Sunday, August 1, 2010

Starcraft II: The Final Hurrah?

In a continuation of yesterday's post, "Starcraft II: Savior of a Genre?" I'm going to consider whether there are going to be any more Starcraft games after the current stint is over. Remember, they are already dedicated to making two more, full-length games, Heart of the Swarm with the Zerg campaign, and Legacy of the Void with the Protoss campaign.

(Plus, this is going to be a ridiculously comprehensive overview of both the original Starcraft and Brood War, and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, and its expansion, The Frozen Throne.)

You may ask why Blizzard would even consider ending such a widely-respected franchise with so many fans and so much of a tradition. You might think that they would turn it into an MMO, like they did with Warcraft. Okay, I admit that is a possibility, but I doubt it. Starcraft is the RTS, and fans everywhere would cry out in outrage if the series turned from its RTS roots. (Note: Starcraft: Ghost, the abandoned Gamecube project, doesn't count because it wasn't a direct continuation of the series, like Halo Wars in reverse.)

Two games isn't that much, you say? I say that you must consider how much time the franchise will eventually take up (at least 15 or 16 years, I'd say), and how big these games are. Starcraft, and the expansion Brood War, both came out in 1998, eight months apart. Both games had campaigns for all three races, with 8-10 missions each, coming out to a total of 56 missions.

I don't have any actual numbers, but Wings of Liberty has at least enough for one of these campaigns, and probably quite a few more. That's not even counting all the additions to the game, like the new, the Hyperion home base, the new challenge modes, and the new branching campaign style, and probably many others that I missed.

That is only one of three. When this arc is done, I would fully expect Starcraft to have as much as more content as the Warcraft RTSes. (I'm not stupid enough to include WoW in any comparison of the sort!)

Also to be considered is the possible parallel to the Warcraft story. Ignoring the first two Warcraft games, which I don't have much experience with and aren't comparable to Starcraft anyway. (Two sides, with only slight differences, portrayed as good and evil.)

Essentially, Starcraft parallels with Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, Brood War with The Frozen Throne, and the Starcraft II games will compare with World of Warcraft. You may not see the differences at first, but see as I go campaign-by-campaign with the first two.

Starcraft starts out with the Terran campaign, with the hero, Jim Raynor, helping your character (technically, you're a magistrate over Mar Sara that end up going on the run with Raynor) to protect the citizens of Mar Sara from the Zerg and, well, figure out what the heck the Zerg even are. Raynor runs into Arcturus Mengsk, leader of the Sons of Korhal resistance group, and his lieutenant, Sarah Kerrigan. Arcturus Mengsk sends them on a bunch of errands, supposedly discovering that the Confederacy created, or was at least using, the Zerg to destroy the Sons of Korhal. They end up luring the Zerg to the capital planet of Tarsonis, but Mengsk abandons Kerrigan on the surface, and she is captured. Mengsk becomes emperor of the new Terran Dominion (really cool coronation speech, btw.), and Raynor ends up forming the Raynor's Raiders resistance group. (I skipped a bunch of stuff, including an entire character, but he doesn't have a parallel in WCIII and it doesn't really matter)

Compare this to Warcraft III. Prince Arthas is trying to figure out the cause of the plague, and protect the citizens of Lordaeron, along with some help from a friend, Jaina Proudmoore. Jaina leaves, and Arthas goes on a vengeance trek to go kill the guy that was supposedly the instigator of the plague, Mal'ganis. Jaina abandons him after he kills a bunch of villagers to stop them from becoming Undead, and Arthas follows Mal'ganis to the icy continent of Northrend. He finds an old friend of his, Muradin Bronzebeard, who tells him a story of a enchanted sword, Frostmourne. (Honestly? Coolest weapon in ANY video game, possibly barring the Master Sword) He burns his ships and blames it on the mercenaries he had to use to do so, finds Frostmourne. The sword bears an inscription, warning Arthas and Muradin of a curse. Arthas says that he would "gladly bear any curse to save his homeland", and takes the sword, shattering the ice it is embedded in, a shard of which kills Muradin. Arthas then goes on a rampage and owns the undead protection Mal'ganis. Ner'zhul, the present Lich King, tells him through the sword to kill Mal'ganis, and Arthas does so. Then he goes back to Lordaeron, kills his father, the king (wow, that phrase sounds really cliche), assumes the throne, and the now his undead hordes annihilate the kingdom.

