Starcraft: Brood War Campaign Reviews – Episode 5 – Terran Campaign – The Conquest of the U.E.D. and the Legacy of Stukov

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We continue the “Starcraft: Brood War” Campaign Reviews with Episode 5, the Terran Campaign. This campaign ties directly to “Brood War’s” opening cinematic where we see Vice Admiral Stukov and Admiral DuGalle studying the Zerg as their troops fight below. Eventually they leave the battle and the story kicks off.

The story begins with Stukov ordering you to take out the capital Boralis on the planet of Braxis for the U.E.D. (United Earth Directorate). It is here you meet Lieutenant Duran, a man who says he is resisting Dominion rule and can show you a back entrance. He helps and you are victorious. The two reasons the U.E.D. came to this sector is to conquer rogue elements like Emperor Mengsk and pacify the Overmind so the Zerg will no longer be a threat to humanity.

The next mission involves you capturing Mengsk’s Battlecruisers in the Dylarian Shipyards so he will lose his ability to fight and you’ll gain a larger fleet. Next you learn of the Psi Disruptor the Confederacy had been trying to build on Tarsonis and that there might still be a functioning one. Stukov once to keep it since it seems to work at disrupting the Zerg but Duran wants it destroyed so Mengsk doesn’t get it. DuGalle eventually goes with Duran even with Duran acting insubordinate and disrespectful in the conversation. Once you arrive on the planet you take out the surrounding zerg forces and ghosts arrive to take control of the Psi Disruptor of Stukov forcing Duran to leave.

The next missions involve the assault on the capital world of the dominion, Korhal. You choose to destroy Mengsk’s ability to create nukes or battle cruisers (I went to destroy nukes since ghosts are really annoying) and after you assault his command center directly in the next mission. It is here Raynor arrives with a protoss fleet to rescue him which involves you giving chase to Aiur, but before you can capture Mengsk Duran allows the Zerg to overrun his position forcing Stukov to take matters into his own hands.

The penultimate mission is pretty powerful as Stukov has taken control of the Psi Disruptor and DuGalle orders Duran to kill his friend. Once he shoots Stukov, Stukov tells you that he believes Duran is infested and to finish his work on keeping the Psi Disruptor alive. Regretting his actions DuGalle does just that.

The final mission is pacifying the infant Overmind and destroying the surrounding Cerebrates who can no longer reincarnate since the Overmind is not fully functional and is still in it’s infant stages. Once you pacify it Duran arrives with Kerrigan and speaking fully in an infested voice (at different points in missions you can here the infestation, this time it is fully apparent) and Kerrigan says that they will meet again soon and that Stukov was twice the man DuGalle would ever be. She retreats and the cinematic begins.

The Cinematic is similar to the last propaganda speech by Mengsk except this time it’s the U.E.D. who lie and say Stukov died against the assault on the Overmind on Char and that losses were minimal but that Stukov died a hero. The corny voice makes it surreal, which is a shame as the opening cinematic which is U.E.D.centric is so personal.

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Here is the assessment of the Campaign:

The Pros: The story – This was my favorite of the Terran Campaigns, which says a lot given the rise and corruption of Mengsk is a fascinating story. What sets this apart though is the personal relationship between DuGalle and Stukov and their interactions with the people we’ve met before such as Mengsk, Duke and Kerrigan. The story also shows humanity victorious in a way that is still ironic like Mengsk’s victory, but more powerful too as humanity managed to pacify the Overmind.

The Gameplay – The gameplay had a good learning curve and every new unit you receive (medic, Valkyrie) you use in the mission and the rest of the campaign. The missions can be challenging too, especially the missions involving the war on Korhal and the final mission against the Overmind. For this reason every victory feels like it means something.

The U.E.D. – The United Earth Directorate is an awesome new element in “Brood War” and adds depth to the story as Earth has been paying attention to the Zerg and Protoss threats and the rise of Emperor Mengsk and fall of the Confederacy. Their intentions are good though they are just as empire driven as Mengsk was, the difference is Ego though. The U.E.D. is run by a council and not a dictatorship.

The Dominion – Mengsk’s faction is a worthy enemy, and facing him and General Duke after playing their rise in the “Original Starcraft” is pretty powerful. We also see how their connections go a long way since even though the Dominion falls…General Duke and Mengsk are still out their with Raynor and the Protoss. Leaving things open for the next episode and campaign.

