Replaying STARCRAFT II: WINGS OF LIBERTY - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Alexander Wallace boards the Hyperion and prepares for battle.
“Hell, it’s about time.”
These words were said ingame by Tychus Findlay, the marine who never leaves his suit. He is tasked by Arcturus Mengsk to kill the two people that the emperor hates the most: Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan. After his long imprisonment, he wants to taste blood again.

In some ways, that was me coming back to Starcraft II. Sometimes you just crave that feeling of being a great general, an Alexander (I know, I know) or a Caesar or an Eisenhower; that’s what strategy games run on in their purest sense. I had already, finally, finished a playthrough of the original Starcraft in the summer of 2019, and here I was revisiting a favorite strategy game of my middle and high school years.

This article is the first of a series of four talking about the single player campaigns of Starcraft II; I play these games for the story first and foremost, with the occasional foray into weird custom modes. This is therefore a critique and retrospective on Wings of Liberty, the first of the four campaigns; I simply find online competitive play to be so anxiety-inducing that I no longer do it (and I never did it much to begin with).
The story begins on Mar Sara, much as the original game did, with Jim Raynor leading an attack on Dominion forces on that world. He is approached by his old friend Tychus Findlay (their relationship is expounded upon in William C. Dietz’s novel Heaven’s Devils, which may be the best Starcraft novel I’ve read, and there is some stiff competition in that running), who has a contract with the Moebius Foundation to assemble a certain artifact. It is that plot that serves as the spine for the story of Wings of Liberty, albeit one that is never quite as entertaining as the other strands.

These strands, to their credit, are fantastic. You deal with criminals and runaway colonists and Protoss factions. You fight on a lava world with rich minerals and break convicts out of prison. You lead a charge on an imperial capital with a gigantic robot, leaving destruction in your wake. All of these plots are connected through the Hyperion, Raynor’s rebel battlecruiser, raising hell within and without Dominion space. In a way, it is a very useful narrative conceit; it allows this sort of rebel faction to interact with all sorts of people, human and nonhuman, sneaking under the auspices of ‘legitimate’ authority (which in this case are mass murderers that Raynor himself had helped put into power).
This game’s story interacts with that of the original Starcraft well without having it overwhelm the main plot. Even without playing the original game (including Brood War), you get a sense of the relationship between your main character Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan, his enemy and the object of his greatest desires and his greatest hopes. Likewise, the relationship between Jim and Zeratul, the Dark Templar, is comprehensible. However, both are enhanced by knowing the events of the original, giving certain scenes more depth. Most of the actual side plots don’t require much background knowledge, but there is one where you return to the blasted wasteland of Tarsonis, a wasteland you made if you played the original, and it kicks off a sequence of events based around the most chilling lines of the original game:
“I will not be stopped. Not by you, or the Protoss, or anybody. I will rule this sector or see it burned to ashes around me.”
The main plot of the game is, strangely, about redeeming the villain when she only shows up so much. Zeratul reveals that she is a messiah, the only one who can save the universe from being plunged into utter darkness (the section of the campaign played as Zeratul and not as Raynor is one of its high points). Jim Raynor must redeem someone who has no desire to be redeemed; she seeks only to destroy the man who betrayed her. The end result is something of an odd character dynamic between Jim and Sarah, one that nevertheless receives a satisfying conclusion.
Wings of Liberty is a good followup to the ashes of the Koprulu Sector that Brood War left in its wake, and a good beginning to a new saga. For something in its position, it fulfills that task admirably. It is a strong start to Starcraft II, one that set up a much bigger odyssey. The crew of the Hyperion brought us the beginning, and it is up to the Queen of Blades to continue it.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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