StarCraft 2 Mini Review and Storyline Guesses

Quick review of StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty and what’s next ???

It’s been nearly ten years since Brood War came out for the Mac. StarCraft really set the mark for real time strategy. It was the elite, even a game as recent as Halo Wars is trying to be StarCraft. Well, it’s been a long 3 year wait since the announcement of StarCraft 2 back in 2007. However with the new release, the warfare between the Terrans, the Zerg, and Protoss continues. During that 3 year development window, the game has gone from one game to really three. A Terran focused story- Wings of Liberty, a Zerg story- Heart of the Swarm, and finally a Protoss story- Legacy of the Void. Was StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty worth the wait?

Definitely, the single player campaign is like an awesome mini series on the Sci-Fi channel. Instead of a purely linear campaign, you now choose missions coming from different story archs, playing as Jim Raynor  outlaw/freedom fighter, kind of a cross between Han Solo and Aragorn. Your missions are either about recovering alien artifacts or attacking the forces of the oppressive Terran government.

A third story with different missions is also available where you get to play as Zeratul, the Protoss leader from the first game. So there’s variety in the missions and you get to play as both Terrans and Protoss. In addition, some missions force you to make a definitive choice which will have consequences for the rest of the game. There’s a nice blend of missions goals, creating some challenges in mission strategy.

One of the biggest improvements is the in campaign research trees. Playing as Raynor, you gain research points for Zerg or Protoss based weapon developments for your Terran forces. For example, you can choose armor that regenerates that is based of copying Zerg physiology. When you get five Zerg or Protoss research points you have a choice of two important upgrades for the rest of the game. You only get to choose one. These are critical choices and you are going to find yourself second guessing those decisions.

In addition, you get to purchase unit upgrades with credits earned after every mission. There’s no real way to earn enough credits for every upgrade for every unit, so again you are choosing upgrades without knowing which units will be of the most use in future missions.

Finally, in the cantina (you go to different part of Raynor’s Battlecruiser to interact with characters. Go to the Lab for science research updates, go to the Armory for weapon updates), you get to interact with a mercenary talent scout where you can hire mercenary units that will be available to you in missions. The mercenaries cost credits so you have to weigh their cost versus unit upgrade costs as well. In the missions themselves, the mercenaries can be vital in creating much needed reserves or front line troops quickly. There’s no build time involved, the mercenaries arrive by transport pod.

There are 26 total missions with a great space opera story around it creating  a really great gaming/entertainment experience. Out of ten, MoD gives the game a 9.5

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD – do not read if you are now interested in playing the game.

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The biggest early reveal in the game is that we have a new evil enemy, the Dark One or the Fallen One. The Dark One is apparently an evil Xel’naga (a powerful race that created the Zerg and Protoss) who has been manipulating events to kill all other races in the galaxy.

The Dark One twisted the Zerg to attack the Protoss, in order to create their perfect being which would be a hybrid of the Zerg/Protoss. The Zerg never really had free will, there were conditioned to be this destructive race. During the Zeratul missions, you have to fight these hybrids (ProTergs or ZerToss?) and they are extremely powerful. These Hybrids can control and corrupt both Protoss and Zerg.

In the last Zeratul mission, you are actually playing a future event predicted by the Zerg Overmind (original leader of the Zerg believed to be killed in Starcraft 1 ) where the Terrans have been eliminated completely by the Zerg under the control of the Fallen One/hybrids, and the Zerg are used by the Hybrids to attack the last of the Protoss. It’s the Protoss’ last stand basically, and it doesn’t end well. After eliminating the Protoss, the Hybrids destroy all the Zerg leaving them as the only force in the universe. The Zeratul’s new goal is stop this future from happening by defeating the plans of the Fallen One.

Now, the Fallen One/Dark One reveals that the only person that can stop this plan was Kerrigan, Human/Zerg hybrid who was the main villain of StarCraft: Brood War . If Kerrigan dies, then this dark future experienced by Zeratul will happen. Why is Kerrigan so important? The Overmind infected Kerrigan (former Terran soldier with Psionic abilities) with Zerg DNA to become a Zerg leader that could resist the control of the Xel’ Naga. Kerrigan should be able to stop the Hybrids from taking over control of the Zerg. Zeratul tells Raynor that Kerrigan must be saved.

