The Rebellion Missions

This post was edited on August 10, 2014, for better spacing and ease of reading.

The Rebellion missions in Wings of Liberty were fairly straightforward. Raynor starts it off by hijacking Dominion trains to capture some secret cargo, which happens to be a Confederate computerized adjutant. He then has to get its classified information decrypted, and fights the criminal doing the job for him when said criminal tries to sell it off to the Dominion.

After that, the third mission involves capturing the prototype Odin walker, while the final mission has you unleash it on Korhal as a distraction while Raynor’s forces upload that secret information to the media broadcast centres. That broadcast contained a recording that discredited Arcturus Mengsk severely.

The secret mission “Piercing the Shroud” is technically also a Rebellion mission, but it is not actually related to the others. While there were some problems in how the missions played out, the general principle behind them was very good.

To start with, there was the fact that the missions demonstrated what Raynor’s Raiders were trying to do in their revolution. Their goal, essentially, was to bring down Arcturus Mengsk and the corrupt government of the Dominion. Most of the other missions in the game ignore that objective and go off on tangents, such as the levels where Raynor gives Tosh some support. However, the Rebellion missions show Raynor taking action to move towards his final goal.

Incidentally, it should also be noted that the original StarCraft is tied in very effectively for this series of missions. The Confederate adjutant in the first two missions dated back to the invasion of Tarsonis. The broadcast used against Arcturus to great effect was two separate recordings of his words in the original Terran campaign of the first StarCraft. First, there was this full recording at the end of the eighth mission:

Duke: This is Duke. The emitters are secured and on-line.
Kerrigan: Who authorized the use of Psi-Emitters?
Arcturus Mengsk: I did, lieutenant.
Kerrigan: What? The Confederates on Antiga were bad enough, but now you’re going to use the Zerg against an entire planet? This is insane.
Jim Raynor: She’s right, man. Think this through.
Arcturus Mengsk: I have thought it through. Believe me. You all have your orders. Carry them out.

Then, in the last mission briefing, there was a partial recording of Arcturus’ words, in particular the bolded part. Note that the adjutant here is not the same as the one later discovered by Raynor in Wings of Liberty:

Jim Raynor: I can’t believe he actually left her down there. I’m gone, and you better come with me. There’s no telling who Arcturus will screw over next.
Adjutant: Receiving incoming transmission…
Arcturus Mengsk: Gentlemen, you’ve done very well, but remember that we’ve still got a job to do. The seeds of a new Empire have been sown, and if we hope to reap…
Jim Raynor: Aw, to hell with you!
Arcturus Mengsk: You’re making a terrible mistake. Don’t even think to cross me. I’ve sacrificed too much to let this fall apart.
Jim Raynor: You mean like you sacrificed Kerrigan?
Arcturus Mengsk: You’ll regret that. You don’t seem to realize my situation here. I will not be stopped. Not by you, or the Confederates, or the Protoss, or anyone. I will rule this sector or see it burnt to ashes around me! If you try to get in my way…
Adjutant: The fleet is prepped and ready, Commander. Awaiting orders.
Jim Raynor: (to the Magistrate) The hell with him. We’re gone.

Taken together, the two recordings make it clear that not only did Arcturus cause the destruction of Tarsonis by drawing the Zerg there, but also that he was driven solely by desire for power. Given that Arcturus’ rule is founded on the idea that he is serving the people, this would be extremely embarrassing for him. The fact that he was responsible for the extermination of the people on Tarsonis would likewise damage his reputation severely.

It should also be noted that the missions themselves were not directed at fighting the Dominion head-on and defeating armies with Raynor’s tiny rebellion. Instead, they worked through somewhat more subtle means than brute force.

For instance, the last main mission, “Media Blitz”, culminated in a serious scandal for the Dominion, not some military takeover of the government. Raynor used the Dominion media against Arcturus, not brute force. The execution of the mission was unfortunate, as you can actively wipe out the Dominion bases with the Odin, but that is not directly related to the principle behind the mission.

It is a more realistic approach for Raynor to take when compared to to the tactics used throughout other missions in the campaign, like the open assault on the heavily defended New Folsom prison. Assaulting Korhal would only get Raynor’s Raiders killed, whereas humiliating Arcturus could potentially cause an uprising that would remove him from power.

It is unfortunate that all of the damage caused was effectively ignored in Heart of the Swarm, but the background behind the missions was impressive. They offered a practical way to damage the grip Arcturus held on the people, and the missions had Raynor working towards his goal of deposing Arcturus, unlike a substantial number of other levels in the game. They even referred to the original game in an easy-to-understand fashion with those recordings that would avoid confusing those who had not played it while still giving the reference a significant role.

If Blizzard had invested a similar degree of time and effort into the other branches of the campaign, it would probably have been much better off for it.

Technologies in Wings of Liberty

This post was edited on August 10, 2014, for better spacing and ease of reading.

