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OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE GREATEST GAME I'VE EVER PLAYED IN MY LIFE!!!

We must evolve, absorb and collect the SPOILERS!

There's this chick called Sarah Kerrigan.

And she has, like, real anger issues.

Seriously, she spends the whole game getting pissed at someone. I guess they fired all counselors in the future. Well, good riddance, I say!

And when she's angry, her eyes flash weird colors, like green or purple or red.

I had red eyes once!

(In hindsight, I shouldn't have stayed up all night playing WoW.)

Anyway, Kerrigan is madly in love with the cool hip rebel guy Jim Raynor.

And he's madly in love with her. So madly that between the last game and this one, he stripped her of all her powers and turned her over to Prince Varian Wrynn to experiment on her.

That must have been awkward.

"Oh, Jim, I love you so much! Even though I used to crush planets with an iron fist and now I'm stuck as a lab rat summoning a couple drones for that smug blonde guy. I feel so angry I could TRASH THE ENTIRE LAB WITH MY LOYAL ZERG MINIONS! KILL! KILL THE PUNY FILTHY HUMANS!!"

But it's okay, because that level of the lab was all automated and no humans got hurt.

So the Prince lets Kerrigan go, even though she just destroyed half the lab to make a point.

And Raynor is leaving with her, because he really digs emotionally crippled omnicidal maniacs with tendril hair.

Except the Dominion attacks and they get separated by a broken bridge! In space!

And Raynor is like, "Sarah, leave without me!"

"Hey, you realize I have a ship and I could just fly over the gap and pick you up?"

"The plot says we have to get separated! So that Emperor Meng the Merciless can pretend to kill me but I'll actually be still alive, in a totally obvious twist everyone is expecting!"

"Uh, okay."

So Kerrigan gets really mad at Prince Varian for not losing her preeecious Jim, even though it was none of his fault.

And instead of staying with the rebellion and the only people in the whole galaxy who wouldn't kill her on sight, she goes all Darth Vader on the Prince and leaves to build up a zerg army instead.

And she's met by a snake girl who likes to hang from the ceiling.

"Oh cool, I get a ship! And a whole crew of one-dimensional lackeys, once again!"

And she's also met by Mordin Solus! Genetics expert. Short sentences. Articles redundant. Prepositions inefficient.

Only this Mordin Solus is a big worm thingy who likes to fiddle with pools of green bile and is named Abaddon or something.

Ew! What does Kerrigan even eat among these icky zerg folks? And how does she avoid throwing up?

And the snake girl is like, "My queen! You must go kill some random protoss for three missions without advancing the plot at all!"

"HOORAY!"

So they spend three missions on some random ice planet not advancing the plot at all.

But at least it has bears and snowstorms.

I saw a bear in a snowstorm once!

(Well, actually I see that every week here in Siberia.)

Except by the second mission the snowstorms disappear, I guess global warming is catching up.

"My queen, we must go to Char, your former seat of power, to pick up a crew member who's even more one-dimensional than me!"

"Is that all?"

"Well, also to kill General Warfield."

"Who?"

"That guy from like one mission and two cutscenes in the last game."

"Prince Varian?"

"No, that other guy, the stereotypical cool old general."

"...Oh, HIM. I forgot about him, to be honest. Aren't we supposed to be avenging Jim?"

So they're done with this loose end and then Kerrigan runs into that guy they call when they nudge the plot into the right direction, or Zeratul as he's sometimes known.

"Kerrigan! Listen to me! There is a prophecy!"

"...So you aren't mad that I've just badly beaten you up without even letting you say a word?"

"Well, maybe that will help you with your anger issues for a while?"

"...And that I also beat you up back in Wings of Liberty?"

"Uh..."

"And that way back in Brood War, I corrupted your Matriarch and duped you into killing the second Overmind for me?"

"Look, just listen to the prophecy already, so I can get my Mr. Exposition paycheck!"

"If you mean I'm the Chosen One, I know that already."

"Kerrigan! I foresee that Chris Metzen will lose whatever shreds of respect he has left among the fandom. Also they will announce a Warcraft TCG game, and patch 5.4 will contain a raid. Also, you must go to Zerus, the zerg homeworld."

