Looking back, I realize I'm disappointed with Starcraft 2's story

Posted by BisonHero (6048 posts) -

While I think Starcraft 2's single player is enjoyable, the story felt almost nonexistent to me. I'll give them credit, in that the CHARACTERS felt more cohesive and fleshed out. And yes, the missions actually have some unique objectives to them, instead of "oh hey, you have to level an enormous sprawling enemy base", plus the ways you could upgrade your units were interesting.

Still, the story was lacking. Almost nothing happened. The mission-to-mission dialogue is mostly explaining what the objectives are for the particular mission, but they have no greater context to the story. The only interesting story beats happen at the beginning and the end of the different mission arcs (Introduction mission arc, Colonist mission arc, Specter Tosh mission arc, Expose Mengsk mission arc, Zeratul mission arc, Gather Artifacts mission arc, Endgame mission arc).

Examples:

  • you find some colonists/refugees who want to escape the sudden Zerg attacks. You help them relocate; maybe they're infected, maybe they're not. Over the course of 3 missions, nothing else of lasting importance happens.
  • you find out about Tosh and the existence of Specters. You either kill all of the Specters and Tosh, or you free them and a bunch of political prisoners. Over the course of 3 missions, nothing else of lasting importance happens.
  • you find out there are 5 artifact pieces, and you should get them for some reason. Also Kerrigan wants them (for a reason that is never fully explained). Over the course of 5 missions, nothing else of lasting importance happens.

When I look back on the campaign, some significant plot events happen in sudden bursts, then you kinda just stroll from one planet to another doing busywork until that particular arc concludes and something else slightly interesting happens. The three examples I gave are probably the worst examples of being mostly irrelevant filler, but not a whole lot happens in the rest of the game either.

Starcraft 1 established locations like Mar Sara, Antiga Prime, Tarsonis, Char, Korhal, Aiur, and Shakuras. I guess part of that is Blizzard only having so many tilesets to work with and trying to define a few different planets with how the maps looked, but it was evocative. Starcraft 2 revisited most of those locations, but added pretty much zero new memorable planets, since most new planets are a one-trick pony with no plot significance.

Starcraft 1 had a bunch of characters across all of the races, both allies and enemies, and a fair amount of intrigue, backstabbing, etc. Starcraft 2's new characters are largely more personally important to Raynor, but few of them really seem like major players with any lasting significance, and few do anything surprising. Tychus' betrayal was the most ridiculously obvious thing anytime he and Raynor were in the same room together. General Warfield is the most standard military leader you could possibly write. Valerian Mengsk was the only new character that took an interesting turn, though I do enjoy Tosh's personality.

I just feel like you could summarize the plot progression in a single paragraph: "Raynor finally significantly damages Mengsk's public image and there might be a rebellion or something (Wings of Liberty...I guess?), Terrans attacked Char and now Kerrigan is human, Zeratul discovers a MASSIVE ZERG RETCON and their backstory is basically that of Warcraft's Orcs now". That's about it. Tychus' betrayal subplot was moving, but it came and went and I suspect we will never hear of it again, and I don't think it will change Raynor as a character in any way. It's nothing compared to when Raynor lost Kerrigan to the Zerg, that's for sure.

Comparatively, so much more happened in Starcraft 1. I mostly mean the Terran and Protoss campaigns, where they struggle both with exterior threats and their own internal politics; admittedly, the Zerg campaign is sorely lacking characters, and is pretty much "Protect Kerrigan while she's in a chrysalis, then use Kerrigan to cause trouble for Tassadar and Zeratul on Char, then beat the shit out of Aiur". Regardless, I loved how quickly the plot moved in that game and the expansion, and how so much could change from one mission to the next, and that's sorely missing from Starcraft 2.

#1 Edited by BisonHero (6048 posts) -

While I think Starcraft 2's single player is enjoyable, the story felt almost nonexistent to me. I'll give them credit, in that the CHARACTERS felt more cohesive and fleshed out. And yes, the missions actually have some unique objectives to them, instead of "oh hey, you have to level an enormous sprawling enemy base", plus the ways you could upgrade your units were interesting.

Still, the story was lacking. Almost nothing happened. The mission-to-mission dialogue is mostly explaining what the objectives are for the particular mission, but they have no greater context to the story. The only interesting story beats happen at the beginning and the end of the different mission arcs (Introduction mission arc, Colonist mission arc, Specter Tosh mission arc, Expose Mengsk mission arc, Zeratul mission arc, Gather Artifacts mission arc, Endgame mission arc).