The characters

Admiral DuGalle – This is a well meaning military man who is like the gruff Grandfather. He tries to mentor Duran throughout the mission briefings and he has no patience for arrogance as he says that Mengsk won’t have a chance to fight back as he will be publicly executed. Only time he loses his cool in the campaign is when Duran kills his friend he realizes he was used. This adds depth to his character too as the rest of the missions he is living with regret and willing to go to any lengths to finish the mission for Stukov.

Emperor Mengsk – You only interact with him briefly, but he promises retribution before he realizes that he is going to be executed (until Raynor arrives to rescue him).

General Duke – Learns from Stukov the U.E.D. is here on orders from Earth to pacify the sector. This surprises him at first and you can tell he is out of his element, until he finally attacks with his Battlecruiser fleet.

Lieutenant Duran – This character is not all he appears to be, which is the theme he follows over his entire arc in the Starcraft Universe. His introduction is great as he gives you reason to trust him and he is meant to mirror Raynor joining with Mengsk’s Son’s of Korhal against the Confederacy. We see his isn’t Raynor as his final agenda is unknown but that he can play the game masterfully.

Vice Admiral Stukov – This guy is one of my favorite characters in the Starcraft Universe, and I’m glad they found a way to do more with him post-death in “Heart of the Swarm.” In this game though we see  that Stukov is a patriot who sees the big picture and cares deeply for his friend and comrade DuGalle. He realizes they’ve been used by Duran so tries to counter it and he nearly captures Mengsk but only doesn’t because of Duran’s betrayal. He is probably the most competent human character besides Jim Raynor. For now, R.I.P. Stukov. You are one of the best things about Starcraft.

Okay: Final Cinematic – The final cinematic is cheesy and a little annoying. It’s propaganda so it makes sense…but Mengsk’s propaganda felt powerful. I’d hope DuGalle’s could be comparable for his enslavement of the Overmind and defeat of the Dominion.

This is one of my favorite campaigns in “Starcraft” as a whole, and especially “Brood War,” Stukov is a character worth rooting for and the complexity of human politics and outcome of the U.E.D.’s arc in this campaign is fascinating. There aren’t any dud characters and you get an appreciation for the enemies you helped rise to power in the Original Starcraft Campaign and the new heroes of this campaign. I highly recommend this campaign and for what it is worth it does stand well on it’s own…even if Episode 1 of the “Original Starcraft” does add more depth to the enemies you face.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

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Starcraft: Brood War Campaign Reviews – Episode 4 – The Protoss Campaign – The Survivors’ Story

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We begin the “Starcraft: Brood War Campaign Reviews” with the Protoss campaign and right where we left off at the end of “Starcraft.” The Overmind has been destroyed but the Zerg are running  rampant across Aiur.

The story begins with Judicator Aldaris wanting to stand and fight against the Zerg, but Zeratul offers an alternative as the Protoss Conclave was destroyed fighting the zerg. His alternative is to escape with the Protoss to the Dark Templar homeworld of Shakuras being lead by Zeratul and the new Executor Artanis. Fenix and Raynor defend the Warp Gate on Aiur side for them to make their escape. Once there they find the Zerg followed them through the Warp Gate. From here they find the Dark Templar they are brought to the Dark Templar Matriarch Raszagal. She works with them to wipe out the Zerg and says she forgives but will not forget what the Conclave did in persecuting her people.

From her they learn they can use a Xel’Naga Temple to destroy the Zerg on Shakuras but they need two Crystals, the Uraj and Khalis to do so. They destroy the Cerebrates guarding the Temple and Kerrigan arrives warning of a new Overmind. When the Matriarch chooses to listen to her Judicator Aldaris leaves and Artanis, Zeratul and the Templar work with Kerrigan with getting the Crystals from the United Earth Directorate (one of the new Terran threats that has arrived) and Daggoth’s Swarm and the Infant Overmind who are using one of the Crystals to help the new Overmind incubate. After getting the Crystals they return to Shakuras.

At Shakuras they learn that Aldaris has rebelled and go to take him out, but right before Zeratul and Artanis do Kerrigan kills him before he can reveal something about the Matriarch in how they have all been manipulated by Kerrigan. Kerrigan is thrown off Shakuras but promises she’ll meet them again soon.

Last is the final assault and Raszagal is acting crazy, saying all non-Protoss will be destroyed who are threats against them. Zeratul calls her on it and she calms down before the final assault and protecting the Temple from the Zerg before it activates and destroys the Zerg threat on Shakuras.