"Wait, I thought Char was the zerg homeworld? And... really... I was expecting more ash and less jungle."

So Kerrigan's crew is joined by a Dungeons and Dragons lizardman who only knows the words "collect" and "essence".

Also she awakens Cthulhu.

"FHTAGN! What would you sacrifice to avenge your poor pwecious Jim Waynow?"

"Everything!"

"Then go bathe in that pool."

"I have a bad feeling about this."

So she bathes in the pool and is back in zerg form, claws and wings and everything.

Wow, what an unexpected twist!

I mean, it's not like it's the cover art or anything.

But it's all right, because she's now a good Queen of Blades, not a bad Queen of Blades like in the last game. We know that because her skin is now purple.

I had purple skin once!

(Turned out it was a bad idea to go skinny-dipping in a snowstorm.)

So because her power is now over nine thousand, Cthulhu reveals he planned to betray her all along.

"FHTAGN! I must collect your essence!"

"Look, I already have a guy on my ship who does nothing but talk about collecting essences, and besides, you won't fit on my ship. Die!"

So Emperor Meng contacts Kerrigan and tells her Raynor is still alive. What a totally unexpected twist!

Turns out that Kerrigan turning zerg was all part of his plan.

...It was part of his plan to make her a royally pissed off demigoddess who can tear down his capital planet with a literal zerg rush?

Wow, and there I thought Dr. Evil's plans were foolproof, but he just can't compete with this guy.

So Kerrigan contacts Prince Varian and asks him to find out where Raynor is.

"Why should I work with you, considering you almost Force-choked me earlier and now look like you fell into a vat of chemicals?"

"I'm on the cover art, this means I'm the protagonist and everyone does my bidding!"

So Prince Varian and that other guy from the last game plan to hack Dominion records to find Raynor.

And it turns out it can only be done by that guy from that one mission whom they turned over to that purple-haired girl from that same one mission.

I remembered that by reading the wiki. They sure make their characters deep and memorable!

But the purple-haired girl doesn't want to give him away, so they challenge her to a game of Zero Wing.

"Now all your base are belong to us! Turn him over!"

"Fine, fine. I'd have done it right away if we didn't need padding in the already thin plot."

So Kerrigan storms the Dominion prison ship and frees her precious Jim.

And it turns out that he has a gun in his prison cell!

"Yuck, look what you've turned into! I won't kill you, but I only fell in love with your looks, so bye!"

Wow, that's awkward.

Was this what Lelouch felt when it turned out his sister was alive and working against him?

Except Sunrise, unlike Blizzard, actually shows us what characters feel.

So even though Emperor Meng didn't really kill Raynor, Kerrigan is still focused on her revenge.

So focused that she goes on a totally unrelated mission to investigate some research on hybrids.

And she meets Marshal Zhukov!

I met Marshal Zhukov once!

Well, actually I didn't, but my great-grandfather did. Just before Stalin exiled him to Siberia.

But he already lived in Siberia, so he didn't care.

So the guy we all thought died back in Brood War is somehow alive and speaks with the accent that Americans think is Russian. Silly Americans!

"Kierrigan, you mahst break intu zis facility ahnd kill Doktar Narud!"

"Why? Because Narud is an anagram of Duran? I KNEW IT!"

"Nou, ahktooally zere is nou mention off Duran in zis game aht oll! Not even khow khe killed me! Baht I know khe is ahn ahncient shapeshiftehr kho plahns tu resurrect ze dead god Amon!"

"And how do you know this?"

"Uh..."

So Kerrigan meets Narud and they have an epic fight with Force powers, like Yoda against Count Dooku!

In a cutscene.

So unfair! Why does all the interesting stuff happen in cutscenes? I wanted to punch him in that smug face myself!

More importantly, why can't I use all those awesome powers Kerrigan has in cutscenes?

So Narud is like, "Kiss me, and I'll turn into your true love!"

"What? Jim?"

"No, yourself! In my last incarnation, I was known as Shang Tsung!"