Examples:

  • you find some colonists/refugees who want to escape the sudden Zerg attacks. You help them relocate; maybe they're infected, maybe they're not. Over the course of 3 missions, nothing else of lasting importance happens.
  • you find out about Tosh and the existence of Specters. You either kill all of the Specters and Tosh, or you free them and a bunch of political prisoners. Over the course of 3 missions, nothing else of lasting importance happens.
  • you find out there are 5 artifact pieces, and you should get them for some reason. Also Kerrigan wants them (for a reason that is never fully explained). Over the course of 5 missions, nothing else of lasting importance happens.

When I look back on the campaign, some significant plot events happen in sudden bursts, then you kinda just stroll from one planet to another doing busywork until that particular arc concludes and something else slightly interesting happens. The three examples I gave are probably the worst examples of being mostly irrelevant filler, but not a whole lot happens in the rest of the game either.

Starcraft 1 established locations like Mar Sara, Antiga Prime, Tarsonis, Char, Korhal, Aiur, and Shakuras. I guess part of that is Blizzard only having so many tilesets to work with and trying to define a few different planets with how the maps looked, but it was evocative. Starcraft 2 revisited most of those locations, but added pretty much zero new memorable planets, since most new planets are a one-trick pony with no plot significance.

Starcraft 1 had a bunch of characters across all of the races, both allies and enemies, and a fair amount of intrigue, backstabbing, etc. Starcraft 2's new characters are largely more personally important to Raynor, but few of them really seem like major players with any lasting significance, and few do anything surprising. Tychus' betrayal was the most ridiculously obvious thing anytime he and Raynor were in the same room together. General Warfield is the most standard military leader you could possibly write. Valerian Mengsk was the only new character that took an interesting turn, though I do enjoy Tosh's personality.

I just feel like you could summarize the plot progression in a single paragraph: "Raynor finally significantly damages Mengsk's public image and there might be a rebellion or something (Wings of Liberty...I guess?), Terrans attacked Char and now Kerrigan is human, Zeratul discovers a MASSIVE ZERG RETCON and their backstory is basically that of Warcraft's Orcs now". That's about it. Tychus' betrayal subplot was moving, but it came and went and I suspect we will never hear of it again, and I don't think it will change Raynor as a character in any way. It's nothing compared to when Raynor lost Kerrigan to the Zerg, that's for sure.

Comparatively, so much more happened in Starcraft 1. I mostly mean the Terran and Protoss campaigns, where they struggle both with exterior threats and their own internal politics; admittedly, the Zerg campaign is sorely lacking characters, and is pretty much "Protect Kerrigan while she's in a chrysalis, then use Kerrigan to cause trouble for Tassadar and Zeratul on Char, then beat the shit out of Aiur". Regardless, I loved how quickly the plot moved in that game and the expansion, and how so much could change from one mission to the next, and that's sorely missing from Starcraft 2.

#2 Posted by Grimluck343 (1146 posts) -

I think of all of Blizzard's three major franchises, Starcraft has by far the weakest story.

#3 Posted by potatomash3r (126 posts) -

The story in Starcraft 2 was predictable, boring and juvenile. The only thing I can remember was how stale the dialogue was and how they managed to turn the Terran into a bunch of rednecks.

And the villains, mengsk and kerrigan were toned down a great deal. They seem generic and shallow now.

#4 Posted by Bell_End (1208 posts) -

im sometimes disappointed too.

#5 Posted by Village_Guy (2480 posts) -

I think Blizzard sort of used Wings of Liberty to set up the story of Starcraft 2 more than to tell it.

As for the MASSIVE ZERG RETCON, maybe I remember it incorrectly but I don't think that was such a huge retcon (if you could even call it a retcon at all?) and I don't really see the similarities between the Zergs backstory and the Orcs.

Looking at your three examples, I will agree with the two first, but the third one is of major importance and changes the course of Wings of Liberty and has a large impact on Heart of the Swarm.

And finally I think you're looking at the original Starcraft with a bit of nostalgia-tinted glasses - a lot of the missions didn't have any more bearing on the plot than the missions in Starcraft 2 has. Plus it isn't really fair to compare a full game + an expansion (that contains effectively 6 campaigns shown from 3 different factions perspective) to the base game of a trilogy of expansions with only 1 campaign shown from 1 faction.