Brood War Protoss Mission Brief

Here is the assessment of the campaign:

The Pros: The Gameplay – The Gameplay is even better than before this time around, though the original missions flowed better in regards to Episode 3 of the Protoss Campaign in the “Original Starcraft.” The addition of the Dark Templar as a playable unit is fantastic though and they make the campaign even more fun as they are extremely deadly and create Dark Archons who can mind control units.

The Cinematics – The cinematics are better than the Original as well, though there are less of them. The only one we see is when Artanis and Zeratul activate the Xel’Naga Temple to destroy the Zerg that are surrounding them. It is a great scene and reminiscent of Tassadar’s Sacrifice.

The Characters

Zeratul – Zeratul is the best part of the mission still, he’s complicated and has a deep devotion to his Matriarch even if he questions her. He is also leading the Protoss from Aiur who were trying to capture and kill him in the last game. He is very much a big picture kind of character still, but not perfect as he gets used by Kerrigan to destroy some of her rival Cerebrates.

Judicator Aldaris – Aldaris is there as the warning sign, he knows what Kerrigan’s up to from the beginning but because of his pride doesn’t tell the others. This costs him his life in the end as Kerrigan kills him, but he leaves a legacy of things to come as he was the only Protoss not in Kerrigan’s pocket. He dies a hero in the end.

Fenix and Raynor – These two are best buddies and Zerg Hunters. There interactions are fun to watch as they risk all so the Protoss can escape to Shakuras, I do wish we could have seen more of them. Fenix was one of my favorite from the original game.

Kerrigan – She is a great threat in this. She manipulates everyone and there are hints she has further designs as she tells Zeratul she will see him again soon. She also is shown to have some sort of influence of the Matriarch Raszagal of the Dark Templar. We get the beginning of her plans in this mission as the end of the “Original Starcraft” had warned us about.

Okay/Good: The Ending – The Protoss are finally safe, except for the fact that Kerrigan said she would see them later. One Zerg threat dealt with, another still remains and has the upper hand…

Okay: Executor Artanis – Way too idealistic. Guy wants to be Tassadar but doesn’t have much of a character. I hope he gets development in “Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void” right now he is neutral, not much is known about him or his motivations except his idealism. Tassadar was for more interesting as he had to make choices and was an outsider among his people. Artanis is just a standard idealistic Protoss.

Matriarch Raszagal – We never know why she forgives Kerrigan but can’t forgive the Conclave as both were killing her people. This was a major plot hole and it hurts her character. She is still okay as she is the eldest of the Dark Templar and her friendship with Zeratul feels real. The problem is not knowing how deep Kerrigan’s manipulations are on her which limits her character and character development.

This is a fun campaign but not as good as the Original. The politics don’t feel as real and Aldaris just disappears before he is an enemy, Raszagal’s motivations aren’t fully explored and Artanis is a flat character. It was still fun, but the last Protoss Campaign was better. This was good though, even with those story problems.

Final Score: 8 / 10

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The Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews – Episode 2 – The Zerg Campaign – Destiny of the Overmind

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“My children, the hour of our victory is at hand. For upon this world of Aiur shall we incorporate the strongest known species into our fold. Then shall we be the greatest of creation’s children. We shall be… Perfect.” -The Overmind

We continue the Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews with Episode 2, the Zerg Campaign. This campaign is masterful at showing you the zerg perspective and the creepy destructiveness that defines their species.

The story picks up where the last one left off as the Overmind has created you a Cerebrate (living brain larva) to control a brood and protect the chrysalis which holds a special weapon that will be the future of the Zerg.

The first few missions involve you getting the chrysalis out of Tarsonis while other Cerebrates like Zsaz and Daggoth show you the ropes and give you help in your quest. Eventually you have to defend the chrysalis until it hatches, revealing Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades of the Zerg. With her, you then destroy Raynor’s base as she tells him to never challenge her or the Zerg again.

From here you are helping Kerrigan develop as an agent of the storm as she has psionic abilities she still must unlock so you invade a terran science vessel to get the information. it is here that Zsaz fears Kerrigan being the death of the Zerg as he sees her as too strong willed and she tells him nothing will stand in her way.

Next you are challenged by Tassadar and the Dark Templar on Char. Kerrigan goes to face him and destroys the Dark Templar on the planet only to discover it was a ruse by Tassadar in order to kill a cerebrate. After the Overmind is in mourning and it is up to you as Kerrigan to destroy Zsaz’s brood after which you hunt down the Dark Templar and run into Zeratul who is in charge of the Dark Templar you are hunting.

