There is one major reason to have a story in an RTS game: worldbuilding. An RTS game is compelling because as the player is commanding dozens of soldiers from his god-like view of the battlefield, the premise is that each of these "units" has a personality, a life, and an entire story behind them, as does the tileset upon which these soldiers fight. Therefore, worldbuilding is the key to taking advantage of the storytelling power behind the RTS and sci-fi mediums. The Tychus suit-up cinematic is a great example of this. When the player clicks "build marine" in the UI, he is expected to believe that behind the scenes, that cinematic is what is really happening.

"Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a fictional universe. It describes a key role in the task of a fantasy writer: that of developing an imaginary setting that is coherent and possesses a history, geography, ecology, and so forth."
- Wikipedia

If worldbuilding includes writing character backgrounds, developing settings, and fleshing out history, then what exactly isn't world-building to a sci-fi author? It may seem like a broad definition, but it only goes to show just how important it is for developing a work of fiction. The key word in the definition of worldbuilding however, is coherent. World-building allows the player to immerse himself into a fictional universe, but in order to do so, the world needs to make logical sense and has to be consistent throughout. In order for a player to fully immerse himself into the universe, the characters must all make mostly rational decisions, and the only difference between them should be the method in which they choose to go about achieving their goals.



Worldbuilding is one of the most important tasks of a fiction writer

Wings of Liberty has been stated to be a character-driven story, but as we will see, inattention to world-building can hurt not only plot, but characters as well. The biggest detriment to Wings of Liberty's characters is that only the player is portrayed as a competent individual. Raynor, despite his extremely small force, is able to outsmart almost every other character in the game due to his "resourcefulness". Creating unworthy enemies like this hinders character development because character is best revealed through adversity.

We shall mostly highlight the common criticisms against Wings of Liberty's attempts at world building. However, before we begin, there are some very important points that should be noted:

1) The criticisms offered here are not geek cherrypicking and overanalyzing. These are issues that many customers will consider as they play the game and think about them. Game developers should never assume that what they have written is "good enough" to curb the player's suspension of disbelief so that he will will gloss over a plothole.

2) There is also a clear difference between nitpicking, and critiquing. Critiquing includes things like addressing mischaracterization and logical inconsistencies in the plot itself. Nitpicking for example, would be pointing out that Kerrigan moved from the cavern floor to the top of a cliff in the Prophecy cinematic without any sign. It is a valid nitpick of the cinematic, but ultimately irrelevant because the main idea that Kerrigan fought with Zeratul has been conveyed. Nitpicking also includes touching on things such as the impossiblity of the supernova and lava gimmicks, the impossibility of planets like New Folsom and Redstone, and the fact that three different classes of battlecruiser in Wings of Liberty all use the same exact model. Again, we will stick to the writing itself.

3) Most reviews of the Wings of Liberty story fail to separate story from gameplay and art. The singleplayer mission design was a vast improvement over Brood War's talking heads and "systematically clear the minimap of enemy dots" gameplay, and the countless man-hours of hard work put in by the art team is immediately obvious in the game's beautiful artwork and cinematics. The story however will be discussed separately from these things.

4) Literature is not completely subjective. If literature were totally subjective, then nobody would be able to tell the difference between amateur fanfiction and Shakespeare or other notable works. People would not take classes to learn how to write better and publishers would not have objective criteria that they require their authors to meet. We believe that dismissing all criticisms with "well that's just your opinion" instead of rational discourse would be both dishonest and fallacious.

5) "Wait until the expansions before judging the story" is not a valid reason to withhold criticism. Clearly, if we do that, then nobody's criticism will actually get incorporated. Also, standalone products should be judged as...well, standalone products. This is the risk Blizzard took when they decided to split StarCraft II into a trilogy. A standalone story should never need another story for it to make sense or be any good.

6) There is no such thing as gamer entitlement, or at least, it's not a valid excuse to withhold criticism. Forbes recently released an article that attempted to debunk this myth in relation to Mass Effect 3. To their credit, Blizzard has never discouraged criticism, but has only embraced it. However, some people feel that if there is something negative to say, it shouldn't be said at all. This is simply not true. SCLegacy especially consists of some of Blizzard's most loyal fans. We have been enjoying this game for over a decade, and will never stop loving this franchise or trying to help improve it.



By far the weakest portion of Wings of Liberty, the unfocused plot meanders between random tasks of little interest to the player. First the game sets up Mengsk as the primary enemy. Though an accurate title for the first installment would be "StarCraft II: Find the Artifacts," the title of Wings of Liberty leads the player to believe that he will be rescuing people from the tyranny of Mengsk's rule. This idea is then shelved only one mission into the game as Tychus shows up with the new goal of hunting for artifacts. This then is shelved three missions into the game as the Zerg invade, and the invasion becomes the new top priority. Then this is shelved yet again as the mission branches open up and Raynor is forced to choose between babysitting colonists, hunting various artifacts, making money, and trying to rebel against Mengsk in the midst of a Zerg invasion. It makes sense that Raynor needs to make cash to build up his forces to make a difference, but it also makes for an unfocused plot.

Now, a story should have a certain amount of subplots to be good at worldbuilding and establish the background. We are not saying that Wings of Liberty having subplots is wrong, just that the transition between them is jarring and incongruous. In addition, Wings of Liberty having 90% of the game consist of subplots is overkill. StarCraft vanilla for example did a good job at establishing the background through its cinematics. The campaigns had a main singular plot, and the random cinematics were just left for worldbuilding. Wings of Liberty decided to do the opposite. Have the cinematics be plot-relevant, but the actual campaign not.

Brood War had deus ex machina artifacts as well, but at least in Brood War the motivations were much more interesting than in Wings of Liberty. In Brood War, Kerrigan needed the Xel'Naga temple activated so that she could destroy her former Cerebrate allies in order to gain control of their broods. She was then forced to work with the Protoss (her former enemies), who needed it activated as well in order to save their planet. Wings of Liberty? Well, Raynor just needs some cash.

Wings of Liberty might have been better had it not been told from the perspective of a handful of rebels and their single Battlecruiser. It contrasts sharply with the epic plot points that these rebels are forced to undertake: attacking the homeworld of the Dominion, breaking open the most highly guarded prison in the sector, going up against the Fleet of the Executor, and finally invading Char. Valerian's Dominion fleet might have realistically done any of these things however. One suggestion is to have the Terran campaign told from the perspective of Valerian instead. We could have actually influenced galactic events by fighting back the swarm and participating in Operation Burnout to clear the Sara system, instead of seeing it in ticker text on the news. The player wouldn't have to put up with absurdities such as Raynor destroying disproportionately stronger opponents. We would have gotten a larger view of the sector since we wouldn't have been shoehorned into experiencing the universe from a rebel ship. It would have made sense for the player to know where all the artifacts are, since Valerian owns the Moebius Foundation. And on top of all this we could have still seen Raynor towards the very end during the Char missions. It would have been far more interesting to introduce the run-down Raynor from the enemy's propaganda perspective instead of what we got with the Heir Apparent cinematic.

Ultimately, the biggest detriment to the plot has to be the uninteresting microscopic perspective of events that the writers chose to take. In StarCraft and Brood War, you played with the de-facto leaders for each race. You influenced galactic events, and that is what a game like StarCraft is supposed to be about. There is also absolutely no reason that you can't see how ordinary colonists are suffering under the war just because you choose to take a macroscopic perspective either. We implore the writers to reconsider having Zeratul as the main player-character in Legacy of the Void, and to use Artanis instead. Again, we can still see Zeratul in the Legacy of the Void campaign if the developers so choose, and we already played him in Wings of Liberty's mini-campaign. Hunting crystals, chasing prophecies, and digging up artifacts as the main plot for Legacy of the Void would be a grave disappointment. Yes, there is potential interest in Zeratul "rallying the tribes" and engaging in diplomacy, but again, Artanis is better suited for this task. Zeratul does no such things in the original game.



Wings of Liberty's microscopic view of events stands in contrast to that of the original StarCraft


Character Review

We shall begin by analyzing each character in Wings of Liberty, since it is stated to be a character-driven story.

Jim Raynor

Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia

Throughout the entire game, Raynor shows signs of serious mental instability typical of bipolar disorder. The non-linear structure of the game ensured that Raynor's mood could never have been the same between missions. One moment Raynor is having a heart-felt moment with his crew and sharing drinks with Matt, the next mission he's barking "follow my orders or get off my ship!" Matt also says "I've been cleaning up after you alot lately," of which the player sees absolutely no evidence of beforehand.

Raynor later displays suicidal bouts of schizophrenia when Valerian's ship warps in during Heir Apparent. Outnumbered by technologically superior Dominion battlecruisers, Raynor decides that instead of retreating, it would be a good idea to board the Buccephalus regardless of dangers such as his transport being shot out of the sky before it boards, or the fact that getting to the Emperor on his own flagship could be impossible, or that his actions endanger the rest of his crew. Again, failing to consider what the character would really do in this situation is a failure at world building, which leads to a failure in characterization. This is unacceptable for a character-driven story, and given Raynor's penchant for keeping his special bullet that he's saving for Mengsk inside an antique pistol, Raynor definitely comes off as a latent nutcase.

Tychus's Suit

Upon discovering that his best friend's suit contained a bomb, Raynor ignored this development under the rationale that Tychus knows what he is doing and that he should be given the benefit of the doubt. Obviously, this sounds absurd. Tychus was sent to prison and clearly does not want to be in this position. He needs Raynor's help, but Raynor does not seem to care. Tosh (the mindreader aboard the ship) then proceeds to give Raynor several warnings that Tychus is about to betray him:

"Tread careful, Mr. Raynor. Someone on this ship is already working for Mengsk. I can feel it."

"He's a bad, bad man that Tychus. He got a lot to hide."

"All that jealousy and rage - he's fighting himself over something he don't want to do. You'll see."

At this point it is patently obvious to any rational person that Tychus is about to betray Raynor and that something needs to be done. It seems that the writers were trying to create dramatic irony by revealing that Tychus was working for Mengsk in the opening cinematic, yet Raynor's stubborn dismissal of obvious warnings ruins the entire thing. The player actually wants to do something about it, since it endangers not only Tychus, but Raynor and the rest of his crew, but again, Raynor's schizophrenia takes hold and he ignores these warnings. Instead of helping his best friend, Raynor opted to shoot him in the face at the end of the game instead.

Genocide against Tal'Darim

Raynor is known amongst StarCraft fans as a friend of the Protoss, helping them fight the Overmind and evacuate their people on Aiur. It represents a significant hurdle in the writing process then to create conflict with Protoss in Wings of Liberty. Clearly, clever and tactful worldbuilding is required here to give the player a Protoss enemy in the Terran campaign. The faction created however, the Tal'Darim, is perhaps the worst ever designed. Generic and bland to the highest degree, the Tal'Darim do not even have a character to represent them, apart from a nameless Executor. There is zero story and character development, contributing to the "filler" feel of the Tal'Darim missions.



The Tal'Darim missions had no actual characters as antagonists.

Even worse however, is that Raynor robs and plunders this faction of their religious treasures. Made to look like a scary and fanatical religious sect, the writers assume the player won't mind the genocide of Tal'Darim, who have thus far done no wrong or committed any obvious crime. The message here seems to be that religious fervor is bad no matter what.

Failure to Live Up To Promise in Brood War

Raynor's final words in StarCraft Brood War were the following: "I'll see you dead for this, Kerrigan. For Fenix and all the others who got caught between you and your mad quest for power!"

Raynor spent far more time with Fenix than he did with Kerrigan, and Valerian called Kerrigan the worst mass murderer in history. If anything, Raynor has more reason to be angry at Kerrigan than he does at Mengsk. His promise was obviously serious. So far, the original game's story has been insulted by Raynor forgetting completely about his promise. Raynor is shown pining over Kerrigan's portrait, and talks alot more about Mengsk's crimes than Kerrigan's. Apart from expressing interest in stopping Kerrigan's invasion, there is no indication that Raynor actually wants to kill her.

But mainly this represents a problem because it is a wasted opportunity to create tension. Debating over whether to keep his vow from Brood War or take heed of Zeratul's warning could have actually introduced some conflict into Raynor's character. Instead, Zeratul's warning was completely unnecessary, as it is clear that Raynor would have saved Kerrigan anyway. Clearly, Raynor would not choose revenge over the universe, but any dialog showing that he is conflicted would have improved the story as well as his character.

Prodigy Amongst Prodigies

Jim Raynor is a genius commander who is able to steal a victory at every turn. In the Wings of Liberty universe, the player character (Raynor) is simply a mastermind and everyone else is a notch below him. What this amounts to is a giant ego-trip for the player himself. All these problems are exacerbated by the fact that Raynor's Raiders is apparently a single battlecruiser and its skeleton crew.

Here are their profiles:


Raynor is a prodigy surrounded by prodigies. Hanson was reading chemistry "tomes" at the age of six, which just sounds ridiculous. Kachinsky, having a "knack" for robotics, abandoned his life of wealth to go on and become a prodigy mechanic for the Hyperion. Though Hanson calls Stetmann's science expertise "nonexistent," he still singlehandedly manages to create technologies that even the Dominion doesn't appear to have, all from a shoddy battlecruiser laboratory. Swann is an overall mechanic genius and is able to create a miniature version of the Dominion's newest superweapon in a short period of time.

All of this is childish and unrealistic. It is a failure at worldbuilding and reads more like an amateur fanfiction than an intelligent and interesting story.

Overall Unlikeable Character

The game tries to show that Raynor, despite his flaws, is still a good person. But all these failures in world building combine to create what is essentially an unlikeable character. Raynor has been shown to be mentally deranged, a bad leader, and a bad friend: clearly far from the direction the writers intended to take the character. It also isn't helped that Raynor himself stated in the game that he is more interested in revenge against Mengsk than true justice, and proven to be more interested in saving his girlfriend than the sector itself. These character flaws were meant to enrich Raynor's character, but they still make it somewhat harder to like him.


One of the more entertaining characters in Wings of Liberty, Tychus is a rough and tumble convict whose only redemption is the sacrifices that he has made for his best friend Raynor. Raynor in return, has treated him quite poorly. But that aside, the problem with Tychus is the entire arc around which he is on the Hyperion. Mengsk freed him to spy on Raynor. It is a surprise then when Raynor commits violent acts of terror and rebellion against the Dominion while Mengsk is clueless at every turn. Tychus makes for a very poor double-agent, and the circumstances around his exact deal with Mengsk remain a mystery. Is he only there to spy on Raynor? If so then why does Raynor get away with ruining Mengsk's reputation and slaughtering Dominion soldiers? Is Tychus only there because Mengsk knows that Raynor will have a shot at killing Kerrigan? Most fans suspect this is the case, due to him sneaking around looking for records of Kerrigan on the Hyperion, as well as the fact that he did absolutely nothing useful for Mengsk until he had a shot at Kerrigan. However, this scenario is also highly suspect since Mengsk could have just gathered the artifacts himself by working with his son more closely. It would also imply that Mengsk is omniscient, somehow knowing that Raynor's single battlecruiser would get close enough to the Queen of Blades. The exact nature of the deal and the relationship between Mengsk, Tychus, and Valerian is either a mystery, or just a massive plot hole.


The writers seem to have given up on this character completely, claiming that "his story has already been told". Instead of being a formidable and dangerous adversary, Mengsk largely takes the role of a cartoon villain in Wings of Liberty. "Curses, foiled again!" is his battle cry every time Raynor bests him. As one of the main antagonists in the game, it is a serious problem when he is portrayed as an incompetent opponent.

Right as the game begins, we see a newscast which claims that Mengsk has squandered trillions hunting down Jim Raynor. This immediately sets up Mengsk as an unworthy opponent for Raynor. In Liberation Day, we see holos of Mengsk spouting standard communist rhetoric: "Keep a close watch on your neighbors. Dissent will only slow our progress." Any individual would immediately associate this propaganda with that of a dictator. But we know that Mengsk is trying to maintain a public image of a benevolent and selfless leader, therefore Mengsk looks like a fool for even considering putting up such holoboards.

For the finale of the rebellion missions, Raynor somehow breaks through Korhal's orbital planetary defenses, and lands on Augustgrad itself, the capital city of the Dominion. Of all the things in the game, this is truly absurd. Even if he had managed to break through the orbital defenses, the rest of the Dominion, which has pulled back to defend core worlds such as Korhal, should have descended upon Raynor and annihilated the Raiders with ease. In fact, it's a wonder that Raynor did not end things right there and attack Mengsk's palace since he was already right there. It is embarrassing that Raynor was able to land on the Dominion capital with his one battlecruiser and then wreak havoc on the streets while defending the surgical strikes sent by Warfield, the Dominion's best general. Mengsk is a truly weak and incompetent opponent to have let this happen. This victory therefore, feels like a hollow one.



Raynor's attack against UNN headquarters could have been better spent attacking Mengsk's palace.


Valerian arguably had the most potential as a character in this game, but the vast majority of it was squandered right from the get-go with his introduction in the Heir Apparent cinematic. No the problem is not that Raynor mistakes a blonde gentleman for Arcturus. The problem is, again, a deficit of good world-building culminating in a bizarre and impossible scenario.

In the cinematic, Valerian warps in with Arcturus's flagship and doesn't introduce himself like a normal person. He'd be crazy to think that Raynor wouldn't be alarmed by Mengsk's flagship, so it seems Valerian is only doing this to make a grandiose entrance. Raynor foolishly decides to board the flagship, and what happens after that time is largely a mystery. Why do the other Dominion battlecruisers not fire on them? And why wouldn't Raynor have considered that before going in if he wasn't a suicidal schizophrenic? Why isn't Matt attempting to raise the Buccephalus or vice-versa? Is Valerian just sitting there twiddling his thumbs? What exactly is going on?

Having just Raynor and Tychus try to fight their way through Mengsk's flagship seems absurd, as if that's all it takes to board the Emperor's own flagship, but many fans claim that it was more than just Raynor and Tychus who came on board. In that case, even more lives are wasted behind-the-scenes because Valerian couldn't have introduced himself like a normal person. It feels like this whole thing should have been an entire installation type mission that was missed.

Valerian clearly has no regard for his men's lives. Why Raynor or anybody would trust him after this display of callousness is a mystery. Even worse, we come to find that Valerian "owns" the Moebius Foundation, which means he has been funding Raynor's violent acts of terrorism against the government that Valerian is set to inherit. This amounts to what is essentially state sponsored terrorism, and is equivalent to the idea of the United States funding Osama Bin Laden's attack on the World Trade Center.

The editor also contains the following unused dialog from Valerian:

(haunted) I didn't anticipate her reacting so quickly. She seems to be a... fierce opponent. Perhaps we wouldn't have lost so many men if I'd--

Now ain't the time for second guessing, junior. If we survive what's next, you'll have the whole rest of your life to wallow in guilt. For now, we buck up and get 'er done.

Why this line was removed is anybody's guess. It shows that Valerian actually cares about his men and that Kerrigan is a worthy opponent.