@potatomash3r: Oh, and the Terrans was always a bunch of rednecks, it just wasn't as visible in Starcraft as it is in Starcraft 2 (which I blame mostly on technical limitations).

Example:

#6 Posted by Kidavenger (3486 posts) -

I found it disappointing too, but I'm hoping it's just part 1 of a trilogy and that the whole story will be better.

#7 Posted by TheSouthernDandy (3759 posts) -

I was gonna make a joke about it being too late for a petition but I probably shouldn't. I am gonna have to disagree though, SC2 had a great story. SC1 had a lot more happen in a shorter period of time but you're also dealing with 3 separate campaigns in the same amount of missions. It wasn't that it had more story, it was just condensed. That's fine if you prefer that but I like how Blizzard is handling this game a lot more.

#8 Edited by BisonHero (6048 posts) -

@Village_Guy said:

As for the MASSIVE ZERG RETCON, maybe I remember it incorrectly but I don't think that was such a huge retcon (if you could even call it a retcon at all?) and I don't really see the similarities between the Zergs backstory and the Orcs.

Originally, the Zerg were a creation of the Xel'naga that grew too powerful and eventually destroyed their creators (at least according to what I remember of the Starcraft 1 manual). Their race, as a whole, was a pinnacle of evolution, because they could mutate so quickly and gain evolutionary advantages faster (pseudoscience, I know).

Now, they've tried to make the Zerg sympathetic (in the same manner as the Orcs) by saying that their race lacked free will because they were bound to the will of another. In Warcraft 3, you discover that the Orcs aren't just these barbaric hordes, but that they're enslaved to the demon Mannoroth who causes them to have an insatiable bloodlust; the Orcs become tragic, as Grom and Thrall attempt to free their people. In Starcraft 2, you discover that the Zerg aren't just these perfect killing machines acting out their instincts, but that the Overmind is enslaved to evil-shadowy-figure-guy who causes them to try to annihilate every race in the galaxy for some reason; the Overmind becomes a tragic figure, as he creates Kerrigan to free his people.

@Village_Guy said:

Looking at your three examples, I will agree with the two first, but the third one is of major importance and changes the course of Wings of Liberty and has a large impact on Heart of the Swarm.

My third example, the Gather Artifacts mission arc, doesn't really change much. "It turns out Valerian is the guy who wants you to gather the artifacts so you can deal with Kerrigan" is the only important piece of information you get out of those 5 missions. I'd argue that the Endgame mission arc, where the artifact is actually used on Kerrigan, is the event of major importance that has a large impact on Heart of the Swarm.

It could've been 5 missions, it could've been 3 missions, it could've been 7 missions. The only part that mattered was that cutscene where Valerian explains his plan. I agree that my nostalgia is probably giving Starcraft 1 a little more credit than it deserves, but Starcraft 2 seems to be entirely divorcing plot progression from any of the actual missions that you play. I miss the days of making new allies during a mission or during the victory dialogue once you win a mission (General Duke, etc.), or of beginning the invasion of Aiur, or of fighting in a Protoss civil war until one side relents so that they can confront the Zerg threat. Raynor's army is so small that none of the missions are representative of any greater conflict, and most are just busywork until the payoff mission that concludes that particular mission arc.

#9 Posted by csl316 (7967 posts) -

I've been saying this since I finished it.

The campaign is expertly designed, gameplay wise. But the story... bah. Kind of felt like a series of side missions, for the most part. Reminded me of Mass Effect 2, which had a bunch of great missions but a weak overall arc. Except ME had awesome character stories, while SC2 had awesome, fun missions.

It may be nostalgia talking, but Starcraft 1 had dozens of world changing events, and Brood War took it even further. You can make the argument that it's just one race here, but wasn't WoL supposed to be as expansive as the original SC1? The narrative of the original games stuck with me, while this was more of... "hey, remember that cool mission with the Odin mech?"

#10 Posted by Ubersmake (754 posts) -
#11 Edited by BisonHero (6048 posts) -

@potatomash3r said:

And the villains, mengsk and kerrigan were toned down a great deal. They seem generic and shallow now.

I agree that Kerrigan felt particularly soulless. She was still sort of snide and sarcastic, but it was very light, and she didn't seem to be...enjoying herself like she did in SC1 and BW. She sounded kind of bored, instead of hilariously arrogant. She was a goddamn master showman in SC1 and BW. And Mengsk was kind of a standard scowling evil leader, but without any direct dialogue between Raynor and Mengsk, we didn't get a chance to hear any of his selfrighteousness, really.

@Ubersmake said:

I don't know if it's just me, but the most interesting mission in SC2 was hidden, and that's a damn shame. I wish that the other missions in the game had as much exposition and dread as http://starcraft.wikia.com/wiki/Piercing_the_Shroud.

I agree about that mission actually being interesting in a way most of the missions are not. Though I was a little disappointed that the big secret thing is pretty much exactly the same as the big secret thing in BW's secret mission. Yeah, we get it, Protoss-Zerg hybrid.

#12 Posted by Ares42 (2555 posts) -

I remember talking about this when it came out. It's an issue with the new trend of side-missions that has popped up since WoW. For developers it's an easy way of filling your game with context, but in the end the story suffers badly. Never been a fan of it, and it has ruined plenty of good games with great potential the last few years. Side-missions work fine for games where the story isn't the focus of the campaign, but when it infiltrates (and in some cases even take over) story-driven campaigns it's just terrible.

#13 Posted by csl316 (7967 posts) -

At Blizzcon, Chris Metzen mentioned that in the end, despite the war and all that... it's all about this couple.

And my reaction was... the fuck are you talking about? Their relationship in the first wasn't the focus of the game. The betrayal and resurrection stuff was awesome, but it was just a small part of a busy, busy story. They've both done so much since those early Terran missions and Raynor knows there's a lot more at stake than getting Kerrigan back. I am curious to see what happens to her now, but I'll admit that my expectations are a lot lower. Didn't help that the kick ass launch trailer ruined most of the campaign. Kind of like all those Metal Gear Solid 4 trailers.

I may sound overly negative, but I really give a shit about the story. It's what made me a SC fan to begin with. The multiplayer is cool and all, but hell... I've read their books!

#14 Posted by Tim_the_Corsair (3065 posts) -

I feel that Blizzard consistently fail to address whether this is, in fact, Jimmy

#15 Posted by BisonHero (6048 posts) -

@csl316 said:

They've both done so much since those early Terran missions and Raynor knows there's a lot more at stake than getting Kerrigan back.

The sad part is, as of SC2's campaign, it seems like Raynor doesn't know that there's anything other than Kerrigan at stake. It has suddenly become his driving focus, and ruining Mengsk's public image is this little footnote on his quest to gather a bunch of artifacts because Tychus said it was a good idea.

SC1 & BW Raynor was cool because he was the one human actually concerned about like, the fate of the galaxy in face of the crazy Zerg swarm, whereas Mengsk was pretty much "well, I conquered the Terran Confederacy and turned it into the Terran Dominion, so peace out, I'm happy ruling my sad little kingdom", which is pretty much still his position.

#16 Posted by crazyleaves (636 posts) -

You duders obviously know way more than me about Starcraft lore and I played through all of the first and all but the last few missions in 2.

It's a sequel in three parts, give it time. It's still a great game anyway. Hopefully they can throw some more twists in the second and third parts.

#17 Posted by BisonHero (6048 posts) -

@crazyleaves: I know we're pretty down on Starcraft 2, but as recently as Warcraft 3 and its expansion, Blizzard showed that they can make a reasonably interesting RTS campaign with lots of twists and turns, with locations that actually matter to the fiction instead of one-off fluff missions. Any of the 4 campaigns in Warcraft 3 contain more plot advancement and significant change than the entirety of Starcraft 2.

#18 Posted by crazyleaves (636 posts) -
@BisonHero I understand. You said it yourself though, 4 campaigns. I have hope that this will be as good if not better.

This thread is forcing me to finish SC2 even though I wanted to wait for HotS.
#19 Posted by DystopiaX (5291 posts) -

@Grimluck343: I thought BW's story was one of the best in Blizz games, but SCIIs was lackluster.

#20 Posted by csl316 (7967 posts) -

@BisonHero: And after the death of Fenix, I'm pretty sure he was dead set on making Kerrigan dead.

And good point with WCIII and how cool the whole saga was. Each of the campaigns had some kick ass stuff going on in the core game. If we compare the base game to WoL (the base game of this trilogy), it's already light years ahead.

