar Saga, in the campaign to explain to Raynor what the Tal'darim are, but instead SC2 just expects you to know and be okay with blasting them to Hell by the hundreds. Yes, I know WHY Blizzard did it: The campaign, from a level design perspective, NEEDED Protoss enemies, but even though this would've required some mental gymnastics to justify in the story, they could've done a better job by using their established lore more effectively, which they just didn't do. The only character from the Dark Templar Saga who is even mentioned at all is Valerian Mengsk, who in the novels was established as being a better person than his father if nothing else.

      I've already stated earlier in this response that Raynor has very good reason to want Mengsk dead, but he doesn't attack Kerrigan because it would be suicide. Simple.


    2. At the end of Brood War, Kerrigan says she will "allow [the survivors of her rise to power] a reprieve." Her inactivity is mostly attributed to her building the Swarm, growing it, learning more about the world around her. She gets involved in the pursuit of Jacob Ramsey in the Dark Templar Saga and there are numerous small snippets like SC2's unit origin stories which further help fill in what she's been doing. She's a spider, watching from her web in the shadows, waiting and growing her forces. For instance, in the hydralisk unit story, she allows a Dominion scientist to believe she is able to control hydralisks and use them militarily, only to eventually turn the hydralisks against her and destroy the project and science facility from the inside out. When exactly she is exposed to the prophecy is unclear, but she isn't showing signs of resignation to her fate as of the Dark Templar Saga, which takes place about a year before SC2, so she hadn't found the prophecy until pretty recently. Her motives, both before and after her change from the Queen of Blades in Wings to the Primal Queen of Blades in Heart was just that she would rather die fighting than give into her fate quietly, which is believable, if rather simplistic.

      As for her interactions with Zeratul, even if she did not know about the hybrid, she still wants to impede Zeratul's progress simply because he is an enemy. It would be stupid of her to let him continue to find fragments of the prophecy because for all she knows, it could wind up leading to her defeat, which kinda does, even if that was a long shot guess at what might happen.

      Blizzard itself weighed in on the prophecy. They quoted Isaac Clarke's Third Law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," to explain the prophecy. It was left behind by the Xel'Naga, godlike, transcendent beings who could indeed probably predict what was going to happen. You'd have to play through or at least watch Legacy of the Void to see supporting evidence for this, though. I think it's a lazy explanation, but again, I'm more okay with it now that I've seen Legacy, which surprised me. They based it on 300 and took ideas from Star Wars, much to my horror prerelease, but they actually managed to make a story which was, if nothing else, vastly superior to those two films. Much to my surprise, I was actually satisfied with it. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

      I don't care much about Zeratul's looks. They fit his portrayal in the expanded lore. What I HATE about Zeratul in SC2 was his dialogue and his overly simplistic thinking. It's not faithful to his old character's intelligence, pragmatism, or attitude. He was the badass grandpa who always at least knew why he was doing what he did, not the weary old man with dentures for his non-mouth who we saw in SC2. I get that his brush with Duran could've really screwed him up, and it DID, in the novels, but it doesn't mean he's going to become a completely different character, which is what happened to him, Mengsk, and the Queen of Blades in SC2. I at least like what they did with him in Legacy. Again, I won't spoil that for you.

    3. I don't think it was a retcon, actually. Duran simply rebranded himself as Narud and came to Mengsk with a proposal: Make deadly hybrid aliens he could control, and use them to destroy his enemies. That fits Mengsk's personality, and it's exactly the kind of thing Duran, an even greater manipulator than arguably even Kerrigan, would do. This would address your first objections. For your second, it's implied even in Brood War that Duran MAY have been serving some higher power. The way he talked about the hybrids suggested he was part of some greater cause. Whether he was the mastermind behind it or not was left deliberately ambiguous. For your third objection, Mengsk just had help from Duran/Narud. Simple. For your fourth objection, Mengsk...kind of has a history of doing that, actually. Look up "gestalts," Terran ghosts enhanced with Protoss nerve cords.