Throughout the course of the Wings of Liberty campaign, you can lay your hands on numerous new units, weapons, and other technologies. Some of the means used to “acquire” said technologies make perfectly good sense, such as digging out old equipment like Vultures and Wraiths when they would be useful. Others… not. Minor oddities can be forgiven painlessly, as the background behind such technologies is usually trivial, but there are some glaring points to be noted.

Diamondbacks are a key example. At first glance, they seem somewhat reasonable, if far-fetched. They turn up on Tarsonis, in the wreckage of the old Confederacy. Apparently, over the years that the Dominion had been scavenging the wreckage, they failed to find any of them, yet Raynor did so almost instantly. This would be odd, as would the fact that you can somehow build them instantly despite lacking the schematics and probably several key materials, but at least it would be acceptable.

However, six of them are scattered about in the mission, and two of them are being actively guarded by Dominion forces who can easily see the Diamondbacks. Even if the Dominion actually employed its own Diamondbacks at any point in Wings of Liberty, this would still be hard to believe, as the vehicles are sitting right there in perfect working order just waiting to be driven off to the Dominion base.

Ghosts are another problem, albeit not quite as serious. It is difficult to believe that Nova, even after Raynor helped her deal with Tosh, would offer him the necessary tools to train and equip Ghosts. After all, Ghosts are the signature covert operatives of the Dominion, and they could be a formidable asset for Raynor. In any case, Nova was a Ghost herself, and offering that kind of information would let Raynor exploit any number of flaws that were undoubtedly present in the program. It is not an outright impossibility, but it is still very unlikely.

The monstrous Drakken Laser Drilluse gimmick. That would be fine, if a proper reason was given for it. Even if it was ruined just as it succeeded, that would have been better than its simple disappearance. It was an incredibly powerful weapon, capable of wiping out Colossi and Archons almost instantly, yet it was never used again. It would have been a useful asset on Char for blasting away at Ultralisks, and other missions could likewise have seen some utility.

Since the mission containing the drill must be played before going to Char, it would certainly be available for at least that mission. Unfortunately, Blizzard failed to consider the possibility, so the drill was locked away in some part of the Hyperion and never touched again.

The Thor is probably the single most glaring incident of all. The game tells you that Rory Swann designed it himself by downsizing the recently captured Odin, which is an explanation that immediately runs into multiple problems. He has an effective, dedicated team, but shrinking down a machine like that is not a simple task when you only have limited resources and a short timeframe to do it in. The Odin was a monstrous creation, and quickly making even a smaller version of it would be time-consuming, particularly if it was to be established in a way that allowed rapid construction on the battlefield like the Odin.

More crucially, they are seen in missions under the control of the Dominion, which makes no sense at all if Swann is indeed making them from the existing prototype Odin in the middle of the war. One is seen guarding the New Folsom prison, for instance. It has even been said that Blizzard outright admitted that the Thor appearing in Dominion hands was a mistake on their end at one of their BlizzCons.

There are many minor issues that could be mentioned as well, such as the unfeasibly fast training pace of Ghosts and Spectres. Most of those, however, could easily be put down to time compression for the purpose of streamlined gameplay, making them trivial concerns at best. Still, the more blatant problems are present as well, and they should have been given at least a second pass by Blizzard to rectify them.


The Problems in “Echoes of the Future”

This post was edited on August 10, 2014, for better spacing and ease of reading. An extra comment was also added to clarify the difference between the typical Protoss greeting or salutation and that used by Dark Templar.

In the third mission of the Prophecy chain, Zeratul arrives on Aiur in the hopes of clarifying the mysterious prophecy deciphered in the previous mission, specifically the role of the Overmind in it. He reactivates a dormant Protoss base, whose continued existence after four years is left completely unexplained. Given that there are billions of Zerg on the planet, some of whom are surrounding the base in all directions, this is counterintuitive at best.

Then, he strikes out to reach the various tendrils of the Overmind’s corpse in the hopes of learning more about it. When what he finds only confuses him, he goes to its brain, where Tassadar abruptly appears and reveals an apocalyptic vision of the future as seen by the Overmind. In this single mission, several baffling points turn up.

First, there is the question of the technology that Zeratul finds on the planet. After reaching the inexplicably intact Protoss base, he summons two Colossi conveniently present in the closest body of water.

However, the Colossi had been created, employed, and sealed away in remote locations due to their excessive killing power, all before Zeratul was even born. The Conclave of the time would certainly not have sealed away such dangerous machines on Aiur itself, plus they would surely have been used in a desperate attempt to stop the planet from falling to the Zerg if any had been there. Also, how could Zeratul even know they were there, or understand the correct signal to summon them from the shallow waters that were so unsuitable for actual concealment?

There are also the two Obelisks and associated Warp Gates beside them in the mission. When you supply power, a handful of Protoss warp in and offer their thanks.

Very confusingly, one group addresses Zeratul by name and uses a traditional Dark Templar greeting; “Adun toridas”, meaning either “May Adun grant you sanctuary”, or more literally “Adun hide you”. In contrast, the Aiur Protoss typically use “En taro Adun”, which is “In honour of Adun”. Neither of these facts are things they would be likely to know as Aiur Protoss who have been unable to communicate with the greater world for four years, as they would probably know nothing of Zeratul or the greeting used by Dark Templar.