"So I get to pass out with a dying copy of human me lying next to me. Awkward!"

"AAAARGH! You may have killed me, but my master Amon has returned! And he will get you, my pretty, and your little zergling too!"

So she passes out because he stabbed her in the stomach.

I got stabbed in the stomach once!

I then spent a month in bed in a decrepit hospital with cracked walls and a leaky ceiling.

But Kerrigan just needs to lie in a pool for a minute and she's good as new. So unfair!

Then she goes to assault Emperor Meng's capital.

And suddenly in the middle of the battle, Raynor comes to assist her!

Wow, what a totally unexpected twist!

And Emperor Meng is like, "wtf hax"

And Kerrigan is like, "gg zerg rush kekeke"

So she walks into the palace, alone, to kill the Emperor herself.

I guess she didn't just want some random mutalisk to fly up and shoot him through the window.

I mean, that'd be anticlimactic!

But Meng reveals that he has that phallic thing that made her human at the end of the last game!

And she's like, "What's the worst you can do, turn me human a third time?"

"No, I'll slowly torture you with lightning instead of just shooting you, because that's what Emperors do, until someone saves you!"

So Raynor does just that.

Kind of anticlimactic.

I mean, Emperor Meng spent the whole game gloating about his secret trump card, and THAT'S the best he got?

So Kerrigan kills him with a witty one-liner, and then the two of them look at the ruins of the planet they wrecked to kill this one man out of petty revenge.

And they live happily ever after.

HOORAY!

So yes, "Heart of the Swarm" really touched my heart!

Even though Ariel Hanson wasn't in it and Nova was there for like ten seconds to kidnap Raynor offscreen.

This game needs more sights to look at than just Kerrigan's nude purple butt.

...For the lesbians, I mean!

I mean, we have just the same tastes as straight men, right? RIGHT?!



Seriously though... This is Wings of Liberty: More of the Same. With exactly the same narrative faults.

Except more icky. Back in SC1, when zerg were just low-resolution sprites, this wasn't a problem, but here, I definitely wouldn't recommend looking at things like Abathur and his Evolution Pit on a full stomach.

But that's a fundamental problem with a game centering on zerg as protagonists.

The main reason why, in my opinion, SC1 works and SC2 doesn't, is the question of narrative focus. SC1 - like WC3 after it - was about an epic galaxy-spanning conflict, fast-paced, with the pieces flung all across the chessboard every couple of missions. It relied more on a sense of scope and grandeur - something Blizzard has traditionally been good at - than on believable characterization. If anything, deep characterization could have been detrimental to the enjoyment of a game where all the characters were talking heads, plot devices to toss the nameless player from one mission to the next.

And SC2 kind of tries this, but it's the same it's more torn about what kind of story it wants to be. It doesn't give us the same feeling of a great war that SC1 did - instead it tries to be character-driven. And you can see that at least the CGI animators are trying - the new Kerrigan, despite her ghastly looks, feels surprisingly human, with vivid eyes and convincing facial expressions.

But all this effort is wasted because Metzen sucks at character-driven stories. Every time he tries to write one, be it Warcraft or Starcraft, the characters still end up being nothing more than one-dimensional plot devices, and spin-off writers invariably do better jobs at characterization than the games themselves do. Recycled cliche dialogues where every single character is Captain Obvious, which fit well into a fast-paced broad strokes plot like SC1, look out of place in a decompressed story where about the same amount of stuff happening is spread over three games.

A good writer would use the extra space to flesh out the characters, but Metzen, it seems, is too afraid to let the characters live their own lives and do anything at all other than deliver their bunch of pre-scripted lines in his lifeless bare-bones construct of a plot, hollow on the inside.

SC1, like the original Star Wars movie, succeeds because it relies on time-tested symbols and archetypes - while at the same time throwing in enough references to a larger setting to give the impression that there is more to the story and characters than meets the eye, and every player can fill this "more" with something that appeals to them. In contrast, SC2 draws too much attention to the wires holding the scenery together - and thus reveals that is is indeed just scenery, pretty but flat, with an emotionless void behind it.

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Maia Everett

November 2013

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