Greetings from the Odinson,
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is a strategy computer game set in a sci-fi world. It is a sequel to a computer game that came out in 1998. And it is, simply put, amazing. Starcraft was developed by Blizzard Entertainment, the same company responsible for Diablo and the global phenomenon World of Warcraft. For a moment I will set aside my opinions as a game player. Just speaking as a fan of the sci-fi genre and a lifelong comic book reader and movie consumer, Starcraft II is a perfect source of entertainment. Those that have played the game know exactly what I’m talking about. For those that have never taken up the fight against the alien Protoss or the monstrous Zerg, allow me to paint a picture. Take the best elements of Aliens, Starship Troopers, and Firefly, mash them together in a melting pot, sprinkle in some awesomeness and you get Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.
Starcraft is set in a future where humans have populated far off worlds and fight to survive in a harsh, unforgiving universe. Like the original Star Wars or Alien, the universe of Starcraft looks and feels like it has been lived in. You won’t see the pristine sterile corridors of the Starship Enterprise here. No, here people have dirt under their nails. For years the human race fought a desperate war against the Zerg hordes. The Zerg are alien creatures that infest other biological races in order to grow their numbers. The Zerg are a cross between the Xenomorphs from Aliens and the bugs from Starship Troopers. Their infestation enslaves humans and transforms them into monsters. After a decisive victory the humans won the war and were rid of the Zerg threat forever. Or so they thought.
Years later, the humans, or Terrans as they are called in the game, have separated into two distinct factions. The Dominion, ruled with an iron fist by Emperor Mengsk, and a ragtag army of revolutionists known as Raynor’s Raiders, led by Captain Jim Raynor. Raynor and Mengsk used to be on the same side during the war against the Zerg. But Mengsk gave an order that caused the deaths of millions of lives including Raynor’s friend, the Ghost operative Sarah Kerrigan. Raynor has now made it his mission to reveal to the galaxy just what a villain Mengsk really is, but he needs proof. Enter Tychus Findlay. Tychus is an old war buddy of Raynor’s who took the fall for them both and has been spending time in a maximum security prison. Suddenly he is given his freedom and a mission by a mysterious benefactor and the first thing he does is look up his old pal, Jim Raynor. The tension is great because you are never really sure if Tychus wants revenge on Raynor or his help. Suddenly Zerg infestations start springing up all over the galaxy and the humans are caught completely off guard. This new wave of terror is led by the infamous Queen of Blades (more on her in a bit). Raynor and Tychus are forced to hold off the Zerg attack and survive long enough for Raynor’s starship, the Hyperion, to arrive for retrieval. After a narrow escape, Raynor’s Raiders, with the information provided to Tychus by the mysterious Moebius Foundation, head out on a quest to locate ancient alien relics, pieces of the Xel’Naga artifact, that may somehow put an end to the Zerg threat once and for all.
And all this is just in the first thirty minutes of the game.
Play out the campaign and follow the storyline of Raynor’s Raiders as they make allies, make enemies and set out to stop the Queen of Blades and the Zerg from destroying mankind. The storyline is a mystery that unfolds and sheds the Zerg in a different light and reveals another, maybe even more sinister, threat hiding in the shadows. One of the major appeals about this game for me is the wonderful characters. Other than the names I’ve already mentioned there’s the ill-fated Dr. Ariel Hanson, a biologist and leader of a refugee colony displaced by the invading Zerg. There’s Egon Stetmann, the lab rat of the Hyperion that experiments with the alien samples Raynor’s men bring back from missions. There’s Matt Horner, First Officer of the Hyperion and Raynor’s right hand man. There’s the Queen of Blades herself, whose true identity plays a big part in the mythos of the story. There’s Gabriel Tosh, a Spectre, super human mercenaries/assassins that use cloaking and psychic powers to get the job done. Then there is Nova, a Ghost operative, opposite side of the coin to the Spectre, and Tosh’s sworn enemy. There comes a point in the game when you will have to make a choice to help either Tosh or Nova and your decision will spell doom for one of them. My personal favorite character is General Warfield. This gruff old warhorse has come out of retirement to put an end to the Zerg threat once and for all. He leads the invasion of Char, the Zerg’s homeworld, and even though he fights for the Dominion, in another lifetime, he and Raynor could have been friends.
