Game Review: Starcraft II Campaign

Personal Opinion (Contains Spoilers)

It seems that nowadays the gaming industry no longer believes in a needing a story. Could the gaming community honestly have had their imagination deteriorate to the point that utter garbage such as this could suffice? The story for SCII was written in broken-up chunks that the writers perhaps thought were cool but unfortunately, in storytelling, just having puzzle pieces isn't enough; you actually have to make something out of it.

Decisions have no consequences, none whatsoever. The only decision that had a consequence they didn't even let you make.

Let's break this sentence down:

Dr. Hanson and the Jamaican Spectre both provided the SCII single-player campaign with subplots, aka side quests, to follow when the player was pissed off at the terrible and disjointed main storyline.

For Dr. Hanson's side quest line, at the end you had to choose either fighting the Protoss to let the good doctor finish her infestation project and in turn save herself (she's infested, too) or agree with the Protoss and purge Haven. The mission will take the same amount of time and effort regardless of the decision you make - however, Dr. Hanson will die if you purge Haven because she locked herself in the lab and went all infested up in there. Conversely, if you don't purge Haven, she cures herself and the colonists (of a Zerg infestation, mind you) and somehow turned into a love interest literally out of the blue, asking you to stay with her forever on Haven (lol?).

Maybe none of the writers for SCII have experienced love before, or maybe they just don't care any more, because if either was false, they would've immediately taken a hammer to the latter ending and then to the skull that housed it.

In psychology, affection is measured with key moments of interaction, which is not difficult to emulate in a game; that's why Japan has been doing it for decades. The "moments" you've had with Ariel (the doctor) were no more than idle chatter, reminiscent of awkward staring at the photocopying machine.

I digress.

Now, I've only played SCI, SCI BW, and now SCII, so maybe I missed out on the title where Zerg infestations aren't a big deal, because Dr. Hanson here just CURED it and nobody cares. If anything, the Protoss should be running around screaming, “An Taro Hanson,” or something. Seriously, it's like discovering silver while fighting werewolves. You would assume the slightest amount of repercussion could be felt later down the line for the story...and yet how terribly wrong you would be.

For the less amazing alternative, you've purged Haven and honoured your Protoss buddy, the Executor of a Protoss carrier fleet. A nice turn of events later would have been that maybe she came to help you out with something, or maybe even gave you a unit or mercenary option. Nope, stuff like that is only reserved for good games.

The Spectre side quest line wasn't nearly as dramatic; you're faced with the decision of either busting out all the prisoners (including all the spectres) or turning your gun on your Jamaican Spectre buddy because a pretty Ghost lady told you to.

The outcomes of the decision are basically you either train Spectres from now on or Ghosts; now, throughout the entire story, they'd made Spectres out to be the ultimate rapists, the fanatical and psychotic upgrade of a Ghost, stronger in every way. However, as it turns out (or rather, as I found out) Spectres are pretty much a reskin of Ghosts and perform about the same.

In the case that you took him out because the pretty Ghost lady told you to, he'll no longer be onboard the ship (duh, cuz you took him out), and therefore will not be able to constantly tell you about Jim's best buddy's secret plot to take out Kerrigan.

Now, here's the part that sucks: having been warned repeatedly by the Spectre or not makes zero difference in the end, where you still put a bullet in Tychus' (Jim's buddy) head in the same way. In fact, they were so lazy with the Specter's plot that during the second last mission, where Jim took his Super Squad with him (and this included the mechanic and the scientist), the Spectre wasn't even mentioned.

So what's the difference between choosing Spectre or Ghost? That's right, none whatsoever.

Okay, onto the second part of the sentence, where "the only decision with a real consequence they didn't even let you make". Throughout the campaign, one thing was made clear: Kerrigan was the key to stopping the coming storm. Why? Because the Overmind's vision said so. (Yeah, there was no explanation; it was literally just, "She was the only thing that could hinder me and you took her out. Har di har har.")

Now, this is the way I see it: the Hybrids (Protoss and Zerg) can commandeer the Zerg in the vicinity to work for them. The Overmind was programmed by the Xel'Naga to attack the Protoss relentlessly, but the Overmind pulled a fast one over his programming and created Kerrigan, and then purposely went to Auir to die, thus granting Kerrigan free will. With this freedom, Kerrigan can openly oppose the Xel'Naga if they come back to commandeer the Zerg, and ergo become the hindrance prophesized.

In the end, after acquiring the artefact, knowing that somehow (unexplained yet again) he (Raynor) can use the areifact to return Kerrigan back to human and also knowing that Kerrigan desperately wanted the artefact, his real decision should be this: use the artefact on Kerrigan to return her to human (repercussions unknown) or give the artefact to Kerrigan (she's reasonable, kind of, and clearly still has a thing for Jim. She also likely knows more about the artefact than anyone else).

The problem with allowing the player to make this decision, however, is that, you see, Starcraft is a cash cow. Blizzard can't rely on WoW forever, so Starcraft needs to come out with a few more expansions and an SCIII. That, ultimately, is why the only real decision in SCII can't be left up to the players; it would make coming out with another sequel kind of confusing. God forbid they can be ingenious and come up with a storyline like Mass Effect 2.

I would have forgiven this lack, except for the fact that the writers decided make it look like the ultimate decision was whether or not to take out Kerrigan. After spending the entire game and the whole Protoss sub-campaign emphasizing the outcome if Kerrigan were to die (all existence would get snuffed out), they turn around and do this. There's more consistency in a children's picture book.

Now that we are speaking of inconsistencies and painfully contrived events, comparing SCI's storyline to SCII is like comparing Romance of the Three Kingdoms to a piece of plastic.

To start with, some genius decided Raynor's personality wasn't badass enough, so he needed to change his entire past.

