Tag Archives: The Dominion

Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm – An Evolution of Gameplay and Story

      “Heart of the Swarm” improves off “Wings of Liberty” in most places where it counts. The story has more going on, the characters are more interesting and the side missions are really enjoyable as well as the hero leveling system that the game gives in how Kerrigan grows through the game. You are given choices that matter and affect gameplay, which is more than “Wings of Liberty” was ever able to do. I’ll get into more of what I mean later in the review, but this is a game that improves upon the original in almost every way.

The downsides are really in how there is too much emphasis on Emperor Mengsk as the villain and not enough on the threat of the Xel’Naga, which sadly hurts the overall arc of the Trilogy.

The story picks up where “Wings of Liberty” left off with a de-infested Kerrigan with Raynor’s Raiders and Valerian Mengsk. When Dominion forces attack she is separated from them all and when she believes Raynor to be killed goes on a revenge mission against Mengsk as she takes control of the Swarm and grows once more into her role as the Queen of Blades.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Universe – I love the Starcraft Universe and in this game we get so much more of it. From Narud’s experiments and the infested resurrected Stukov and the Hybrids from the last game, from the Primal Zerg and the Zerg who witnessed the Xel’Naga come but only cared about becoming stronger and better and did not care for the greater war in the Universe as Amon created them on the Primal Zerg world…from the power of the Dominion and recruitment of the Brood Mothers as Kerrigan re-establishes herself as the Queen of Blades. I love this Universe and this game does nothing but enrich it. We also get to play as Raynor’s Raiders taking on a Mercenary army with their Battlecruiser in order to find out where Raynor is trapped and so that he can rescued. The world is so wonderfully dark and complicated.

Evolution Missions – On the way of taking control of the Swarm once more Abathur, Kerrigan’s Evolution Master gives missions where you can shape Zerg into different strains. Each choice is permanent but their are pros and cons to each. You can have faster and weaker units that can fly, greater number of units or stronger individual units with greater regeneration depending on the choice you make…and on those missions you take out Dominion or Feral Zerg forces. They are so much fun.

The Nature of the Swarm – The Swarm is change and evolution. This is one reason Kerrigan works so well as the leader because she is constant change and adaptation and now being free of the Overmind she no longer as Amon’s influence on her (that she originally got through the original purpose of the Zerg and the Overmind). It is powerful seeing her take charge of the swarm and see how their primary drive to live, change, evolve and grow. The Zerg are not static and this game really shows how easy it is for the Swarm to grow and become one of the strongest powers in the Universe. It is in their nature and when they have direction from the Queen of Blades the Overmind or one who knows them, they are unstoppable.

Kerrigan and her Team – Kerrigan has my favorite Team out of the 3 games. I like how Abathur is a selfish being that only sees the point in making things more efficent regardless of cost (so weird, awful and alien) how Zagara only values strength and bettering the Swarm and serving Kerrigan how Stukov has no one so only wants acceptance and the Swarm is the only acceptance he has now that he is dead to humanity and Dehaka and his obsession with essence and his drive to survive and change through anything.

Leveling Kerrigan and Shaping the Swarm – The gameplay is fun and part of the reason it is so much fun is you power up Kerrigan and her abilities and these abilities influence her as hero unit and also your base and how quickly you can build or what you start. She is a powerhouse and the right upgrades make her an unstoppable force on her own or one who can sustain the Swarm and have a large group. The Swarm is also shaped from the Evolution Missions stated above too.

Okay: The Power of Emperor Mengsk – I’m putting Emperor Mengsk’s power and the Dominon as okay and not a pro for two reasons. The first is that he should have been weaker after Valerian took half his fleet and second Kerrigan destroyed his forces on more than one occasion. This game happens just after he got his butt kicked last game. The reason I don’t put him as a con is he did have Narud and via Narud Amon backing him so he was powerful that way and there was a good amount of time between “Brood War” and “Wings of Liberty.” For these reason I won’t put him as a con.

Not Enough Xel’Naga Exploration – We get a glimpse of the nature of the Xel’Naga on Zerus (the Zerg homeworld) and when Narud’s true form a changeling is revealed and what dialogue he gives us. Otherwise they are an abstract threat even though we the prophecy of Kerrigan’s role going on and really needed more in the lead up to whatever her future is.