      Actually, I'm kind of sanguine about the Overmind, too. He was...a flat character, in SC1. That was part of his appeal, but I only really found the human and Protoss conflicts in SC1 and the more political conflicts in Brood War very INTERESTING. The Overmind was more a plot device than an interesting character in his own right. He was meant to be the guy giving you orders in Episode II, and the guy you were ultimately fighting in Episode III. At his core, though, he was still a power-hungry supervillain, and the SC2 retcon gave him SOME additional depth, even if it was sloppy and badly executed. Honestly, I can name Sonic supervillains better-developed than him, which is pretty sad.

      I know people with split personalities. I know how they can behave COMPLETELY differently just because one "alter" or another is out. So Tychus wasn't pulling the trigger on the Queen of Blades, he was pulling the trigger on Sarah Louise Kerrigan. Besides, there was that whole prophecy thing saying she needed to live. Even if Raynor wanted her dead, he couldn't have allowed it.

      Mind, she manages to get Extreme Bitch Syndrome even as a human in Heart of the Swarm. Where you saw her developing a more sympathetic side, you have to remember that it's only in contrast to her behavior as the Queen of Blades in SC1 and Wings. I saw genocide and left-and-right hypocrisy and shortsightedness everywhere. She's very much a dynamic character in HotS. I actually don't fault her portrayal there much. She's been through hell, and even though she's no longer evil, she's...evil...ish. People snap under pressure, especially when they've been through the kinds of things she has. One of my only major objections to Brood War was that Kerrigan was so twisted she seemed to want power for its own sake, which isn't a very compelling MOTIVE for a villain. Heart of the Swarm fixed that, even if it fucked a bunch of other things up.

      Speaking of Heart of the Swarm, let's get to that.

      Although StarCraft has made an unhealthy habit of over-relying on the expanded lore to cover up gaping plot holes in the main series, kinda like Star Wars, it isn't necessary to see the expanded lore to get why Valerian was running tests on Kerrigan: It was because he DOESN'T trust her, which is repeatedly shown throughout the test. And she doesn't do much to help dissuade his fears, but pissing her and Raynor off when he has nowhere to go is a VERY bad idea. He's betrayed his father and thrown his lot in with the Raiders. He has no leverage, so he might as well play nice and hope for the best.

    4. Heh, I'm not a real stickler for fashion choices. Nova and Kerrigan always wore pretty slutty-looking combat suits in SC2. I DID find myself wondering why she wasn't running around buck-naked or at least in something very tattered after a few "deaths" ingame, but it's unclear if ingame deaths and revivals are even completely canon, so I let it slide. Gameplay and story segregation is an often necessary evil. Although I DID also wonder how she managed to stay so clean aboard a Zerg Leviathan with no spare suits or a shower or anything. Unless she washed up in her Spawning Pool-esque personal chamber, in which case, that's fucking gross. But hey, it's a minor detail. I don't consider it very important.

      Who says Raynor has to be separate from her. If you take the mindset that "it wasn't her," which he did, then the Sarah Kerrigan he knew and loved as of the end of Episode I was effectively gone until the end of Wings. Some part of her was still in there, yeah, but she didn't control the Queen of Blades, not entirely. Personalities ARE malleable, so is the human mind. If you so much as have a hormonal shift in your body, it can completely change who you are. Damage the wrong part of the brain or put someone through a traumatic, life-changing experience and all of a sudden you may find you don't know them anymore. So no, I think it's reasonable to assume her Zerg side can be considered, morally, a separate entity from her.

      I agree regarding Raynor suiting up. He was just gonna fly her to the Hyperion, after all. Then again, they'd been on the run and if you read the novel set between Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, you'll know Mengsk has been hounding them ever since Char, so perhaps at this point, he's just being extra prepared for an eventuality which...DID actually happen. Again, though, it makes no sense if you just play the game.

      Valerian is actually Christie Golden's Dark Templar Saga. Ugh, again, Blizzard needs to find a way to develop all of their characters ingame without overrelying on the novels. And yeah, his voice-acting was overly pretentious. The character I remember from the prequel novels was more pragmatic and less pompous. Ironically, by contrast, Matt Horner was a lot more idealistic and flat in Aaron Rosenberg's "Queen of Blades," but then, that was set half a decade before Wings, so... Leshrug. He's had time to mature.