Warfield, like Valerian, has no regard for his men's lives. Here is a quick recap of all the Dominion men that Raynor slaughtered:
1) The Dominion soldiers on Mar Sara.
2) The Dominion base on Mar Sara guarding the artifact.
3) The prison guards at New Folsom.
4) The Dominion guarding the trains.
5) The Dominion in the Valhalla facility.
6) The Dominion soldiers and strike teams on Korhal during Media Blitz.
7) The soldiers killed by Raynor and Tychus on the Bucephalus.

Now, the argument is not that Raynor was unjustified in attacking the Dominion, it's that Valerian and Warfield seem to not care at all. They say absolutely nothing, and in fact, when Warfield first meets Raynor, he is more upset that Raynor is lecturing him about tactics than the fact that Raynor slaughtered his troops. It's as if Valerian and Warfield have absolutely no pride.

Now Warfield is obviously the writers' attempt at a competent Dominion general, but again, in Wings of Liberty, it seems that only Raynor is allowed an illusion of competence just because he happens to be who we are playing as. Warfield could not defend UNN headquarters on the Dominion's own homeworld. Raynor also had to salvage the entire invasion of Char because Warfield made the rookie mistake of doing a frontal assault. Warfield claims to have led five separate invasions against the Swarm, such as Operation Burnout. Now, while Raynor certainly has much experience fighting Zerg, he hasn't had any experience in actually launching invasions. By all rights, Warfield should have been the expert here, yet it is he who royally screwed up the invasion, at which point Raynor comes to save the day during "Gates of Hell".



Warfield was not succesful in his role of a competent Dominion General

A bit of a walking stereotype, it was only a matter of time before Warfield said something about being a "damn fool". This is another example of the writers' new Hollywood-esque way of telling stories.


There are a few things we're supposed to know about Selendis:
1) She is a Protoss. Protoss have larger brains and superior intellect to that of humans not to mention eidetic memory. This is the reason why it took them only about two millenia to rise from a stone age level and create advanced technology that could bend space and time itself to their whim.
2) As the High Executor of the Protoss Protectorate we have to assume that when it comes to Protoss military commanders Selendis is the cream of the crop.

It is a surprise then when Selendis goes on to commit sublime acts of stupidity. The fact that the Fleet of the Executor lost in combat to Raynor and his rag-tag band of prodigies is not only insulting but makes zero sense. But that aside let's look at some of Selendis's quotes in the canon choice.

"If you choose to resist us we will meet in glorious combat."

Is this really the only diplomacy that Selendis is willing to give Raynor who four years ago risked his own life to help the khalai survivors evacuate Aiur and thus saved millions of Protoss lives? And why is combat glorious? True Protoss have a warrior culture and many enjoy combat for the sake of combat. They are overly zealous and consider themselves superior. However this does not give them a license to act like idiots. The main theme of the Protoss in StarCraft II is that the devastating population losses have forced them to adapt. Here are some of their major population losses:

1) The Protoss are not numerous to begin with. They are not very prolific and have started dieing out from sheer age according to an interview with Dustin Browder.
2) The Protoss were being systematically exterminated long before the Zerg arrived according to the same interview.
3) The fall of Aiur was a massive blow to their population. Aiur was the very nerve center of the Protoss empire and contained billions of Protoss. 70% of the population died just from this.
4) After the rest of the Protoss migrated to Shakuras the population was further massacred by the broods that followed them. The Protoss had to "rebuild" their empire on Shakuras.
5) Finally the Protoss's giant string of military defeats to the Zerg culminating with Artanis's defeat at Omega ensured that their military power was essentially crippled in comparison to what it was.

The Protoss are in very dire straits by the end of Brood War and they have resorted to many tactics they would consider unconventional. From recalling weapons that they once thought were too powerful for them to use i.e. Mothership and Colossus to using dishonorable tactics such as Phoenix Overload (when it still existed) to saving warriors from death by warping them back to a safe haven using their power suit to saving warriors from death yet again by fitting them into Immortals Dragoons and Stalkers it is clear that Protoss place a high value on lives. Selendis in a way encompasses this new attitude as a newly elected official. So you would think after all this Selendis would be less willing to risk Protoss lives (a rare commodity these days) for the sake of a pissing contest. Even Raynor says it's stupid to fight each other when they should be fighting the Zerg. Selendis was developed by Christie Golden who portrayed her as highly rational in the Dark Templar Saga books. Golden allegedly worked closely with the writers on Wings of Liberty yet we see no evidence of this at all. The Selendis from the books would not have done this.

"Our Observers detected zerg hive spores infesting the colonists. They must be purified.

This is only true if you side with the Protoss. In the canon choice you side with Hanson and no colonists are actually infested in-game so Selendis is made to look like a fool for overreacting so much. If you pick the "B" choice and are forced to cull the colonists Hanson exclaims "What?! This isn't right! I thought you were a better man than this Jim!" despite the fact that we just did the same exact thing on Meinhoff in the previous mission and she had no problem with that.

"The only cure for zerg infestation is purification by fire. You know this to be true James Raynor."

Now the Protoss look like fools because a Terran invented a cure during the course of several hours on some "medieval" lab on a battlecruiser.

"You are as cunning as the stories say James Raynor. I hope your belief in these colonists will be vindicated."

Now after losing several Carriers and a Mothership which I imagine must be expensive for the Protoss empire Selendis is made to look like a fool yet again all the while praising Raynor (an inferior Terran being) for his intellectual superiority.

It's almost like she thought they were engaging in some computer simulation battle instead of one where people would actually die. Why is it that so many military commanders in Wings of Liberty seem to have no regard for the lives of their men? It's a recurring theme at this point.


Despite Kerrigan being the most powerful force in the sector she still managed to lose every time she was encountered. All the Zerg were recalled to Char during a newcast invalidating the excuse that Raynor had a chance only because the Swarm was too spread out all over the sector. Despite Kerrigan spewing generic threatening banter and despite how scary the designers wanted her to feel in-game Kerrigan still achieved virtually zero victories. With how large the sector is and how numerous the swarm is Kerrigan could have at least captured one artifact.

It is mentioned to the player that "billions of people died" and "Kerrigan was toying with us". In Brood War when Kerrigan actually toyed with people we got to see how and what she actually did (force Zeratul to murder his Matriarch and help Kerrigan kill the Overmind use Mengsk Raynor and Fenix to beat the UED etc.) These things drove the plot and we could see the results of her power and scheming. In Mass Effect the Illusive Man does not need anybody to state that he is a conniving bastard. It is made plain by his actions: his willingness to run unethical experiments condemn planets to death and be ruthless in the pursuit of all his goals. In Wings of Liberty simply hearing that "Kerrigan killed billions of people" or "she was toying with us" does not do much for the player. It is nothing but an information dump.

Kerrigan's enemies were all superior to her for the following reasons:

1) Kerrigan had the Swarm literally all over the sector but could only manage to find one artifact and didn't know where to even look for the rest of them. In the meantime the Moebius team and Valerian seems to know where every artifact is. True they have Narud/Duran helping them but why is it that Kerrigan could not have tracked them and stolen back an artifact at the very least given the vast armies at her disposal?
2) Kerrigan "forgot how resourceful Jim was" on Monlyth and let his small force sneak away with the artifact from under both her and the Protoss proving once again that Raynor is a prodigy. She lets Zeratul escape in the Whispers of Doom mission as well despite having millions of Zerg at her command. With how far he had to run it's obvious Zeratul was a long distance from the Void seeker. We just see this kind of thing from Kerrigan again and again throughout the campaign.
3) Kerrigan shouldn't have had obvious vulnerabilities like the Space Station which was the hub for the majority of zerg fliers or the nydus tunnels which could be easily flooded with lava.
4) Kerrigan makes nothing but empty promises and fails. Every. Single. Time. What is the difference between Kerrigan and the demon lords from Diablo 3 like Belial Asmodan and Diablo? None they're all the same character. Raynor keeps all of his promises (except those from Brood War) but Kerrigan can't seem to keep any despite all of her power.
5) Kerrigan fails yet again when she tries to reach the Moebius data cores. She "senses" that Jim is hiding something from her but can't find out what. Yet in the first Zeratul mission she doesn't have this problem and straight up reads Zeratul's mind:
"if you can so easily read my mind kerrigan you know I'll never give up!"
6) It was foolish of Kerrigan to be at ground zero when the artifact went off. If she knew what it did why did she let herself get vaporized?

Brood War was criticized because Kerrigan easily crushed everybody but this is more forgivable because she WAS that competent. It would be one thing if you only won while playing as her but despite some of the other characters' plot-induced stupidity the player does actually get outsmarted by her in both the Protoss and Terran Brood War campaign. That is why it is so incongruent that in Wings of Liberty she fails at every turn.

As a result of all this Kerrigan made an especially weak character in Wings of Liberty. Heart of the Swarm however will provide a chance to improve this character and perhaps even a return to form. As for the voice-acting however the "subtle nuances" that Tricia Helfer apparently added to the voice are inconspicuously missing. Tricia added nothing to the voice of Kerrigan that Glynnis Campbell did not other than broken continuity.


Kerrigan had power but could not wield it properly.


Although another walking stereotype Tosh is one of the few characters without characterization flaws. Dave Fennoy did a good job bringing this rebel pirate to life.

The only problem however is with the story arc. After spending our time performing mundane and trivial assignments for him we are then presented with the following choice:
A) Stick with the person who has been helping you all game and will continue helping you and your rebellion.
B) Side with Nova an agent of your sworn enemy who just called you up five seconds ago to try and convince you that Tosh is about to betray you with no evidence whatsoever.

Now the only reason anybody would pick choice B is because they want to see what the other mission is like or because Nova is a hot female instead of a big burly black guy with dreadlocks. Tosh has not wronged Raynor in any way and it's difficult for the player to not feel like he is stabbing one of his friends in the back if he picks the B choice. It's as if the choice was designed to not have any thought put into it. In this day and age of games with morality-based choices like Fallout Mass Effect and Dragon Age The writers should really aim to do better than the paltry effort seen here.


Another well-developed character Matt Horner represented the voice of reason on the Hyperion: in particular his urging to not ally with Valerian or attempt to board the Bucephalus while outnumbered. This character acts rationally and has definitely had some thought put into him. Combined with his faith in Raynor good-natured attitude and idealism Horner made for an overall likeable character.


Overall Swann does a decent job at being a "big fun guy". The main problem with Swann is the lore surrounding the acquisition of units. In Brood War there was no explanation for how you acquired new units as you proceeded through missions: they just appeared. Wings of Liberty however has an Armory which gives explanations for how you acquired the units. Therefore unlike Brood War it is up for critique. For example you can assume that Raynor has old technology like the Marine Medic Firebat Goliath and Wraith. That is the explanation for how you got the schematics it is old technology. But it then raises the question of why you can't use this tech beforehand in the very first missions. The Vulture is old technology too and Raynor's signature unit so it's a mystery that he has to relearn how to create them from Mira Han. Ravens and Science Vessels are shown to be created through Stetmann's research. The only problem is that the Dominion has the exact same units and they didn't use Stetmann's research. This may seem like a trivial nitpick but it has a very obvious and simple solution: don't give the Dominion access to Raynor's units.

The Thor is perhaps the worst offender. Being just another mechanical guru genius aboard the Hyperion Swann can "modify" any machine to suit the Raiders' needs. He was born into a long line of tech-savvy miners and even from a young age he displayed a much deeper understanding of machinery and technology than anyone else in his family's history.

One of the recent Frontline stories established that the Thor existed before Wings of Liberty created by the Dominion. This was retconned in Wings of Liberty. Instead we stole the Odin from the Dominion which is essentially a giant unprecendented superweapon. The sheer amount of technical engineering and know-how required to create such a lumbering machine and have it able to stand so much punishment must have been mind boggling. We can only assume a team of scientists and engineers worked on the Odin for months. The schematics for the thing must have taken days if not weeks to merely analyze. So then the mechanical savant Swann comes in and says "Bah humbug! Forget the scale I'll create something a damn sight more practical than that showpiece!" Try to keep in mind how nonchalant he is about miniaturizing such a gargantuan war machine. And he does it all within the span of one mission ready to use on Korhal right away.

Though the Thor does not have the firepower and durability of the Odin the fact that Swann basically remade the thing within the span of one mission aboard a Battlecruiser is unbelievable.


Swann is a mechanical genius.



The infamous Overmind retcon is perhaps one of the biggest issues that fans of the original game have with Wings of Liberty. The writers attempted to conceive it out of ignorance under the premise that there was no proof that the Overmind wasn't enslaved as if it's possible to prove a negative. It is the equivalent to saying that Raynor is actually a Xel'Naga who engineered all of the events of StarCraft (which would actually explain why he is an undefeatable military prodigy). Any evidence that you would find to the contrary are just a result of Raynor's clever and devious machinations to make you think that he's just a normal terran. Obviously such a proposition is absurd but it cannot be proven wrong either.

And such is the case in Wings of Liberty with the "directive" that was placed upon the Overmind: that he had to attack and assimilate the Protoss. Whenever the Overmind attacked the Protoss or did anything evil it was because he was following his directive. When he created Kerrigan it was because he "found a loophole" around the directive. But when the Overmind had the opportunity to reveal his enslavement he took great lengths to avoid any such loopholes.

1) When Zeratul linked minds with him in StarCraft the Overmind conveniently hid all the information about his enslavement by the Dark Voice even though Zeratul looked like right at the Overmind's origins where you would expect that information to be.
2) The Cerebrates in StarCraft are actually a part of the Overmind. The death of Zasz stunned the Overmind because Zasz was a part of the Overmind. The death of the Cerebrates in the "Shadow Hunters" StarCraft mission stunned the Overmind and broods next to him again allowing the Protoss to get close. Despite this neither the Cerebrates nor the Cerebrate player-character seemed to notice the Overmind raging or screaming "in the prison of his mind".

It is a blatant insult to the original game to prop up the Dark Voice at the Overmind's expense by turning him into nothing but a slave. Instead of being a Lovecraftian galactic space monster who is attempting to achieve perfection he is just sitting there cowering in his own mind. What did the Overmind even do in the original game now? Absolutely nothing. It seems that the only action he ever undertook of his own volition was to create Kerrigan. But again this requires convoluted loopholes to explain why he has free will in this situation but not in other situations. Also knowing that Kerrigan is under the influence of the Dark Voice's evil the Overmind's plan also requires more convoluted events to happen. First Kerrigan has to be deinfested and second the Overmind has to die. He is the only character to have a death wish. This character has been ruined and disgraced.

Pretty much all of his dialog from the original game is invalidated. Here is a classic line from StarCraft:

 My children the hour of our victory is at hand. For upon this world of Aiur shall we incorporate the strongest known species into our fold. Then shall we be the greatest of creation's children. We shall be...Perfect.

What he means to say instead is:

My children the hour of our loss is at hand. For once we end up achieving our goals it will only doom us to die at the hands of the hybrid. Actually I don't even want to be here and I hope I get killed soon.

What is worse the Overmind's enslavement applies to all other Zerg as well. The Zerg are supposed to be scary brutal and inhuman like a force of nature. Look at this old StarCraft cinematic:

It is reminiscent of the old Alien films. Are the Zerg no longer brutal and terrifying? Are they only evil because the Dark Voice is evil? This retcon goes against everything that makes the Zerg who they are supposed to be.

Rest of Crew

The rest of the crew is somewhat of a mystery. Despite splitting the game into three expansions to make the entire experience more epic and despite Wings of Liberty having more dialog than StarCraft and Brood War combined the minor members of the crew have not been fleshed out at all. It seems that most players refer to Kachinsky as "the guy with the earmuffs". And who exactly are Annabelle Bralic Cade and Thatcher? If you asked most players it is likely they would have absolutely no clue. It is too bad that most of the dialog for the crew consisted of banter. Though this is sort of realistic actually approaching each crew member Mass-Effect style and having a conversation with them would have allowed us to get to know each one better. Instead clicking on a crew member did not even force Raynor to get out of his seat and the crew member would just utter an empty banality towards nobody in particular such as "Well I do declare!" or "Man you creepin'." This is a waste of dialog.

The one time the crew came together was during the Bar Fight cinematic. Here is the full script of what happens:

You think he's right? That I'm just gonna run out on ya?

You've got us working for the Dominion now Commander. Taking us back to Char? It's like you're gone already.

This ain't about the Dominion. Our war's always been about savin' lives. If the zerg wipe everyone out it's all been for nothing. So I'm going to back to Char. If you're with me it's your choice. Just like it's always been.

Now that's the commander I've been waiting on.

Really? That's all it took to radically change the crews' mind? A barfight and a minor reassurance? It's extremely sad that this is the extent of the dissension that Raynor faced with his crew. Raynor has had very few roadblocks or challenges. The early demo of the story mode gameplay showed an angry crew member actually bump into Raynor and say "Down here slummin sir?" More things like this would have been superior to what Wings of Liberty currently has.

Can you name all of these people?

The Dark Voice

Apathetic impersonal and the physical incarnation of evil itself the Dark Voice so far is the most uninspired character in all of StarCraft. What more is there to say about this guy? He wants everybody dead for no apparent logical reason and there isn't going to be anything you can say to convince him otherwise. Never before has StarCraft had such an obvious morally-black character. The only defense for him is that hopefully he will be turned into an actual character in the expansions.

Mass Effect 3 also does the "everybody must team up against an unstoppable evil" theme but it tries to justify and rationalize the reaper threat in the end. Will there be any justification for what the Dark Voice is doing? That remains to be seen. But what video game writers do not understand about these galactic cycles of death is that they are extremely provincial. The reapers in Mass Effect as well as the hybrids in StarCraft II ignore the fact that there are over tens of billions of other galaxies in the universe and that their actions in the Milky Way in the grand scheme of the universe are quite meaningless. There is very little rational reason to go about implementing such a cosmic death cycle. Mass Effect's early explanation that the reapers "are unknowable" was perhaps better than the explanation given at the end. Either way it is such a weak theme that relying on ignorance seems to be the best way to justify it.

The Prophecy

Regardless of whether other sci-fi universes make use of the prophecy plot device it does not seem like something that belongs in StarCraft. Prophecies belong in medieval universes like Warcraft because they have always been the area of mystics gypsies and charlatans. It is an extremely weak theme and quite disappointing that the writers had to resort to it. It requires that characters put off all logical and natural actions in favor of advancing the plot towards the way the writers want it to go. Before StarCraft II was released fans wondered how other characters were going to interact with Kerrigan now that she had backstabbed everyone and proved irrefutably that she isn't to be trusted. Clearly some writing magic would be required to drive an interesting story. The effort made however is beyond lazy. The prophecy mandates that everybody has to work with Kerrigan or else the galaxy will explode. It also mandates that only a select individual is capable of stopping the coming conflict and nobody else.

The other problem is we don't know what the prophecy actually is.

1) Is it something that Kerrigan and Zeratul already discovered? In the very first Protoss mission Zeratul says "the foreboding prophecy weighs heavily on my heart" and Kerrigan says "you cannot outrun the doom that awaits us all". So it seems that they already know what the prophecy is and are just looking for clarification.
2) Is it the fragments that Zeratul discovered in Whispers of Doom which the Preservers interpreted? It would seem so since this is the text that appears on the Ihan Crystal when you finish the Protoss missions.
3) Or is the prophecy the actual vision of "In Utter Darkness" which was viewed by the Overmind then viewed by Tassadar then viewed by Zeratul then viewed by Raynor?