Next is the invasion of Aiur as Zeratul’s killing of the Cerebrate gave the Overmind a glimpse into his mind as to the location of Aiur and the knowledge of their shared heritage as creations of the Xel’Naga. It is than you begin the invasion and establish a foothold to get the crystal that is needed to summon the Overmind to Aiur. After is the final battle in which the Overmind is summoned over the first Xel’Naga Temple on Aiur that you destroy in the mission. It is here the Overmind tells you his goal that now the Zerg will be perfect as they were made to be “Perfect Essence” and Protoss were “Perfect Form” and that now that Aiur belongs to the Zerg, the Zerg can absorb the perfection of form making them unstoppable.

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Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Gameplay – The gameplay is fantastic with the Zerg and helps you understand the strategy of how to play them. The Zerg win by creating lots of units at once and overwhelming force, since most of their units are the weakest in the game. In the campaign you experience how to best use this and most of your enemies have large bases and usually start out higher on the tech. tree than you do.

The Cinematics – The Zerg Cinematics are great, you see Kerrigan’s destruction of the science vessel, what she witnesses inside the Chrysalis, the Zerg attacking Aiur and the Overmind appearing on Aiur. In each of these it has the haunting, creepy feel to it that defines the Zerg as a species so welle.e

Kerrigan the Queen of Blades – Kerrigan as a Zerg is one of the best antagonists in any video game or science fiction story. She was made a Zerg against her will and is now infested to the point that she only knows destruction, though at the same time she independent enough that the Cerebrates and Overmind cannot stop her from doing what she wants. She is their perfect agent, free willed and dangerous enough to wipe out any threat that comes their way. A fair amount of the missions are taking care of her chrysalis, but once she is awake she is a lot of fun to play as to watch her conquer in the name of the Swarm. She is the Overmind’s Dragon in Episode 2.

Zsaz – The Cerebrates don’t really have free will as we know it as everything they do is for their father the Overmind, but Zsaz is the only one who calls out and sees the dangers of Kerrigan’s independence. He sees the dangers of her humanity which makes him an interesting character.

Daggoth – The largest of the cerebrates, Daggoth is the one who is the closest one to a second in command. He is the one who has Kerrigan destroy Zsaz’s brood when the Overmind is out of commission from his depression and it is he who helps defend the Chrysalis sending you his special Hunter Killers.

Tassadar – Tassadar is the Gandalf of this campaign. He sends an illusion to trick Kerrigan and sees how her anger is leading to her destruction. He is wise and smart and the first real example we have of the protoss. He is the one who first hurts the Overmind too, since he is the one who is distracting Kerrigan so the Cerebrate Zsaz can be killed. To quote him, “So long as you continue to be so predictable, O Queen, I need not face you at all. You are your own worst enemy. ”

The Overmind – The Overmind is fascinating. He is one of the earliest creations of the Xel’Naga and seeks to destroy what they left behind to become greater. It is his seeking of perfection, and also revenge that leads him to attacking Aiur so that he can have perfection of essence and form. This creature is fascinating and I like that he is triumphant in his campaign as he is a much bigger threat than Mengsk ever was and sees the big picture. He is the one who tells us of the Zerg and Protoss creation by the Xel’Naga and thought of creating Kerrigan as the Queen of Blades.

Okay: Zeratul – We see him briefly at the end of the Campaign when Kerrigan is hunting down the Dark Templar. He has his famous “Though we strike at you from the shadows, do not think that we lack the courage to stand in the light,” during the fight. Tassadar is given a bit more characterization though as he interacts with you in a few instances. Zeratul only does so once.

This campaign is awesome, and more difficult than the Terran Campaign, as it assumes you know the basics. The characters in this are really cool, which is interesting when you are giving character trates to giant brain larva (the Cerebrates) and an all knowing, consuming brain (The Overmind) but Blizzards writers and art team made it work. This campaign is better than the Terran Campaign of Episode 1 and I definitely recommend it.

Final Score for this campaign is 9.3 / 10. Would have been higher if Zeratul had got more moments and more characterization of the Cerebrates.

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Gandahar (1988): Relationships and the Ego

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“In 1,000 years, Gandahar was destroyed and all of its people killed. 1,000 years ago it will be saved and the inevitable avoided.” -The Deformed

“Gandahar,” is a french animated film created in 1988 and animated and directed by René Laloux. The film is based off the french Novel Les Hommes-machines contre Gandahar (“The Machine Men versus Gandahar”) by Jean-Pierre Andrevon a story I very much want to find an English translation to after watching this film. I watched it in French with English Subtitles, though I heard the English dub. is good. I just like to watch things in as close to the original as possible.

