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Thread: Gradius's HoTS Story Review

  1. #1
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    Default Gradius's HoTS Story Review

    Some of you might be familiar with my Wings of Liberty story review: http://sclegacy.com/editorials/7-rev...ngs-of-liberty

    I won't go into as much depth this time, seeing as how the story is over 2/3 done at this point. Suffice to say, I enjoyed HoTS more than Wings of Liberty. The attention to detail by the artists and mission designers combines to make for an overall enjoyable zerg campaign. The evolution missions is exactly what StarCraft 2 has been missing: a macroscopic perspective of the sector. But as usual, the same level of attention to detail is missing in Blizzard's writing department. I won't really touch on the cheesy and ham-fisted dialog reminiscent of Diablo 3, as it speaks for itself, but I'll focus more on plot and characters.

    Intro Cinematic
    Yet again, the writers have chosen to reveal the ending to us in the opening cinematic. However, Blizzard's CG team is to be congratulated. This was the one moment in the game where I felt that Helfer's performance superseded Glynnis Campbell's, though it could probably be attributed to the more modern vocal effects. The casting choice is still unfortunate however, as Helfer doesn't add anything else to the voice that Campbell didn't, apart from broken continuity.

    Intro Missions
    I enjoyed Kerrigan's dialog with Valerian. It felt somewhat contrived that Raynor and Kerrigan got split up. There are any number of things that Kerrigan could have done, like telekinetically floated him across. After the escape, Mengsk broadcasts that Raynor is dead. Raise your hand if you believed that one of the most important characters in all of StarCraft randomly died off-screen? Nobody? That's what I thought. There is no way Metzen would kill off his favorite character at the drop of a hat.

    The main problem with the story however is that Kerrigan decides to build the swarm back up and embark on a path of furious vengeance, killing everyone in her path, despite the fact that the artifact turned her back into her human state. Kerrigan suffered just as much under Mengsk as she did the Confederacy, who took her away from her family, forced her to kill people, and subjected her to years of mental torture. But even still, she condemned unleashing zerg on Tarsonis and Antiga Prime just to take down the Confederacy. So it makes little sense that she is so willing to resort to this now, especially since she can't remember vast tracts of her time as the Queen of Blades due to her amnesia.

    These actions are not in line with what human Kerrigan would do, and this problem goes all the way back to Wings of Liberty, which mangled and destroyed a large part of the lore. If Kerrigan had never been deinfested, then her desire for revenge and willingless to destroy planets would have been believable and/or justified. Brood War showed that she was in control of her own actions even though she was infested. She could have embarked on a path of real character development, and after 4 years of loneliness, Raynor's fake death could have been the straw that broke the camel's back and finally motivated Kerrigan to start showing some compassion. But instead, Blizzard chose to deinfest Kerrigan...why? Just so that we can play as a female in space spandex for the first couple missions in order to make the story "accessible" to everyone? Not to mention that Wings of Liberty ended up being a giant waste of time now, since the only thing we really accomplished was to deinfest Kerrigan only for her to put herself back into a chrysalis willingly.

    What. Was. The. Point.

    Evidence that Kerrigan is good again in HoTS:

    • The artifact removed the zerg mutagen from her system and allowed her to revert back to human form.
    • She claims, multiple times, that after this is all over, she will have to "atone".
    • She lets Valerian evacuate the citizenry in the attack on Korhal.
    • Spares Warfield's troops.



    Evidence that Kerrigan is still evil in HoTS:

    • Attacks terran and protoss worlds in the evolution missions.
    • Destroys the protoss colony on Kaldir instead of letting them leave. Infects Lessara with a chestburster.
    • Kills and abandons Warfield, a decent guy who was just trying to defend his people.
    • Instead of apologizing to Zeratul for the myriad crimes she inflicted upon him, she instead tries to kill him after he shows up in plain sight with no obvious hostile intentions.



    Make no mistake, the above is not evidence of a "conflicted" or "interesting" character, only the writers' lack of vision (a concept that Kerrigan failed to explain to Zagarra and the audience nevertheless). Heart of the Swarm is supposed to be an examination of Sarah Kerrigan's character, and yet it remains the story's largest failure. The writers wanted Kerrigan to be sympathetic and human, and they also wanted to use the "revenge" and "taking over planets" themes that fit in with a zerg campaign. They just proved that you cannot have both.


    Kaldir Arc
    This is where things start to go south. Technically we accomplish all of our objectives by the first mission: we've assimilated the space yeti and we found what happened to the missing brood. This raises the question: what the hell are we still doing here? Lessara echoes this extremely valid point:

    "You do not have to do this. You could leave. Be away from this moon before the Golden Armada arrives."

    Kerrigan gives us a non-answer:

    "I can't run. I know that now. My enemies will never stop coming for me. All I can do is fight. The Swarm does not run. Weakness ends in death. All I can do is fight."

    If the protoss intelligence department is so clueless and incompetent that they don't already know what happened on Char and we have to waste our time stopping these shuttles, then I don't know what to say.

    We proceed to slaughter an innocent protoss colony for no very good reason, and Kerrigan hasn't exactly started her path of redemption with aplomb. However, this doesn't compare to the absurdity of the final mission, where we destroy an entire protoss force with a single larvae. The zerg, who make the law of conservation of energy their bitch, have spawned an entire army on the protoss colony ship. Lessara conveniently gets warped to the middle of nowhere on the ship, where nobody can see a chestburster explode from her body. And the protoss, the most advanced race in the galaxy, whose detectors were so precise that they knew Chau Sara was infested even before the humans living on it did, still cannot detect and stop this infestation aboard their own ship. To add insult to injury, Kerrigan tries to bring moral relativism to the mix:

    "I justify nothing. There is no moral high ground here. Your people have killed billions of zerg. We are all covered in blood. There may be more on my hands than yours, but in the end we are both killers."