It is clear that what we have in the Protoss missions are a befuddled remnant of the developers' original vision. In fact unused dialog from the Echoes of the Future indicates that there was no Dark Voice and no resurrection of Tassadar which quite honestly would have been preferable. The Prophecy cinematic itself was intended to be much longer which is why we don't get to see Kerrigan actually kick Zeratul or Kerrigan get her wing blade chopped off. Very little cleanup has gone into these missions.

Population and Strength of the Dominion

Wings of Liberty seems to ignore the giant string of defeats that the Dominion suffered in Brood War. You could skip from StarCraft vanilla to Wings of Liberty and the Dominion is in the same exact position. When the original StarCraft begins there are three Terran factions: the Confedracy the Kel-Morian Combine and the Umojan Protectorate. Though the Confederacy is far more powerful than either of the factions leading a war against either one would still be too costly. So after Tarsonis is destroyed Mengsk consolidates the Terrans under one rule and the Umojan Protectorate and Kel-Morian Combine are far more powerful than before by virtue of the fact that their homeworlds haven't been annihilated. Mere weeks after this the UED comes in and lays waste to the Dominion. Umoja and Moria are seemingly untouched. All throughout Brood War Moria even manages to keep up its lucrative mining operations. Shortly after using the rest of his forces to fight the UED Mengsk reestablishes the Dominion on Korhal with Kerrigan's help. Kerrigan then backstabs him just to make sure that he cannot be as powerful as he was before. Meanwhile while Moria may have been raided by the Zerg once for money they are still doing nothing but raking in cash. So then Mengsk gathers the last of his men for a strike against the Zerg on Char. It sounds like he has absolutely nothing at this point because his entire fleet was created by him calling in favors and making concessions. He is destroyed yet again.

So here we are in Wings of Liberty four years later. Somehow the Dominion is still the most powerful force in the sector Moria and Umoja did not take advantage of Mengsk's weakness neither during Brood War or the interim and the extended fiction shows that the Combine and the Protectorate have to avoid the Dominion and are careful to not provoke them. Mengsk also continues developing new weapons of war and creating new battlecruisers while the other two factions are quiet so far.

The population figures for Korhal 6 billion are also ludicrous. Several thousand people over a period of 300 years cannot create such a large population. First Tarsonis was destroyed and "billions" of people died. Then the Zerg invaded in Wings of Liberty and "billions" more died. And Korhal still has "billions" left on it. The math simply makes no sense especially considering that Korhal itself was nothing but a smoldering desert backwater four years ago.

Korhal's population stats are unbelievable.

Incompetent Enemies

A huge problem in Wings of Liberty is how it marginalizes your enemies. Antagonists should be both intelligent and a force to be reckoned with. This makes the world seem realistic and believable and it is a key component of world-building. It is the overall successes of the enemy which make the player wonder whether he will pull through this time and if so at what cost. This contributed to the fact that when you played Brood War you felt like you were always in danger which added to the immersion. In Wings of Liberty you never feel truly threatened except at the Char missions at the end.

In Brood War this is accomplished in many instances:

1) Tassadar's challenge to Kerrigan is shown to be a diversion. In reality he distracted her from the true threat: the assassination of Zasz. This sets the Protoss up as competent adversaries who are capable of taking out key Zerg leaders even though the Swarm is numerically superior. It is through this that Tassadar ultimately manages to destroy the Zerg Overmind itself.
2) When Kerrigan faces the UED in Episode 6 they are set up as competent enemies not simply because we just played them but there is also a mission dedicated to simply scrounging up what Zerg warriors you have left. Simply trying to maintain control for Kerrigan is a challenge.
3) The characters that you play as themselves outright state that their enemies are worthy opponents:

You know Executor although we two have marched across hundreds of worlds together I never imagined that we would be fighting on Aiur. The Zerg are indeed worthy foes.

So the elusive Arcturus Mengsk at last. I was hoping to speak with you before we finished our business here. I am Admiral Gerard DuGalle and I must commend you Sir for holding back our advance for as long as you have. You are indeed a worthy opponent.

Well I have misjudged you warrior. You are worthy indeed.

This entire chain of events has been masterminded by Kerrigan and we played right into her hands!

In StarCraft II instead of getting this we just get dialog reaffirming the player-character's superiority such as: "Finished already? You really are as good as they say Mr. Raynor."

For those interested here is a run-down of all the roadblocks and challenges that the player-character faced in the original StarCraft:

Rebel Yell
- Right as the game begins it is established that things do not look good for you. The government for which you work is relegating you and your colonists to the wasteland and the superior officer which you must answer to (Duke) is a jerk.
- Raynor attempts to do the right thing by rescuing a station from the Zerg. He gets arrested.
- In order to save lives you must trade the prestige and power of your rank as a Colonial Magistrate in lieu of a rebel by allying yourself with Mengsk.
- You find out that the government for which you work has screwed over the planets of Raynor and yourself by unleashing Zerg on them as a weapons test.
- You manage to stir up revolution and get a Confederate General to join your team. This is good.
- Turns out that Mengsk is worse than the Confedracy and used a psi emitter to commit genocide against Tarsonis. Everything you have worked for is a sham and you put a ruthless tyrant in power.
- Kerrigan whom you have come to care for is betrayed by Mengsk and left to die.
- You lament trusting Arcturus and do what little you can to escape with your life. This campaign has basically been a failure for you.

The Zerg are numerically superior to all other forces in the sector. They suffer fewer defeats but this actually makes sense because they steamrolled everybody else while we play as Terrans or Protoss. After Kerrigan is born she must work to attain her new power by raiding the Amerigo. This establishes her as very powerful. The Zerg's weakness is then made known when Tassadar tricks Kerrigan by distracting her long enough to allow Zeratul to slay a Cerebrate. This establishes that Zeratul and Tassadar are not only intelligent adversaries but that they are capable of taking out key Zerg leaders. It is this very ability which ultimately leads to the Overmind's demise and it is because of this very large threat that the Overmind left Kerrigan on Char to hunt down the Dark Templar. The Zerg then succeed in invading Aiur.

The Fall
- Right from the get-go we know that the Zerg are worthy adversaries. They have just invaded our homeworld and Fenix praises them.
- Tassadar attempts to give you the key to taking out Zerg leaders but the leaders just get reincarnated because you used the wrong energies meaning that the victory against the cerebrate was futile.
- The Protoss rescue the province of Scion. This seems like a victory but Fenix dies in the next cinematic. Though he comes back in a dragoon he is almost like a decoy protagonist. The victory in Scion is even more hollow when you consider that the Zerg end up decimating the planet anyway no matter what you do.
- The biggest enemy the Protoss have is themselves. The Conclave in its pride attempts to arrest Tassadar and you spend several missions fighting them instead of the Zerg. This is a huge defeat for the protoss with whom you are supposed to sympathize.
- With the help of the dark templar you manage to assassinate key zerg leaders. This stuns the Overmind and allows you to actually get close to him. Without this one weakness you would not have won.
- Your victory is pyrrhic. The Conclave is dead and cannot spare reinforcements for your last mission. Tassadar sacrifices himself. And finally your homeworld lies in utter ruin.

Mass Effect 3 also had many ways of showing that your enemies are not pushovers. The most notable example is Kai Leng. When you first meet him he throws dozens of obstacles in your path that force you to look for an alternate route instead of continuing on the linear path that your primary objectives set you on. From jumping up on top of your shuttle and damaging its engines to creating doctored footage of you Kai Leng is shown to be extremely competent. Then in another mission when the player fights Kai Leng you the player outright loses. An entire planet dies because you could not beat Leng and you are forced to report back to your superiors in abject failure. Kai Leng even kills one of your squadmates from the previous game.

When has anything like this happened in Wings of Liberty? The only real defeat shown in Wings of Liberty was "In Utter Darkness" which is an alternative reality that did not happen yet in the game world and therefore does not count. Sure Raynor may acknowledge that his enemies are more numerous and/or powerful but he is always confident that he will come out on top and indeed he does every single time. The only time your "squadmates" die in Wings of Liberty is during non-canon choices and it doesn't even matter because Blizzard confirmed that your choices will never be brought up again in expansions.

Tosh's death is no loss for the player-character. Since reality shifts Tosh is actually the bad guy in this mission who is training psychotic killers and it seems that he was only using you when in reality it's you that is betraying him. Hanson's death was done well but overall it is inconsequential. She made her own choice to experiment on herself and the fact that you had to kill the infested colonists is no more Raynor's failing than the "billions" of people who died according to the news casts. The only canon death of a major character is that of Tychus a known scumbag whose only purpose was to betray the player; it almost doesn't count. Would the writers consider killing off Swann or Stettman in the middle of the game due to simply a failure on Raynor's part? Instead we have dialog such as  "Aww hell not these Tal'Darim guys again. How many times do I have to steamroll them?" When what we should really have is dialog like "We need to watch our backs. These guys pose an actual threat to us and they are not incompetent morons." All throughout the game we see nothing but examples of everyone but Raynor failing because Raynor and his crew are all prodigies.

Chris Metzen the VP of Creative Development at Blizzard considers the Queen of Blades novel to be the definitive take of what happened to Raynor during the Zerg campaign. According to the novel Raynor was down to about 40 people after he went to Char. And this is before all the other string of conflicts that the Raiders fought in during Brood War. It's nothing but a miracle that Raynor and the Raiders are still alive in Wings of Liberty let alone going around and stomping everybody across the sector invading homeworlds such as Korhal and Char.

The invasion of Char itself was poorly executed by Valerian and Warfield largely because nobody thought it would be a good idea to actually assemble the artifact BEFORE they launch the invasion. That would have saved a bit of trouble during the first two missions trying to hold off the Zerg. And at least then it would have made sense that they could even establish a landing zone and afford to go crawl around in caves or go back to outer space all the while. The fact that their entire invasion wasn't wiped out during the second Char mission is an embarrassment for the Zerg who are fighting on their very homeworld. Again while the Char missions were scary the Zerg are still portrayed as incompetent opponents.

Then we also have Orlan a classic cartoon villain with lines such as "I'll show you what happens to double-dealing backstabbers!" Orlan is another unworthy enemy who Raynor outsmarted and steamrolled. This is largely what happens to every opponent in Wings of Liberty: the Zerg the Protoss Mengsk Warfield everybody. Raynor might complain about "lava and fire" and he might complain about being outnumbered but the player sees absolutely no proof that Raynor is actually challenged by this.

In the original StarCraft the Protoss were powerful mysterious and enigmatic. They burned entire planets and when these guys warped in you knew they were playing hardball. Though they did lose in the lore several times it was not for a lack of brains but more because of betrayal and just being straight up outnumbered. The Protoss have lost most of their gravitas and power in Wings of Liberty largely because of this. Despite their bigger brains and superior tech they still lose out to Raynor every single time. Raynor never runs into any difficulty and the fact that the Raiders are no larger than a capital ship is pretty insulting.

Our suggestion is to have the player-character suffer a setback once in a while but find a new way to accomplish what he needs. A plot twist if you will. To be realistic and meaningful an opponent should be made to seem as if he has evaluated all possible decisions and chose the best one. Only then when the player feels like every character is making the kind of choices that he himself could possibly make in that situation can the player truly become immersed in the story.


Raynor's Raiders - The Best of the Best

News Casts

The Wings of Liberty campaign contained a lot of humor. But as it stands most of the jokes you find in pretty much every area of the campaign are in stark contrast to what you'd expect in a dark and realistic sci-fi universe. You can have dark war humor but the news casts are not it. Each of them boils down to the same joke recycled over and over:

Donny: Raynor is sowing discord and chaos on the fine citizens of the Dominion. Kate?
Kate: Well actually Donny Raynor has helped out many people over here and...
Donny: Cut her off!

Given the fact that Mengsk is running a totalitarian government it should be impossible for Kate to have a job there especially after she calls out Mengsk personally via the audio from Raynor's pirate broadcast. Instead of being fired Kate is actually promoted.

Now most people will say "Hey these newscasts are not meant to be taken seriously. It's just a lighthearted joke!" Which is fine except that it's the only real look the player has at events in the StarCraft universe outside of Raynor's single battlecruiser another flaw of the microscopic perspective. Lighthearted jokes are meant to be shared between crewmembers and other trivial things like that. The professional news cast that every citizen in the Dominion watches is not the spot. If our only look at the StarCraft universe beyond our immediate set is a joke then the entire campaign starts to look like a joke.


A complete discussion of the myriad retcons in Wings of Liberty is beyond the scope of this article. For the discussion of confirmed retcons see StarCraft: Legacy's previous article. Suffice to say needless retcons are nothing more than a failure at world-building. Quite honestly the only time retcons should be employed is to fix previous inconsistencies. If continuing the previously established story cannot be done without retcons then it's clear that continuing the story is not the goal and that a new story should be started leaving the current one untouched. Any other course of actions represents apathy because contrary to what most gamers believe it is not actually that hard to create a logical extension of a story. It simply requires some research and thought put into it.

The Artifact

The main criticism against the artifact is that it's a deus ex machina a plot device designed for a very convenient purpose in this case deinfesting Kerrigan. Broadly the artifact appears to remove all zerg and protoss cells within its blast radius. It shouldn't have worked on a being like Kerrigan whose very cells were remade into zerg. It is not her chitinous plating and zerg high heels that made Kerrigan biologically zerg - it was everything about her. The artifact also seemed to leave Kerrigan's nerve tendrils untouched for some reason.

The bigger problem however is that the writers chose to use this artifact to redeem Kerrigan instead of actual character development. It has been said that after the atrocities Kerrigan committed in Brood War there is no way her humanity still lurked beneath. However this is contrary to the hints left behind in Brood War. Kerrigan claimed to be "tired of the slaughter" after killing Fenix and Duke. Her weak point is also Raynor who she always leaves alive. Perhaps through her own growth as a character Kerrigan could have been convinced to undo the mental conditioning that the Overmind forced upon her by placing herself in a chrysalis again. Anything would have been better than just saying: bam Kerrigan is pure evil before the artifact and now she is good again. This is more proof that StarCraft is downgrading to an obvious black and white morality instead of the grey morality present in the original StarCraft.

Hollywood Epic Syndrome and Cheesiness

Overall Wings of Liberty tries too hard to be "epic" some scenes and resorts to goofyness and cheesiness in other scenes. What you have is a mishmash of contrasting tones leaving the player confused as to what kind of game Wings of Liberty is really supposed to be.

The writers have resorted to using Hollywood-style money-shots. Take a look at some of the dialog:

"Time to kick this revolution into overdrive."

"Whether it's blind luck or damn-fool courage - in all my years I've never seen anything like what you two jokers have pulled off."

"Ain't no time to be lyin' down on the job General."

"Boys...I hate to interrupt but...the natives are gettin' restless."

"...because some things are just worth fighting for."

"While the nature of his abrupt mental breakdown remains unknown we do know that he was clad only in his socks and rumored to be in possession of Emperor Mengsk's manifesto and a pound of peanut butter."

This is witty. This is classy. This is cool. It is also incredibly cheesy and unoriginal. The banshee landing behind Raynor as he turns around heroically and salutes. The clouds and sunshine streaming through for Raynor's speech. This game simply does not appear like it was meant to be taken seriously. Which is totally fine except that the game also tries hard to be epic. From the ending with sweat beading down Raynor's face as he rescues the Queen of Blades to the music to the galactic threat of the hybrids it is clear that the writers want us to think StarCraft II is epic. Red Alert 3 on the other hand has an even cheesier story than Wings of Liberty but the writers seemed to realize this and everything was not only far easier to overlook but also became more enjoyable. It's fine for a campaign to not be serious as long as the developers themselves realize it and don't keep telling fans how "epic" the story will be at BlizzCons.

"All in a day's work General."

Lack of Weight in Choices

First off it is our suggestion that the designers never allow the player to pick the actual order of missions ever again. StarCraft is not an RPG and this "pick your mission" gimmick kills any attempts to manage tension which simply cannot exist under such an approach. It also makes it difficult to have a coherent plot. It is largely this design decision that contributed to the "smorgasbord" feel of Wings of Liberty's plot. It requires that all missions be random and unrelated events. There is no value in pursuing this approach in the expansions at all.

As for the choices themselves the choices in StarCraft II were completely meaningless. They usually end up with the character either disappearing or staying around in his niche on the Hyperion to throw out more filler dialog in later missions. The worst problem is that reality itself shifts based on the player's choice absolving him of all responsibility. For a choice to matter you have to be able to make the wrong one. In StarCraft II Raynor is not allowed to do anything sub-optimally so this is not an option.

The Nova vs. Tosh itself is an insult to most player's intelligence as discussed earlier. Raynor ends up being in the right no matter what he picks. He has no reason to believe Nova's claims but even if he picks her over Tosh Hanson neglects to mention the fact that "Nova lied to us" about the Spectres in that story arc. As for the Hanson arc if you side with Hanson it turns out that the infestation was relatively minor and that the Protoss were overreacting. If you side with the Protoss it turns out there is a full blown infestation and Hanson was the one overreacting. The universe and reality shifts based on Raynor's choice to make him look like he can do no wrong. Raynor is infallible.

The choices after they are made are ignored for the rest of the game. There is no reaffirmation at all. Blizzard claimed that current choice-based games like Mass Effect are not good models for an RTS and that they need time to learn how to properly create choice-based gameplay. But in reality it simply requires some effort. More specifically any effort at all which would have been better than what is currently in Wings of Liberty. How hard would it have been to have a group of reapers come in during a totally unrelated mission and say "Thanks for helping out our friends on New Folsom. We've come to throw in with your revolution"? Or how hard would it have been to actually use the Hyperion's communications terminal for something and get some credits or mercs from the grateful colonists you saved during the Hanson arc?

Clunky Dialog

The dialog is the largest area for improvement in the StarCraft II trilogy because no matter how much the plot is set in stone the lines can always be revised. Much of it was highlighted in the "Hollywood Epic Syndrome and Cheesiness" section.

Other offending dialog includes this copy of a Warcraft 3 civilian:

"My brother went off to the mines last week. He disappeared!"
"Don't go up that road."
"My neighbors. My family..."

This just speaks for itself. It's completely uninspired and cheesy.

Zeratul's self-instructions are also uncalled for: 

"The banelings spew acid when they die. Stalkers take them out from a distance!"
"This chasm is vast. It is fortunate that I can phase through the shadows to the other side!"

These types of things should be reserved for help dialogs. Zeratul is an ancient badass warrior. He does not mutter basic combat instructions to himself. In Wings of Liberty characters are also afraid to talk for more than two sentences at a time. Here is one of Zeratul's longest speeches:

"James Raynor...I bring tidings of doom. I have pierced the veil of the future and beheld only... oblivion. Yet one spark of hope remains. You will hold her life in your hands...And though justice demands that she die for her crimes only she can save us."

This is fine if you can ignore the cheesiness of "tidings of doom". But Brood War's dialog was much more polished. Here is what Zeratul says to Aldaris when they meet: 

"You speak of knowledge Judicator? You speak of experience? I have journeyed through the darkness between the most distant stars. I have beheld the births of negative-suns and borne witness to the entropy of entire realities... Unto my experience Aldaris all that you've built here on Aiur is but a fleeting dream. A dream from which your precious Conclave shall awaken finding themselves drowned in a greater nightmare."

Look at this verbal smackdown that Zeratul just layed down upon Aldaris. You simply do not see this caliber of dialog in Wings of Liberty.

Zeratul is a revered Protoss mystic.


Luckily it is not all doom and gloom in the StarCraft universe. For all its faults Wings of Liberty had several interesting elements. The chemistry between Raynor and Tychus was enjoyable. Two old war buddies reunited once again is always entertaining to watch. Matt Horner and Gabriel Tosh were the most well-developed and logically consistent characters in the game. They both have the goal of taking down Mengsk. But their contrasting attitudes about why they are doing this and the methods which they use sets them miles apart. The mission design for the missions themselves was clearly superior to the original game. Despite being called "gimmicks" by the developers the missions are fun no matter what you call them. And finally the artwork shows nothing less than the culmination of the work of countless man-hours spent by some of the most talented artists in the industry. These two facets combine to make the Wings of Liberty campaign an enjoyable experience making up for the deficit in writing.

But at the end of the day Wings of Liberty is unfortunately a lazy writing attempt culminating in a juvenile piece of unintelligent sci-fi. As discussed previously its misplaced humor infallibility of the player-character Raynor and hollywood-style cheesiness make it hard to treat it as the dark and gritty universe that its predecessor was. Chris Metzen praised the ending calling it a "personal story" which has taken the place of a typical guns-blazing epic cinematic ending. But the ending rang hollow with many fans who asked themselves "Did Raynor seriously just carry a naked Kerrigan into the sunset?" A cheap "save the girl" arc simply did not work here.

Raynor's Horner and Tosh's arcs had potential. The "Better Tomorrow" cinematic was the only one in the game that attempted to convey a worthwhile theme. It is storytelling however which is the truly important part in making a story's themes relatable. But with the Hollywood-style writing and the lack of good world-building Wings of Liberty fell short of what it should have been.

However the past is the past and it is future Blizzard games which we should look forward to. There is still a chance for the writing to redeem itself and hopefully make even the oldest and stubbornest StarCraft fans proud.


starcraft 2 xel'naga storyline projection twilight

Article by Gradius.

This is a StarCraft: Legacy (http://sclegacy.com/) editorial.


WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for the novel in question.


 It has been one year since Tarsonis’ fall, an event that sealed Arcturus Mengsk’s rise to power and led to the formation of his Dominion over the toppled Confederacy of Man. As anniversary celebrations are held across the Sector, messages of solidarity and unity are broadcast by the UNN. Tarsonis - the Confederate Capital world devastated by the arrival of the Zerg, called and manipulated by Mengsk’s Psi Emitters - is now remembered as a tragic loss, whose destruction was perpetrated by the evil alien Zerg.

At the Ghost Academy, Delta Emblock, a member of the Blue Team, awakens from a nightmare; it is a vision of carnage, Zerg, and betrayal on a blasted world littered with broken machinery. Before she can reflect and fully explore the significance of the dream, a monumental day begins. Ghost Teams Red and Blue are officially dissolved and a unified Team Purple is formed. The members are forced to put aside their differences, turn a blind eye to the past, and forge ahead with shared goals. As part of their final training assignment, the Team is to be escorted to the fifth world of the Baker's Dozen by means of a Battlecruiser - the Cyrus. Despite being Ghosts,  they are treated with disrespect and indignation by the crew of the Cyrus, relegated to a small collection of isolated cabins with standing orders to stay put.

Ghost cadets Kath Toom and the brooding Andie Dessai speculate as to the true nature of their mission; their conspiracy theories are supported by Aal Cistler, who reveals that the Cyrus’ crew wear a mark of shame, a yellow slash across their emblem, for abandoning their post at the Battle of Tarsonis. Lio Travski, the scatter-brained technopath, thoroughly reinvigorated after his resocialization in Volume II, ignores orders and alerts the Cyrus’ resentful commander, Commodore Georg Darabont, to messages he is receiving through the ship itself - there are Zerg in the system and there are survivors. Though a skeptic of telepaths and Ghosts in general, the gruff Darabont nevertheless listens to what Lio has to say and is swayed by by the chance of redemption. Shortly thereafter, the claims are confirmed by a communications officer: a distress call is emanating from the world of Shi - a world besieged by the Zerg. Desperate to reclaim his honor and respect, Darabont puts aside his misgivings and immediately sets course for Shi.

Under the supervision of Preceptor Lagdamen, Nova was dispatched to target a Zerg Hatchery for nuclear barrage while Dyllana and Cistler launch the salvo from the Cyrus, paralleling events from Delta Emblock's nightmare. However, the operation succeeded without a hitch, much to Delta's relief.

The remainder of the trainees were outfitted with Ghost equipment and military hardware and sent to the surface. However, their Hostile Environment Suits were linked directly to Lagdamen; since this was only supposed to be a training mission only she could manually activate the cloaking features of each suit. This small but crucial detail revealed Darabont's single-minded obsession with reclaiming honor - he was willing to sacrifice the trainees and their mission. To illustrate further, the Cyrus was unable to reestablish contact with Lagdamen after the nuclear barrage, a fact to which Darabont was apathetic.

As the trainees investigated the ruins of the dead colony, they were nearly overwhelmed by superior Zerg numbers; a second hidden Hive Cluster still thrived. Still unable to make contact with Lagdamen or Nova, it fell upon Lio Travski and his unique technopath abilities to "persuade" the traniees suits to cloak the team. Team Purple pressed their advantage and eventually discovered Morgan Calabas and Antonia Tygore alive and well. Elsewhere, Lagdamen and Nova uncovered the Kusinis twins, and would eventually rejoin the others at the extraction point - uniting the last of the old family scions with the Ghost rescuers.

However, a wave of Zerg destroyed the Dropships and Andie Dessai was killed in the assault. Meanwhile, Darabont's single-mindedness began to reveal a seed of insanity, directing the Cyrus directly towards the second Hive Cluster. Undermanned and outgunned, the Cyrus was quickly routed by the Zerg. Zerg ground forces overwhelmed the downed Battlecruiser, devouring Darabont and the rest of the skeleton crew.

As war raged and blood flowed on the distant world of Shi, the Ghost Academy, back on Ursa, had to deal with its own problems. Director Kevin Bick and Superintendent Angelini Sarco prepared themselves for the imminent arrival of the Ghostmaster General who was there to evaluate their progress with the psychic prodigy Colin Phash. The boy was tasked with finding a collection of holographs placed across the campus to display his astral projection. However, for fear of the bleak future he would have under the Ghostmaster General, Colin intentionally failed the test, humiliating Bick in the process. As a result -- and to the relief of Phash, Angelini and Bick -- he remained at the Academy to continue his training.

Meanwhile, isolated and with options running low, the survivors on Shi hunkered down and planned a risky operation, for which Nova is the lynch pin. While the survivors evacuated to the downed Cyrus, which would be repaied by Lio Travski, Nova and Tosh diverted the Zerg's attention to their hatchery where Nova was to wipe them out with a psychic blast. Though she was succesful, Tosh was caught in the blast and knocked unconscious. In desperation, Nova channeled her power into Tosh to sustain him. Just as the two were almost overcome by reinforcing Zerg, a repaired Cyrus arrived at the scene to blast the Zerg.

As the trainees returned to the Ghost Academy, Director Bick received a personal communique from Emperor Mengsk. Completely ignoring the incident with Colin Phash, Mengsk ordered the Ghosts' memories wiped of all events on Shi, and the Old Family heirs turned over directly to Dominion forces. Bick obliged him gratefully.

With all memory of the preceding few days erased, the trainees were informed their final examination was, in fact, cancelled; that Andie Dessai had washed out of the program; and Gabriel Tosh was suffering delusions following a freak accident, while in reality his brain washing was precluded by injuries sustained at Shi. Moreover, news reports revealed "evidence" that Morgan Calabas, Antonia Tygore, and Rakham and Bess Kusinis had died one year before, along with the rest of Korhal. Believing her childhood friends now dead, a naive and sickened Nova visited Tosh the in infirmary, whose memories had <em>not</em> been erased. The effects of this new rift and the distinct realities each perceives quickly emerged and expanded, troubling both greatly.


Volume III is the action-packed conclusion to the Ghost Academy series, fulfilling any want for blood, carnage, and that classic StarCraft action for readers of the series. Teams Red and Blue are dissolved in favor of a unified team, fulfilling the classic trope of mortal enemies becoming the strongest of allies. David Gerrold's intense finale is facilitated by the frenetic artwork of Fernando Furukawa.

Compared to its immediate predecessor, Volume III is a bare-bones narrative, relying heavily on action to drive the plot. In some ways, this distances it from Volume II. Much of the character evolution in the previous volume is absent; those developments are referred to only obliquely, but never truly revisited or explored. In this way, Volume III doesn't entirely feel like a true sequel; only Lio Travski's resocialization provides any real impact in this sequel. The balance of intrigue, romance and character development is exchanged for a single tone - action. This is especially disappointing when one considers the broad potential for friction from unifying the two opposed teams. Instead of betrayal, petty revenge or even a fist fight, Tosh succeeds -- almost too easily -- at forging cooperation in the Ghosts.

Ghost Academy pays oblique homage to the StarCraft comic series; though never explicitly stated, it is implied that the Ghostmaster General that visits the Academy is Leonid Celsus, who would later go on to interact with the War Pigs. Gerrold and Furukawa also pay respect to the Terran propaganda cinematics of the original StarCraft and Brood War in the prologue. The reader can almost hear the over-the-top dialog of the UNN host E. B. James as he narrates over images of Terran loss and victory.

While a slew of characters were revealed as a part of Red Team, these characters are largely left in the background when coming into Purple Team. Besides Aal Cistler's insights, only Andie Dessai, the large Ghost wearing Ocular Implants, is given appreciable focus, and only in his death at that. Much more attention is given to Blue Team members Nova, Tosh, Travski and Toom, the latter of whom displayed remarkable aptitude at being a sniper and marksman.

As the last in the Ghost Academy series, Volume III definitely leaves its audience wanting. What is to happen to the hapless Colin Phash, whose prodigal astral projection ability is rivaled only by Nova's raw and savage power? Politics and circumstance force something of an uneasy alliance between the child and his overseers, Bick and Angelini, though it remains to be seen what they can make of him. Moreover, the conspiracy behind the infestation of the Baker's Dozen remains shrouded in mystery. Was it simply an attempt on Mengsk's part to assassinate the heirs of the Old Families? If so, the heavy handed method is not necessarily outside the realm of possibility, given that such roundabout methods have been the focus of many a StarCraft plots, including the core games themselves.

Power, strength and agency were core themes for Ghost Academy II; if there is a theme for its successor, it would be based in teamwork and trust. Teams Red and Blue are no more; from them is born the more powerful Team Purple, itself a cohesive weapon forged by Gabriel Tosh's leadership. All rivalry and friction are (with seemingly ease) smoothed over, resulting in an efficient crew of assassins. But trust is not always so easily forged -- or maintained. By story's conclusion, Tosh's trust is crippled, possibly destroyed, as he begins to discover the darker reality of his Dominion masters and their machinations. This itself creates a distance between himself and Nova; given that these two characters form the core of the Ghost teams, this is a chasm that promises to yawn wide. This reality is reinforced by the betrayal of Darabont and his crew over Tarsonis. In an otherwise bare bones narrative, these realizations provide subtle reminder -- and promise -- of deception that permeates a galaxy where the only allies are enemies, and the only choice is war.

Beta Blizzard Mods

On January 25th, players from all regions were able to test the beta versions of three of the four official Blizzard custom maps announced at BlizzCon. These maps demonstrate the improvements made to the Galaxy Editor by Blizzard engineers and exhibit some of the polished experiences that can be created with it. This editorial will discuss the positive and negative gameplay aspects of each of these maps in their current design stage. In addition, it will explain some popular strategies and tactics discovered the SC: Legacy Strategy Staff and also explain some of the implications each map has on level design. To see how far they have come, check out our BlizzCon Custom Maps and Editor Panel editorial and map previews here.

Aiur Chef

Aiur Chef Category: Collection/Cooking
Mode: Free For All Players: Up to 8


Aiur Chef is a map where each player controls one Zealot skilled in the arts of cooking and killing. The inspiration for this particular parody seem to have stemmed from the popular Food Network shows, Iron Chef and Iron Chef America, as well as previously unused fruit models available in the editor. The Blizzard iteration of this game consists of three short rounds. Players must gather preset combinations of ingredients from around the map to complete recipes. Once all the necessary ingredients have been obtained for a particular recipe, players only need to return to the kitchen, located in the middle of the map, to complete the dish. They earn various amounts of points and additional rewards, which depend on the recipe completed. The player with the most points at the end of the three rounds, wins.

The map begins with a short introduction cinematic, in which the Chairman welcomes the players and the theme ingredient is revealed. At the start of each round, the player automatically has control of their aspiring Protoss chef. Each chef is identifiable by their unique individual color. Each round of Aiur Chef features a theme ingredient and three succulent recipes that play upon its unique flavor. Before players can master these themed dishes, they will first need to scout across the map and collect a variety of ingredients (including the theme ingredient). Each recipe has its own set of required ingredients, listed in the recipe menu in the upper-left of your screen, which can be picked up off the ground or acquired by killing specific creatures. Since inventory space is limited, players shouldn't get too greedy when loading up on ingredients. Thus, it is essential to focus on collecting ingredients for one recipe at a time.

Above the standard user interface options is a set of six boxes arranged horizontally, which represents the player's current collection of ingredients and special items; it's important to note that your inventory can only hold six items at any given time. There are a few abilities that the Zealot chef can learn by completing certain recipes:

 width= Blind
Blinds and slows the movement speed of the targeted zealot chef.
 width= Blink
Teleports the zealot chef to a nearby target location. Ability can only be used once every 3 seconds.
 width= Dash
Greatly increases the speed of the zealot chef when used.
 width= Psi Blast
Does damage and knocks back all surrounding enemies. Also stuns them for a very short time.
 width= Enrage
The zealot chef does 25% more damage and moves faster for 12 seconds.
 width= Barrier
Creates a psionic barrier at the targeted area.
 width= Hallucination
Creates 3 hostile zerglings that cannot use active abilities, cannot deal damage, and die more easily. Hallucinated zerglings last 30 seconds before they disappear.
 width= Influence
Influence a nearby zealot chef into attacking the nearest creature.
 width= Graviton Prison
Makes the target unit float in the air, disabling its abilities and causing damage over time.
 width= Musk
Forces all beasts near the affected target to attack it.


Gameplay Analysis

Positive Aspects

The map has in-game transmissions, which will generally improve the experience of new players. It's also a fun parody of Western culture that combines awesome cooking shows with virtual StarCraft styled competition.

Negative Aspects

A single instance of the map can be played by up to eight players at a time, but sadly it feels restrictive and devoid of real strategic depth, especially since there is no team mode implemented. It seems like there is much more potential for this map than is initially offered. For example, by introducing complex recipes that would require more ingredients than one player could carry or by adding more fighting dimensions a team mode could work beyond simply summing the team members' scores.

The briefing cinematic cannot be skipped. Players should have an option to skip the opening cinematic as well as subsequent briefings by consensus.The gameplay elements are very limited. Players get to choose from three recipes and can either concentrate on working on the recipe that provides more points or the ones where players can earn abilities or items to harass other players. The game is set to Free For All (FFA); the general rule in a FFA states that players should focus on empowering themselves rather than specifically focusing on disrupting an opponent. A map such as this with few, simplistic, gameplay elements can become repetitive and boring quickly.

The gameplay elements are very limited. Players get to choose from three recipes and can either concentrate on working on the recipe that provides more points or the ones where players can earn abilities or items to harass other players. The game is set to Free For All (FFA); the general rule in a FFA states that players should focus on empowering themselves rather than specifically focusing on disrupting an opponent. A map such as this with few, simplistic, gameplay elements can become repetitive and boring quickly.

The hero Zealot each player receives has more hit points and shields than a normal Zealot. In addition there are a lot of power-ups around the map that can quickly restore them; consequently, strategies focusing on killing enemy Zealots are far less attractive.

Strategy & Tactics

In this map time is of the essence. Before deciding which ingredients you will start collecting, look at their positions on the minimap and ensure you start from bottom to top, left to right or vice versa in order to complete the recipe in the shortest possible time.

Each round your inventory resets, but abilities you earned in previous rounds carryover. Thus, it is advisable to complete the second recipe at least once, because it provides the best power-up reward available via the completion of a recipe.


There are three recipes to choose from and each with different reward. Players should keep in mind there are diminishing returns each time a player completes a receipe. To maximize score, you should attempt to at least make the third dish twice and the second one once. The order is up to you to decide. However, it is adviceable to get the ability recipe first as it might speed the gathering process of the following receipes.

While it is generally very hard to lose your Zealot, because of the increased toughness of the environmental creeps, it becomes much easier. It is in this round that aggressive spells and abilities matter the most.

Level Design Review

The map has some nice aesthetic elements. The User Interface (UI) has been modified to have more kitchen-like feeling. The terrain and doodad placement is also visually appealing.

The in-game models are done wonderfully and are noticeable from the very beginning of the match. Each Protoss chef has a chef's hat on their head and holds in each hand one of a variety of different psionic cooking tools, such as a frying pan, a whisk or a spatula. Many of the different ingredients are not typical StarCraft models, and were added for the mod. These include various vegetables, animals, as well as some of the ingredients that appear after butchering a creep or StarCraft II unit, such as a High Templar. While some of the custom animals don't have the same graphic style as the StarCraft II units we're familiar with, they are still clearly identifiable and there was no visual confusion in their addition into the map.

There seems to be Not Yet Implemented (NYI) features on this map regarding weapons. This mechanic will start some time after the initial briefing. It is set to display a dialog screen asking each player to choose a weapon.

  • Knife: +25% Psi Blade Damage
  • Spoon: +25% Life
  • Whisk: +25% Energy

This seems like an interesting dynamic, which players might see when the map is officially released post beta. Extra damage might make aggressive strategies more viable or even speed-up the overall ingredient gathering process. The extra life seems like it would best benefit players in tight situations in the last round. 

In Closing

This map has virtually no potential link to the lore. In fact it doesn't have a potential link to anything except competitive cooking shows. Regardless, it is still an amusing tongue-in-cheek StarCraft experience. It is well worth checking out, for the beautiful models and unique, if not compelling, gameplay.

Left 2 Die

Category: Survival and Siege
Mode: Co-op, Night 2 Die
Players: Up to 2


Left 2 Die, one of the four professionally developed StarCraft II custom mods announced and previewed at BlizzCon 2010, is Blizzard's tongue-in-cheek homage to Valve Software's popular zombie apocalypse survival FPS franchise, Left 4 Dead. By combining the frantic survival zombie-vibe of Left 4 Dead with StarCraft II's RTS engine and gameplay, Blizzard has crafted a simple but engaging co-op mod to bridge the genres and broaden the game's selection and appeal.

Left 2 Die is an expanded version of Wings of Liberty campaign mission Outbreak, in which you must survive the nights on Meinhoff against hordes of the undead, while destroying the infested structures in the daylight hours. This mod offers a story driven opening in-game cut-scene, similar to Outbreak's, that introduces the players to their plight and their objectives.

The starting base is almost identical to Outbreak's. Each player must continually mine and produce armies to defend the shared base from the numberless undead. In addition to the normal undead, special infected units occasionally spawn as well. Modeled after their Left 4 Dead counterparts, they each have a unique attack or ability and are more difficult to kill. For example, one of the special infected is a "Hunterling", inspired by Left 4 Dead's "Hunter", that leaps on your units and a "Choker", that is similar to the Smoker, that grabs and consumes a few units at a time.

For each Zerg structure players kill, they earn Biomass. Biomass can be used to unlock new units (such as the Medic, Reaper, or Hellion) or new technology (such as reinforced and expanded Bunkers or Tech Reactors). Each player accumulates their own biomass but any units or technologies unlocked are then available for both players. Players will also earn Biomass if they kill special Zerg creatures. These creatures are modified versions of existing Zerg units.

For those players who enjoy a particularly rough challenge, there is a mode called Night 2 Die. This mode does not have a victory condition; players must try to hold off the zombies waves as long as they can. The first night is endless but zombies will attack the base by waves. Each wave is progressively more difficult to handle.

 width= Hunterling
This is a miniature version of a Brutalisk. It is able to leap to get to higher cliffs.

A larger Baneling that can spit acid at a very fast rate. Additionally when it dies it will splash acid in a small radius.

 width= Spotter
An Overseer that can contaminate defensive structures such as Missile Turrets and Bunkers. It also has a slow but deadly attack.
 width= Choker
Unlike the Infestor, the Choker does not possess special abilities. However, it can do a Tentacle Attack that can disable and slowly kill units.
 width= Stank
A bigger and deadlier Ultralisk with 5000 Hit Points. Its Headbutt ability can quickly destroy buildings.


Gameplay Analysis

Positive Aspects

Left 2 Die is definitely a map that demonstrates how much fun cooperative play on singe player mission can be. The map has all the elements of single player experience. There are objectives and in-game transmissions alerting the player to the approach of the special enemy zombies. Additionally, it has multiple difficulties which allow players of all skill levels to enjoy the game and lastly, it is consistent with the Wings of Liberty campaign.

Hanson: Our readings indicate some kind of bio-infestation is spreading through the refugee camps. Even the buildings are being covered by it!
Raynor: It's a zerg virus. All we can do is burn it out.
Raynor: Every one of those infested buildings has to be destroyed.
Hanson: It looks like they burrow underground by day and emerge only at night.  The virus must make them vulnerable to the high UV output of Meinhoff's star.
Raynor: Then we'll hit the infested buildings by day and protect our base at night.


The custom content created for the map is visually appealing. While the actual models were changed slightly, the texture work definitely makes Zerg units resemble vile zombie monsters. Their adaptation so that these units had similar functions to the ones in Left 4 Dead was a brilliant idea that demonstrates the compatibility of other games in the Real-Time-Strategy genre.

Negative Aspects

This map can easily be modified to allow more players and this could create new interesting dynamics. For instance a player could have control of the special Zerg units or in a similar way more players can share the initial base if the size of it is increased.

The mode Night 2 Die does not have any victory condition. The mode simply forces the players to survive under the onslaught for as long as they can. Other than score and bragging rights, the mode has no incentive for players to continue playing once tedium sets in.

Strategy & Tactics

In the Brutal difficulty or in the Night 2 Die mode, it can be quite a challenge even for experienced players to beat the map. While there are viable strategies to obtain a victory in this map, this editorial will concentrate in a basic straight-forward strategy for the Brutal difficulty.

  • First Morning

Before the first night, players should attempt to raid a few infested structures to obtain some early Biomass. Avoid actually engaging any infested bunkers (they fire back), so that your combat units are still all at full health before the first night. Notice each player starts the game with 100 gas; in order to maximize the early production of Marines, at least 50 gas should be invested in one Reactor. Marines are the backbone unit of choice as they are cheap, have high DPS, and easy to mass produce. After the first Reactor, players can get either a second Reactor or a Tech Lab to research Stimpacks as soon as possible. The Bunker that already exists should be salvaged and rebuilt closer to the ramp, but not far from the choke or zombies would just stumble inside the players' base without being in range of Bunkers .A second Bunker must also be made next to the first in the choke. This is especially useful against Hunterlings, since they can prevent Hunterlings from leaping around to other areas of your base. Once the Adjutant announces there are only 30 seconds left before the morning, units should be finishing killing infested buildings and retreating back to the base. Make sure resources are spent on SCVs and Marines almost exclusively to save gas for Siege Tanks. Having a few Medics is also good since they can heal wounded Marines out of Bunkers. Lastly, it is helpful that Marines outside Bunkers stay together and in shooting range of the adjacent Bunker.

  • First Night

Players should keep massing Marines and SCVs. Eventually, when players have 400 minerals at their disposal, they should each make a Command Center right next to their Bunkers, so that choke is either partially or completely blocked. As soon as its construction is completed, the Command Center should be upgraded to a Planetary Fortress. On the first night, Hunterlings will leap to the ramps and attack Marines or structures built on them. Hunterlings within close range die very fast since the Marines will focus fire each time they get too close. As soon as 40 Biomass is accumulated by either player, the first purchase in the Science Laboratory should be Medics as these play a vital role in healing Marines that were attacked by Hunterlings or Boomers. The next 40 Biomass points could be spent on Hellions but one could also save these points to get to Siege Tanks faster. As soon as players have enough disposable resources, marine upgrades are very important to get as well as the Terran Building Armor as it will help all the player's buildings live longer. Kaboomers should arrive late at night and it is important to players focus fire on them as they destroy bunkers very quickly.

  • Morning Second Day

It is time to push out; players should have enough Marines to take out Infested Bunkers without incurring any losses. In the meantime, each player must make a Planetary Fortress in the north entrance because Infested Marines will break the barrier down. It is important that each player has at least two Barracks with Reactors and one Barracks with a Tech Lab to train Medics as they will make your morning pushes much easier. Players must build at least two Missile Turrets per ramp along with a bunker to quickly dispose of Spotters in the second night. If there are still undisposed resources players must build two to three Missile Turrets, near their minerals. Along with the players' main base upgraded to a Planetary Fortress will stop any Hunterling harass with Spotters from coming over the base edge. Also, make sure you have the Terran Building Armor before the second night.

  • Second Night

This is perhaps the hardest night, so one single mistake by either player can quickly result in the entire base being overwhelmed. One should not hesitate to take mining SCVs from the mineral line when Planetary Fortresses are under heavy fire as losing any of them can result in the entire shared base being overwhelmed. Generally, when more than two Spotters come to attack a ramp you will need extra Marine support as they will contaminate everything and thus they will get free shots at your buildings as well giving Infested Terrans vision to the adjacent cliff. In this night players can expect to see a lot more Boomers. These can take down Planetary Fortress down quite fast so players must focus fire them to prevent any substantial damage. If players can afford to research Siege Tanks, they will definitely be useful in dealing with the massing zombies. If Tanks are not purchased, then players should produce pure Marine/Medic as they will need to push hard on the third morning to get Tanks as soon as possible as they are helpful in dealing with groups of ground units and the Stank.

  • Third Morning

Both players should have a Tech Lab on their Factory and constantly producing Siege Tanks. Each choke should have two Planetary Fortresses to tank damage along with a few Missile Turrets for support. Players must have at least six SCVs on auto-repair for emergency repairs when a Stank is headed to a choke. If the choke has two Planetary Fortresses with SCVs repairing, along with Siege Tank support then the Stank will not be able to kill any unit..

  • Beyond...

From here on out, the game should be easy. If you have appropriate Siege Tank support, do not engage Nydus Worms outside the base. Later, as the instance progresses, Nydus Worms will spawn at some randomly within the base area. These must be taken down as soon as possible as the Siege Tank fire will splash nearby units and buildings. Having the Shaped Blasts upgrade before the fourth night is an important investment for this particular strategy. If you got lost or want additional details on how to follow this strategy, you can view how this is done in-game by watching this replay.

Level Design Review

The terrain is very similar to the one introduced in Outbreak. The base has been slightly modified so that two players have enough room to build any necessary structures. There are also two initial choke points. Later in the game Infested Terrans and Marines will break through scrap to open two additional choke points.

This map will most likely have Achievements available for players. Looking at the map's triggers one can get a few hints as to what will be required to earn those achievements. The Hard - Flawless Stank Kill will require players to kill the Stank without losing any units to it. The Brutal - Fast Win will consist of having players destroying all the infested buildings in less than 5 nights. However, it seems the hardest achievement will be N2D - Survive 15 Waves.


In Closing

This map is an interesting mix of cooperative gameplay and decision-making. Additionally, it offers a glimpse into the kinds of small lore related maps that are possible. Left 2 Die is a fun diversion from regular gameplay and while there are some improvements that could make it far more interesting, its quirky premise is appreciated.


Category: Puzzle/Strategy
Mode: Solo vs. A.I., Co-op vs. A.I., Player vs. Player
Players: Up to 4 (1v1, 1v1 A.I., 1v2 A.I., 1v2, 2v2, 2v2 A.I., etc.)


Starjeweled essentially combines the gameplay elements of the puzzle game Bejeweled, from PoPCap Games, and traditional Desert Strike and Tower Defense maps. The objective of the game is to destroy the enemy's base, represented as a Xel'Naga Vault. To produce units, players must swap jewels, according to their color, to make a match of three or more in a row to earn points. Each successful combination will produce a Marine and will grant a player energy. This energy can be accumulated and spent in producing additional units as well as powerful abilities that have the potential to change the tide of a battle instantaneously.

Bejeweled players might notice that Starjeweled has some characteristics that make the puzzle easier. The grid size is also 8 by 8 but instead of 7 different jewels, StarJeweled only has 6 different jewels. Furthermore, players are able to reset the board at anytime and can perform this reset every 15 seconds. All together this decreases the overall difficulty of the map.

Gameplay Elements

As soon as players gain energy, they are able to spend them on the following units: Zealots, Hydralisks, Mutalisks, Siege Tanks, Collosi, Roaches, Ghosts, Banshees, Immortals and Ultralisks. Units produced cannot be controlled by any player instead they will simply attack-move towards the enemy base. Units have slightly different properties from a standard StarCraft II game.

Point Cost: 50
Life armor of 3 instead of 1.
Life starting amount of 70 instead of 100.
15 attack priority instead of 20.
+2 attack Bonus to Biological targets.
No shields.
Point Cost: 100
15 attack priority instead of 20.
Damage of 8 instead of 12.
Point Cost: 200
Damage of 30/20/10 instead of 9/3/1.
Siege Tanks
Point Cost: 300
15 attack priority instead of 20.
Life starting amount of 130 instead of 150
Point Cost: 500
15 attack priority instead of 20.
Life armor of 3 instead of 1.
Life starting amount of 400 instead of 200.
No shields.
+25 extra damage against Light.
Point Cost: 75
+6 damage against Light.
15 attack priority instead of 20.
Point Cost: 100
15 attack priority instead of 20.
8 attack damage instead of 10.
+12 extra damage against Light instead of 10.
Point Cost: 250
Life armor of 1 instead of 0.
Life starting amount of 125 instead of 140.
15 attack damage instead of 12.
+15 extra damage against Light instead of 0.
Point Cost: 300
35 attack damage instead of 20.
No bonus damage against Armored.
+40 bonus damage against Structure.
Life armor of 3 instead of 1.
Life starting amount of 250 instead of 200.
No shields.
Point Cost: 500
16 attack damage instead of 15.
+52 bonus damage against Armored.
Point Cost: None
Life starting amount of 30 instead of 45.
15 attack priority instead of 20.
4 attack damage instead of 6.

In addition to units players can opt to spend their energy in spells:

Reset Board (15 second cooldown)
Point Cost: None
Reset the gem board.

Warp Cell
Point Cost: 150
Disables the target unit for 15 seconds. Target may not attack move or use abilities.

Time Bomb
Point Cost: 200
Creates a force bubble at the target area. Any units in the bubble suffer 50% penalty to their movement and attack speed. Lasts for 12 seconds.

Healing Wave
Point Cost: 250
Creates a wave of energy that heals a target and bounces to nearby friendly summoned units. Each bounce heals less damage. Initially heals 400 damage bounces up to 4 times.

Psionic Storm
Point Cost: 300
Creates a storm of psionic energy that causes up to 100 damage to all units in the target area. Lasts 4 seconds.

Gameplay Analysis

Positive Aspects

The User-Interface (UI) of the jewels is clean and fits very well even on small resolutions. Purchasable units as well as spell have their own hotkeys and this definitely makes things easier as players can dedicate the right hand almost exclusively to jewel swapping and the left hand for using hotkeys. The leaderboard is useful as it can provide players with information on who is doing well and who is still learning. Smart players could check the leaderboard to identify the strong players on the opposing team and purchase units that counter that opponent’s unit selections. The map has its own score dialog which gives more detailed information about the match.

Even in beta this map is fairly well balanced. Some unit relationships have been altered to address some balance concerns. Shields were taken out to make units slightly more vulnerable in the long run. For instance if a player decides to purchase Collosi and they survived a particular battle then their regenerated shields could make it harder for the losing players to make a comeback. The reason that attack priorities were changed should be evident if one notices that more priority is given to air units. Without this consideration air units will have an additional advantage besides their natural counters of which there are few they would also benefit from being targeted last making units that do not attack air vulnerable.

Negative Aspects

While this map offers many game modes the gameplay perhaps could have been extended to allow more players. Reducing the spawn rate of Marines might allow space for more units to prevent units clumping together.

There is a big random element in the map with regard to the jewels. Starting grids are random but that doesn’t mean they all start at the same difficulty. Sometimes players can quickly identify a lot of possible moves if given an easy grid. This inequity is effectively reduced in the long run since players will likely reset the grid at some point. However this does not prevent scenarios in which players get easy grids that an potentially result in very large pushes thanks to the fact that Marines are produced after each successful combination. The issue is even more glaring when you consider that sometimes complete combos can drop without requiring the player’s input. A possible fix to mitigate this issue would be to change the Marines’ spawn trigger to automatically spawn only after obtaining a pre-set amount of energy.

In the current testing build the match is best of five rounds. Sadly some players get discouraged after losing the first round and leave the game. Perhaps one single but longer game might create a better gameplay experience. Additionally purchasable defenses could be added to slow the pace of the game.

It is relatively hard for a losing team to make a comeback. Any unit that survives its initial confrontation is a slight advantage. However as more units survive the advantage increases. This advantage is compounded until only seasoned players have the knowledge necessary to deal with it. Perhaps a one-time nuke spell could allow more interesting matchups especially for those just learning the map.

Strategy & Tactics

To master this map players need to understand puzzle games and unit relationships. General tactics commonly used for Bejeweled do apply here. For instance when you first see the board try to identify possible four gem swaps instead of just quickly going for three gem swaps. If players ignore this they have a chance of denying themselves the higher point values of four-in-a-row combos. Additionally four gem combinations serve to clear more space on the grid. For basic similar tactics check the Bejeweled Strategy Guide. Experienced and hardcore players should try to look for patterns that can enable them to eliminate more jewels such as the ones presented here.

It is of upmost importance to choose your purchased units wisely. Always keep an eye on what the opponents is producing and try to counter it. You can expect the same unit relationships regarding unit counters as in vanilla multiplayer match-ups. However keep in mind that since units have different stats than their traditional multiplayer counterparts the unit relationships are slightly tweaked. Furthermore despite not being able to micro units players can control the spawn of units. When a player is severely outnumbered purchasing 5 Mutalisks in the same moment will generally have a much greater impact than purchasing each individually as soon as the player gathers 200 points. However in a close battle doing the opposite might result in a much better outcome for the player. As always strategies evolve and a player must develop and employ their game sense and experience to achieve victory.

Last but not least players should not underestimate the usefulness of spells. If an opponent player has four clumped up Ghosts or Hydralisks a player should consider using the Psionic Storm spell. The player will be investing 300 points to destroy an army of 400 points. However this can be countered by players using Healing Wave in the Psionic Storm area.

Ultralisks are in most situations the most powerful purchasable unit. Smart players will wait until the Ultralisk is in cannon range and use Warp Cell on them. This is a powerful tactic since the Warp Cell only requires 150 points to immobilize the Ultralisk compared to the Ultralisk which requires 500 points. Using the correct spell at the right time can significantly change the outcome of the skirmish. Players who practice often and learn how to multi-task and react to their opponent appropriately will be very successful in this game.

Resetting the board is also a very useful feature. The map by default will alert players when there are no more possible moves but this doesn't mean players should wait until they receive this message. If players are unable to find any gem swaps quickly resetting might be the best option.

Level Design Review

StarJeweled Gameplay

The terrain is simple and small (92 x 92); it’s a simple north to south path with a relatively small doodad count of 97. Most of the data edits are around modifications to unit basic statistics such as hit points and damage and a few other effects related to spells. There are no significant imported files other than the loading screen and a small imported layout to replace the existing UI. All the triggers are in Graphic User Interface (GUI) mode to allow further customization by the community. In terms of Galaxy code the triggers sum up to 8988 lines. The reason for such a large number of lines can be attributed to a large amount of dialog based triggers: the jewel board the leaderboard scoreboard and all the life and energy bars and all other UI modifications. The jewel board is responsible for more than two-thirds of all the triggers in the map.

The position of the jewels is based on an X and Y coordinate which facilitates any modifications with the use of variable arrays. Moreover dialog design can be quite a tedious task especially with external tools to help in dialog design. One good guideline for dialog design is to have local variables for modification of the X and Y coordinates of the dialogs themselves. This can be helpful if there are multiple dialogs sharing the same X or Y axis position.

In Closing

This map is another sucessful example of mixing cooperative gameplay and decision-making. Additionally one of the most important and interesting features of the map is the hybrid gameplay. Players have little control of the battlefield but are responsible for every move in the jewel board. This concept can be applied to maps attempting to create similar conditions which is the idea of having a game within a game.

Overall Thoughts

A SCLegacy/Teamliquid poll found that StarJeweled is currently the community’s favorite Blizzard beta mod and Aiur Chef is the least favorite. While the sample size was relatively small the results do seem to provide a representational snapshot of what gameplay players seem to prefer most.

StarJeweled Gameplay

Aiur Chef is perhaps the map that needs the most work. It's not a matter of finishing the NYI triggers but a matter of properly addressing the current gameplay concerns that make the map much less interesting than the other two. Adding more dynamics and giving players the option to skip the cinematics can be considered small improvements to the map's gameplay. However players can make a big deal out of these little details. These little details are by far the most important; if left unresolved a player simply loses interest in playing the map and instead will explore others.