The Raynor we know is the Marshal of a backwater colony who encountered a Zerg infestation during the two species' first meeting. He was branded a criminal for purging the infestation when Mengsk (Leader of the Sons of Korhal Revolutionary Group at the time) took him in. There, he met Kerrigan, and he fell in love with her. Due to Mengsk’s betrayal, Kerrigan was left to die on Tarsonis as it was engulfed by the Zerg swarm, and Raynor could only watch helplessly. From then on Raynor, felt responsible for the destruction caused by the Queen of Blades, his former lover, and joined the Protoss in the fight against them. Furthermore, he still remembered the debt of blood he owes Mengsk, which he’ll one day repay.

In my opinion, that's a pretty decent background story, with plenty to take advantage from. But apparently, it wasn't enough for the writers; they wanted him to be more like John Marston (see Red Dead Redemption). Raynor needed another past, one before all the events of SCI; he needed to be a criminal, an outlaw. Why? It was all to introduce Tychus, Jim's best buddy from the past, released from prison to do the bidding of some research group secretly owned by Mengsk's son.

The events of SCII could have easily unfolded without the help of Tychus, who in the end didn't really serve much purpose except to get shot in the face when he pulled the gun on Kerrigan. (There ain't no bro before this ho. lolz) This is ironic because Raynor went up against the entire crew to keep Tychus onboard, but when put up against Kerrigan, he meant nothing.

It wasn't enough to give Raynor a new past and not make use of it; Raynor's personality also took a bullet. Raynor learned the art of PMS, from I guess the lack of estrogen in his current life, and started getting drunk and yelling at people who questioned him.

The rest of the cast had next to no personality. They were all simply generic archetypical response schemes based on a one-sentence character description that may or may not have existed.

Character development was, simply put, nonexistent.

What the hell was that artefact? Even at the end, it was never explained. All we knew was that if you pulse it normally, it pops every Zerg in a square click - however, after it's fully charged, it'll change Kerrigan back to normal...after she has evolved beyond imagination. Now know this: Zergs evolve by constantly mutating and attacking itself on a genetic level, so a stronger mutation will take over until an even stronger mutation overtakes that; it's the epitome of natural selection. A single Zerg organism can evolve faster in a few days than the human race can in hundreds of millions of years. So like, if the Dominion scientists have mastered the artefact to the point that it can de-evolve Kerrigan back into human form, then why the hell are they even afraid of the Zerg? They can reverse engineer anything, or maybe reconstruct the derelict Xel'Naga shipwreck they've got the last fragment on. It's because they didn't explain the artefact at all that such assumptions are possible. The writers' laziness and lack of commitment to their work caused these horrible and easily routed plotholes and inconsistencies.

If the game only kept key points without dallying on side quests that had no consequences worth knowing, the entire game (26 missions) would only amount to seven or eight missions. If they followed the same consistent story telling that SCI had, this game would have less than five missions.

The entire purpose of SCII was to watch Raynor do everyone else's bidding, play his part like a tool and find no answers, and then ultimately, returning Kerrigan back to human, method unknown, purpose unknown; this entire game was one big question mark. Not a single question was answered, not a single situation was resolved, and more complications were introduced. This isn't storytelling; this is called writer's block.

I'll offer my opinions with a grain of salt, as there is a faint glimmer of possibility that they'll execute the writers that defiled the masterpiece that was SCI, and then hopefully salvage what's left of the title in the next installment of the saga.

Score Breakdown

>Plot Design (8.5 out of 20.0) [42.5%]
Unimaginative, contrived; too many plot holes and inconsistencies; reneged on established backgrounds; character interactions are unrealistic; minimal character development; writers showed a lack of understanding towards SCI and didn't seem to care.

>Narrative (5.0 out of 20.0) [25%]
Narrative seems confused and plot seems to have changed multiple times in the development process, which shows; attempts were made to divert the player's attention from blatantly obvious plotholes, but not enough care was taken in doing so; difficult to sympathize with any of the characters, as they were emotionally and mentally challenged; halfway through the narrative began to rush, so it feels like it ended prematurely.

>Flow (2.0 out of 10.0) [20%]
None existed; side quests had zero impact on storyline; decisions had no future significance to the story and were often times not even mentioned; main character's history became disjoint after being tampered with, were past events and acquaintances possessed no impact; too many things were conveniently ignored or left out, never to be explained.

>Level Design (13.5 out of 15.0) [90%]
Well-crafted levels with interesting global events; a variety of communication chatter to keep the player immersed; detailed triggers sometimes kept the player on edge; some events forced the player to change tactics, or to think on a dime.

>Immersion (10.0 out of 20.0) [50%]
Missions are intricately designed, with no downtimes for the player to lose interest; missions were not generic, so unique events kept the player alert; post-/pre-mission information gathering were routine and dull, and conversations with crew members were mundane and sometimes completely pointless; major game events were mostly overly contrived; the plot did not twist or tighten; game did not incite any emotions such as shock, anger, sorrow or joy; there were no points of tension in the plot, no points of reprieve; characters were difficult to sympathize with.

>Satisfaction (7.0 out of 15.0) [47%]
The "betrayal" cinematic was heart-touching, where reliving powerful moments from SCI in full CG cutscenes brings up tears of nostalgia; there were few events that occurred which players could feel strongly about; the best moments of SCII, such as meeting Zaratul or boarding the Hyperion, seemed only to borrow the emotions of SCI rather than create emotions of their own; there were no emotional attachments to the ending or after major battles.

Total (46.0 out of 100.0)


The campaign is only worth playing for some of its cinematic moments. The campaign missions are on par with some of the better custom maps.

If you're looking for the same experience as SCI, this isn't the place for it. As far as I am concerned, the SCII campaign doesn't exist.

~*+ Rho