This brings us to Zeratul. Zeratul is a Protoss dark templar, powerful alien warriors with the ability to teleport over short distances and cloak their presence. Zeratul is a major character in this story, for it is through his adventures that the mystery behind the Zerg invasion is brought to light. Zeratul and Raynor are old allies. As you play out Zeratul’s quest, Raynor witnesses the adventure with visions fed to him by a crystal. It is through these visions that the true horror that will engulf the galaxy should Raynor’s own quest fail is revealed. In this story you learn more about the Protoss. The Protoss is a race of noble alien warriors. They utilize engines of war right out of the pages of War of the Worlds. They are heavily religious and though they bear no ill will toward the terrans, they do not have any qualms about destroying them if they get in their way of eradicating the Zerg threat.
Part of the game’s appeal is that there are many different ways to get enjoyment out of it. There’s the campaign. Then there is the “versus mode.” Here you pick a race (Terran, Zerg, or Protoss) and pit you skills in battle against either the computer or another person playing online. At any given moment there are literally thousands of players from around the world playing Starcraft. There are also side games, many, many side games. You can play a scenario right out of an Aliens movie, or choose a spacecraft and be part of an actual space battle reminiscent of Star Wars. By playing all these different modes of the game you can earn “Achievements,” little badges of honor that can also unlock portraits of your favorite characters.
Each race has its own unique warriors. The Zerg have the super fast but weak zerglings, roaches which spew and bleed acid, the deadly hydralisk, monsters that look like the creatures from Aliens, and the underground barrowing Nydus Worms which can transport these nasty creatures right onto your base. The Protoss have the zealots, bionic warriors with super speed and deadly blades, the stalkers, versatile warriors that can teleport and attack ground and air units, carriers, huge flying ships that house dozens of tiny warships, and all of the Protoss units have personal shields that can absorb and protect them from damage. But when it comes to cool, nothing beats a good old fashioned space marine. The Terran’s space marines, though not the strongest unit in the game, are, because of their cheap cost to make and their versatility, easily one of the most efficient units in the game. And when you couple them with medivacs, dropships that heal biological units, marauders, heavily armored infantry, siege tanks, and Thors, giant armored killing machines with devastating firepower, then the space marines are hard to beat. These are just a few of the units. Each race has many units that can be used in many different and interesting ways to achieve victory.
This game is so wonderful and I’ve been playing it nonstop now since it came out last fall. Within the campaign there is an arcade game called The Lost Viking. In it you pilot a Viking class fighter and blast your way through wave after wave of enemy ships and boss fights. Ten or fifteen years ago The Lost Viking would have been its own game packaged and sold separately to be played by itself. But in something as awesome as Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, it’s simply an arcade game that sits in the corner of the cantina of the Hyperion that the gamer may or may not want to play.
All this and I’ve barely even scratched the surface of the true star of this game – Jim Raynor. As my friend often says, “If they ever make a movie about Starcraft, it will be because of Jim Raynor.” Simply put, he’s awesome. Just think about everything you love about Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the Serenity, and you will find a lot of those same qualities in Jim Raynor. Raynor has been a soldier, a lawman, a freedom fighter, and now he is the universe’s last hope against the evil which threatens to engulf it. He expects the best out of those around him and he gets it. He’s trusting, almost to a fault. He sees the good in others that even they themselves might not see. He’s a flawed man given to drinking and smoking but these vices just make him that much easier to relate to and human. He’ll make the hard decision when he has to. Raynor inspires those under his command and evokes a cult-like loyalty from his crew and men. There are few men in the galaxy as tough as Jim Raynor. He’s the perfect hero for the universe of Starcraft. He’s the hero the universe of Starcraft needs.
If you have played Starcraft, I would love to hear about your thoughts on the game. If you are a gamer and you have not played this game yet, you are missing out on something special. Pick up Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and see for yourself. And when you are finished saving the galaxy in the campaign, look up the Odinson online and challenge him to match. It could be fun.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell