Replaying STARCRAFT II: THE NOVA MISSION PACKS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Alexander Wallace returns to the Starcraft franchise for one final mission.
Your trilogy is over. The great epic has finished, leaving you with a melancholy that the saga has concluded, but also a nagging wonder of “so what’s next?” It’s the way I felt watching The Rise of Skywalker, for example. I also initially thought that when I first finished Legacy of the Void back in late 2015. But Blizzard knew an opportunity to make a bit more money, from me included, and released in three doses the Nova Mission Packs. Taken together, they form a side story in the wide Koprulu Sector following the titular character, one of the Dominion’s Ghosts, a sort of spacebound SAS.

In some ways, this is Blizzard apologizing for how StarCraft: Ghost never materialized. In the abstract, it sounds like it might be a bad idea; to my great satisfaction, I believe these nine missions have perhaps the best storytelling in the entirety of StarCraft II. They accomplish this feat by focusing on a relatively low-scale, contained plot focusing around Nova herself. She wakes up in a facility with no memory of how she got there, or what her goal ought to be beyond ‘escape.’ This is a fairly standard ‘reclaiming your memories’ plot, but it is one done rather well.

There is a benefit here in making the story so compact in that it is a much more cohesive plot than in the three main episodes of the game. There are no huge and jarring plot shifts, like Amon was; each development builds naturally on the last development.
On a deeper subject, the plot of these missions is about what is to be done once a tyrant is overthrown. That tyrant was Arcturus Mengsk, who was deposed in an invasion by the Swarm and by Raynor’s Raiders that was welcomed in by his own son Valerian, the new emperor (it is to be noted that, no matter how you slice it, Valerian came into power via a coup). Every government that comes to power via such shocking ways needs to deal with legitimacy among the people. Legitimacy, as political scientists define it, is how much a political agent can inspire obedience in others.

That drives much of the actions of the Dominion government. Emperor Valerian knows that he gained power through a palace coup aided by those who his father had slandered as an existential threat and as a terrorist organization; looking at it a certain way, it’s hard to say that he was wrong. Much of the people you have to kill are those who do not accept the new order, and pine for the ancien regime.
In terms of its gameplay, it’s still mostly more of the same. If you liked the past three episodes with their missions numbering close to a hundred, you’ll most certainly enjoy these. Perhaps the most creative mission is the first, with a section thereof acting more like a rail shooter than anything else, something not seen before in the StarCraft franchise barring the Lost Viking game in Wings of Liberty. It’s an interesting direction for a real-time strategy game to go; other missions generally play with the combination of the standard base-building, army-managing gameplay and the more restricted squad-based gameplay, both so common in this sort of game.

Ultimately: are the Nova Mission Packs worth buying? I’d say so, if you like what the game has previously delivered. It brings a very down-to-earth (metaphorically speaking; the United Earth Directorate does not show up here) setting back from the early missions of the original StarCraft, and uses it to build on the void left by the final episode (pun unintended, but very much appreciated). If you want more StarCraft, you could do worse than these missions.

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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