In both the Starcraft Zerg campaign and the Reign of Chaos Undead campaign, the bad guys (you) consolidate their forces while Arthas/Kerrigan grow in power (Technically Kerrigan has to hatch first. There's like 4 missions of protecting her at the beginnning.). The biggest difference is that the Protoss managed to slow the Zerg down by slaying one of the cerebrates using the energy of the Dark Templar, Zeratul. (Cerebrate: one of the commanders of the horde, resurrected when slain in battle by the Overmind which is.. well... the Overmind. The Gravemind from Halo reminds me of the Overmind, actually. Technically you are a cerebrate in the Zerg campaign. Oh, and Zeratul is awesome.) Somehow, the Overmind gets the location of the Protoss homeworld, Aiur ("My Life for Aiur!"), and the Zerg completely own it. Meanwhile in Azeroth (Back to WCIII), Arthas and company kill everyone on their part of the continent (I'm not kidding. You wipe out 2 kingdoms and one killer mage city in one campaign)

Now we go back to playing as the good guys. In the final campaign of the original Starcraft, you play as the Executor of the Protoss. You fight a defensive battle against the Zerg with your buddy, Praetor Fenix (another awesome dude. BTW, he starts out as just an infantry guy, but then he dies and comes back in this awesome mech thing. "I have returned!") You end up going to Char, the Zerg homeworld, to arrest Tassadar, the former executor who was basically fired for trying to save the Terrans from the Zerg instead of just bombarding the planets into glass. When you get back, the civil war is going badly because the Conclave (read: Parliament) sucks at fighting and you had much of the fleet. Tassadar tries to replace the conclave, but fails and surrenders. You bust him out, and then you attack the Overmind. The assault begins to falter (no matter how well YOU are doing on the mission...) and Tassadar kamikazes the Overmind with the flagship Gantrithor using both the Dark Templar energies and the energies of the Khalai (Protoss psionic powers) Zerg die spectacularly. Game over.

Back in the next Reign of Chaos campaign, the Orcs have left Azeroth and arrived on Kalimdor. Grom, one of the orc leaders, falls under the spell of one of the Pit Lords of the Burning Legion, Mannoroth, and Thrall, the chieftain, is forced to kill him, with the aid of the human mage Jaina Proudmoore. (Jaina ended up in Kalimdor when a prophet tells her Lordaeron is doomed) The orcs get kind of short thrift, mostly because they're just minding their own business building a new home. They don't even get a TFT campaign.

Now it's the Night Elves turn. They fight a desperate battle against the Burning Legion summoned by Archimonde. Tyrande Whisperwind, the High Priestess, has to awaken Malfurion Stormrage, essentially the high druid, and free Illidan Stormrage (yes, they're brothers. Nasty love triangle story way back in the beginning of the lore), a demon hunter who uses their own powers to slay them, but who was imprisoned because he couldn't give up magic. (It's really hard to talk about the Night Elves without bringing up thousands-year-old lore...) With the aid of Thrall and Jaina, they delay Archimonde from destroying the world tree until he can be destroyed. (It's complicated. Really neat mission, though.)

So, in short, good-guy (Kerrigan, Arthas) turns bad guy and all good guys (Raynor, Tassadar, Zeratul and Night Elves, Thrall, and Jaina) band together to kill big bad guy (Overmind, Archimonde), who was pretty much wiping the floor with good guys up until then.

Brood War and The Frozen Throne don't mesh quite so well, though. The stories are both REALLY messed up, with pretty much everyone (except the orcs, and they already did that, plus they don't have a true campaign in TFT) splitting into factions, people working with people they really have no business (well, they do. But Infested Kerrigan helping Raynor and the Protoss?), and Kerrigan and Arthas ending up supreme baddies over everyone.

In Brood War, the Protoss flee Aiur, going to the Dark Templar world of Shakuras. A bunch of Zerg inevitably followed. (Pesky things, they get everywhere!) Infested Kerrigan comes and requests help killing the new Overmind, explaining that it wasn't powerful enough to control her- yet. In return, she would help them recover two crystals, one of dark energy and one of light (Dark/High templar) that could be used to destroy the Zerg infesting Shakuras. They fail to destroy the Overmind to the intervention of a new human force, the UED (United Earth Directorate), but they still recover the crystals. Executor Aldaris tries to stop to stop the Dark Templar and Artanis, realizing that Kerrigan is manipulating them (Plus he still doesn't like the Dark Templar). Zeratul and Artanis (who effectively replaced Tassadar as resident High Templar) use the crystals, resulting in another spectacular planet Zerg-wiping explosion. (Actually, this was even bigger than the one that killed the Overmind, that's all the other one did. Poor Tassadar!)