Left 2 Die got an unusually low tally. This is most likely attributed to the fact that in the current beta testing stage this map was commonly played on Normal instead of the Hard and Brutal difficulties. The Night to Die mode could also benefit from a victory condition even if it is very hard to obtain. Adding the ability to have more players in the map in a later version could also boost its overall popularity.

StarJeweled definitely presents new interesting gameplay and more options to StarCraft II players. The UI is pleasant to look and the fact that it allows friends to play together and against each other adds a fun dimension. On the downside the map needs more modes for more players; more options could potentially make this map a true diamond in the rough. The number rounds currently set to five is excessive for some players which has resulted in a number of losing players leaving the game early. While the map is still in its public beta stage it has potential to become quite successful.

All together these beta maps have been a concentrated effort by level designers to demonstrate the capabilities of the Galaxy Editor. While many of the features introduced in these maps are new and innovative the success of these maps depends entirely on the community. Their current success may only be attributed to being featured at the top of the custom map options. Without additional Battle.net enhancements for custom games these maps once released in their final form will be forced to compete for popularity with a new wave of maps inspired by Blizzard maps created by the community.

WARNING: The following review contains several spoilers for the novel in question.


Much like volume 1, volume 2 begins with Kevin Bick, director of the program, being interviewed on UNN live, only this time he is accosted before the whole sector. The expulsion of Aal Cistler in Ghost Academy: Volume 1 proved dangerous for the Academy. Son of the finance minister of the Terran Dominion, Aal's immature rage is magnified by his father's influential position and friendship with the Emperor, creating a real threat to Director Bick. Though expelled for providing a fellow trainee, Lio Travski, with the illegal drug Hab, Aal's lies and the media's spin transforms the situation into an attack on Bick's leadership. The instigators accused the academy’s preceptors of abusing their power and called into question the program's ability to protect its students.

The opening passages of Volume 2 establish the tense atmosphere within the academy. The trainees are no longer the only ones being tested and graded - the academy itself must prove itself in the eyes of the Dominion. First and foremost, this necessitates damage control - and promises plenty of action.

This volume of Ghost Academy expands on Volume 1’s foray into parallel story telling. A side story is presented, which will ultimately provide a segue into Volume 3. The fall of Tarsonis, set one year before the main story line of Ghost Academy, is presented from the perspective of a collection of teens. One and all, they are the sons and daughters of the powerful Old Families. The teens were initially spirited off to Tyrador IX in the face of encroaching alien and terrorist threats to the Confederacy, and were the same group of Old Family scions that Nova left behind in the beginning of StarCraft Ghost: Nova.

Their partying and relaxation is cut short as broadcasts sweep the sector: Tarsonis has fallen to Zerg invasion. The teens' caretakers quickly receive an encoded transmission from Arturro Calabas to initiate Plan Razor, which sees to it that they are evacuated to another site, safely isolated from the war. As the teens quickly ready themselves for departure, Arturro's son, Morgan Calabas, retrieves a mysterious case inscribed with the words "Nova Terra", the luggage that Nova presumably left behind. The planet-jumper departs, its crew of heirs in tow, to Shi, a fourth planet of a collection of mining planets referred to as the Baker’s Dozen. However, the safety they were meant to find was nowhere to be found. An unmarked Terran spacecraft seeded the world with Zerg shortly after the teens' arrival, spreading an infestation that would slowly tear them apart one by one. This parallel story is told as a sort of prologue to each chapter of Ghost Academy Volume 2.

At the Ghost Academy, the members of Blue Team - Gabriel Tosh, Nova Terra, Lio Travski, Kath Toom and novice Delta Emblock - were subjected to even more strenuous tests. Superintendent Sarco Angelini subjected the students to an ever more realistic battlefield simulation comprised of robotic duplicates of Zerg. The team's poor history of communication and coordination, in addition to Lio's flagging performance, left the team in pessimistic disarray. It wasn't until the simulation began that each member was able to prove their ability: untested member Delta Emblock countered an initial Defiler attack; Lio cast a shield to deflect Hydralisk needles; and Nova not only flattened a horde of Zerglings with a psychic wave, but also knocked out the robotic Zerg's "controlling consciousness" - Sarco Angelini himself. In only a few minutes the combat simulation was complete.

Despite his stronger than usual performance, Lio Travski's worsening drug addiction prompted Director Bick to order Lio’s forceful abduction for emergency detoxification and resocialization. The intrusive procedure was nothing less than horrific, characterized and illustrated by phantasmagoric hallucinations. It was revealed that Lio's caretakers may have habituated him to the use of Hab to dampen or outright eliminate his psychic abilities. Led to a reclusive and insecure childhood, he surrounded himself by technology and robots in lieu of proper social interactions. Lio’s limitations led to a hatred of the flesh, seeing it as weak and pitiful when compared to the strength and detachment of the machine.

Meanwhile, Aal Cistler accosted the Academy and demanded to be re-admitted. The Academy's drug case against Cistler was dropped on grounds of insubstantial evidence. Moreover, reinforced by his father, three senators and a UNN news crew, Kevin Bick had little choice other than to readmit Cistler. However, It quickly becomes clear that Aal Cistler has little desire to resume his studies. Shortly after his return, Cistler promptly begins plotting his revenge against his former teammates. In doing so, he forms a dangerous alliance with the Red Team captain, Dylanna, who also has a personal grudge against the Blue Team.

Despite the atmosphere of increased tension, adversity and uncertainty, the Tosh/Nova backstory is fleshed out a bit more. Though romantic entanglement is strongly prohibited, Nova’s skill, talent and independence caught the attention of her team leader, while Gabriel’s passion and dedication attracted Nova. Tosh and Nova finally express and briefly explore their mutual attraction. Gabriel’s caution, however, quickly quelled any possibility of a future relationship. Hurt, Nova explored the Academy, only to run into an astral projection of Colin Phash, the prodigious youth introduced in Volume 1 who is being experimented upon in an isolated lab. After losing sight of Colin’s apparition, Nova discovered the isolated area to be heavily monitored and protected by Academy security, where even Marines were armed with psi-screens. No one is allowed in - or out. Having been brought to the site of Colin’s incarceration, the only tactic left for Nova is to pursue active investigation, presumably later in the series.

Blue Team was shortly reinforced by a renewed Lio Travski, whose mental and emotional addictions had been been burned away, replaced by cool confidence and clarity. While warmly welcomed by his teammates, Nova was wary of Lio’s change. She sensed something about Lio wasn’t quite right, “It’s like he’s been boiled down to the core... and Lio isn’t there any more.” Lio's return heralded a final, no-holds-barred combat simulation against Red Team. During the battle, the Blue Team fell one by one, leaving Lio and Nova to face off against the entire Red Team. Lio, having regained clarity, communed with derelict SCVs strewn across the battlefield. With the robotic structures at his command, he single-handedly defeated the Red Team despite the overwhelming odds.

Their final test complete, teams Red and Blue are debriefed - where it is revealed that both teams are being dismantled in favor of a unified team. Their first field assignment will be to the Baker’s Dozen. Upon Shi, the scions of the Old Families are in constant danger. In the year since the fall of Tarsonis, Shi has been infested by Zerg, the guards have been killed, and only four heirs remain after a failed counter attack using commandeered mining equipment. The Zerg continue their siege of the mining base, their forces led by an infested guard named Jakk. With hope flagging for Morgan Calabas, Antonia Tygore, and Bess and Rakham Kusini, they may soon find that their desperate transmissions for help have not fallen on deaf ears...


StarCraft Ghost Academy Volume 2 provides an interesting mix of action, romance, charm, horror and lore. The series is written by Hugo and Nebula award wining author David Gerrold, whose most notable - some may argue most infamous - contribution to science fiction is the original Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” However, he also contributed heavily to the bible behind Star Trek: The Next Generation, and helped shape that series in its premier season. His penchant for subtle humor, character development and interpersonal politics is evident in Volume 2 with the scandal surrounding Aal Cistler, and ensuing schisms between him and the main cast. Special attention was placed on the evolution of Lio Travski, whose frightening mental odyssey not only elucidated upon the process of neural resocialization, but also promises to reveal more about the nature of the Ghost program, and that character in particular, in future issues. Since it is hinted that the Ghosts will be sent to a mining world replete with automated technology, the transformed Lio is sure to play a pivotal role.

The hard edged artwork is just as bold, detailed and stark as before. Illustrator Fernando Heinz Furukawa uses his graphic, sometimes frenetic and cluttered style to great effect, emphasizing action with feverish motion and chaotic detail. Some character and background details pay homage to the work of others. For example, the obtuse puddle jumper that ferries the scions to safety bears a striking resemblance to the LAAT/i gunships from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Also, Zerg larvae most resemble the designs of famed StarCraft fan and recently hired Blizzard artist Mr. Jack.

In terms of lore, Volume 2 brings several interesting things to bear. A single Zerg Queen is presented during the infestation of Jakk. Though seven months after the fall of Tarsonis, it resembles the ground-bound breed developed by Kerrigan. Also, this volume prominently illustrates another instance of resocialization, this one definitely falling into the category of cruel and unusual. Lio Travski is restrained on a wall-mounted platform, which rotates so as to have him hanging upside down. It is implied that needles are forced into his eyes, throwing him into fits of pain and sparking off horrific, Geiger-esque hallucinations. Unfortunately, these very hallucinations mask the actual process itself, leaving it up to the imagination of the reader. However, it must be stressed that there is some ambiguity as to whether or not Lio remembers the ordeal afterwards. When confronted by his former drug dealer, Aal Cistler, he attacks him in a rage. Up to this point, resocialization has been presented as erasing - or at least masking - memories, past and identity. However, its evident from the various lore sources that are also many different forms and levels of resoc, that makes the classification of the one presented here difficult.

Though Red Team is once again relegated to the generic aggressors, some hints as to the personality of each member may be inferred from their reactions and facial features. Dylanna Okyl is firmly established as the secondary antagonist, after Aal Cistler, though her motivations are only slightly more complex than Aal’s. While he wants to ease his wounded pride by inflicting pain, Dylanna is driven by jealousy of Nova’s relationship with Tosh, hinting at a shared past with the leader of Blue Team. Dori Koogler may be the most liberal and least vindictive member of Red Team. While her teammates occasionally express joy at the Blue Team’s pain, Dori’s expressions hint at mild concern towards Blue Team, or at the worst indifferent. Obi Minaya and Winlaleah Martine whole-heartedly reflect their leader’s anger, with Winlaleah being the most vocal and ambitious in exacting violence and pain. Finally, Andie Dessai, the Ghost trainee distinguished by ocular implants, remains the most elusive; though he quietly acts on his leader’s every command, his face never betrays his emotions.

The Ghosts’ abilities and powers are expanded to new heights, easily rivaling and, in some circumstances, overshadowing those of the Protoss. Even when impaired by drug addiction, Lio Travski is capable of producing a psychic barrier to block incoming volleys of spines. Nova can now unleash her powers in an explosive manner, wiping out dozens of opponents with the wave of a hand. However, it is implied that there remains some danger in its use, as she refuses to unleash her full potential in fear of harming her friends. Many Ghosts still find it difficult to keep their minds shut off from the outside world. This is hinted at in their need for psi screens during sleep in the previous manga, and the difficulty of Ghosts to shield their own thoughts in Volume 2. Though it may tell as much about her character as it does about Ghosts in general, Dylanna’s thoughts are easily read by teammates and enemies alike.

The expanded StarCraft universe delves a lot deeper into slang and colloquialism than the core games, attempting to create a more immersive universe for its readers. Such terms as “teep” and “teek” - referring to telepaths and telekinetics - have been used for years, paying homage to Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, where such terms originated. While the use of slang can work to create a richer world, new words feel like childish gobbledygook more often than not. However, one term in Ghost Academy - “slike” - carries with it genuine profanity, only blunted somewhat by its overuse.

StarCraft: Ghost Academy Volume II touches upon many different themes, but the central dominating Terran theme remains: power. Power: the never-ending struggle to attain it, wield it, preserve it, manipulate it, and tear it away from others. Issues of self agency, independence and slavery are all explored, most thoroughly and aptly through the character of Lio Travski, whose multifarious weaknesses, strengths and interpersonal difficulties come together to arguably create the most dynamic character in the series. He is the focus of intrigue; the subject of tests and addiction; the victim of politics; and is stripped - and empowered - by forces greater than himself, against his will. While a great tumult revolves around Lio, everyone must deal with their own difficulties with power and powerlessness in their own ways. One and all, each character must learn the limits of their power, the responsibilities they entail, and each must learn to temper their passions and doubts to survive against the nightmarish Zerg, calculating Protoss... and each other.

WARNING: The following review contains several spoilers for the novel in question.

StarCraft: Ghost Academy is a sort of continuation of the Frontline series of mangas. Like frontline, it is divided into volumes; this review is about volume 1.


Ghost Academy begins with a UNN anchor interviewing the director of the Ghost program, Kevin Bick, after dozens of Dominion worlds received holo-footage of former Dominion Senator Corbin Phash demanding that the Ghost Academy close its doors. Bick assures the populace that the Ghost Academy is a benevolent institution of learning that doesn't experiment on its students like the Confederacy did.

At the Ghost Academy, trainees have been divided into teams. Team Blue consists of Gabriel Tosh, a first-class trainee, Lio Traviski, a fourth-class trainee, Kath Toom, a third-class trainee, and Nova Terra, a fourth-class trainee. First-class trainees are those who are close to graduating, while fourth-class trainees are new recruits. Team Blue's first training exercise was a simulation where they were required to infiltrate a planet-hopper that was taken by five UED pirates in order to rescue a Senator and his aides. Tosh began explaining the plan, but Nova quickly ran off to do her own thing. She sneaked into the rear and telepathically ripped a metal door of its hinges, while the rest of the team proceeded with the original plan. Lio attempted to jump onto the wing but failed, Kath triggered an explosive in her face, and Tosh was gunned down by a Marine. Nova reached the hostages but was backstabbed and eventually failed as well. They were each given appropriate percentile scores after the simulation ended, and Nova was irate that she had failed, while Tosh and Kath were miffed that Nova didn't follow the plan.

While Team Blue prepares for a history indoctrination with preceptor Soohoo, Superintendent Sarco Angelini enters Bick's office. Bick reports that the experiments on Colin Phash are going well, and that he is a PI of 7.5. Bick also reveals the latest addition to Team Blue: Aal Cistler, the son of the finance minister. While a superb martial artist, Aal is only a PI 4.5, which isn't even a telepath. Neither Bick nor Angelini appear to want him there, but Aal's father is the close personal friend of the emperor.

Meanwhile, at the history indoctrination, preceptor SooHoo discusses the Confederacy's incompetence in letting their strongest Ghost, Sarah Kerrigan, defect to the Zerg. He refers to the UED and Umojans as "race traitors," and obviously teaches propaganda instead of real history. After the students leave, Dylanna, another team leader, berates Nova for not working with her team. Then later at lunch, Aal Cistler is inducted into Team Blue, and is unhappy to be there. Lio however goes to do his own thing; he is technopath and is able to send electronic letters telepathically. However, he has a serious drug addiction to a substance known as "hab," and surviving day to day becomes harder for him as his doses are late.

For the next simulation exercise, the team is required to reach the middle of a maze filled with robots and deactivate its defenses.  Nova successfully reaches the end, but the rest of the team still receives bad scores because they didn't work together. Next, the team is sent to Sergeant Hartley's class for martial arts. Hartley is a very hands-on teacher and manhandles many of his students, pushing them to their limits. Tosh and Aal are forced to spar because they did the most pushups. Tosh gets some good initial hits in, but Aal surprises him with his martial prowess as well.

After the class, Dylanna harasses Nova about not working with her team again. Tosh reaffirms that Nova needs better teamwork. As Nova leaves, she sees a kid, which bothers her because she keeps seeing this kid everywhere. Nova then stumbles into Delta's room, who is another trainee, albeit a child, and helps her study for her tests. Meanwhile, at lunch, Kath shows her disgust for Aal, who she thinks feels entitled because of who her father is, and leaves the table.

Next is a C-10 Weapon Assembly exercise. Aal scored very low and received another jab from Kath, and Lio scored low due to his withdrawal symptoms. Aal then catches up with Lio afterwards and says he can get him some hab if he does him a favor. At lunch, Delta comes to thank Nova for helping her pass her exam, and Kath is happy that Nova helped her with assembling her C-10. Then when Nova goes to sleep, she has a nightmare about what she went through in Tarsonis's Gutter, and her nightmares intermingle with those of Delta. The next morning, it turns out that Tosh also intercepted Nova's dreams, because he also didn't sleep with a psi-screen on to block out other Ghosts' thoughts. Tosh and Nova have a little heart-to-heart, and Tosh reveals that he was raised by his grandma in the slums of Haji, who thought that Tosh's powers were from the gods.

The drugs then finally arrive and Aal gives a needle to Lio. Meanwhile, Kath's father reports that a computer glitch led to some accounting irregularities and that his mining company is under investigation. The team is then sent to do a repeat of the planet-hopper exercise. They all work together very well until Lio experiences a drug-induced hallucination that things are crawling on him. Nova, knowing what drug withdrawals look like from her time in the Gutter, reacts quickly and calls a medic. Unfortunately, she and Lio have their minds wiped by Superintendent Angelini to ensure their loyalty, who reveals that he knew about Lio's drug addiction.

Afterwards, the scene is chalked up to food poisoning, and Aal is expelled from the Academy for drug trafficking. Preceptor Lagdamen announces that Delta will be replacing Aal as Team Blue's fifth trainee. Aal however leaves Kath a message about her dad, leading her to believe that he orchestrated the investigation. Nova however is promoted to a third-class trainee, and Team Blue congratulates each other on their teamwork.


As the successor to Frontline, Ghost Academy does a fairly decent job. Unlike Frontline, it is a bit too much into the extended-universe for some people, but it definitely gives a good look into the Ghost Academy. It was definitely interesting seeing the events of the novel StarCraft: Ghost Nova illustrated. Malcolm Kelerchian looks very dramatic as he introduces himself while jumping through a wall, kool-aid man style. Fagin looked very sinister with his filed teeth; Ghost Academy and Nova have the same author, so the flashback scenes were sure to turn out great. Ghost Academy had its fair share of humor, such as Kath taking jabs at Aal, and the history lessons being referred to as "indoctrination".

The artwork is somewhat stereotypical, with Ghosts drawn wearing form-fitting suits - the men being overly muscular and the women having huge bust lines. Everyone seems to have a goatee and scraggly hair. The Ghost Academy acceptance and eviction letters at the start and end of the novel were also a nice touch and were interesting to rad.

Each character was given a great backstory and while Ghost Academy focuses predominantly on Nova, every member of team blue was given his moment in the spotlight. The story has enough mysteries to keep the reader hooked for volume two. The kid that Nova keeps seeing in this facility is likely Colin Phash using his projection ability - Nova is likely one of the few who can detect it. It will be interesting seeing what kind of other special abilities other Ghosts will have. Lio was already capable of interfacing with technology psionically.