To make things worse, that person also states that his group was trapped in the energy matrix when the power was cut off. Even ignoring the fact that the loss of power would most likely terminate the matrix and with it the Protoss inside it, there is still the question of how they were even aware of being trapped when they had been broken down to a specific energy pattern.

Also, Warp Gates were explicitly not designed by the Protoss until well after the fall of Aiur. A Xel’Naga warp gate certainly existed, but the Protoss did not dare to reverse-engineer them and develop their own until after the Brood War, at which point the Protoss had long since fled from Aiur. Seeing two of them in such vicinity to the Overmind and still effectively intact, when they did not exist in that form until long after Aiur fell, makes absolutely no sense.

Next, there is Tassadar. After sacrificing himself to destroy the Overmind, he has suddenly been tossed into the story once more, four years after the event, as a floating spirit. Quite apart from the fact that any kind of spirit after death makes no sense in StarCraft, his continued existence in any way presents a number of implications.

For instance, why could he not reach out through the communal link of the Khala that binds all Protoss save the Dark Templar and speak to the other Protoss about the impending threat? Why could he not speak to others after his “death” when they were on Aiur, and inform them that way? The player is expected to simply accept that Tassadar’s sole remaining purpose is to speak for the Overmind and deliver some warning about a future apocalypse, even though he should logically be capable of much more.

Incidentally, another question must be asked: how was the Overmind’s corpse still present? It had rested there for four long years, and was still largely intact. Even if the various events in the course of the Brood War that occurred on Aiur all avoided the resting place of the Overmind, there is still a more practical point. All living things decay over time, and four years is more than enough to make such a massive creature deteriorate to effectively nothingness. There would be no feelings left for Zeratul to pick up from the tendrils, even if the tendrils still existed.

One could argue that Tassadar was somehow keeping its corpse intact, but then the other implications come into play. If he had such power after his “death”, which would blatantly contradict the spiritless nature of StarCraft, then why would he not simply reach out to his brethren and tell them directly of the threat, complete with the associated vision of doom, thus avoiding any need for Zeratul’s mission at all?

Finally, there is the more general question of the overarching prophecy. Like the idea that Tassadar became a spirit after death, the idea of some millennia-old prophecy is nonsense. Its origins appear to be from the Xel’Naga, but why would they be unable or unwilling to understand or even attempt to forestall a prophecy of their own making, especially one that so clearly indicates the end of their race because of some specific fallen member of their own race?

Surely an entire race could deal with a single member of its own species, barring the assumption of incredible stupidity on the part of the general race. Given their advanced technological level, that assumption does not hold. While they might not have known who it was at first, the intentions of such a course would presumably be noticeable before their entire race, Amon most likely included, met its end at the hands of its own creation, the Zerg.

As such, it is clear that Blizzard failed to consider the deeper ramifications of the mission they created. Admittedly, there are no flaws from the casual perspective, as every one of the points here typically requires further knowledge or some critical thought to notice. Unfortunately, writing for the casual audience generally indicates laziness or a lack of attention to detail, and it should not be encouraged. For that matter, it should be avoided if the game is to have a respectable story that draws more players in and maintains interest in the series.

Amon and Duran

This post was edited on August 10, 2014, for better spacing and ease of reading.

In the first StarCraft, there were no gods to speak of. The Xel’Naga were potent beings capable of manipulating evolution, admittedly, but they were mortal, as their assimilation by the Overmind demonstrated. Mythical beings watching over the cosmos were nonexistent. Now, however, with StarCraft II, the introduction of Amon as a fallen Xel’Naga turned deity has destroyed that precedent, throwing a number of problems into the overall story.

To begin with, there is the idea that he was capable of controlling the Overmind. That is absurd for multiple reasons, most of which have already been explained. One more point to add, however, is that Amon would logically be expected to have perished at the hands of the Overmind that consumed the Xel’Naga race. If Amon had truly been consumed, then it would be utterly impossible to credit that he would be able to mentally control the being that killed and absorbed him. He might have been some unknown escapee who perished later, but it is still made very clear that he has been gone for thousands of years.

In any case, it still leaves the Overmind with the knowledge and power of the general race, which makes it difficult to believe that the Overmind would not know of some way to break such a hold, or resist it at the least.

There is also the key point that the entire driving force of evil behind most of StarCraft II is Amon’s impending resurrection, which is illogical in the extreme within the context of the games. The world of StarCraft does not allow for magic or spirits. Psionic abilities like telepathy and telekinesis might be considered as such, but they have boundaries and at least a semi-scientific explanation behind them. Resurrection from death in the literal sense is simply nonexistent.