    Seriously? The protoss are murderers because they killed mindless and disposable zerg? The species that walked into the sector and nearly slaughtered everyone in the first place? Great argument Kerrigan. Unfortunately, the protoss have proven time and time again in Wings of Liberty and in Heart of the Swarm, that they are weak and largely incompetent. Instead of being a powerful and enigmatic race that was respected, they're largely a joke. Even when you see Zeratul, it's only to watch him get smacked around like a chump by a diminutive human female. It would have been cool if his involvement included something useful and awesome like saving Kerrigan from Narud, or anything that established him as a competent character outside of his own campaign.

    Back in StarCraft vanilla's zerg campaign, the protoss were allowed an illusion of competence when they assassinated and destroyed key zerg leaders, despite being outnumbered. They also destroyed entire planets in your wake during the terran campaign, garnering them further credibility. No such thing can exist under Blizzard's new player-aggrandizing "you always win" philosophy. As such, the protoss of StarCraft 2 have failed in their role of being a powerful elder race. Legacy of the Void won't do a thing to change this, because any successes the protoss will have there are, again, attributable to Blizzard's juvenile "you only win because you're the player" philosophy.

    Hybrid Arc
    I'm still not sure how I feel about Stukov's return. On one hand, he was one of my favorite characters. On the other hand, Blizzard's implementation of him is more in line with a Warcraft character (glowing face, and spectral voice effects, almost like an undead banshee). Either way, it was satisfying to watch Stukov help take down his old nemesis: Duran aka. Narud. It's unfortunate this connection between Narud and Duran was never elaborated on or revealed more thoroughly, making the whole thing feel...unresolved.

    In StarCraft 2, I'm sure many of us wanted to fight against Duran, instead of a totally different character. Perhaps it's a mixed blessing however, as it's doubtful that Blizzard's sound department would have been able to match either the voice actor or the vocal effects used in Brood War. The hybrid arc was mostly enjoyable. Still I can't help but feel disappointed that Duran, this powerful entity who manipulated the galaxy for ages and engineered something "beyond our narrow understanding," just turned out to be a comic book villain that was defeated in a Dragonball Z fight. It's unfortunate that this master manipulator gets destroyed in the same mission arc in which he is introduced. He did not get the chance to screw us over and make us hate him, and that's really one of the main problems with antagonists in Blizzard's RTS missions.

    The Tal'Darim reprised their role of boring, incompetent, and generic antagonists. There's the plot hole of why the Tal'Darim were attacking Raynor when it was Narud that was paying Raynor to collect the artifacts in the first place. In effect, Narud was paying Raynor to steal things that already belonged to him, while Valerian was paying Raynor to commit terrorism against his own government! What a mind-trip. This is not natural story progression, rather, it is Blizzard's patch for why Raynor indiscriminately slaughtered the Tal'Darim and stole their rightfully-owned possessions in Wings of Liberty, much like the Conquistadors came to North America to slaughter Native Americans and steal their treasure. Turns out the Tal'Darim were possessed by Satan all along though, so that makes it perfectly ok!

    Zerus Arc

    Holy retcon batman! First off, the premise that Zerus is right next door and Kerrigan can travel there at a drop of a hat is utter nonsense. Zerus is located in the galactic core, 50000 light years away from the K-sector. It took the Overmind 60 years to reach the Koprulu sector when he discovered the terrans, and there is zero reason to assume that zerg FTL travel has improved under Kerrigan, who was an inferior geneticist to the Overmind. In a setting where it can take weeks to travel to another planet, the fact that you basically teleport across the galaxy at a whim totally breaks the setting and immersion. The only other time this has happened was in Brood War, where the UED came all the way from Earth. However, they pulled some crazy crap to get this done, having to put everyone into cryogenic cold-sleep, and the writers made sure you knew how amazing their journey was. Duke said "You mean to tell me you came all the way from Earth?". Zeratul said "these humans have come a long way to make war upon us". So it was more believable, and not just because they had more time to travel. In Heart of the Swarm, the writers don't recognize this issue, and it's doubtful they even care enough to notice that it exists, so they'll probably save it for a future Q&A.

    The writers operate under the premise that we should go do everything and go everywhere just because it would be cool. There is zero attempt at verisimilitude or realism. Raynor's small band of volunteers invade Korhal and Char in the last game. Kerrigan goes back to a planet that's supposed to be lost, halfway across the galaxy. Why? The cool factor. It is also likely that we will retake Aiur in LoTV, just because it would be cool. All the extended lore points to the fact that it's totally unpractical, but Blizzard doesn't like to get bogged down with details.

    In addition, we learned this little bit of information:

    "Ancient One: And so he bound the zerg to a single overriding will. They lost their identity, and became his slaves.
    Kerrigan: The hive mind. That's Amon's corruption?"

    Wow, so it's the hive-mind itself! What a plot twist! I did not see that one coming! And that's because it's a blatant retcon. The original game manual says: "Attempting to waylay the potential hazards of differing egos, the Xel’Naga structured the collective sentience of the Zerg into a unified, amalgamated ‘Overmind’."

    The Xel'Naga created the hive mind link. It's not like Amon went behind their backs, and created the hive-mind link without any of them noticing, so this makes no sense. I find the very idea of zerg without a hive-mind to be nonsensical and ill-conceived. The zergs' original "purity of essence" has also been utterly mangled. Originally referring to the hive-mind link and/or their genetic adaptability, it is now instead nothing more than the DNA that a zerg absorbs from another creature. The zerg never "stole" any essence, they assimilated the strongest species and culled the rest. There is no reason to assume that primal zerg were individuals, as even in the manual they acted together anyway and never achieved a higher level of sentience until after the Overmind was created. I won't even comment on how Zerus is suddenly a lush jungle world instead of an ashworld with torrential firestorms in the volatile galactic core. But at least Abathur explained how primal zerg have access to new strains like hydralisks and zerglings, so I can appreciate that they addressed this plothole in the actual game instead of saving it for a Q&A.

    Most infested terrans are mindless drones. The Overmind had to jump through hoops to create the Queen of Blades, and she was "his greatest creation". So what, a random cesspool on Zerus has the magical ability to skip all that work and do the same exact thing, only better? Why?

    So to this all I say: what's the deal Blizzard? Why all the retcons this far into the trilogy? How hard is it to read the original game manual? It seems that the writers' mission statement is "ignore or destroy as much of the original lore as possible". It was hard enough to believe that Kerrigan was willing to turn herself into a monster again just for revenge, especially since it's supposed to be a painful process according to Abathur. So I'm sorry, but this is a story arc that simply did not need to be told. Blizzard has told us that they were building an internal database of lore in order to avoid such inconsistencies. Unfortunately, Blizzard, you don't need a lore database, what you need is for the guys in charge of the story to actually earn their salary and give two craps about continuity and realism. How many writers are under your employ? How much do you pay them to think about the story for years on end? I'm not even trying to be a dick here, but why is this a recurring thing? I've heard it said that Warcraft lore has been ruined, and it seems that this is the inevitable fate of the StarCraft franchise as well.

    Space Arc
    I have to admit I enjoyed commanding the Hyperion in a space battle. Unfortunately I could not stomach the premise of having to fight Mira Han, a known ally and friend. "She's a merc" is not a valid excuse, sorry. This scene basically deconstructs itself, so I won't really go into it, suffice to say that even Valerian knew this was total BS. Another clever and entertaining mission overshadowed by incompetent writing.

    I loved how Raynor first saw the human Kerrigan walk in to save him in the prison cinematic, only for the monster to appear shortly after. The reference to Fenix and the promise to kill Kerrigan provided some closure for Brood War fans, but felt hamfisted in its delivery; of all the times to bring it up, this is seriously the last one I would have picked. I could also complain about the fact that they let Raynor keep his pistol in a maximum security prison, but Blizzard is becoming known for its fridge logic at this point.

    Korhal Arc

    Mengsk presented an improvement from Wings of Liberty, because he was justified in protecting humanity from Kerrigan, and he actually pulled out the stops and used some cunning against Kerrigan, instead of just telling you that you suck and you will die like a regular cartoon villain (though there is still plenty of that in HoTS, don't get me wrong). I appreciate that Kerrigan double-checked with Valerian before killing his father. I also appreciate that they evacuated the citizenry. What I don't appreciate is the fact that invading Korhal was an obstacle of such unimaginable difficulty that it had to take 3 missions and even then Kerrigan wasn't sure she would survive.

    Kerrigan wiped Mengsk out in Brood War in a weakened state with minimum effort, and the Koprulu terrans have never ever been close to being an actual legitimate challenge to the swarm. Furthermore, if Raynor and his rag-tag band of prodigies could launch an attack on Augustgrad in the previous game, then again, why is it such a hassle this time around? People always revert to the excuse of "it was a raid" for Media Blitz, despite the fact that there are multiple mentions of a base and Raynor's army being on the ground, with Raynor's Thors fighting Mengsk's Battlecruisers as Raynor trashes three separate Dominion bases. This is no more a "hit-and-run" than the Invasion of Normandy, and if it was supposed to be a raid, Blizzard should have tried harder to make it look like one. So if Raynor could get past Korhal's orbital defenses in Wings of Liberty, then there is absolutely no reason why Kerrigan has to devote an entire mission to bypassing the orbital defenses and lose "millions" of drop-pods. An invasion of Korhal is simply not worthy of being the final mission arc.

    I'm glad that Blizzard changed enough of the leaked ending cinematic in the final version. The Xel'Naga artifact was a superior last-ditch weapon to a secret implant in Kerrigan's head, but now this line makes little sense: "did you think I'd keep an animal like you close to me without some sort of insurance policy?" Mengsk's greatest accomplishment seems to have been to keep the artifact in his office, but it raises the question of why he didn't use it on the battlefield?

    WoL is Now Pointless Filler

    For those who enjoyed the first installment in the StarCraft 2 trilogy, HoTS does not bring any joyous tidings.

    Artifact/Deinfestation Arc

    The biggest justification for the artifact is that it freed Kerrigan from Amon's control. HoTS proved that this hypothesis is simply wrong.

    Kerrigan: Izsha, all around me I see signs of the old Queen of Blades.
    Kerrigan: But I can't remember why I held my forces here on Char for so long.
    Izsha: You were studying the future, planning for a great war.
    Kerrigan: What war? Explain.
    Izsha: You never told us. You only said that you had seen a vision of our extinction. And you wanted us to fight to the last.

    She also outright states that "he never controlled me, but I felt an influence", so this entire arc was redundant. Kerrigan saw the same vision as the Overmind and was willing to resist the dark voice from the get-go, so any "influence" that the dark voice had over her is completely meaningless. Considering that the swarm was totally broken and all the zerg fleets above Char went feral and killed each other, it was better to not use the artifact at all, especially since Kerrigan & Stukov speclate that using the artifact is what awakened Amon in the first place:

    Stukov: I wonder how Narud could hope to resurrect a being as powerful as Amon?
    Kerrigan: I think the hybrid are key. They gather psionic energy. But where would they get enough to resurrect a dead god?
    Stukov: You told me an ancient xel'naga artifact was used to make you human again.
    Stukov: But all the power you wielded as the Queen of Blades... where did it go after your transformation?
    Kerrigan: You mean... there might have been hybrid nearby who gathered it? And... used it to... oh no.
    Stukov: If Narud used the xel'naga artifact in that way... he may already have enough energy to resurrect Amon.

    Really, Zeratul allowing Raynor to deinfest Kerrigan is quite possibly the dumbest thing he could have done.

    And if the artifact was supposed to restore her humanity, then it did a poor job of that as well because there is plenty of evidence that Kerrigan is still evil in HoTS. See this thread for an extensive elaboration: http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/forum/topic/10160956386

    How is this behavior any kind of upgrade from a mass-murdering psycho? It's not, and when you consider that Kerrigan willingly reinfested herself after several missions, it becomes obvious that the artifact/deinfestation arc was a story that simply did not need to be told and is now redundant. It only exists so that Raynor & Kerrigan can smooch in a cutscene, and we can go back to the status quo five missions later.