Accuracy and Canon:

The only real mistake in Ghost Academy is that it claims that Ursa, on which the Ghost Academy is located, has a moon called Canis, when Ursa itself is supposed to be one of Korhal's moons according to the Frontline Orientation story and StarCraft: Heaven's Devils.

It was strange that at a psionic index of 4.5, Aal was not even considered a telepath and not good enough to be in the Ghost Academy period. But most Ghosts are a psionic index of 5.0. Later on, in one of the simulations, which appear to take place in real life, Aal also destroyed a robot with nothing but his bare hand, which shouldn't even be possible. So it appears that Blizzard is steadily increasing the power of "average" Ghosts, in contradiction to the standard set by Micky Neilson, who gave them modest powers in Uprising.


It’s been more than twelve years since StarCraft was released, and times have changed. Technologically speaking, the top-of-the-line hardware available in 1998 now belongs in a museum. While it’s true that Blizzard Entertainment has always demonstrated their commitment to making their games play smoothly on a wide range of systems, some people just want these products to look stunning. Enter NVIDIA’s partnership with Blizzard. NVIDIA worked closely with Blizzard to design the cards necessary for optimal performance at all price points. The following is a summary of our experience with the EVGA GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB).

The Test Rig

Intel Core i5-750 Lynnfield 2.66GHz LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor
MSI P55-GD65 LGA 1156 Intel P55 ATX Intel Motherboard
Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600)
Windows 7 Ultimate Edition


When we received this card, we knew it had been engineered specifically with StarCraft II in mind, so our expectations were quite high. Accordingly, we tested the card primarily using the 1900x1200 resolution with all settings on “Ultra”. We were very impressed with the card’s ability to consistently provide the highest quality and FPS in any game mode. The performance results demonstrated why this card was created and is being marketed to StarCraft II players.

GPU Engine

CUDA Cores336
Graphics Clock (MHz)675 MHz
Processor Clock (MHz)1350 MHz
Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec)37.8 

Memory Specs

Graphics card versionGTX 460 1GB GDDR5GTX 460 768MB GDDR5
Memory Clock18001800
Standard Memory Config1 GB GDDR5768MB GDDR5
Memory Interface Width256-bit192-bit
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec)115.286.4

Display Support

Maximum Digital Resolution2560x1600 
Maximum VGA Resolution2048x1536 
Standard Display ConnectorsTwo Dual Link DVI
Mini HDMI 
Multi Monitor
Audio Input for HDMIInternal

Standard Graphics Card Dimensions

Height4.376 inches (111 mm) 
Length8.25 inches (210 mm) 

Thermal and Power

Maximum GPU Temperature (in C)104 C
Maximum Graphics Card Power (W)160 W
Minimum Recommended System Power (W)450 W
Supplementary Power Connectors6-pin & 6-pin 

Source: NVIDIA - GeForce GTX 460

The test rig had been running dual ATI Radeon HD 4870 1 GB cards in CrossFire mode. While these cards were of the more recent technical generation, the new NVIDIA card produced more than a 200% increase in FPS consistently. Even among equivalent generation cards, the 460 out-performed its competitors by wide margins. On average, the card produced 112 FPS without forced anti-aliasing. To compare, several reviews have shown ATI’s HD 5850 to deliver 95 FPS consistently.

The FPS were fairly stable throughout campaign gameplay, in-game rendered cinematics, and all of the competitive mode. This was surprising in 4v4s since the unit clutter generally causes cards to work significantly harder and produce a lower frame rate. During the climax of large-scale battles, we noticed no greater than a 20% FPS decrease (with anti-aliasing off), which stands in stark comparison to the card’s price-point competitors.

NVIDIA’s control panel allows you to force anti-aliasing, so this feature may be useful considering that StarCraft II does not have native anti-aliasing. While we saw a slight performance decrease, this card delivers if AA is something you are looking for. This feature isn’t for everyone, but this card can easily handle the additional load with largely unnoticeable drops in quality.

Additionally, the GTX 460s offer a quieter fan in contrast to the annoyingly loud fans many of NVIDIA’s powerful cards have suffered from in the last few years. It’s still noticeable, but it’s definitely an improvement. The card also draws less power and operates at a lower temperature than many cards that we’ve used recently, which translates into more speed in identical operating conditions. The 460 models also offer 3D Vision support, CUDA, Blu-ray 3D capabilities, full DirectX 11 support, and PhysX.

It’s important to note that the 460 comes in two models. There is the 768 MB version and the 1 GB version. The larger card also sports 8 more ROP's and 64 more bits of memory bus. The suggested price difference is only $20, so for the added 25% more memory and its ability to handle larger resolutions more smoothly, the higher-end model is well worth the price.


We were so impressed with the 460 that it convinced us to purchase an additional card to observe how dual cards running in SLI will increase performance, not only for StarCraft II but for our other gaming needs as well. It’s only potential con is how it will perform under the next generation of game whose technological frontier is always being pushed. But, at this price point, that is really a non-issue. If you’re in need of a card capable of running StarCraft II at optimal settings at a relatively cheap price point, this is the card for you. This is by far one of the best cards we’ve seen that balances top performance with value, and it elevates StarCraft II’s performance to new heights.

A copy of this card was provided by NVIDIA for our review.


WARNING: The following review contains several spoilers.


Issue One


Issue One introduces the plot, and it provides basic information on all the characters. It is set in the year 2500, but the majority of the comic series takes place two years later. The War Pigs, a squad of elite, enslaved outlaws, are introduced in the midst of a three-way battle between the Confederacy, The Sons of Korhal, and the Zerg on a previously unknown planet, Atticus Minor. The significance of Atticus Minor is never explained, but as far as the War Pigs are concerned, it is important only because Arcturus Mengsk is on it.

After the War Pigs fail to kill Mengsk, their contractor, Confederate bureaucrat Tamsen Cauley, responds by trying to kill them with his private army. The War Pigs survive, and their leader confronts Cauley, who offers him a clean slate in return for the lives of the rest of the War Pigs. Fortunately, they mistrust Cauley enough to prepare for treachery. The squad is split up, and they are driven into hiding for fear Cauley will attempt to kill them again. In the last few pages, the story jumps forward to 2502, and events rapidly speed up.

Tamsen Cauley, now working for Mengsk in the Dominion, still wants to destroy the War Pigs, and he’s got an ace in the hole: former War Pig Cole Hickson is incarcerated in New Folsom Prison. Cauley makes Hickson an offer he is unable refuse: rally the squad to assassinate Jim Raynor in exchange for freedom.


Cauley is a self-serving villain, so he is mistrusted by everyone. The writer's embrace Cauley's sinister ambition, and they showcase his plan to unleash Cerberus unit (do you remember the StarCraft demo?) against the War Pigs after Raynor's assassination. Surprisingly, Cerberus appears to be Cauley's private army, so they are independent from Mengsk. What exactly his position in the Confederacy is unclear because of this revelation.


The beginning battle is a handy plot device, but it fails to introduce all of the characters effectively. Most of the War Pigs remain talking heads until their characters are fleshed out in later issues. All we really learn about the characters are their roles in combat (if that). Turfa Dei serves as the explosives expert. Cole Hickson sometimes serves as a leader to the War Pigs, and he works as a sniper in combat. Nuura Joss is the resident pilot and tech expert, for she is the voice on the intercom telling the War Pigs how to get out of bad situations for much of the combat. Brock Valevoss leads the War Pigs, and he appears to be well respected by them. The final two characters, Romy Pyrius and Vin Iggins, remain largely unknown in this issue. In contrast, Tamsen Cauley has a more detailed introduction than any of the main characters.

This first battle scene is intense, but is also confusing. All you know about the War Pigs' objective is that they are trying to assassinate an important figure in the midst of a large battle. Some explanation of their mission would have been helpful. In addition, the art throughout all fights is less than clear. For example, the squad wears red armor in one of the battles, and so do their enemies. This causes a confusion in what are otherwise very enjoyable, gritty battle scenes.

The comic is intended to cover the StarCraft universe broadly, and it does a pretty good job of this. For instance, it shows how the power brokers of the Confederacy reacted to constant losses against the Sons of Korhal, and it depicts the negative effects of neural resocialization (expanded upon in I, Mengsk and other sources). The sheer quantity of basic lore introduced in this issue is impressive, but a great deal of it is useless. For example, the planet on which the first battle takes place, Atticus Minor, is depicted as highly contested. The Sons of Korhal, including Mengsk, are depicted fighting the Zerg with large Confederate fleet in orbit. The significance and relevance of this planet is never explained; its future is never described, and it is never mentioned again. Atticus Minor is just another planet to add to the lore databases with few significant details, despite everyone in the sector apparently wanting it.


Issue Two


Issue Two begins shortly after Issue One ended. The Warp Pigs are beginning to hunt for Raynor, and they are experiencing little success success. Their warp engines are destroyed after a skirmish with the Kel-Morian Combine. The squad limps to nearby space station for repairs, but the station is under the "new management" of pirates, who restrain their guests, with the exception of Romy, and impounds their ships. The rest of the issue depicts a fairly simplistic escape. Romy liberates his squad mates in the most brutal ways possible, as one would expect. The Warp Pigs return to their ship, which was repaired for the use of the pirates who captured it, and they continue the search for Raynor.

The character of some squad members is developed. Romy's drug addiction is introduced, and it is implied that Hickson is suffering from an undisclosed condition. He falls asleep during combat, and he is seemingly unaware of his surroundings as evidenced by his mistakes. In addition, an inexplicable vendetta against him is introduced, as well as a mysterious Xel'Naga Crystal mysterious crystal. stolen from the pirates.


The action is this issue is very gruesome, entertaining, and different from the action in Issue One. Instead of squads fighting against well equipped armies, all of the action is improvised in a intimate, small setting. There are neither power-suits nor goliaths here; it is just men on a space station. That doesn't mean it's bad, just less standard for a sci-fi universe. The biggest qualm with this issue is that each scene has its own little gimmick. From drug-powered soldiers tearing men apart to cyber-cats, the action is unfamiliar, if intense. The level of intensity is helped by Hickson breaking down at one point and going into a flash-back in the middle of a fight. This increases the tension while providing a little bit of information on Hickson's past with one of the villains.

The vast majority of the lore in this issue relates exclusively to the overall story arc. We don't get to see any details, such as a glimpse at significant rival factions to the Dominion, but we are provided with a good, general impression of the underbelly of Terran society. Groups like the Screaming Skulls are the sort of people we, playing as Raynor, will likely be dealing with in Wings of Liberty. This is further supported by the presence of a mysterious crystal on board the Screaming Skull's space station. Suffice to say, it is exactly the sort of thing that Raynor would be interested in.

This whole affair didn't change the story at all, it could have been left out entirely without much impact on the plot.

There are some minor lore facts included such as Grimson IV, which was mysteriously reached despite the absence of warp-drive, for the sake of repairing the squad's warp-drive. There are also some bizarre new weapons shown. They are referred to a cyber-cats, which are essentially mechanical attack dogs. However, the lore focus is on the characters. There is a trend, beginning in Issue Two, of each issue focusing on a different member of the War Pigs. This issue begins to hint at Hickson's past although it remains vague and mysterious. Also, we learn about Romy's stim addiction, and this theme will likely resurface.


Issue Three


This issue introduces the new lead for the War Pigs, a dirty sleazebag known as Denny Houston. He knows where Raynor is, but he will only tell the War Pigs squad in exchange for their services. He wants them to regain his wife who he refers to as "property." Hickson agrees to the exchange despite the protests of other War Pigs, most notably Dei. All the War Pigs seem unusually tense, and they are at each others throats regarding even minor grievances. The mission to "recover" Houston's wife is a success although it is messy because Iggins has a flashback at a critical moment. Shortly after Houston's wife regains consciousness, Iggins loses control of himself. He charges into Houston's room and threatens to kill him. The story behind how Iggins lost his arm is revealed before Hickson removed his weapon. Unfortunately for the War Pigs, Houston's wife grabs Iggins' gun, and kills Houston to avoid being forced to be his wife again. The source of all the strife between the War Pigs is revealed: the crystal Houston had brought on board turns out to be an alien artifact, which amplifies the emotions of everyone near it according to three dark templar who boarded the ship to steal back the artifact. They also deliver a warning to the War Pigs. Jim Raynor is a friend to the Protoss, and if the War Pigs harm him, there will be "consequences."


This issue serves to set the hooks for the rest of the plot. Most of the events that happen for the rest of the comic are driven by the discoveries made in this issue. Thanks to the presence of an artifact on the General Lee, the War Pigs all have their true colors shown. Throughout this chaos, Hickson seems strangely stable. This sets off all sorts of red flags for the foreshadowing-wary reader. One drawback is that it may actually be too clear. Hickson has been portrayed as clearly having something wrong with him, until now. Suddenly reversing that so Iggins, who has seemed relatively stable, loses his mind waves a flag too obviously saying, "Something isn't right here!"

The action in this issue is basic, but it excels is in illustrating the tension. The disruption of everyone's psychological states makes for sloppy work, so stressful scenes are the result. Iggins has a flashback at a critical moment in a job, Romy fires a rocket too close to the other War Pigs, and so on. All in all, the issue is very entertaining because all the mistakes made create an air of suspense.

Important lore is revealed at the very end, and is a huge bombshell for hardcore lore fans. The alien crystal Houston had on-board is revealed to be a Xel'Naga-crafted "energy fossil" or a "soul." It is also responsible for exposing all the thoughts and emotions that were already present in the crew of the General Lee. This implies several things, namely, the method by which the Xel'Naga have been preserving themselves, and the seemingly significant knowledge the dark templar have regarding the artifact.


Issue Four


Turfa Dei is the focus of this issue. The story jumps between flashbacks of him working for a revolutionary, anti-Dominion bomb-specialist to exploring his home colony. The colony was attacked by the Dominion who were searching for the very revolutionary leader Dei worked with before Dei realized he was nothing but a con-man. Most of the comic consists of him switching between flashback, which reveal his own mental issues, and the present, where he is trying to unravel the mystery of what happened on his colony. There is a substantial amount of one-on-one fighting with a ghost assassin. The story builds Dei's character. He is haunted by memories of visions once forced on him by a telepath, which he was only able to resist because of his own above average psi-level.


This issue supposedly sets hooks for the second story arc (namely around Leonid Celsus), and as such it is fairly pointless to the overall plot. It focus is almost exclusively on characters rather than plot. Turfa Dei receives the most attention as we learn about his past, but Hickson's issues are also further defined.

Turfa seems like one of the more stable War Pigs until now. He is clearly haunted by images from his past, and the guilt of his bombing victims is weighing on him. In spite of his issues, we see a "good guy" portrayed. He is willing to risk his life and mission to redeem himself in the eyes of the Agria colonists. We almost learn more about Hickson than Dei in this issue, though. He's all too willing to leave Dei behind to continue with the mission, and he no longer appers to care for his squad in comparison regaining his freedom from the Dominion. His issues are obviously as deep-rooted and significant as they are mysterious. The question is again raised of how he was so unaffected by the alien artifact when he clearly has problems.

We learn a small amount about psi-powers in this issue. Dei is a low-level psychic, and is capable of sensing and resisting other telepaths whereas someone with an average psi-index would be unable to. This proves to be an useful ability to have in his line of work as it seems to save him more than once. The planet that most of this occurs on is Agria, which is a farm colony which will be featured in Wings of Liberty. We may hear a few references back to this issue on that mission.


Issue Five


Several plot-lines are drawn to a close in this issue, and Nuura Joss has her background neatly fit into it. She was a Confederate Special Services operative who worked as a bodyguard for a crusading Confederate politician, Canon. She breaks the bodyguard "code" and becomes romantically involved with her charge. The mysterious villain, Leonid Celsus, recognizes this, and he sees an opportunity. He has Canon assassinated in such a way as to reveal his relationship with Joss. She is sentenced for treason and pleads guilty. Celsus plans to use her imprisonment to his advantage in the future. That flashback ties in nicely to the main story. Joss takes the initiative to find out if anything is wrong with Hickson via a contact we met in her flashback. She learns he has an experimental "sleeper" neural resocialization. Just as she discovers this, Hickson, and several of the War Pigs, are on the surface of a Zerg infested world looking for Raynor. They discover the underwater cave network where he has been hiding from the Dominion and the Zerg, and they are promptly ambushed by Raynor's Raiders who had received a warning from the dark templar. Joss is unable to contact the War Pigs, so she is unable to warn them about Hickson's resocialization. He loses his mind and pulls his gun just as it is revealed to the rest of the War Pigs that Hickson and Raynor were POWs together. Meanwhile, Trakken, who Cauley had sent to ensure the War Pigs die after they kill Raynor, gets impatient. Against Cauley's orders, he attacks the General Lee to get his revenge on Hickson.


We finally get to learn about Nuura Joss in this issue. She is certainly one of the more stable War Pigs, and she has no haunting scars on her mind. That isn't to say that she has a clean record, but she is the only War Pig who didn't fully deserve their punishment. Consequently, she feels less guilty than the others. She is not the most interesting character we see depicted this time around though, for Trakken is far more compelling.We don't know why, but he is extremely driven to get revenge on Hickson at all costs. This raises all sorts of question about his sanity and their past.

The fight scenes this time around are intense and outrageous. The War Pigs' daring escape is quite entertaining, and it shows of the capabilities of their CMC suits.

This issue was interesting from a lore fan's perspective. One thing we had never seen CMCs do is function as submarines although it is totally reasonable that they would. What is more impressive is that dropships can land underwater. The discovery of a "sleeper" variant of resocialization holds all kinds of potential for future lore. Anyone could be one, from Tychus to Horner, and it could be virtually impossible to detect them save for a few fairly subtle signs.


Issue Six


This issue opens with a flashback to when Raynor and Hickson were POWs together durign the Guild Wars. The Kel'Morians had been torturing Hickson for some time when Raynor arrived. Raynor talks about himself for so long that Hickson finally realizes Raynor is a good man, and he resolves to save him if possible in order to redeem himself. Hickson teaches Raynor to create a mental fortresses of sorts so that the torture impacts him less. Raynor claims this advice saved his life and sanity. This story is also described in Heaven's Devils.

In the present day, Hickson turns out to be under a kind of experimental neural resocialization that remains dormant until activated by a trigger, which is Jim Raynor in this case. He goes brain-dead and puts a gun to Raynor's head, but he doesn't shoot. Raynor realizes that Hickson may have been able to resist the resocialization by using the same technique he used in the Guild Wars. Just as Hickson is about to pull the trigger, the Zerg break into Raynor's secret cave and separate them. They find different ways to the surface; Raynor escapes with the War Pigs, and Hickson escapes alone. Their goal is to meet up with Nuura Joss to escape the planet before the Protoss incinerate the surface to exterminate the Zerg. Unfortunately, Hickson beats them to the surface, and once again, puts a gun to Raynor's head. Raynor refuses to let anyone kill Hickson, claiming that he is repaying a debt, and manages to talk Hickson down by reminding him that Cauley is the one pulling the strings. Trakken, still desperate for revenge on Hickson, is ordered by Cauley to let the Protoss destroy everything on the planet, rather than killing the War Pigs himself.