Fenix in the first StarCraft might be considered an exception, until you remember that he was only crippled badly enough to require a transplant into a Dragoon exoskeleton in order to continue serving. When he is later cut down by Kerrigan and truly killed, he stays dead. Reviving some being that has been dead for millennia simply by pouring enough energy into it would probably be acceptable in a fantasy setting like World of Warcraft or Diablo, but StarCraft was grounded in science fiction, not science fantasy.

Amon’s servant Samir Duran must also be considered. He was renamed Narud when Wings of Liberty was released, despite appearing as Duran in the original StarCraft, for no clear reason apart from causing confusion among the players. Originally, he was introduced as a Terran working with the UED to bring down the Dominion after the death of the Overmind.

He had ulterior motives, however, and eventually he betrayed the UED to reveal himself as a Zerg agent. Subsequently, he assisted Kerrigan in multiple victories, before deserting her at a very inconvenient time. In the secret mission near the end of that game, he reveals himself to Zeratul as a servant of some “higher power” who has gone by many names. Amon would certainly fit the idea of such a being, if not for his background being incompatible with StarCraft.

In StarCraft II, Duran continues with some of the deception. Throughout Wings of Liberty, he arranges for Valerian Mengsk to hear of a Xel’Naga artifact that could deinfest Kerrigan, which would be a potent weapon indeed. This carefully seeded idea led to Valerian indirectly enlisting Raynor in the effort to find the various pieces, most of which were safeguarded by Tal’Darim who, in hindsight, were most likely working for Duran in some capacity. Such actions fit with his typical ways of thinking. Ultimately, Kerrigan was deinfested, although with Heart of the Swarm this became a very bad thing that was precisely in line with what he had intended, as her power was sucked away and used to fuel Amon’s revival.

Unfortunately, he was sidelined in Heart of the Swarm, reduced to being the incidental target of a single set of missions that had originally been directed at a secret Dominion laboratory and its Hybrids in general, and he meets his end rather sadly. After Kerrigan wins a silly war of absurd laser beams in the last of those three missions that she could have easily avoided through simply moving to one side, she defeats Duran in single combat.

This is a rather absurd approach for Duran to take, given that he surely had the means to flee from within his own laboratory. He was cunning and very intelligent, with plans for anything that could go wrong with his strategy, and probably even more tactics for if those plans failed. After having lost the ludicrous beam war, he would presumably have realized that he lacked the strength to fight Kerrigan in a straight battle. If he had stayed in character, he would have retreated to plan for a future method of neutralizing Kerrigan, such as using the Xel’Naga artifact once again. Throwing his own life away was a pointless waste that did not serve him or his master.

All things considered, Duran was not handled too badly in Wings of Liberty. Heart of the Swarm, sadly, took that intriguing character and killed him off in a rather contrived set of circumstances. Amon, on the other hand, was simply a nonsensical idea from start to finish. Having a Xel’Naga survive was bad enough, but at least plausible. Having him as some long-dead being that formerly held near-infinite power does not add up at all. If he had the power to “rip worlds apart”, then how did he perish in the first place, and how could he still be a threat now after losing that power? Also, how could he have twisted the very Overmind that assimilated his race, and yet still met his end from apparently nothing at all?

The Problems with the Zerg (Part Two: The Overmind)

This post was edited on August 10, 2014, for better spacing and ease of reading.

In the original StarCraft, the Overmind was the ultimate ruler of the Zerg race, wielding absolute control. It infested entire worlds, forcing the Protoss to incinerate them. Likewise, it used the Zerg to overrun Aiur, the Protoss home world, in the face of stiff opposition. It also successfully infested Kerrigan, who would prove to be quite possibly the deadliest single being in the entire Koprulu Sector after the Overmind was killed by Tassadar.

Unfortunately, StarCraft II completely shattered its character through one critical change, destroying numerous other elements of the overall background in the process.

According to StarCraft II, the Overmind did everything it did because it was mentally corrupted by Amon, some fallen Xel’Naga. The first StarCraft game and manual make it quite clear that the Overmind was acting out of its own free will, but there are still problems even when the Overmind’s established actions and motivations are ignored.

StarCraft II makes it excruciatingly clear that Amon, as of Wings of Liberty, had been dead for millennia. Quite apart from the difficulty of placing a firm mental hold on a creature as potent as the Overmind in the first place, it is ludicrous to expect such control to extend over those countless years that Amon was dead. By the time of the original StarCraft, the Overmind should certainly have been able to break free from such control, given that it took those numerous years just for it to reach the Koprulu Sector.

On that same track, it should be noted that Wings of Liberty stated that, with this new explanation, Kerrigan had been infested to liberate the Zerg from this control. This is rather jarring, since the player is expected to believe that the control imposed by Amon is unbreakable; otherwise, it would have faded long before this time.

At the same time, the Overmind is apparently trying to infest Kerrigan with the specific hope of breaking Amon’s control. Presumably, this would be something that such a comprehensive mental grasp, one capable of enduring so many years after the death of the one who maintained that hold, would halt in its tracks, and yet there is no sign of this.