The film takes place on the planet Gandahar as the natives deal with a new threat of metal men who are destroying them. The primary protagonist is Sylvain sent from the Capital of Jasper on a mission from the Council of Women. It is from here the conflict unfolds.

Here is my assessment:

The Pros: The animation – The animation is fantastic. It flows, and the style is unique. I have not seen any animation like it before this, which makes me want to check out more of Laloux’s work. His work is colorful and surreal, almost like you are watching a dream take place.

The Factions of Gandahar – One thing that this movie did really well was creating unique cultures and people. Each of them is different and distinct and though they are inspired by tropes, end up being well rounded for a story that is essentially a sci. fi./fantasy fairy tale.

The People of Jasper – The people of the capital are ruled by The Council of Women who are lead by Ambisextra (what an awesome name!) The women do not wear shirts and let their breasts hang loose verses the men who are robed and in skin tight suits. It is is done in a non-sexual way too showing the alienness of the people. Also, Women Council’s leading is something that doesn’t happen enough, even in sci. fi.

The Deformed – Are you a group of mutants who have powers that allow them to destroy things with their mind. They were experiments by the natives and afterwords were cast out. Their distrust of the Capital is understandable for this reason…though they even help stop the Metal Men and become the rebels against the Metal Men. They are the ones who have a prophecy because of their powers that allowed them to glimpse the future. The prophecy is the one at the start, “In 1,000 years, Gandahar was destroyed and all of its people killed. 1,000 years ago it will be saved and the inevitable avoided.” It is this foresight that allows them to be such a threat to Metamorphosis and his Metal Men. Besides Ambisextra and Metamorphosis these guys were what kept me most interested in the film.

The Metal Men – Are ruled by Metamorphosis, a living brain (think Overmind from Starcraft) who wishes to live and does so by taking others energy and power and making them a part of it. The Metal Men carry parts of within them and have no sense of self. They are a great enemy faction being both like the Cybermen and the Borg but ruled by the Overmind. They are attacking from the future and the Door of Time that was built by Metamorphosis so he would have an infinite source of life to feed off of.

The characters – The characters are surprisingly deep and outside of the main character, pretty enjoyable to watch. Ambisextra is a badass leader and the head scientist who is Sylvain’s mentor is pretty cool too. He is the one who figures out how to kill Metamorphosis. Metamorphisis is great too…we see that he wants to die knowing that he will go bad, but only after he goes bad. He sends Sylvain in the past to do so. I kind of wish the movie had focused more on him. He drives the plot and is the most interesting person besides the members of the Deformed and Ambisextra. His death is pretty cool and reminds me of Hal’s death in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but more reflective than crazy.

The Message – The Message is pretty great, at first it seems like is going to go cop out, “Avatar,” “Fern Gully,” approach and make it nature verses tech…but it doesn’t since those who were changed end up being liberators and writing the wrongs (the Deformed) and though nature is used to fight, so is technology. The cultures are unique and more than simply tropes.

The key message is relationships though, just like the natives have gotten to the point of a give and take with nature while still being able to invent and live so do they eventually become in relationship with their rejected children the Deformed. It is the one who dominates and destroys and loses the caring that lead him to sending Sylvain in the future to destroy him. It is once all relationships are dead and tyranny reigns that Gandahar is destroyed, it is in relationship that the world thrives.

Okay: Sylvain – The main protagonist just isn’t all that interesting. He achieves his purpose of being our stand-in though. We see the world and characters through his eyes…I just wish we knew more about him besides his acceptance of the Deformed (we never see his people reject them which would have made his acceptance mean something), and his love with Arielle is sweet, but rushed. She exists primarily as a love interest and not much else.

The music – It is a mixture of techno and sci. fi. making it very 80’s but not very memorable. I wouldn’t seek out the music in this film.

I would recommend this film for anyone who enjoys sci. fi. and animated films. The animation is beautiful and the sci. fi. cultures and concepts are really well explored. The world is the strongest part of this story and Sylvain doesn’t hurt the story, even if he doesn’t help it. The message of relationship is key throughout and really important. The film feels like a Miyazaki film that way, but done with high sci. fi. It is for all these reasons listed above that it is now a favorite that I recommend.

My final score for this film is 9.5 / 10.