    Rebellion Arc

    We spent lots of time exposing Mengsk. Unfortunately, it did little good and he remained in power. When he announced that the swarm was broken and that Raynor was dead, he achieved a glorious redemption in the eyes of the public (thus nullifying this "he can't kill Raynor because he'll turn into a martyr" nonsense). Even so, when Kerrigan finally takes down Mengsk, there is nothing that you actually accomplished in the Rebellion missions that led to Mengsk's downfall, and there is zero evidence that there is a revolution of any type going on in the first place. Raynor just shows up and fights with Kerrigan against Mengsk. Whoop-dee-doo. It would have been better if he had simply saved his strength for this moment and not wasted his efforts on assaulting the Dominion homeworld in WoL in the first place.

    Tosh Arc

    So after breaking open New Folsom and recruiting the Spectres, it turns out that they don't even get used in bringing down Mengsk. What happened to "I don't quit till Mengsk is dead!" The only time we ever see Spectres is when they're working FOR the Dominion, trying to hunt down Kerrigan. And the only time we see Tosh, assuming we rescued him, was to see his back for five seconds when we're rescuing Raynor, which is pretty insulting. Coincidentally if we didn't rescue him, we still take down Mengsk in the end and nothing changes, as his arc was never that consequential to begin with and reinforces the fact that it was useless filler.

    Hanson Arc

    Nice to see how ordinary colonists are suffering under the invasion, but this arc is simply swept under the rug in the game again. Hanson is speculated to be dead in the Project Blackstone marketing campaign. Haven is so remote that nobody knows whether this is true or not. This is the one arc that doesn't get a single line of dialog referencing it in HoTS. Given Blizzard's "ignore or destroy as much of the original lore as possible" philosophy, it's likely that HoTS's story will be gutted by lazy writing and inattention to detail, just like everything else in the StarCraft universe has been.

    In conclusion, HoTS was a good zerg campaign, but the love story between Raynor and Kerrigan was utterly unnecessary. The random smooching in the middle of a battle, Raynor "moving Heaven and Earth" to get his baby back, Kerrigan floating up into heaven at the end as she parts ways with Raynor. It simply doesn't fit in a setting that is originally based on political infighting and galactic domination. However, I'd like to give a shout-out to Abathur, who is basically Mordin from Mass Effect 3 and a true zerg character. Anyway, I am glad that Raynor was able to participate in Mengsk's downfall, but now that Raynor and Kerrigan's arcs are concluded, it seems that LoTV will be a bit disjointed from the rest of the trilogy. Nevertheless, the story still represents a slight improvement over Wings of Liberty.
    Last edited by Gradius; 02-09-2014 at 10:47 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Gradius's HoTS Story Review

    Great review. I slightly disagree with some things, but that's to be expected. Everyone reacts differently.

    I do agree with you that many things are much better here than in WoL, and I am pleased with the ending, especially because of the added ~40 seconds at the very end.

    Did you notice the improvement on Zeratul's voice? I thought he was simply badass here, as opposed to his horrible rendition in WoL.
    - You've seen StarCraft: First Contact -

    - Now, prepare for the Final Metamorphosis -


  3. #3

    Default Re: Gradius's HoTS Story Review

    An overall fair review. I'll note that with all media, retcons do not irritate me as long as they are done with purpose and the new story is consistent. So far, from what we know of the retconned history of the Xel'naga and Zerg, it has been. I do think Blizzard could have done without the retcons though - just make it so Amon tainted the Overmind after the Xel'naga created it, and replace "Zerus Zerg" with "generic Zerus wildlife that have evolved", and it works fine without changing the lore.

    I agree that re-infesting Kerrigan made WoL seem a waste, though at least I'll give the writers credit for having the characters feel the same way when they see her. I would have had the artifact partially de-infest her, and rather than a transformation have her slowly change back like a piece of concept on DA shows, as she absorbs essence and augments herself, then maybe put the transformation mission at the end, if you have to include it. It also annoyed me her transformation took months before and was done by the Overmind itself. Here? Just go swimming in an ancient spawning pool for a half an hour.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gradius View Post
    Evidence that Kerrigan is still evil in HoTS:
    • Attacks terran and protoss worlds in the evolution missions.
    • Destroys the protoss colony on Kal'Dir instead of letting them leave. Infects Lessara with a chestburster.
    • Kills and abandons Warfield, a good guy who was just trying to defend his people.
    [/QUOTE]

    The first point bugged me too, I thought it would make more sense that if these were actual "tests", Abathur would pit Zerg against Zerg, also emphasizing the superiority of the new strains to the old.

    The second point, well silly but she did apologize . Warfield, she snapped when he mentioned Raynor, and then she let the troops go. I wouldn't say evil, she just got impulsive for a moment then let his men leave.

    Kal'Dir Arc
    This is where things start to go south. Technically we accomplish all of our objectives by the first mission: we've assimilated the space yeti and we found what happened to the missing brood. This raises the question: what the hell are we still doing here? Lessara echoes this extremely valid point:
    "You do not have to do this. You could leave. Be away from this moon before the Golden Armada arrives."

    Kerrigan gives us a non-answer:
    "I can't run. I know that now. My enemies will never stop coming for me. All I can do is fight. The Swarm does not run. Weakness ends in death. All I can do is fight."

    If the protoss intelligence department is so clueless and incompetent that they don't already know what happened on Char and we have to waste our time stopping these shuttles, then I don't know what to say. So we proceed to slaughter an innocent protoss colony for no very good reason, and Kerrigan hasn't exactly started her path of redemption with the greatest of success.
    True they may not be able to find her directly, but they will know the Swarm is fragmented and will start picking off individual broods and broodmothers and looking for Kerrigan. In short, even if she evades them personally, the Protoss poking around would complicate things a lot for her.


    "I justify nothing. There is no moral high ground here. Your people have killed billions of zerg. We are all covered in blood. There may be more on my hands than yours, but in the end we are both killers."

    Seriously? The protoss are murderers because they killed mindless and disposable zerg? The species that walked into the sector and nearly slaughtered everyone in the first place? Great argument Kerrigan.
    I know, I snorted at this too.