Next, there is the idea, introduced somewhat later in Heart of the Swarm, that the corruption of the Zerg was through the creation of the Overmind, and that Amon was solely responsible for this. This, together with the ridiculous Primal Zerg brought in at the same time, would imply that the natural state of the Zerg is independence.

This flies in the face of the original StarCraft, where “the Xel’Naga structured the collective sentience of the Zerg into a unified, amalgamated ‘Overmind’”, with the intention of preserving their unity and purity. The Xel’Naga worked by manipulating and directing evolution, so this would be natural for the Zerg to act as parts of a greater whole, with a single voice.

After all of that, there is the problem of the Overmind’s original motivations. Its goal was to further the evolution of the Zerg, and nothing else. It consumed every one of its own makers, the Xel’Naga, to attain greater heights. It learned of the Protoss by doing so, since the Xel’Naga had also been responsible for altering the Protoss, and saw them as both a considerable threat and the most advanced species it knew of. As such, it would logically attempt to assimilate them next.

While this would most likely involve wiping them out, it was not trying to destroy the Protoss simply for the sake of killing them all, but rather to absorb their genetics and move the Zerg closer to perfection. The idea of Amon’s corruption, however, suggests that the Overmind was set to kill off the Protoss as a race simply because Amon wanted them dead for some unknown reason.

The Overmind had been a truly great character in the original StarCraft, incredibly intelligent and cunning. It had the power to devour its own creators, the same creators that made the Protoss, and it had intriguing motivations that were far from the usual ideas behind most villains.

StarCraft II obliterated all of that, however, for the sake of pushing the story along a specific path that was probably expected to bring in better sales through writing a simplified and shallower story for the masses. It ruined a considerable portion of the original story in doing so, since the Overmind’s motivations were in no small part responsible for the entire course of events in the Koprulu Sector. Changing them for the sequel so drastically breaks the continuity and consistency of the story, and the nonsensical explanation behind it does not help the problem.

The Problems with the Zerg (Part One: The Primal Zerg)

This post was edited on August 10, 2014, for better spacing and ease of reading.

When you take a brief look at the Zerg Swarm in the original StarCraft, they were all subservient to a handful of Cerebrates. These, in turn, were themselves created by the Overmind, who they were incapable of disobeying. The Zerg at large were not intelligent, so if the Cerebrate in charge of a brood perished, its members essentially turned into mindless killers without restraints.

They were a force to be feared, and all the more so when one considered that the Overmind’s goal was simply to assimilate other life and reach the pinnacle of evolution. Politics and diplomacy were foreign concepts to them, as were good and evil. Even after Kerrigan took over the Zerg in the Brood War, the Zerg still resembled a force of nature more than a civilization.

However, StarCraft II, and especially Heart of the Swarm, chose to humanize them in the form of the Primal Zerg, which flies in the face of what they were from their beginnings.

The first key point to consider is that the Primals claimed themselves to be the “true” Zerg, as opposed to those who left the home world of Zerus under the Overmind’s command. However, the original Zerg were nothing like the Primals or the Zerg that most people see in the game. They actually began as a race of parasites that took over other organisms and used them as hosts. They later began to genetically manipulate these hosts and transform them into more savage creatures, but they were ultimately still parasites, as opposed to the various creatures seen on Zerus.

It should also be noted that the Primals somehow had access to Zerg strains that were only developed after the Overmind departed Zerus from the first mission on the planet, such as Mutalisks. This was at least partially explained by a statement from one of the characters that some of the Primal Zerg had simply mimicked those creatures within hours of Kerrigan’s arrival, but that doesn’t really answer the question of Mutalisks. They were never a part of the Swarm until after the Overmind departed from Zerus, or else the Primal Zerg would have access to interstellar travel and have spread well beyond Zerus by this time. Kerrigan does not have access to them, as she actually unlocks them by going to Zerus, even though they were an iconic part of the Zerg since the original StarCraft. This means that the Primals are effectively mimicking a creature that they could not have possibly seen or accessed in any way, which is obviously ridiculous.

Also, a critical mark of distinction the Primals used to separate themselves from other Zerg was their ability to absorb so-called “essence” from other creatures and use it to evolve. This is a rather ludicrous concept within the world of StarCraft II, which is science fiction rather than fantasy. Useful “essence” is apparently only obtainable from creatures on a similar evolutionary plane, even though this would make survival too unpredictable to allow for significant evolution.

The fact that this silly “essence” is often seen as a glowing ball of energy that can simply be drained out of a creature without ever touching them only makes the problem worse. Blizzard, in this instance, would probably have done better to simply wave it off as some ability to extract the genetic material of other creatures by eating them, which would have made much more sense.

Incidentally, it should also be noted that the Primal Zerg appear to be among the only notable life forms present, and they are shown as being both carnivorous and cannibalistic. Given that they are eating one another regularly to evolve, the question needs to be asked concerning how they even survive or reproduce, let alone maintain such great numbers as are seen in the campaign.