      On a side note, the Protoss voice actors in Wings and Heart SUCKED, yeah, but they got better in Legacy. The pretentiousness and corny dialogue choices were toned down a lot, even if those roots were still showing in places.

      Yes, Valerian was afraid of her. Maybe not of her attacking him, but of what she'd do to everyone else if he managed to alienate her. So lines like the one you mentioned were appeasement and they never even SOUNDED very sincere to me. Again with the whole Blizzard using the novels as a crutch thing.

      As for the Raiders and Valerian- Ah, screw it. I'm just gonna say "Novel" whenever confronted with a point like this from this point on, because I'm tired of repeating myself about it. Blizzard seriously needs to fix this issue. They worked together a lot and saved each others' hides a few times. They're not entirely okay with working together, but they're not longer openly hostile, either.

      Attacking the facility made sense: It caught the Raiders off-guard and there's no way they could've managed to sneak an assassin in to kill Kerrigan without her reading their minds. It was a bit of a political risk since it WASN'T his son's facility, it was owned and operated by the Umojan Protectorate, which the Dominion is nominally at peace with.

    5. But yeah, Mengsk fucked up by reporting Raynor dead on the news. Why? It would make Raynor into a martyr and give Kerrigan even more reason to turn on him. Granted, he probably doesn't view Kerrigan as nearly the same threat that she used to be now that she's human and her Swarm is a shadow of its former self, but why invite unnecessary trouble? Your suggestion to either force Kerrigan to come quietly by using Raynor as leverage, or by baiting her into coming after him makes more sense. Instead he puts the lives of billions of Dominion ciizens and most of his military at risk all to bait her into entering his office so he could zap her with an artifact instead. Why not do that earlier, such as on the Moros, and save himself the trouble of fighting a Zerg invasion of his homeworld?

      Actually, telling her about Raynor was a smart move, or so he thought. He'd either bait her into trying to find him so he could blow her up (He tries this and fails miserably.) or he'd convince her to leave him alone. Besides, it isn't as stupid when you consider that Raynor was on a prison ship which was extremely difficult to find, and Kerrigan herself couldn't have done so. Even the Raiders couldn't. They relied on a little MacGuffin character from Wings to do it for them instead. The only problem is he should've done it way earlier, like before Kerrigan even reunited with the Swarm. I guess he was thinking that Raynor was a card he didn't want to play until it was absolutely necessary, but he still should've used him more offensively than he did.

      Again, we have to remember that the Queen of Blades and Sarah Kerrigan are considered two distinct personalities. The Queen of Blades got her revenge, but Sarah didn't. Sarah was left to die on Tarsonis and her hands were unwillingly covered in the blood of billions of people all because of Mengsk. And then Mengsk "kills" Raynor, which pisses her off even more. Not to mention she herself genuinely believed in him and he turned out to be a lying manipulator who himself killed billions to rise to power, so even if he'd done none of that, he betrayed her. You see signs of this in Episode I and the novel "Liberty's Crusade" further expands on her views of Mengsk as Episode I progressed.

      That being said, I disagree that the players don't learn enough about why Mengsk deserves to die: Anyone who played through Wings will know enough. They'll know he left Kerrigan to die on Tarsonis. They'll know he betrayed the trust of the people who believed in him. They'll know he commited genocide to ensure he rose to power and would happily do it again. SC2 also has a number of "The Story So Far" videos integrated into it to explain the events leading up to specific campaigns/expansions. They're not perfect but they tell enough and anyone who jumps into a story which follows and is tied into another preceeding story without at least reading a summary of the earlier story first is an idiot anyway. SC2 is meant to be experienced and played in order.

    6. And the main antagonist IS Mengsk, there's just a lot of references to a greater scope villain called Amon, who you're supposed to fight in Legacy of the Void, and Mengsk is a joke of a villain so he might come off as a secondary antagonist to some people. Let's assess. Kerrigan goes to Zerus under Zeratul's guidance to get power. Zeratul wants her to do it to fit into his prophecy, but she rejects the prophecy outright, stating she "won't be a pawn" in it. She wants the power to kill Mengsk, and there's some exposition about Amon, the threat she may face afterwards, but Mengsk is still the target at the end. Later on, when she goes to Dr. Narud's lab at Skygeirr Station, again, she does it to cripple Mengsk's armies so she can go after him. And again, Amon becomes a huge focus, but he's still a secondary antagonist. The game starts, progresses, and ends with one goal: Kill Mengsk. Everyone in the way dies, and Amon's forces just so happen to be in the way more than once.