#21 Posted by BenderUnit22 (1426 posts) -

I dunno, giving the entirety of Starcraft 1's campaign such as Kerrigan's corruption and the Overmind's death a different meaning is a pretty big deal.

#22 Posted by Pobearo (108 posts) -

Honestly they could have not even included a campaign mode and I would not have cared that much. Starcraft for me is all about multiplayer, I really don't care that much about any of the characters or the plot, it's just a nice bonus.

#23 Posted by Slag (3911 posts) -

completely agree.

While I liked the structure and play better in starcraft 2, the whole actual story was like a bad fanfic. Zerg retcon, obvious traitors is obvious, everything about Kerrigan (new voice actress, bad dialogue, story arc), and a directionless plot.

I love starcraft 2 but man the story was not up to blizzard standards at all.

#24 Edited by Jeust (10450 posts) -

A pity, but apparently the trilogy ended up watering the game for increased revenue.

#25 Posted by TheMasterDS (2008 posts) -

Just the other day I was thinking about how awesome Starcraft II's narrative was and I have to disagree. I really enjoyed the narrative of SCII on just about every level. I love the cinematics and how they flesh out the characters so effectively in so many ways. I love how the missions feel and how they always have something new up their sleeve, I love how things play out and how they end. I love the many great character moments in what is, on its surface, a rather simple story. 
 
Rebel deals with guilt, must face the person he let down on the field of battle. After a fashion is warned not to by alien with a prophesy, learns he might not have to kill her. Uniting with long time foes he mounts a campaign to save her only to be betrayed by his friend who knew all along that he could not abide by a rescue. 
 
Relatively simple premise, really well executed since you get to see Raynor drink himself to death. You get to see Tychus anticipate his killing of the Queen of Blades, knowing he's sworn to that purpose. There's so many great moments two which demonstrate relationships between characters. Take the introduction of Tychus where Raynor reaches slowly for his gun until he realizes it's Tychus. Or the moment where Horner catches Raynor's drink after a nightmare, puts it back on the table and holds it down when Raynor reaches for it. What of the conversations you have with Tychus where he's trying to downplay the Artifact since if it does work he'll have to kill Kerrigan in cold blood? 
 
Those moments may be telling a simple story, however it's a rich one in which all of the characters feel right and act just right and is very engaging because of it.

#26 Edited by Zekhariah (697 posts) -

A lot of the plot points in Starcraft II end up feeling a bit contrived, and the story has very little personal punch..... But its still a top-down RTS game. The ability to telegraph a story within a game that is mechanically built for 1 vs. 1 multi-player kind of makes what they were able to show impressive. And the whole story was kept small enough that it did not trip over itself and require a huge wall-of-text exposition before each level.

Maybe RTS games could tell the story better if it made up more than "get to location x and kill stuff" or "protect the convey" style variants. But when you start to introduce items like in-mission dialogue and and reading new data found during missions the flow of the RTS side is substantially interrupted, and you start talking more of a tactical action RPG. It seems like its an issue that would make the game worse if it were addressed; maybe someone will kickstart something to fix the genre though :D>.

But SCII is probably the best modern RTS story available (somewhat due to lack of competition.....).

#27 Posted by Bwast (1342 posts) -

I think all of Blizzard's games have terrible, cliche stories filled with some of the corniest dialog in the business. Hero gets corrupted by evil in every single franchise. SC - Kerrigan. WC - Arthas. Diablo -Hero from D1 gets possessed by Diablo. It's a good thing their games are fun as shit, their stories always bore me to tears.

#28 Posted by Tarsier (1056 posts) -

it was retarded, any one can see that. . from the first mission on it reeks of holly wood cliche bowl shit the same way the halo games do. they even used the transformers guy as the dark templar voice.

#29 Posted by OhdK2 (48 posts) -

I agree with OP. Seeing how Diablo II's story was also weak (if better than SCII), I think what's going on is that Blizzard is using these games to introduce their franchises to a new audience, rather than catering to the old fanbase. It's weird to think this, but Diablo II and Starcraft are over 10 years old now. Also their focus was far more on multiplayer this time around.

I'm fairly sure that corporate restructuring and general shuffling of talent (Blizzard North has vanished, remember) has a lot to do with this creative watering-down as well.

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