Is all life on Zerus above plants and trees, including the nonexistent herbivores, supposed to be considered part of the Primal Zerg? It certainly doesn’t seem to fit with the idea of absorbing “essence”, since it is rather difficult to consider eating fruit or grass as providing enough “essence” to be useful.

The biggest problem of all with the Primal Zerg is the fact that Zerus was reduced to a “lifeless, burning world” when the Overmind departed. Given its intelligence, it could hardly be expected to have missed anything, least of all some Zerg that would logically be connected to it through the communal hive mind. Obviously, this would rather effectively eliminate the possibility of any such idea as the Primal Zerg coming into being.

Despite this, the planet has fully evolved and intelligent life present when Kerrigan arrived. On top of that, while Zerus was originally described to be a “volatile ash world” when the Xel’Naga found it and began the process of directing the evolution of the Zerg, it has now suddenly become a lush jungle. Some volcanoes might still be present, but it is hard to see how any noticeable life could have formed so soon after the Overmind razed the planet, let alone enough to form such a wilderness complete with so much intelligent life.

Part Two will cover the Overmind, and the numerous inconsistencies that StarCraft II introduced to it.

The “Piercing the Shroud” Mission

This post was edited on August 10, 2014, for better spacing and ease of reading.

This mission, one of many in Wings of Liberty, stands out immediately by virtue of being a secret level. In it, you take Raynor and a small squad through some obscure and top-secret research facility to explore its mysteries. After you sabotage it, a Hybrid breaks out in a nearby area and immediately begins to wreak widespread havoc. Your forces are not up to the task of defeating it, so your only choice is to find some means of escape off the space station housing the facility. The mission itself is very well-done, and the background it reveals is also intriguing.

In the mission, instead of constructing a base and army to kill the enemy with, you are given a finite commando squad to infiltrate the facility which forces you to think wisely about how to use your troops. Also, there are a number of security systems you can hack into and use against the Dominion forces, such as floor traps or a giant A.R.E.S robot that can be given one of three weapons, and each of these features would have taken some time to design.

Raynor himself is given various limited-use weapons, most of which are experimental devices found within the laboratory, like the time-slowing Chrono Rift device. The careful use of these weapons can easily be the difference between victory and death in the level. This shows that Blizzard put some actual thought into the mission, even though it was a secret level that many players would never see or hear about, instead of just blindly throwing in random reinforcements as an easy way of making sure the player survives.

There are also the various disturbing implications that were left for the players. Hybrids are being developed by the Dominion and presumably with the blessing of Arcturus Mengsk. However, the player knows because of Zeratul that these Hybrids are beyond his control and will wipe out the galaxy if left unchecked, yet the Dominion is actively working to create more of them.

This prompts the question of how aware Arcturus is of their great danger, and whether or not he thinks the risk of destruction is worth it. If he is simply unaware of the problem, then it does not speak well for his future if and when the Hybrids are cut loose. If, on the other hand, he does understand their hazardous nature and goes ahead with the program regardless, that is in itself unsettling, as it suggests that he will risk the end of the galaxy simply to deal with Kerrigan.

Finally, there is the Hybrid left behind on the station after Raynor escapes, as its fate is left unknown beyond the fact that it is very much alive.

Even though the mission is never referenced elsewhere, there are still some other points to be noted. The book “Flashpoint” makes it clear that Arcturus had indeed sponsored the creation of Hybrids, probably at the prompting of Narud, and also that the two of them were working together closely.

Given the fact that Narud is also Duran from the first StarCraft, the possibility of psionic persuasion being used on Arcturus to make sure the program was approved and funded is very real. The Skygeirr missions in Heart of the Swarm also clarify this relationship for those who never read the book, as well as showing that Narud had considerable support in the form of a full Dominion base guarding his laboratory.

Overall, “Piercing the Shroud” was a very entertaining mission to play through with some unique mechanics. It also had depth to it for those who were genuinely interested in the story, as it left the player with pieces of the mystery without shoving the answer in their face or having the game shout it at the top of its lungs. The fact that it was never actually referenced at any later point is unfortunate, but perfectly understandable in light of how the campaigns flowed.

If the other parts of StarCraft II had been given the same degree of attention, most of the glaring flaws in the game would probably never have occurred.

The “A Better Tomorrow” Cinematic

This post was edited on August 10, 2014, for better spacing and ease of reading.

One particular cinematic in StarCraft II stands out from most of the others. In “A Better Tomorrow“, which plays after the “Breakout” mission on New Folsom, the game gives some insight into the motivations of several characters.

Matt Horner, for instance, is shown to be an optimist and idealist. He mentions the real victory of the mission, which was the numerous scientists, philosophers, and so forth that had been freed after Arcturus Mengsk imprisoned them simply because of their political views. He genuinely believed that the aim of the revolution was about freedom rather than revenge.

As such, Matt could easily be considered a good-hearted soldier who could look to the future, rather than becoming mired in the sadness of the past. He would make a solid candidate for putting humanity on the right course after Arcturus was dealt with. Accordingly, he thinks that Tosh is entirely too extreme in his views when he speaks of tearing the Dominion down.