      I don't think Kerrigan was appalled by what she'd done, I think she was just angry and disgusted with how people on both sides were going to keep dying as long as Mengsk chased after them, and perhaps slightly, reluctantly vindicated about her desire to kill him. Remember that Mengsk attacked her, AND the Raiders. And novel alert, he does it even more than you see ingame between Wings and Heart. Even if he didn't, Raynor expresses a desire at the beginning to just get away from it all and live in peace with her, and Mengsk attacks them anyway. No, the killing really WOULD never stop until Mengsk was dead. Obviously, Mengsk is far from the only source of death in the sector, but he was certainly a major contributor and one she REALLY wanted to see dead for exactly that reason.

      More likely RAYNOR was stupid. Even if Valerian wanted to do that to her, Raynor would've stopped him.

      She tells her Swarm to prepare for Amon's coming, but she was always after Mengsk. You're mistaking her for someone who is entirely rational, and she clearly isn't. That's what makes her interesting, I think. She's more wild and unpredictable now. She's still got some pragmatism in her but her desire to revenge is her all-consuming directive. If you think about it, it at least makes her a better Zerg character than the Overmind.

      I...disagree with that commenter as well. Shit, this social justice vs. gamers thing is making people politicize things which are obviously completely apolitical. Nobody objected to Kerrigan as a lead character in Brood War, so why object to her now? Mengsk is an asshole, but that's not out of character for him in either SC1 or SC2. What IS out of character for him is the fact that he's a total fucktard in SC2 instead of being at least a competent adversary like in SC1. And Narud gendershifts, so if anything, it's a woman fighting an evil man and a transgender person, so that comment holds even less water in that context. Keep yer politics out of muh gamez, people. We can talk about equal rights and social divides elsewhere.

    7. Heh, I don't think of Kerrigan as a um...heheh...particularly "feminine" figure. She's certainly no "proper lady." She's closer to being a harpy most of the time, although she shows SOME stereotypically feminine softness around Raynor. As for the Brood Mothers, they're about as vicious as the Queen of Blades, so again, I was okay with them. They may not be as repulsive as the cerebrates but they actually make sense. Cereberates are stationary, helpless targets, vulnerable to Void energy-wielding assassins. The Brood Mothers are more adaptive, psychologically, and far harder to kill, even if they present some issues in the obedience department that cerebrates don't. That being said, I kinda wish the cerebrate from Brood War, the one serving Kerrigan, survived into SC2 because it would've been interesting to see its perspective on everything, as a veteran of the First Great War and the Brood War. There was some potential to that character which was wasted when Blizzard chose to just kill it offscreen because it was no longer useful to the Queen of Blades.

      I won't argue that Raynor isn't the kinda guy a girl might want in her life, but I think that's because Raynor was ALWAYS intended to be the "good ole' boy" who happened to be thrust into a morally grey world where nothing goes the way he wants it to. The fact that he's "everything a woman wants" is just coincidence. He's almost everything you would want in a PERSON, period. A fundamentally good man who never loses sight of his sense of morality. Except for one thing. His only real moral failing is that he prioritizes his feelings for Kerrigan above the greater good multiple times. I may have stated earlier that he knows she needs to survive and that the Queen of Blades needed to be stopped in Wings, but he would've saved her even if he didn't have this excuse to back him up.

      I'm a little easier on General Warfield than you are because I don't view him as a character who is MEANT to be particularly complex. He's a likable old soldier who is a father to his men. A good man who just happens to be on the wrong side. He has a lot in common with Raynor, actually. He stands his ground on Char even at the cost of his soldiers' lives because he knows that if he doesn't stop Kerrigan there, she will ravage more worlds. And he has a real impact on her, even convinces her to revise her approach, try and avoid inflicting unnecessary casualties. She still fights and kills, but we don't see her butchering innocents or men who can't fight back after this. You could argue that she does this on Kaldir with the Protoss, but I think that if there is a canon order to her mission choices, it starts on Kaldir and ends on Zerus or Char instead, because showing mercy only to turn around and commit genocide, even against aliens, doesn't make sense.

    8. As for Warfield's choices, I actually don't think he was incompetent. To understand why, you have to understand military strategy in general. Warfield was commanding a large, cumbersome force. The only really effective way to use something like that is to just slam it up against enemy defenses and hope for the best. You can target specific weak points in the enemy defenses or try and bait them out and divide them before attacking them, but you're still going to be slinging large numbers of troops at your target. A still force is a dead force before too long. Look at World War II. The most effective strategies were almost always the most direct ones. Blitzkrieg by Nazi Germany, Patton's very similar tactics during the Allied invasion and reclamation of mainland Europe, and most American naval campaigns against Imperial Japan. By contrast, fancy manuevers like the ones Montgomery tried to pull were good in theory, but in the military, the KISS Principle applies just about everywhere. Why try to dance around a problem when you can just smash it head-on? Simpler is actually better a lot of the time. You should only do something fancy and "smart" if it's actually more effective, and it actually often isn't.

      Bear in mind also that WARFIELD is actually more experienced with warfare in general than Raynor, and has, to quote him, "five separate invasions against the Swarm" ALONE under his belt, not to mention his experience fighting Terrans and maybe Protoss, too. Raynor had one DISASTROUS failure of an action against the Swarm on Char during Episode II where lost almost his entire force, and odd fights with it here and there afterwards. This is not novel material, either, it's pretty clearly seen in the games. So when you take all that into account, Warfield has every reason to ignore Raynor's advice. He's a cowboy. A former law enforcement officer and Confederate Marine who wound up at the head of a rebel group. His track record certainly doesn't lend itself to someone with even more tactical and strategic acumen than one of humanity's most accomplished generals.

      I agree that the voice-acting, especially the Protoss voice acting, REALLY sucked. I don't really care too much about how the Zerg "sound" because it's actually established in the novels that they don't "speak" at all, at least not as humans do. Anything we "hear" is an approximation. Raynor can understand Zerg because he has a psionic link with Kerrigan (Queen of Blades), but that's about it. And I also think that a lot of SC1 Protoss voices sucked, too. Aldaris and Tassadar were pretentious and pompous in the extreme. That being said, Zeratul, Artanis, and Raszagal were good. Zeratul was like an old but not at all enfeedled warrior; Artanis was like a young, sharp, pragmatic soldier; and Raszagal was a gentle and motherly figure who still possessed a very strong will and wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty. In the Dark Templar Saga, we get to see her as a "young girl" and she was a REAL spitfire then, which is different from her character, but it's not hard to draw lines between young and fiery and old and deceptively gentle but very strong.

      And yeah, I loathed Zeratul in SC2. It pains me to see what's become of him. Try Legacy of the Void, see if you like what they did with him.

      Uh...novel? Sorry, but Zeratul may have been a match for her in SC1 because of his unit stats, but in the lore, Zeratul, Tassadar, and Raynor, ALL TOGETHER, at once, could not defeat Kerrigan. She almost killed them before Artanis saved them from her on Char. This is again from Aaron Rosenberg's novel, "StarCraft: Queen of Blades."

    9. I grinned to myself while reading your take on how Heart should've ended, but if you accept the whole prophecy thing, Zeratul's actions made sense and even brought some interesting personal conflict table which, unfortunately, was severely underplayed. Zeratul, more than most people, would want Kerrigan dead, but now, despite no doubt being galled to the core by the idea, has to help her. I just wish Blizzard would've made him a little bit less...OKAY with all of it. Like maybe Kerrigan makes one of her bitchy little snubs at him and he nearly loses his temper or something. We don't even get that. If we did, then I would've been just fine with that part.

      Zerus's distance from the Koprulu Sector is never made clear, but it's possible it was closer than you'd think. The Zerg wandered the galaxy, it's not implausible that they just went all over the place before going to the relatively local Koprulu Sector.

      As for the Primal Zerg, the majority of the Zerg on Zerus were found and modified by Amon, and no doubt the ones that weren't were killed, but Amon, for some reason (which you will see in Legacy of the Void), missed a few, and as anyone familiar with the Zerg knows, you cannot afford to do that. Even a single Zerg drone can destroy an entire planet if left alone and unchecked.