However, at the end of Wings of Libery, Raynor has used the Xel’ Naga artifact to destroy a massive number of Zergs and to cure Kerrigan of the Zerg infection (Raynor’s got a thing for Kerrigan).

Okay, enough of the recap and catching up with the story so far. The next episode in this trilogy is called Heart of the Swarm. The only details are that it will focus on Kerrigan. So what’s going to happen?

Here’s MoD’s best guess. Kerrigan, while now human and fully possessing free will but removed from the influence of the Zerg DNA, will still be able to control and influence the Zerg. The whole reason the Overmind infested her was her unlimited Psionic ability. Her campaign will focus on stopping the Hybrids from taking control over the Zerg. Also, the title is a big clue. When you think of the Zerg, heart or soul or compassion is not usually a term that comes to mind. The Zerg are portrayed as having a single objective, destroy all other species and assimilate them into the Zerg collective. The Zerg are presented as an evil combination of the Borg and the Xenomorphs from the movie Alien. The other part of Kerrigan’s mission will be to free the Zerg from their mission to destroy, and give them free will. Theologians for centuries have argued that a soul/heart is necessary for free will, Kerrigan will have to find the soul/heart of the swarm. How does she do that? Kerrigan may in essence free the species that the Zerg corrupted, just like she has been freed perhaps using a Xel’naga artifact of some kind. One guess could be that these “liberated” creatures will form the basis of Kerrigan’s new army that will help fight the Dark One’s Hybrids. These liberated Zergs will be immune to being controlled.

The side mission in the campaign might be Raynor investigating the Moebius Foundation and how they knew about the Xel’naga artifacts. How did Dr. Narud (too much of coincidence that Narud is a palindrome for Duran, the agent from the Brood War working for ancient “Xel’naga” mysterious forces) know that the device could cure Kerrigan? Kerrigan during a mission even indicates that she sees through Narud’s charade. Was the cure designed to make Kerrigan easier to kill, since as the leader of the Zerg she was nearly invincible? By saving Kerrigan, Raynor has derailed this plan. In addition, Raynor will be investigating the human research into the Hybrids that is revealed in the secret mission in Wings of Liberty. Raynor may need to stop Narud/Duran from allowing the Hybrids to gain control over humanity.

The third episode, Legacy of the Void, seems much clearer. Zeratul having witnessed the Overmind’s prophecy must unite the Protoss into one powerful tribe. In the prophecy, the various factions arrive one at a time to help Zeratul, but it’s too little too late. If the entire force had been available from the start then perhaps Zeratul could have defeated the Hybrids. Not only will Zeratul have to defeat/convince rebellious Protoss, but Protoss corrupted by the Hybrids are sure to be a force in this campaign as well. Zeratul will have to use diplomacy to unite the Protoss before the Hybrids pick off the Protoss factions one at a time.

The side mission in Legacy of the Void might be Raynor/Kerrigan/Horner using the momentum from the events of Wings of Liberty and the events of Heart of the Swarm to defeat the evil tyrant Mengsk, ruler of the Terran Dominion. This story would go with the theme of the story of unification towards fighting a common enemy. A unified Terran army could be key at the final battle against the Hybrids. Especially if the Hybrids can coopt Zerg and Protoss forces.

The final mission of Legacy of the Void will be similar to the end of Wings of Liberty. You will have to complete several missions that will give the player control over all 3 factions to fight a massive end game battle with the Hybrids. You may have the option of using Raynor’s forces to battle dark Protoss forces or using Kerrigan’s new Zerg against the Hybrids corrupted Zerg or fighting with Zeratul’s unified Protoss army. It’s easy to predict that to kill such a force as the Dark One you might need the combined powers of Kerrigan and Zeratul at the very end.

These are all just guesses right now. If the campaigns are anywhere near the quality of Wings Of Liberty, MoD will be buying both games.

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