Tosh also shows some of his motivations, as he intends to kill Arcturus and rip the Dominion apart. When Matt counters this by speaking of all that had been achieved, Tosh cuts him off and displays his cynicism. He states that after Mengsk is dead, another one will rise, and more after that, before calling Matt’s plans for “a better tomorrow” only a naïve illusion. This would indicate that Tosh has lost any real faith in humanity and holds a fatalistic view of the world, something confirmed by his next statement.

When Raynor calls him out on this and asks why he even bothers to attempt to kill Arcturus, the reply suggests that Tosh is only doing it out of vengeance. He has no real goal after Arcturus is gone and knows that quite well, but he will not stop until he succeeds.

Finally, Raynor is seen in a new light. In Tosh’s rant, he makes a point that his reason for continuing the fight against Arcturus was the same as Raynor’s. Afterwards, Matt makes his point about the goal of the revolution. Raynor replies to that by telling him that while Matt will get to enjoy a better future, it is not for people like “us”, meaning Raynor and Tosh. This suggests that Raynor sees some disturbing similarities between himself and Tosh, like the pessimistic and cynical outlook on the world.

The general impression of Raynor throughout the game is that of somebody disillusioned with the world, and who has lost his own sense of idealism. He is accepting that he, like Tosh, will likely have no place in the world after the revolution succeeds. It could even be taken as a hint that Raynor does not think he truly belongs in the very revolution he leads, since he is fighting for vengeance rather than independence.

Overall, the cinematic shows some very impressive character development in just a few minutes. Tosh is shown to have some real personality, as well as Matt. Another perspective is given on Raynor that shows how his faith has faded over the years of hopeless rebellion. Blizzard, despite the impression that this series of posts about the many flaws StarCraft II has might have generated, did not completely ruin the story with Wings of Liberty.

Kerrigan’s Flaws in StarCraft II (Part Four: Inconsistency)

This post was edited on August 10, 2014, for better spacing and ease of reading.

Kerrigan’s actions in StarCraft II, especially Heart of the Swarm, are all over the map. Her moral standards change hourly, ranging from a mentality of slaughtering everybody one day to trying to spare as many lives as possible the next.

The first glaring point would be when she attacked Kaldir. Apart from the fact that everything she needed there could have just as easily been acquired on a planet without a Protoss presence, she launches a bloodbath that sees every Protoss perish. The only motivation for this given in the game is that Kerrigan feared some vague Golden Armada. The armada in question never came for her before, so if she simply kept her location hidden until the Swarm was restored, there would be no reason to expect it to do so again.

In any case, there was absolutely no point to slaughtering the Protoss who tried to flee in the final Kaldir mission. If they were out of communications range with Shakuras, then they were at a considerable distance from it that would have taken a great deal of time to cross. Kerrigan had no need to silence them even if she feared that Golden Armada, because they would not reach Shakuras in time to make any difference. Despite that, she chooses to kill them all anyways.

Another problem is what occurs with Warfield’s army on Char. She offers him the chance to flee, which he refuses out of the justified expectation that she would not hold up her end of the deal. Kerrigan subsequently slaughters his entire army, even though she had no real need to. When she wipes out his army, she finds Warfield trapped in his operations centre, mortally wounded. She kills him, and then spares a single transport filled with soldiers, apparently out of compassion.

If she actually wanted to spare lives, she could have done so much more effectively. Leaving Warfield on Char, for instance, would not have done any great harm to her cause. She could have simply re-established the Swarm on another planet and left Warfield to sit there until such time as she dealt with Arcturus. He was largely stranded there in any case, since Kerrigan had destroyed every one of the Gorgon Battlecruisers he had wasted so stupidly. Trying to kill him off on the spot would only waste some of her own forces, especially since Warfield was willing to nuke his own base, and the Swarm would need everything it could muster to assault Korhal.

One especially severe flaw to note is what she does with the various Broodmothers who contact her throughout the story. She tells them to attack various Dominion industrial worlds producing war materials and raze them to the ground, leaving no survivors. This is an incredible way to waste valuable resources that could be used on Korhal, as those industrial worlds were irrelevant in the type of war she was waging.

If she was fighting a war of attrition over several years, they would certainly be important targets. However, the whole of Heart of the Swarm takes place within a few months at best, which means she was planning a lightning strike. Such a strike deals with the forces already in place, as such a short timeframe means that production capabilities would be largely meaningless.

The burning of so many inhabited worlds is also in stark contrast to what she does later on Korhal. She goes so far as to handicap her own assault by landing outside the city, and later in avoiding civilian-heavy districts, in order to give Valerian time to evacuate civilians from the city. What she did would have weakened her attack greatly over a few million lives.

On the other hand, she showed no signs of compassion or doubt over ordering the destruction of numerous worlds with millions of inhabitants apiece. It should also be noted that all of these consequences were utterly ignored by Blizzard, which simply threw the references in without any kind of follow-up, so it would not be terribly surprising if Legacy of the Void proceeded to ignore that destruction and allow Valerian to miraculously repair the Dominion in time for some final showdown with Amon.