      I don't think the Zerg were supposed to be grot esque and fearful in Heart of the Swarm. They were meant to be dangerous and ruthless, but it would've been somewhat offputting to people to make them completely hideous monsters if they're supposed to be your allies. That could've been interesting, but only if there was a human or Protoss character onboard the Leviathan. Kerrigan and Stukov don't count. They're pretty used to all of it already. Abathur sums up the Swarm best, I think. They primarily seek to become stronger and more efficient killers.

      Essence is actually pretty commonly featured in the expanded lore, so uh...novels. Again. But Dehaka was meant to provide the perspective of an ancient Zerg being which is independent from the Swarm. Aside from Stukov and Kerrigan herself, he's the only member of the caste who is not subservient to the hivemind. So I actually thought he was a fairly interesting character. He's one of the more pragmatic members of the caste and I liked a couple of his dialog segments quite a bit. In one, he explains that he knows power is a means to an end, and that it's a mistake to seek it out for its own sake. You should only seek it out because you have a real use for it. He also explains his obsession with essence (genes) by saying that he has to evolve and adapt in the name of survival. This eerily reflects Abathur's views, although the methods by which Dehaka changes are different. I think that together, they show that the primals and the Swarm aren't so different. They both seek power in the name of survival, they just go about it different ways.

      As for his effectiveness, he's missing an arm (You can find it in one of the levels.) and just grew another, and only commands a relatively weak primal pack compared to the other primal pack leaders. He sides with Kerrigan because he knows it's a bad idea to oppose her and that he can gain a lot from working with her. Very practical. He could've been given more development but I don't think he's a bad character and I look forward to seeing more of him.

      Kerrigan was giving those orders to Brood Mothers. The only other Zerg characters which speak are the ones on the Leviathan, and the occasional Swarm Queen. All of those are leaders. Her lieutenants. It's not really any different from having a cerebrate respond the same way.

    10. I wish Stukov was given more development, too. That being said, I don't think his personality is off. He's lost everything and endured unspeakable horrors in between Resurrection IV and SC2, and even during Resurrection IV, his personality was already changing a lot. By Heart of the Swarm, he doesn't really care about much of anything anymore. When he assumes Kerrigan will kill him, he doesn't even seem to care. Implicitly, he's tired of life to the point that whether he lives or dies is of little consequence to him. I still think he could've been given more development, but what we got wasn't so bad, especially considering how Wings COMPLETELY ignored Brood War in its entirety, only mentioning it a couple of times in passing. Also, Stukov gets an AWESOME moment near the end of Legacy of the Void which brought many a smile, so there's that, too.

      Yeah, Narud sucked. There's no getting around that. He was such an interesting character in SC1 and they turned him into another supervillain. Why has Blizzard done this with EVERY antagonist in SC2? Mengsk, the Queen of Blades, Mengsk again, Narud, and even Amon. They're all as flat as tapeworms and nearly as painful to watch. Amon and Mengsk in Heart of the Swarm both get like ONE line of dialogue painting them as anything other than total bastards. Mengsk briefly shows near the end of Heart of the Swarm that he believes he is indeed ensuring humanity's survival, and Amon? Well, I won't spoil it for you.

      Yeah, the Tal'darim being allied with the head of the Moebius Foundation but also fighting against it was stupid. It could've been an elaborate ruse to ease suspicions, or maybe Narud only revealed himself to the Tal'darim after Wings, or maybe Narud didn't have perfect control over the Tal'darim and they weren't cooperating with him, or maybe the branch of the Tal'darim working with Narud was separate from the branch Raynor fought. They're rather decentralized. One of Alarak's (Alarak is a Tal'darim leader) lines in Legacy implies that Executor Nyon, the Tal'darim leader who hounds Raynor throughout the campaign, was exposed to a large amount of terrazine and went mad. The line in question was something of a joke, but I see no reason to believe it wasn't canon. You'll find, in the expanded lore and in Legacy, that the Tal'darim are rather cutthroat. Some kind of dispute with Narud isn't out of the question at all, it's just never confirmed or explained. So Blizzard CAN fix this gaping plot hole, but I don't think they have yet. I hope they do it right. They really should've done it ingame to begin with.