The Narud and Amon Payoff – Narud is the mini-boss before Arcturus Mengsk and it is only over the course of 3 missions. He really should have been a bigger deal. Mengsk makes more sense narratively but for the overall game Narud has been the greatest threat of them all. He is the reason the UED no longer exists as a threat, he is the reason the Protoss continued to fall apart and his master Amon is the reason the Zerg almost destroyed everything fulfilling their role in the big picture. With better writing, he really should have been the end boss or played a much bigger part in the story. He’d been around for so long why did he suddenly stop manipulating the Zerg when he clearly still had control of some Protoss forces, Moebius and the elements of the Dominion. Narud and the Xel’Naga deserved better and I think Blizzard didn’t know what to do with them after setting them up so well in “Brood War” and the original “Starcraft.”

The Cons: Raynor and Revenge as Primary Motivation – I think the writers meant it to mirror Raynor’s love for Kerrigan as his motivation in “Wings of Liberty” but it sucked that Kerrigan was turned into that as well. I never got those vibes from her in any of the original games and making her The Bride from “Kill Bill” was fine but her best character moments are when we see her accepting her role as the Queen of Blades and finding motivation beyond revenge as she cares for and shapes the Swarm. That was where she was amazing as we already got her revenge story back in “Brood War” and it was handled so much better.

I really enjoyed “Heart of the Swarm.” This is a game for all the flaws it has (largely based in story with Emperor Mengsk being this unstoppable force who still continues to lose through 2 games) and the lack of focus on Narud, Amon and the Xel’Naga makes the upcoming threat feel only so strong. It also sets up Kerrigan as the Chosen One which is stupid storytelling in general, even though I like that Kerrigan’s flaws are all her own. she is ruthless and driven and a little bit of a sociopath but it makes her compelling because it is her mind that shapes the Swarm and we see how she makes the Zerg Swarm less of an all consuming force and more a precision weapon focused on perfection and change. For these reasons I would rate it higher than “Wings of Liberty.” There is better payoff storywise, better gameplay and the campaign missions are a lot of fun and honestly, my favorite heroes are the Heroes from the Swarm and how wonderfully alien they all are. This is another one of my favorite games.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty – A Bit of Revolution and about Time

  “Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty” was a game I’d been waiting for, for a long time. It was the original “Starcraft” series that got me into RTS games and also was a huge influence on my love of science fiction stories. I still remember playing through the game for the first time at my friend’s place in college on his computer as I saw just how awesome the campaign was, I’d been waiting for this game for a long time. Years later after a second playthrough, I still really enjoy this game, but the flaws are much more apparent as well as what it misses that “Brood War” and the original “Starcraft” brought to story. I’ll do an overall comparison after reviewing all the games of “Starcraft II.”

The story picks up with war beginning again as Raynor’s Raiders seek to overthrow Mengsk and stop Kerrigan’s Swarm. This involves putting news of Mengsk’s betrayal out to the world while taking on Zerg and Dominion forces and seeking Xel’Naga artifacts for the Mobius Foundation as they may be the key to taking out Kerrigan’s Swarm.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Gameplay – The gameplay is a lot of fun. There is a great variety of strategy to each of the campaigns and how you use your hero units and troops. You can outlast and go all out with a large fully upgraded force, or push forward with any level of balanced forces. It’s extremely enjoyable and there is a reason that even after years of not playing this game I couldn’t put it down once I started playing it again.

Mission Variety – There is a great amount of mission variety, from a prison breakout where you defend a giant Odin piloted by Jim’s friend Tychus, a choice to do a ground based hero mission on Char or Air Assault against Kerrigan’s Swarm and some racing against the clock where you save civilians before Kerrigan destroys you. You also have a huge Prophecy side quest with Zeratul discovering Kerrigan’s role and the what the oncoming destruction will be and how to stop it. These are small hero driven missions.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is wonderful and captures the old west feel of the Terran as well as the tension of war, the threat of the Swarm of the mystery of the Protoss. It has a lot of salutes to the original soundtrack while still remaining to be it’s own thing.