    Hybrid Arc
    I'm still not sure how I feel about Stukov's return. On one hand, he was one of my favorite characters. On the other hand, Blizzard's implementation of him is more in line with a Warcraft character (glowing face, and spectral voice effects, almost like an undead banshee). Either way, it was satisfying to watch Stukov help take down his old nemesis: Duran aka. Narud. It's unfortunate this connection between Narud and Duran was never elaborated on or revealed more thoroughly. In StarCraft 2, I'm sure many of us wanted to fight against Duran, instead of a totally different character. Perhaps it's a mixed blessing however, as it's doubtful that Blizzard's sound department would have been able to match either the voice actor or the vocal effects used in Brood War. The hybrid arc was mostly enjoyable. Still I can't help but feel disappointed that Duran, this powerful entity who manipulated the galaxy for ages and engineered something "beyond our narrow understanding," just turned out to be a comic book villain that was defeated in a Dragonball Z fight. It's unfortunate that this master manipulator gets destroyed in the same mission arc in which he is introduced. He did not get the chance to screw us over and make us hate him, and that's really one of the main problems with antagonists in Blizzard's RTS missions.
    Agreed, they killed off Duran/Narud too early. I heard in one of the books that takes place between games he betrays Valerian, Raynor and Kerrigan to Mengsk. Screw that, put it in a game!

    The Tal'Darim reprised their role of boring, incompetent, and generic antagonists. There's the plot hole of why the Tal'Darim were attacking Raynor when it was Narud that was paying Raynor to collect the artifacts in the first place. In effect, Narud was paying Raynor to steal things that already belonged him, while Valerian was paying Raynor to commit terrorism against his own government! Truly, what a mind-trip. This is not natural story progression, rather, it is Blizzard's patch for why Raynor indiscriminately slaughtered the Tal'Darim and stole their rightfully-owned possessions in Wings of Liberty, much like the Conquistadors came to North America to slaughter Native Americans and steal their items. Turns out the Tal'Darim were possessed by Lord Voldemort all along though, so that makes it ok!
    Agree from start to finish.

    Space Arc
    I have to admit I enjoyed commanding the Hyperion in a space battle. Unfortunately I could not stomach the premise of having to fight Mira Han, a known ally and friend. "She's a merc" is not a valid excuse, sorry. This scene basically deconstructs itself, so I won't really go into it, suffice to say that even Valerian knew this was total BS. Another clever and entertaining mission overshadowed by incompetent writing.
    Yeah, Mira was a dumb bitch, you need Raynor's permission but he's imprisoned and needs your prisoner to save him, DERRR.

    Korhal ArcFurthermore, if Raynor and his rag-tag band of prodigies could launch an attack on Augustgrad in the previous game, then again, why is it such a hassle this time around? People always revert to the excuse of "it was a raid" for Media Blitz, despite the fact that there are multiple mentions of a base and Raynor's army being on the ground, with Raynor's Thors fighting Mengsk's Battlecruisers as Raynor trashes three separate Dominion bases. This is no more a hit-and-run than the Invasion of Normandy, and if it was supposed to be a raid, Blizzard should have tried harder to make it look like one. So if Raynor could get past Korhal's orbital defenses in Wings of Liberty, then there is absolutely no reason why Kerrigan has to devote an entire mission to bypassing the orbital defenses and lose "millions" of drop-pods. An invasion of Korhal is simply not worthy of being the final mission arc.
    Yeah, Matt makes the handwave of "calling in a lot of favors", but it's silly. Still, it'd be easier to sneak Terran troops in than Zerg. Also, Raynor wasn't hitting the imperial palace directly, so yeah, it would be more heavily defended, and in Media Blitz Mengsk wasn't ready for a fight in downtown. Kerrigan even mentions that hitting outside of town made things harder for her, if she had gone right into the city like Raynor, maybe the mission would have played differently.
    SC2 handle - "DrakeyC, code 929"

    I ARE A PROPHET! I've predicted three major aspects of SC2 correct, more or less.

    June 2007 - I predicted the Protoss campaign would give you new tech as you conducted diplomacy among tribes.

    Hidden Content:
    July 18th 2010 - I predicted Raynor would broadcast information of Mengsk's actions on Tarsonis to discredit him and incite rebellion.


    Hidden Content:
    June 16th 2010 I predicted the Voice in the Darkness was the commanding force behind the Hybrids. I'm calling it half-right.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Gradius's HoTS Story Review

    You know it isn't a good sign when I actually agree with Gradius about something. Anyway, this'll be my last post for awhile probably - wiki needs my attention more, and I don't want to spend another 3 years bickering until LotV, and then however many more years bickering until SC3 comes out (which seems even more likely because of HotS). So, half vent my spleen, half vent my thoughts, half response to points (wait a minute...)

    Note that this is entirely story based, and I've only watched playthroughs. By the time I get to actually playing the game, it'll be all said and done probably.

    The Missions

    Umojan

    I liked this. Liked the interaction, liked Kerrigan's character development, liked how the idea is raised that Raynor is the one person keeping her from 'slipping back' into her QoB persona. What was iffy was Valerian's handling of "okay, you can control zerg, you wrecked a sub-level...sure, I'll let you out." Also Raynor forgetting about his "you and me got a score to settle" line with Mengsk apparently, though that's kind of a minor gripe. And...why does the special ops dropship go into warp space from the planet's surface. Yes, it was iffy in WoL, but this is just adding insult to injury.

    Overall though, decent arc.

    Char Missions

    Not too much to say. Okay generally. Warfield's death was done excellently IMO.

    Kaldir Missions

    Okay, this is where things started going south (huh, Gradius said the same). However, the reason I feel it goes south is for different reasons, that I'll cover in the take on the characters. One word - Lassara.

    Zerus Missions

    Holy retcon...gah! Gradius beat me to it! Um...holy retcon...Superman?

    Okay, what can I say about this that hasn't been said? Going to Zerus the way they do is iffy, to say the least. I'll entertain the notion that leviathans and star relics are just that fast, but could they have at least mentioned the original travel time? And Zerus being a jungleworld? Got an explanation? The primal zerg? As a concept, I like it, but it's written as if the "zerg were insectoids" lore is retconned. It's not totally incompatible, and there's been many wiki discussions on how to incorporate it, but I think the primal zerg could easily exist without having to sacrifice the insectoid lore. Just like the Amon-hivemind thing. I can see it existing with pre-existing lore (Overmind created by xel'naga, Amon alters Overmind, ergo zerg altered too), but again, it's written like a retcon when it doesn't need to be.

    Skygeirr Missions

    Badass. Completely badass. Stukov is badass. The Tal'darim are...kinda badasses. True, they utter similar lines, but the way they were delivered, their dark colour scheme...they felt less generic overall. And Narud...actually think he's a seperate being to Duran, but all in all, I felt he was handled brilliantly here, the way it goes from terran scientist in one mission, shapeshifter to the next, to outright battle in the cinematic.

    Space Missions

    Attacking Mira Han felt unnecessary. One could have substituted her base for a Dominion installation for instance and keep the gameplay. Still, loved the interaction besdies that. As for the revolver, I was under the impression Kerrigan gave it to him, not that he kept it in the cell.

    Korhal Missions

    While I maintain the WoL Korhal mission was a raid (suck it Grad), there was a bit of iffiness here. Korhal's heavily defended, yes, but at this point in time, it shouldn't matter to the Swarm at all. Psi Destroyer felt a bit uninspired, considering there's been every type of psi device under the sun by now. Still, thought it was executed decently. Kinda felt like a BW repeat considering that we had two Korhal invasions in that game, but hey, still a good repeat. As for the ending...some things I liked more (e.g. the artifact instead of vat clone Kerrigan), other things I didn't (e.g. preferred the old music). But overall, I think it was decently executed.

    Characters

    Terran Characters

    Jim Raynor: Only gripe is the whole "forgive Mengsk" thing really, but that's minor. Otherwise thought he was handled well. His confrontation on the Moros was, IMO, his best scene. Fenix mention is gratifying...I kinda feel that logically, Thatcher should have been the one mentioned by virute of being a casualty he cared about, but hey, fan service.

    Valerian Mengsk: Another good character IMO. His early mission appearence aside, I'm glad he took the path he did. Good lines, good interaction.

    Arcturus Mengsk: A common complaint about Mengsk in WoL was that he was ineffectual. I kind of agree(d), but didn't see it as something bad, but rather as character development. In a position of power, power for his own sake, loses his edge, etc. The problem with that theory is that he definately has that edge back in HotS, both in regards to his psychological attacks against Kerrigan (e.g. Raynor) and Korhal. He's outmanauvered, but it shows him being pro-active in his responses to her. And he's far more ruthless, such as the way he callously destroys the Moros. I guess if I had to reconcile the two, it would be that the 'best' of Mengsk comes out when he's challenged, such as when leading the SoK, or dealing with Kerrigan. Either way, Mengsk was a badass here, and I thought he was handled excellently.

    Zerg Characters

    Sarah Kerrigan: I've often said how and why Kerrigan's portrayal in WoL felt appropriate to her character at the time. Unlike Mengsk though, her characterization here isn't jarring, because it feels quite natural. There are blips of course, especially in her interactions with Lassara (who at this point makes me want to weep, but for all the wrong reasons...yes, I'm building up to something here), but otherwise, thought she was executed decently. Think Helfer did a good job overall.

    Zagara: Probably my favourite zerg character in the campaign. There's something just...twisted, about her. Not Dehaka twisted, not Abathur twisted, just the 'fun twisted.' Twisted where there's still zerginess, but some individuality too. A sociopath, but one you still root for. Oh Zagara, kill me and take my essence so I don't have to be alone any time.

    Dehaka: Meh. Nice primal zerg insight, but otherwise, nothing special.

    Alexei Stukov: I really feel there needed to be more explanation for Stukov here. It's a similar feeling I had with H4, where even if I know the background material that the casual fan might miss, I feel miffed when it's not fully laid out for the sake of character development. Still, he's probably one of my favourite characters in the campaign. He's a good mix of his 'zerg self,' his human self, and his 'Stukov self.' I also like the UED/Earth mentions, which was a hope of mine. Stukov is a character that can give us insight into the UED without actually having to bring them back. Overall, I welcome his return.

    Abathur and Izsha: I'll deal with these two later. Trust me, it isn't pretty...

    Protoss Characters

    Zeratul: Did Zeratul go to "the beginning" (Zerus) twice? When did he come into contact with the xel'naga? Is he really going to be the protagonist of LotV, because at this point, I feel we've missed out on two much of what happened between the end of the DTS and his SC2 appearences. I will say though that his characterization didn't bother me, but then, it didn't bother me in WoL either. In WoL, he's just got a prophecy, has to ensure that Raynor believes what he believes without beating him over the head with it. With Kerrigan, it's more along the lines of "yeah, I don't have time for this Kerry, just do your thing, and I don't care what you believe." He's different, but it's a difference I didn't mind too much.

    And the Rest

    Izsha, Abathur, Lassara. The three most disapointing characters in the game.

    Now don't get me wrong. I'll establish this quickly. They're not bad characters. Abathur is likeable, as in, he's similar to Zagara, the twisted, sociopath that you can't help but root for. Izsha? She's okay. I really like her voice acting how it's very different from the other zerg characters. She's a 'soft zerg' character, but still retains their essence. Lassara? Meh. Nothing more to say.

    Yet compared to what they originally were...what were the writers thinking? Abathur was hinted to have ulterior motives. He was created by the Overmind...maybe he was still loyal to the Overmind. Maybe the primal zerg incoropration would break the 'purity of the Swarm.' Maybe...maybe...nope. Nothing. Wasted opportunity IMO.

    Izsha...I admit, when I first found out she used to be Amanda Haley, I was iffy. It felt like continuity for continuity's sake. Yet I came to see the potential. Kerrigan, faced with the living example of one of her cruelest, most unnecessary acts. How would she feel? How would Izsha feel? Does she prefer being zerg? Would old ghosts be confronted? Would...would...wow. I was intrigued. This seemed like a great idea. It...never appeared in the bloody game! Heck, I don't even know if they are the same character anymore, because there's not a trace of it I can find. Just...wow. Just wow. I don't know whose decision it was to not explore this story, but Jesus Christ, this better be asked at BlizzCon 2013, because in all honesty, this was one of the biggest blunders ever made.