      Horner was probably helping Kerrigan both because Raynor wanted him to and because he knows she can be a valuable asset if properly handled, like she was for Mengsk before then in SC1. Later on, well, his motivations for helping her was so he could find Jim. But yeah, Mira Han's refusal to hand over Colonel Orlan was just an excuse to let us use the Hyperion to go blow shit up. Hey, I'm not complaining, it was a fun if somewhat short and easy mission. (Then again, I've gotten every single achievement in all of SC2's campaigns and beaten them all on Brutal difficulty, so I may be a bit biased on what's easy and what's not.)

    11. Valerian develops a little over the campaign. He's deceptively competent for appearing to be kind of a naive fool at the start. I read through TVTropes' articles on StarCraft once and they pointed something important out: Valerian managed to basically strongarm Kerrigan to go what he said, not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. First he got Kerrigan to listen to him because he wanted to make sure they found Jim without putting him at any unnecessary risk. She caved. Then he managed to convince her on moral grounds alone to risk failing in her invasion of Korhal JUST to save his people from the brunt of the invasion. When the invasion is progressing, he asks her for more time and convinces her, again, to spare civilian lives even at the cost of making her invasion more difficult. So, let's summarize that into a single sentence: He got the QUEEN OF BLADES, or at least someone bearing that name, to listen to him thrice, and the second and third times, he had no leverage. Maybe he's inherited some of his father's stupidity, but he's also inherited some of his father's political savvy, too.

      Kerrigan and the old Queen of Blades are distinct entities, this made abundantly clear. She behaves very differently once that her humanity is back. Even when she is reinfested, she retains her free will and her (relative) sanity, unlike last time. If she was like the old Queen of Blades, she would never have given Raynor a chance to kill her at all, and angry as he was with her, he KNEW that. Even in "Queen of Blades," he hesitates to kill her when he THINKS he has the chance.

      As for the ending, yeah, Mengsk went out with a literary whimper, even if it was a bang. I'll just voice a couple of things I found off about this part of the critique:

      1. There's no way of knowing when Mengsk got ahold of the artifact, but it's likely that Narud wouldn't have needed it for long to revive Amon.

      2. Mengsk being in the most obvious place ever was probably intended to be a sort of clue that there was some kind of trap, and they foreshadowed it in dialog choices a few times.

      3. An earlier cut of the ending to Heart of the Swarm got leaked by someone like a year or two before the game came out. It had some rough edges like Kerrigan apparently having a restraint chip built into her neck from her time as a Ghost that Mengsk just decided to use instead of employing the artifact, but the dialogue choices were mostly better, and I wish they'd stuck with them.

      4. I don't want to come off as trying to argue with you. I'm not. But again, I must voice that Kerrigan is distinct from the Queen of Blades. She's a deeply flawed person but she's not "evil" the way the Queen Bitch of the Universe was.

      I also hate to play the devil's advocate because SC2 CLEARLY could've been better, but it's not quite so bad if you actually play the game yourself multiple times while taking different paths through it to flesh it all out. I went through the games recently and pondered after much examination on which path through the campaign delivers the most consistent character development and plot progression, and I think I've found it.

      Wings of Liberty

      Liberation Day, The Outlaws, Zero Hour, The Evacuation, The Devil's Playground, Smash and Grab, The Dig, Whispers of Doom, A Sinister Turn, Echoes of the Future, In Utter Darkness, Outbreak, Welcome to the Jungle, The Moebius Factor, The Great Train Robbery, Cutthroat, Supernova, Maw of the Void, Breakout, Engine of Destruction, Media Blitz (Secret Unlocked), Piercing the Shroud, Safe Haven, The Gates of Hell, Belly of the Beast, All In.

      Heart of the Swarm

      Umoja, Kaldir, Char, Zerus, Dominion Space, Skygeirr Station, Korhal.

      Legacy of the Void

      Prologue (Separate mini-campaign), Aiur, Shakuras, Glacius, Korhal, Ulnar, Slayn, Revanscar, Endion, Aiur, Epilogue (Separate mini-campaign).