The Universe – The Universe is the same wonderful one from past games except that it gives us more characters and reestablishes there has been some stability after the “Brood War” as the Dominion is now one of the core powers once more and the Swarm is a large threat while the Protoss as a power are scattered. I love this Universe and it was wonderful to jump into it agai as Jim Raynor, even if some of the characters really annoyed me and felt cheap compared to the characters of games past. You get flavors of the Universe in news reports from the Dominion Channel and witness one corrupt news anchor fall apart as another with integrity rises, mirroring Jim Raynor’s own journey through the campaign.

The Complex Rogues – The complex rogues are the best part of this game…whether it is Zeratul as the Dark Wizard seeking to keep back the end, even if it means saving Kerrigan, the woman has meant nothing but destruction for his people, Tychus as the Merc who believes in Jim but also wants to be free so will kill Kerrigan if given the chance and of course Gabriel Tosh, the rogue spectre seeking to overthrow Mengsk who also helps you through Zeratul’s visions. These are easily the best characters in the game with Jim as the rogue trying to do the right thing in the difficult situations he is put in. Hell Valerian Mengsk (Emperor Mengsk’s son) is even complex in his own way as he wants to find a way to fix infestation and in doing so be a better savior to his humanity than his father ever was. These characters drove the story and made me click them for conversations when you are the Battle Cruiser “Hyperion.”

Okay: Prophecy and Destiny – I don’t really like the idea of prophecy and destiny as all powerful beings like the Xel’Naga would have been destroyed if they could have seen the future. It also ends up giving plot armor to all of Kerrigan’s actions in “Brood War” and this game does not deal with the monster she currently is, instead we get mopey lovesick Raynor, which really hurt the storytelling as he gets a love interest out of it and it hurts Kerrigan’s agency in her actions.

The Cons: The One-Dimensional Characters – There are a few of these, with the worst offenders being the nerd stereotype Egon and the love interest scientist Ariel Hanson. They only function as plot devices to tell Raynor things and I never saw them as complete characters. Matt Horner is also this to some degree as he is the noble revolutionary, and we never get why. This was the disadvantage that comes with a large cast and so many characters really should have been developed that weren’t. This is the weakest of the the “Starcraft II” games because of this.

“Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty” and is a great game I’d recommend. The gameplay and mission variety are absolutely wonderful and the complex rogues are a lot of fun to follow, even though I hate how prophecy turns some of them into some a certain level of plot device. If you haven’t played this game already and are a fan of RTS games, I highly recommend it. As a fan of the Starcraft Franchise, they would have had to really mess this up for me to hate it, but even as someone who was away from the game for years it is still a solidly great game worth time. It took long enough to make and if you have, it’s about damn time to play.

Final Score: 9 / 10 Solidly great.

The Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews – Episode 1 – The Terran Campaign – The Rise and Corruption of Mengsk

Starcraft Original Terrans

Fair warning before I start, this review will have spoilers since story is the main thing I am focusing on.

The Original Starcraft kicks us off with a corrupted future where colonists are ruled by the Confederacy and the unknown threats of the Zerg and Protoss have arrived on the scene. The Zerg arrive or destroy a colony, the Protoss come and glass the planet. The Confederacy has you go and set up a base for your training mission and later join Raynor who later has you protect some colonists with him which has him wind up in prison when General Duke arrests you for betraying orders.

From here you are rescued by the Sons of Korhal lead by Mengsk and his Second-in- Command psionic ghost (telekinetic assassin who can cloak) Kerrigan. Your first mission is infiltrating a Confederate installation for information as Raynor, which leads you to find out the Confederates are experimenting on the Zerg and that Mar Sara, where you start out was one of the test worlds. After you help Antiga Prime rebel in the next mission you rescue General Duke and the Norad II, as Mengsk knows he needs all assets to take on the Confederacy. It is successful and you have a mission with Duke to break the blockade around Tarsonis the Capital of the Confederacy.

You begin to see Mengsk’s slide at this point as he has Kerrigan use one of the psi emitter devices that you found the blueprint for in the infiltration level to set the Zerg on the Confederate Capital World. She protests and you see that he is willing to go to any lengths to stop the Confederacy. This continues when he sends Kerrigan to protect the Zerg buildings and wipe out the Protoss who have arrived to do their usual Zerg cleanse. She gets overrun and we don’t hear from her again in the Terran Campaign.