    And Lassara...god, where to begin? Her original conception was great. A protoss prisoner who remains defiant against Kerrigan. Kept on the leviathan, the two coming to respect each other. Kerrigan, remembering her past actions through Lassara. Lassara, realizing that Kerrigan (and presumably female terrans as a whole) isn't the monster she once was. This...this was a great idea, I thought. Heck, maybe Lassara could be in LotV too. Something to bridge the games, considering how little we've seen of the Daelaam. It...it...

    Nope. We can't have any of that. Lassara's killed off, and the Daelaam Ark will be bridging the games, thank you very much. I...I...why? Just, why? Why do this? I honestly have no idea apart from the notion that a protoss character surrounded by zerg would be out of place. Well, whoever came up with that notion can rethink his/her ideas thank you very much.

    Gah!

    Other Thoughts

    -I'm not sure how I feel about how HotS portrays the context of the war as opposed to WoL. WoL constantly reminded the player there was a war on, yet HotS does it through Kerrigan's regular "brood mother x, assault planet y." It feels a bit reminiscent of SC1 - there's allusions to the zerg overruning the sector, but we don't see it outside the planets we're actually on. Less show, but more distance, kind of like "I'm the leader of the Swarm, you terrans are below me," akin to the Overmind of SC1 or WoL-Kerrigan. Overall, I'd say it works...at the least, it fits HotS better than having an infested flatscreen or something.

    -There's something about HotS that's very SC1 IMO, namely in regards to the terrans again. WoL kind of hand a running theme of humanity coming into its own at times, namely when Raynor defies Selendis (either fighting her or telling her to stay out of it while he handles things), and the Char missions as a whole. HotS takes those themes, does a 180, and reminds us that the K-sector is a really grim place to live and humanity will always be at the bottom of the totem pole (at least of the 'big three'). It's...I dunno. Appropriate, I guess. At the least, it remains a zerg campaign in this sense.

    -And yet what HotS doesn't have that WoL did was that...epic, feel. This is kind of like point 1, how certain actions feel removed from the context of the player. It's again SC1-esque. I wouldn't call this a bad thing, but it did make it harder to get into HotS than WoL.

    Final Thoughts

    Storywise, I'd still call HotS "good." There's a lot to like in its story. Yet unfortunately, there's a lot to dislike as well, and what makes it worse is that it was so easy to get around. The primal zerg and Zerus? Those were good ideas in principle, but there was no need to write them as retcons when they didn't have to be. And the characters above...there was so much potential. It just...why? I have no idea why the original concepts weren't followed through. It's just...I'm sorry, but that's the biggest disapointment for me.

    But still, HotS is good overall, IMO. In all honesty, I consider WoL superior. The two are similar in quite a few regards, ranging from their structure to their themes, but what sets WoL above HotS for me primarily is the characters and overall feel. WoL feels more like an epic, while HotS feels small. And considering the different sizes of Raynor and Kerrigan's forces, you'd think it would kind of be the other way round. But again, HotS does feel zergy, and SC1 reminiscent, so if that was the intention, it was pulled off well.

    And Legacy of the Void? I agree, it does feel a bit disjointed from other events. The Daelaam Ark will almost certainly pop up, but still...well, anyway. Enjoyed the ride at the end of the day. Hopefully I can enjoy the final stop too.
    Last edited by Hawki; 03-15-2013 at 09:30 PM.

  5. #5
    TheEconomist's Avatar Lord of Economics
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    Default Re: Gradius's HoTS Story Review

    Ahhh finally, the thing I've been looking most forward to about HotS other than the game itself, the review. I'm hoping that Blizzard will read this and take note. Not because I think they'll change, but, hey, someone might as well get my criticism across for me.

    And Legacy of the Void? I agree, it does feel a bit disjointed from other events.
    I certainly hope so. StarCraft 2, so far, is as if Blizzard took all of the varying plot lines and concepts that I couldn't care less about built entire campaigns around them, while miniaturizing all the story threads I did care about to one line dialogue hints. I'm a fan of big concept sci fi, and StarCraft has always hinted at this in its back story and progress towards the continuation of the Xel'Naga arch. Yet, all I get are a few hints here and there as if to say, yeah, we'll get to this some day, when all this other bullshit is out of way. You want to know about this great destructive God that has woven this complex and ancient plan for one single purpose? Meh. What we've got here for you is a love story and some cartoon villains for you to laugh at. You remember Duran? That guy you waited decades to get revenge on? Yeah. He's there. Although you probably wouldn't know it. But, he's incompetent now and you'll take him down easily, in one mission and then he's gone. It's DBZ style so its alright. Trollololol.

    ---

    Legacy of the Void won't do a thing to change this, because any successes the protoss will have there are, again, attributable to Blizzard's juvenile "you only win because you're the player" philosophy.
    This is spot on. One of the biggest losses in StarCraft 2 was there's no real feeling of conflict, with losses and wins. You would work hard in the campaign, and sometimes it would work out for you some times not. The first Terran campaign is a nice example. You do the nice thing but are cast out and out manuevered by an intelligent Mengsk. You worked hard in the Protoss campaign but still ultimately lost Auir. You worked hard in the Zerg campaign but lost Cerebrates. The Overmind took his opponent seriously (at the time the Protoss) and created Kerrigan. In the UED campaign, Kerrigan outsmarts DuGalle and you lost Alexei (although ultimately meaningless). Even in the final Zerg campaign, you work hard only to find that it is a hollow victory because there's an even greater threat hinted in the ending, yet it will probably be close to 20 years or more before we get a serious continuation of this hint.

    Nothing in StarCraft 2 is even close to that. SC2's idea of a challenge is making Kerrigan wait patiently for that Terran capital world to be overrun automatically.