(skip to 4:40 for cinematic)

In The Frozen Throne, a Night Elf warden, Maiev Shadowsong, chases Illidan around, trying to put him back in eternal jail. She ends up telling Malfurion Tyrande was dead, when she was only lost. Malfurion and Maiev, along with a Blood Elf (what's left of the elves of Lordaeron), Kael'thas Sunstrider, stop Illidan from using the Eye of Sargeras, which he was using to destroy Ice Crown and the Lich King (Still Ner'zhul, at this point. Plus there was the possible side effect of destroying the entire world.), but Maiev's lie is revealed, and Malfurion and Illidan go save Tyrande. Malfurion pardons Illidan, though he's still banished. Illidan leaves

Back in Starcraft land, the UED is trying to take over the Dominion. They work with the Confederacy remnants and make some progress, but they manage to anger both the Zerg and Protoss in the area. Mengsk's Dominion falls, though Kerrigan manages to convince Raynor to save him (what power she has over him...), and the UED fleet manages to capture and subdue the Overmind, despite a backstab by a Zerg-infested Samir Duran, thus gaining control of the Zerg.

We go back to Azeroth, where Kael'thas and his Blood Elves are being good Alliance citizens--until things go wrong and a racist Alliance knight imprisons them. They are saved by Lady Vashj and her Naga, and the two races go to save Illidan, who has managed to get into a royal mess in Outland, an alternate dimension originally known as Draenor, the former home of the orcs and still home of the Draenei. Illidan and Kael'thas enlist the Draenei and overturn the current lord of Outland, and Illidan thinks he is safe. Not so. The Burning Legion lord Kil'jaeden finds him, and sends him back to Azeroth to renew his attempt to wipe out the Lich King.

In the final Brood War campaign, Kerrigan is severely threatened by the now extremely poweful UED fleet and their Zerg horde. She manages to convince pretty much everyone else (Raynor and the Protoss) that the UED is the major threat. The alliance manages to slowly defeat the UED, but Kerrigan betrays the others with the aid of her agent, Samir Duran, and the Overmind is killed, thus making Kerrigan the leader of the entire swarm-- the self-stylized "Queen of Blades".

In the final TFT campaign (not counting the bonus one for the orcs), we go back to Lordaeron and the undead. The undead splinter into 3 factions: Arthas and Kel'thuzad, who were betrayed by the Dreadlords led by Nathrezim (who think that Archimonde is destroying Kalimdor), and the Forsaken led by Sylvanas Windrunner, a former elf that Arthas killed and resurrected as an undead in his campaign against the elves of Silvermoon. (These last are the ones you play as in WoW) Arthas flees to Northrend, slowly weakening (really annoying, btw. He levels backwards.) and summoned by the Lich King, and Sylvanas manages to gain the upper hand against the dreadlords, essentially gaining control of the Plaguelands. (What's left of Lordaeron)
Arthas meets the spider-race of Nerubians, and ends up fighting Illidan over the Lich King. Arthas wins, then goes up to the Frozen Throne and puts on the helmet of Ner'zhul-- thus becoming the Lich King himself. Oh, and Illidan isn't dead-- he goes back to Outland.

Definite parallels in this one as well, but not nearly as obvious as in the originals. The important part is that the final result is much alike: Good guys mostly victorious but battered, and the bad guys ready to start killing pretty much everyone.

The Warcraft saga is solved in WoW, with Illidan and Arthas being destroyed by your player character, although the undead survive. Logic says that we get a good ending with the SCII games, with Raynor and the Protoss playing the role of the PCs.

So, we have a definite parallel between the two franchises, and we can all agree that World of Warcraft is the end of the Warcraft story, right? So that means that this arc of Starcraft is the end.

Don't be sad, though. That's still a ton of content and story rolling our way in the next three, four years! A last little thing is parallels between the races and characters.

Character parallels:
Raynor=Arthas in the RoC human campaign, and PC in WoW. (protagonist)
Kerrigan=Arthas. (Kerrigan becomes Queen of Blades, Arthas becomes the Lich King)
Mengsk=Arthas (betray kingdom and become ruler)
Overmind: Ner'zhul, the original Lich King. (Original big bads, replaced by Kerrigan/Arthas) and Archimonde (big bads defeated by coalition of good guys--complete with awesome cinematic!)

Race parallels:
Terrans=Humans (giant DUH here)
Undead=Zerg (also easy)
Protoss=Night Elves, with a bit of Orc thrown in. (pushing it a bit)

The Protoss and the Night Elves don't quite fit together. The orcs take some of the Protoss roles, and the characters themselves don't translate well. If I had to, though, Tassadar would be Tyrandis, Zeratul would be Illidan, and Judicator Aldaris would be Furion.

One thing to note: There is no Burning Legion faction parallel in Starcraft. The Zerg are THE big bads, and thus end up playing the roles of the Burning Legion as well as the undead.


  1. Man I'm confused. I understood the Starcraft story, but not the warcraft one.... plus I didn't play any of those so I'm not exactly accquainted with them.

  2. I focuses more on Starcraft, and the Warcraft story is more complicated. The first half should be fairly siimple, though.

    This post got really messed up, though.