From here Raynor decides to take you and rebel. Mengsk protests and says he’d rather let the world burn than lose and that the ends justified the means…from here Raynor joins with you to take out the Ion Cannon keeping you trapped in, as Mengsk and Duke try to destroy you. You manage to escape and the final video is Mengsk’s coronation as Emperor of the Dominion where he says humanity must stand together as one against the Zerg and Protoss threats and that the Confederacy is no more.

Briefing_room_(StarCraft)

Here is the assessment of the Campaign:

Pros: The Gameplay – The original starcraft still holds up, at least with my time playing as the Terrans. Enemies are difficult, but you always have a counter unit that you can use. Also Siege Tanks and Battlecruisers are some of the greatest things to clean out the missions in the game once they become available. The missions go up in difficulty and the final mission is actually hard. It involves a lot of defense and you have two large bases you are going up against. Luckily there are resources if you can reach them. I enjoyed all gameplay in the campaign.

Mengsk – The Terran Campaign is really the rise and corruption of Mengsk…and it actually does it pretty well. There are rumors about how bad he can be when you meet him, but you see a guy willing to put himself at risk for any potential ally. On the other side of that there is also a man willing to do anything for power. He isn’t just, but for the world this takes place in, I can see why the Sons of Korhal follow him. He is the only one who has managed to defeat the Zerg and Protoss in combat and is willing to accept enemies into the fold like General Duke. He’s a compelling character and though he isn’t as much POV as Raynor he is still the main focus of this campaign. This campaign is his rise and corruption.

General Duke – This guy was modeled after a Southern General and though he is a bastard, he is a great character. He has a lot of joking around with you in his mission where he helps break the blockade and you see he cares about his boys of Alpha Squadron. He could have been a mindless corrupt general, but instead we got someone a bit more complicated.

Jim Raynor – He’s Han Solo really. He breaks the rules but has a good heart and is willing to go to any lengths to protect people. You meet him when he’s a Confederate Marshall and see has affection for Kerrigan who he regrets not being with when the Zerg overwhelm her position. I wish we’d gotten more of his backstory, but he functions as the main person you are with and is the only real good guy you interact with.

Sarah Kerrigan – She isn’t as known at this point, and her romance with Raynor felt unbelievable, but the friendship felt believable. She is a psionic who was experimented on and rescued by Mengsk so she feels how much she owes him and trusts him because of this. We see the trust right up until the end when she is betrayed. She is a fun character though and every mission she is in she’s powerful. She has a much better hero unit than either of Raynor’s and we see her moral core even though she was raised to be a killer and joined a revolution.

The Sons of Korhal – The revolution group is the main perspective and they are compelling since Mengsk is compelling. We see a fanatic group who is looking out for the long term but also driven by a corrupt ego.

The Zerg – At this point we only know of them as a possible creation of the Confederacy. Can’t wait to play their campaign next. In this they function well as the very real threat that both sides use against one another.

Okay: The Confederacy – They are there, but we don’t know much about them beyond their experimentation with the Zerg on the outer Terran colonies. They are more of a force to be overthrown, which is why we don’t even fight them in the final mission since Mengsk, the true antagonist is a much more interesting threat. I wanted to know more about them…it’s a shame we never get that.

The Protoss – Function as the unknown threat and force of nature. We see them as aliens, which works really well. I would have liked a little dialogue from them at least. We know nothing about them beyond their power.

The Cinematics – Most are random rednecks getting killed by Zerg. Only good ones are the downing of the Norad II by the Zerg since it relates directly to the story and Mengsk’s coronation speech which is amazing.

So, how does Episode 1 of the Terran Campaign of the Original Starcraft hold up? Really well. I liked all the characters, and the only things I would have changed is adding a Confederate character outside of Duke to interact with and adding a Protoss character that you or Kerrigan discovers in her mission where she destroys them. Something to show them as more than a faceless threat. The last mission is hard and a lot of fun and made me want to keep on playing to see how the story unfolds compared to what I remember from it before. Regardless, I definitely recommend.

Final score for Episode 1 of the Terran Campaign of the Original Starcraft is: 8.8 / 10