    Abathur still feels like the only true zerg character in this game
    Izsha really bothered me. She seemed to serve no purpose other than to have Kerrigan debate herself on morality. Why would she have to do that with another Zerg, especially with a Zerg with such a soft voice as Izsha's?
    Last edited by TheEconomist; 03-15-2013 at 10:50 PM.



    Rest In Peace, Old Friend.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Gradius's HoTS Story Review

    I just wanna say this. HOTS as a story is part good and part bad much like its protagonist/antagonist. I remember watching conscience (which I would easily put up their with any broodwar scene) and thinking "Wow she really is evil...and noble". This was exactly the type of complexity I had been waiting for in her character.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Gradius's HoTS Story Review

    Heh, I agree with most of your points, but instead I feel this makes HotS less interesting than WoL. Then again, this is because WoL exists and HotS is just retreading old ground. Taken independently HotS is probably superior, but it can't be taken independently.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gradius View Post
    Legacy of the Void won't do a thing to change this, because any successes the protoss will have there are, again, attributable to Blizzard's juvenile "you only win because you're the player" philosophy.
    You are more optimistic than I. I'm sorry for mentioning that abomination, but the Prophecy arc from Wings of Liberty had you playing as the Protoss and it was the most astonishing parade of defeat I could have conceived.

    Mission 1: Run away from Kerrigan while brave Protoss warriors sacrifice themselves to give you a chance of escaping alive!
    Mission 2: This is a Hybrid. It has somehow corrupted this entire Protoss settlement, and you must now hack your way through your brethren in order to kill it. The Hybrid itself is not important, incidentally, there are thousands like it coming. Just in case you thought you'd achieved something.
    Mission 3: This is Aiur, the most sacred icon of Protoss culture, the homeworld of your species. You have been forced to run away from it and it now lies broken and infested, the Overmind ruling over it even in death.
    Mission 4: Witness the extinction of the Protoss species.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gradius View Post
    What I don't appreciate is the fact that invading Korhal was an obstacle of such unimaginable difficulty that it had to take 3 missions and even then Kerrigan wasn't sure she would survive. She wiped Mengsk out in Brood War in a weakened state with minimum effort, and the Koprulu terrans have never ever been close to being an actual legitimate challenge to the swarm.
    Okay, so while this is not actually false, this is definitely a problem of Brood War, not of Heart of the Swarm (or Wings of Liberty's invasion of Char, for that matter). If you take the original StarCraft, you'll recall that with the entire Zerg Swarm on Char, Mengsk sent Duke's Alpha Squadron to retrieve Kerrigan. This was a strike force to a Fringe World, and it was still treated as a significant threat. Hell, after you force them to retreat, Daggoth himself decides that this requires his intervention. Daggoth and the Tiamat Brood! Which then leaves you vulnerable to Raynor's Raiders until Kerrigan hatches. During the Terran campaign, the Confederacy explicitly avoids confronting the Zerg, meaning there was never an actual confrontation between the two until Tarsonis. And during the invasion of Tarsonis, Tassadar thought he could engage the Zerg directly. In the invasion of Aiur, Aldaris claims that the Protoss could overcome the entire Swarm with the might and the fury that is their heritage. He's wrong, of course, but by the power levels of Brood War, he'd have been laughed off the planet. And of course, before Brood War, the Protoss, while broken, had actually won the battle for Aiur and were looking to rebuild. The power levels for the three races back then was far closer, especially after the Zerg and Protoss nearly wiped each other out on Aiur while Arcturus Mengsk consolidated humanity behind him.

    Then Brood War comes along and just goes 'nope, the Protoss are on the verge of extinction, the Terrans got overthrown within days of an alien fleet showing up (UED counts as aliens) and the Zerg being leaderless just means they can roll over everyone everywhere at the same time, rather than being focused.

    The desanctification of the Zerg in StarCraft II was desperately needed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawki View Post
    WoL feels more like an epic, while HotS feels small. And considering the different sizes of Raynor and Kerrigan's forces, you'd think it would kind of be the other way round.
    I'd guess it's because while Raynor's story was about love and betrayal, it was also about taking down the most powerful force in the known universe with nothing but a rag-tag group of heroes (and half the Dominion fleet :P), and that is ballsy. Heart of the Swarm was basically about a woman suddenly coming into power and deciding to get revenge on someone who tormented her when she was weak. It's pretty petty, actually.
    Zeratul: I have journeyed through the darkness between the most distant stars. I have beheld the births of negative-suns and borne witness to the entropy of entire realities...
    Aldaris: Did not! That doesn't even make sense!
    Zeratul: Shut up, I totally did!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Gradius's HoTS Story Review

    While I enjoyed playing Heart of the Swarm, the story-telling is fun, but the story itself is just silly.

    Others have made great points, which I feel no need to re-tell, so I'll just make my one:

    Fucking Metzen.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Gradius's HoTS Story Review

    Thank you Gradius! Another spot on review.

    Blizzard has told us that they were building an internal database of lore in order to avoid such inconsistencies. Unfortunately, Blizzard, you don't need a lore database, what you need is for the guys in charge of the story to actually earn their salary and give two craps about continuity and realism. How many writers are under your employ Blizzard? How much do you pay them to think about the story for years on end? I'm not even trying to be a dick here, but why is this a recurring thing? I've heard it said that Warcraft lore has been ruined, and it seems that this is the inevitable fate of the StarCraft franchise as well.
    This sums it up. It takes them years to write a story and this is what we end up with? Terrible terrible management.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Gradius's HoTS Story Review

    I loved phantoms of the void, largely because Stukov's vengeance was PERFECT. Duran destroyed the UED's chances by taking out their assets behind the scenes. Now, Stukov is taking out HIS assets behind the scenes, allowing Kerrigan to beat the crap out of him. In essence, he fell prey to the same tactic he used on alexei and the UED forces led by DuGaulle. Similar to superman the animated series when Bruno Manheim pretended to be a benefactor to toyman's dad before allowing him to take the fall (leading to his death)......before falling to the same trick by darkseid. There's just such a delicious karmic irony to the whole damn thing.

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