The ultimate problem with Kerrigan’s morality and choices is incredible inconsistency. Her actions simply make no sense, as they veer wildly from plans for massacres to compassionate deeds, sometimes combined at the same time. If she was intended to be written as a redeemed person to some extent, the industrial worlds should never have come into play, and the Kaldir attack would not have had a good point to it. If, on the other hand, she was to be shown as somebody who was offered redemption and turned away to commit further evils, she certainly should not have sabotaged her own goal of deposing Arcturus by crippling her attack on Korhal.

Kerrigan’s Flaws in StarCraft II (Part Three: Lunacy)

This post was edited on August 10, 2014, for better spacing and ease of reading.

Throughout StarCraft II, Kerrigan makes numerous mistakes. Some of them have already been outlined, namely those in the Umoja missions, but there are many others as well that fly in the face of common sense to varying degrees.

In Wings of Liberty, during the Char invasion, she makes a few critical errors. First of all, most of her forces had been spread entirely too far apart throughout the sector hunting for the various pieces of a Xel’Naga artifact. This was an understandable mistake, as she could not have reasonably expected such a large portion of the Dominion fleet to target Char directly even when the Dominion itself was being invaded.

However, she also mangles some of her defenses. With the two choice missions, especially the one where Raynor opts to blast the Zerg out of their tunnels, it would be expected that Kerrigan would have some forces there. In the tunnels, you see measly handfuls of Zerg, to the point where three experienced soldiers are enough to blast through any resistance, collapse the tunnels, and get out alive.

Finally, and most importantly, she botches her strategy at the end miserably in the “All In” mission. She makes no special attempts to flank the defenses around the artifact, instead choosing to simply ram Zerg down their throats and hope that they would break through. Kerrigan is too intelligent to make such an obvious mistake, which makes this highly unusual. Also, she could probably perceive with her psionic abilities that the artifact was dangerous to her. If she could feel its power building, she could have simply gone into orbit and waited for it to spend its energy, then come back down with reinforcements and destroyed any survivors.

There is also the question of Kerrigan’s presence on Kaldir. She apparently goes there to find one Broodmother Nafash, only to find her dead corpse at the hands of the Protoss. She then moves to annihilate the Protoss presence rather than ignore it and leave before they notice her. If she was detected and a warning got out, she would, according to the game, face a quick demise. Given that she is trying to take revenge against Arcturus, her provoking a war with the Protoss makes no sense. If she was simply looking to rebuild a piece of the Swarm, she could surely have gone to a planet without a Protoss presence and recruited a Broodmother there. If she was looking specifically for the Hydralisk and Roach strains that turn up there, those were incredibly common and would have been present on numerous other planets as well.

Incidentally, while largely unrelated to Kerrigan, it should be noted that Abathur was supposed to be the genetic mastermind of the Swarm. He is shown to be capable of manipulating Zerg genetics on the fly, apparently creating new mutations in days that somehow never turned up over the four years between the first and second StarCraft games. Despite such capabilities, he apparently lacks the knowledge to simply create creatures like Hydralisks without working specimens.

This is remarkably bizarre, as he has all their genetic patterns stored in his mind, and the basic Zerg Larvae hold all the relevant genetic strains of the Swarm, or at least those in frequent use. Kerrigan’s deinfestation would not have suddenly removed most of those DNA strands from the general pool, which means that this was probably a case of Blizzard not spotting the implications of such a genetic repository in Kerrigan’s retinue.

Another point to note is that Kerrigan charged in rather blindly at Arcturus Mengsk in the final mission. After taking the time to make at least a basic strategy for the planetary landing, and a slightly more complex plan for the Psi Destroyer, she seems to throw all that thinking away to smash through the Imperial Palace alone. Admittedly, she had considerable power, but she should at least have had some of the Zerg follow her in.

She then faces Arcturus alone, seemingly planning to savour the moment. She is apparently caught off guard when he deploys the same artifact used to deinfest her on Char, and is left lying on the ground. The player is given the impression that Arcturus will kill her right then after his obligatory gloating, if not for Raynor’s fortunate arrival buying Kerrigan the chance to gather herself and finish him off.

Apart from the fact that, again, a few of the Zerg should have been accompanying her, she could have probably killed Arcturus on the spot. Telepaths in the StarCraft universe are capable of instantly killing with the power of their mind, which generally causes the victim to bleed out of their eyes, ears, and mouth. Arcturus quite foolishly gave her more than enough time to do so, and Kerrigan had more than enough power for the task.

Also, he had been using a small remote to control the artifact, which Kerrigan could have telekinetically swatted out of his hand very easily. Since that was the only weapon he had, not that a simple gun would have been likely to do him much good, such a simple move would have left him defenseless.

Part Four will deal with some of the highly inconsistent actions Kerrigan displays in Heart of the Swarm.