Hickson's past is revealed as a tie-in to Heaven's Devils, but this issue tells us more about Raynor than Hickson himself. All we learn about Hickson is that he is a confirmed sociopath who was generally a failure in life except when it came to killing in the Guild Wars. Raynor, on the other hand, is shown to have always been a good, if more naive, man even in the Guild Wars where he met Hickson. He tends to rub off on people as well. The self identified sociopath Hickson even softens after hearing Raynor's life story, and he attempts to save him. Another interesting thing we learn about Raynor is his moral philosophy. He doesn't worry so much about strict lists of right and wrong so much as "where to draw the line," as his father taught him.

We get to see some nice Zerg-on-Terran combat this time. A hydralisk devours one of Raynor's men in a single bite. Besides that, it is a pretty standard gun slinging versus giant bugs affair. Meanwhile, Joss is impossibly acrobatic in a firefight on the General Lee. Not that it creates too much of a disconnect between reader and artist, but her acrobatics do induce a roll of the eyes.

The most lore we see here is that Protoss are still actively engaged in destroying the Zerg by glassing entire planets. Kerrigan is apparently not particularly concerned by it or she would probably be able to stop the process with relative ease, but she allows it to run its course. This is very poor map-sense on her part!


Issue Seven


The final issue finally shows us why Trakken has such a grudge against Hickson. It also displays a bit of Romy's past at a time when he abandoned his squad mates to save his own life. Trakken's grudge against Hickson drives him to land on the planet, mid-incineration, so he can kill Hickson himself. The dropship he took the the planet's surface provides Raynor and the War Pigs with an exit, but only after a fight between the Cerberus troops and the War Pigs who are low on ammo. Romy and Trakken both die, but there are no other casualties. The final scene depicts the War Pigs and Raynor discussing their future. The War Pigs resolve to go on a suicide mission to kill Cauley, and the the hooks for the next story arc are established.


Finally, we get Romy's story, which is unfortunately worthless. He may be a War Pig, but he is a relatively minor character in the overall plot. As a result, throwing in his flashback at the end seems tagged on as it doesn't really contribute to anything. It is unremarkable anyway, for he feels guilty because he once sold out a team he worked with. This makes it more dramatic when he is given the option to sell out the War Pigs, but it is nothing spectacular. We finally learn about Trakken's past with Hickson as well, but his thirst for vengeance only serves to convince us Trakken that is crazy to hold as hardcore a grudge as he did.

This issue is full of intense action from beginning to end. The whole thing is essentially a showdown between Trakken and Cerberus versus Raynor and the War Pigs. Meanwhile impending doom is approaching in the form of a Protoss orbital incineration of the planet.


Upcoming Graphic Novel

Simon Furman confirmed last month that he is, in fact, writing the second arc into a graphic novel. The delay was a result of an editorial change (at least part of which involves writing graphic novels solely, without splitting the story up into comic issues). He has promised to showcase at least two of the universe's major villains and to shake the universe forever. There was quite a bit of foreshadowing about Leonid Celsus, a major character in the second arc. The release date of the graphic novel is unknown.

WARNING: The following review contains several spoilers for the novel in question.

Heaven's Devils is the newest book written for the StarCraft Universe. It serves as an unusual prequel to StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. The plot events are not what create the unique connection, but rather the characters, who will appear in WoL, are fleshed out for us throughout the book. It focuses on Jim Raynor's early days in the Confederate military during the Guild Wars. This was when he first met Tychus Findlay, another major character in Wings of Liberty. Anyone interested in the origins of their relationship will appreciate the writing style of William C. Dietz. He is best known for his work in other major sci-fi franchises, such as Star Wars and Halo.

The obvious focus of this book is to provide background on the relationship between Jim Raynor and Tychus Findlay, but just as important, the writing provides an impression of the Guild Wars atmosphere its effects on the StarCraft story through these characters. Several different perspectives are given, which try to flesh-out the whole picture. All of the main characters are developed by the circumstances the war puts them in, but fundamentally none of them really change over the course of the story, so it can be disappointing if your expectation is to see how Raynor became the heroic backwater leader, or how Findlay ended up so calloused. Instead, the book focuses primarily on the nature of the Guild Wars and the relationship between the two most prominent individuals, Findlay and Raynor.


The book is set almost entirely on Turaxis II, an important planet in the late stages of the Guild Wars, half was owned by the Confederacy, and half by the Kel'Morians. Inexplicably, the Confederate military feels a highly contested planet is an ideal location for a training camp for new recruits, so several of our protagonists are shipped there immediately. They later become instrumental in claiming Turaxis II for the Confederacy. The first half of the book focuses on the members of the Heaven's Devils, and their formation. The Heaven's Devils is a nick-name given to the 321st Colonial Rangers Battalion's Special Tactics and Mission Platoon. The squad itself consisted of about seven soldiers, and when they used experimental power armor to rescue hundreds of POWs, they became a legendary band of war heroes in their own right.

The focus in terms of characters is largely restricted to four members of the Heaven's Devils; the remaining three essentially serve only as plot devices. Jim Raynor is clearly the most significant individual involved, and the one we care the most for. He was just a poor farm-boy with an inherent sense of what was right and wrong, who joined the military, in large-part to help pay his parents' bills, but he was naive and idealistic and as such was distressed by the cold reality he was faced with in the military, a reality he was not well-equipped to handle. The disillusionment that causes the loss of his natural heroism is the only true character evolution that is made a point of throughout the book. Ryk Kydd was a member of a Confederate old family. However, he was dissatisfied with his wealthy, sheltered life, and was drugged, kidnapped, and sold to a Confederate recruiter, when out looking for some adventure, some freedom, in Tarsonis. Naturally, no one believed he was a member of one of the aristocratic old families, and as such he had no apparent way to escape the military. Kydd met up with Raynor, and another member of the future Heaven's Devils in boot camp, and it was there, in training he found the adventure and satisfaction he had yearned for as well as incredible skill as a sniper. His talent was in part due to his basic psychic abilities, like being able to slow his perception of time to help set up a shot. Kydd felt he had found his place in the world, and so chose to stay once he was eventually given the option to leave the military. He even went so far as to retain the false identity he had been given in order to avoid his powerful father's search. Findlay has the least back-story; he is portrayed as being cold, calculating, and decently intelligent, yet it is made clear immediately that he is primarily self-serving. One of the first things he does when introduced to the reader is to arrange the death of his prison task-master simply out of vengeance, payback for giving Findlay extra work. Whether or not he is exclusively interested in profit or he has a more hidden heroic side is intentionally kept unclear. Soon after being released from prison, Findlay is promoted to sergeant of the squad which will eventually become the Heaven's Devils.

The commanding officer of their platoon, Vanderspool, is very similar to Findlay in a way. He is devoted first and foremost to his own profit and as such was planning to work with the Kel'Morians to steal two truckloads of valuable goods from the Confederate military and sell them via an elaborate scheme. During the midst of this heist, Findlay manipulates his squad to steal the goods for themselves. Vanderspool suspects Findlay, but cannot prove it, or do much about it without incriminating himself. In an effort to get revenge, and prove his suspicions, Vanderspool puts a Medic in their squad to spy on them in exchange for a steady supply of "crab," an addictive drug. The Medic, Cassidy, becomes an interesting character. She can't stop working for Vanderspool given her addiction to crab, but she becomes emotionally attached to the squad, especially Findlay, her romantic interest. The squad becomes famous for their unique capacity to dive right out of Dropships using experimental power-suits, and they are given the nickname "Heaven's Devils" for this talent. The rest of the book essentially consists of the Heaven's Devils trying to stay one step ahead of Vanderspool, who is still trying to get revenge, and make as much money a possible while he's at it. All the while, unbeknown to them, the Medic, Cassidy, is still reporting to Vanderspool.

The inevitable showdown occurs when Kydd and another member of the Heaven's Devils stumble upon information regarding a plan between Vanderspool, Kydd's father, and a Kel'Morian overseer to steal an incredibly valuable shipment of crystals, kill the Heaven's Devils to help cover it up, and split the profit. Findlay makes a plan to reverse the situation on them and steal the crystals for themselves, but the plan is reported to Vanderspool, by Cassidy. The book ends in a bloody series of double-crosses, and several squad-mates die because of Vanderspool's actions. Raynor guns a defenseless Vanderspool down, and the surviving members of the Heaven's Devils go AWOL out of disgust for the Confederate military.


Heaven's Devils Logo


Those looking for a complete backstory for Raynor or Tychus will be disappointed. The book ends with several characters becoming wanted criminals, but provides no real explanation for how Raynor went from wanted criminal to the Marshall of Mar Sara we see in StarCraft. Given the emphasis on the relationship between Raynor and Findlay that is understandable, but disappointing. The biggest issue with this book is that it fails to make you really care about the supporting members of the Heaven's Devils at all.  They serve as plot devices and canon fodder exclusively, and have little or no background information or character development. The focus is on Raynor, Kydd, Findlay, and Cassidy. Everyone else seems more or less useless, except for some comic relief.  

Heaven's Devils does fill an important void in the StarCraft universe. If Blizzard were to give us Wings of Liberty without it, many die-hard lore fans would be hard-pressed to figure out Raynor and Tychus's relationship, albeit it may have changed in the time between the Guild Wars and StarCraft II. Tychus plays the hardened sergeant, interested only in his own profit, whereas Raynor is the naïve, but talented soldier, who wants to be a hero, and in many cases is, but is concerned about his own corruption. This is an issue throughout the book, Raynor is desperately trying to hold on to his inherent morality, but is faced with corruption and evil everwhere he looks, even in people who should be the good guys. Furthermore, he is perfectly aware that the overwhelming amount of corruption in the galaxy is wearing on him and making him far more calloused than he was when he joined the marines, but he feels utterly incapable of stopping or controlling his own moral decline. This is a nice touch, as it is apparently mirrored in Wings of Liberty, where he is again put in a situation where his natural morality and heroism is being severly tested. His ability (or inability) to resist almost universal temptation is sure to be a key point in StarCraft II, as it is in Heaven's Devils. This internal struggle would have been more impressive if instead of having Raynor begin as a hero, and simply become more hardened; it chronicled something of his evolution to the man we see in StarCraft. Instead he essentially starts out like that, and is just polished, and molded slightly over the course of the story. His "choice" is just to maintain his natural heroism and morality in spite of all the corruption and amorality he is surrounded by.  

The primary theme throughout the book is that "You are who you choose to be," in the words of Trace Raynor, Jim's father. At some point in the book, virtually every main character makes a choice about who they want to be. Kydd, for example, decides he would rather stay in the military, in hiding from his family, than return to his aristocratic beginnings.  The choices made by the characters set up their personalities for Wings of Liberty, where they may be faced by the same sort of challenges again. This theme may very well be paralleled in Wings of Liberty, with Raynor's heroism being stretched by circumstances. He will be forced to choose between his natural heroism, or to succumbing to the circumstances by becoming more like Tychus, interested only in his own well being. However, none of the characters feel as if they go through any real evolution or development, rather they are who they were originally written to be. There isn't enough depth to feel a connection to any of the characters. For someone who hasn't played StarCraft, who doesn't have a previous attachment to the characters, the book, as well as the characters are flat.

For lore buffs, the relationship between Raynor and Findlay is very interesting. Findlay's real nature is still unclear, he initially seems little better than other Terran villians, like Mengsk or Vanderspool. However, we learn that he does have a softer side and he is entirely capable of heroism, but perhaps not the predisposition. He is more of an anti-hero than anything else, the Han Solo of StarCraft, so to speak, but teetering on the edge of becoming just a plain villain. Raynor on the other hand, is an absolute hero, who would sacrifice everything for anything worthy. They are an interesting duo as such, and even though Findlay is said to be the bad influence on Raynor in StarCraft II, he is also a reliable companion to him in a pinch, fully capable of the side-kick role.

Heaven's Devils goes fairly deep into Terran lore, giving a brief cameo to the origins of the Neural Resocialization, a project used to make troublesome soldiers more amiable through brain-washing. One of the members of the Heaven's Devils also has some level of psychic powers, but is not recruited as a Ghost, and no one else seems to understand his abilities, implying psychic humans were far from common knowledge in those days, and the Ghost program was less rigorous, to say the least. It should not be mistaken for something as lore-centric as Twilight though. The lore is just an interesting addition; the focus is on the early relationship between Tychus and Raynor and may give some insight as to how it will play out in Wings of Liberty, when they are reunited.

Heaven's Devils provides a great deal of important backstory on the relationship between Jim Raynor and Tychus Findlay. It also provides a great look into the Guild Wars themselves, and much of the Terran lore associated with it. We recommend it for anyone interested in understanding the relationship between Findlay and Raynor for Wings of Liberty, or anyone just interested in Terran lore. It requires no previous knowledge of StarCraft to read however, and as such can be a great introduction to lore, as well as simply a good military-sci-fi read. In general, this book was written for the students of StarCraft's lore.

Accuracy and Canon

Blizzard tagged a full, retconned timeline onto the end of the book. It doesn't really fit into the storyline of Heaven's Devils, but it serves as a nice tool for hardcore lore fans. The first date in the timeline is 1500 A.D. This was when the Dark Templar first left Aiur. The last date is in 2504, the same year StarCraft II begins. The new timeline is to be considered fact; it's a retcon, that serves to redefine the timeline that had developed previously. The biggest change is that most of the events in the Great War and The Brood War were moved back to all fit within  year 2500. This frees up 2501-2503 for the events of the Dark Templar trilogy, and the StarCraft comics. Previously, a great deal of content was shoved into 2504, and now much of that has been moved back to 2503. This clears up a great deal of time for Wings of Liberty.

Heaven's Devils itself is set back in the Guild Wars, which was hardly affected by the timeline retcon. Most of the events in the book are of minimal consequence to the overall plot of the StarCraft universe. The roots of several units can be seen in the squad-members of the Heaven's Devils. The Firebat and Marauder for example, seem to have their roots in some of the experimental power-armor used by the Heaven's Devils. Even Ghosts seem to have been virtually non-existent before the Heaven's Devils, making Kydd one of the first, as an early psychic sniper. The roots of the now-common Neural Resocialization  program are also visible. The Heaven's Devils didn't really make a big impact on the overall story of the StarCraft universe, but their story occurs at a time of change in the Confederacy, offering a great look at Terran lore and canon.


StarCraft: Frontline Volume 4 Review

WARNING: The following review contains major spoilers for the manga in question.



On the planet of Mar Sara, in the Diamondback wastelands, Raynor is seen making his way through a ravine on his Vulture. He dismounts and starts to move inside the ruins of his house. He then dusts off and unlocks a safe on the ground, with pictures and mementos from his past. Upon opening the safe, old memories flow through items inside the box, from his time in the Heavens Devils, as well as those of his wife, Lidya Elizabeth Raynor, whom he called Liddy.

Jim Raynor reminisces about when he and his wife were looking at their new property. They both wished for a nice and quiet life, and he remembered Liddy revealing to him that she was pregnant. Looking at his old Marshall badge, Raynor remembers observing his son with his wife, his army record cleared by the local magistrate for taking up the job as Marshall. Raynor tried to forget his old life and his old burdens as an outlaw and only wanted the best for his son. His wife made Raynor promise he will never doubt himself, and that he will always stand up for what he believes in.

Raynor then read a note from the office of Tarsonis Institute of Health and Research, which said that his son has proven through tests that he is above normal on the standardized psi-evaluations, and that he has been chosen to take part in a government program to develop his powers further. Raynor and Liddy got in a fight over the decision to send him to the program, with Raynor claiming that nothing good can come from working for the Confederacy, and Liddy wanting a better future for her son than can be had on Mar Sara. Another letter stated that their son, John, was killed in an unfortunate shuttle accident when he was transferred from the confederate test facility to his dormitory. Liddy was filled with guilt; she blamed herself for not listening to Jim and left the garden, telling him to stay away from her.

Raynor then reminds himself that it is time to put the past to rest yet again, and ignites the box with what appears to be its entire original content still inside. He then leaves and rides back to a bar. The bartender knows Raynor and proclaims him a legend; it has been five years since they last met and news about his doings has spread like fire. On the TV screen in the bar, Kate Lockwell proclaims the Dominion has started a large PR campaign to increase the local Dominion support on Mar Sara. She also talks about the planet’s fall four years ago, and how, despite this fact, many colonists returned. The bartender sympathizes with Jim in his struggle against the Dominion. Jim tells him that a promise he made a long time ago keeps him hammering away at the Dominion. The bartender asked Jim when it all will be over, to which he replies “When my ghosts lie silent.”


“Homecoming” is the direct prequel to StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. It ends in a bar on Mar Sara where StarCraft II shall begin. Raynor’s character has been expanded on by a lot in this short story. Things that were never previously touched upon were Raynor’s former past and family life, as well as his motivations behind attacking the Domnion. The thing that seems most strange about Mar Sara in this story was that it was never truly incinerated by the Protoss – with many buildings, birds and trees still living. Raynor’s house looked like it suffered a blast from a nearby bomb, but parts of the wall and ceiling were very much intact. In a previous Frontline story, an installation largely survived the purification as well. It seems that the Protoss incineration was light at best, with one energy beam creating a giant fireball explosion instead of incinerating everything, as described in StarCraft: Revelations. Perhaps Zerg also returned to the planet because they were never all destroyed and survived underground.

We also learned how Raynor got out of being hunted by the Confederacy and landed a job as Marshall; the Magistrate offered to clear his record for accepting a job as a local marshall. A marshall seems to be akin to a small-town police chief, as Raynor wasn’t required to shave his hair as is the custom for military protocol. It was also good to see the attention to the detail in Mar Sara’s StarCraft2.com planet page being put to use, with the two moons Pyramus and Thisby making appearances.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10


Fear the Reaper


Four Terran Reapers attack a Dominion installation in order to steal Mark VII hub drives and sell them to Kimeran pirates. The Reapers, led by Colonel Nero, are named Kern, Rock, and Pfaff. Nero, a dangerous lunatic, prefers to kill people, whereas the other Reapers prefer to handle these operations cleanly, especially Kern. After killing several Marines, Kern once again questions Nero’s orders, after which Nero shoots Kern in the leg, which later has to be amputated. Nero then tells the others to blame the incident on pirates. Pfaff and Rock visit Kern in the hospital bed, claiming that the Dominion will find out about the raid. They decide to put the blame on Nero, who is then arrested. Flash forward to several years later: Kern has settled down with a wife and a small daughter on the planet Roxarra, while Nero is scheduled to be executed in Gannemuck Prison. Nero however, instead of being executed, managed to kill his guards with his handcuffs and confuse the prison staff by uttering false instructions into their transceivers. Nero then escaped the prison, blowing a chunk of it up and heading to get revenge on the three people who saw him imprisoned.

Rock is the first person to be found by Nero, who jumps up on a lamppost in his familiar Reaper suit. Nero, lamenting that he thought he could trust Rock, kills him. Next, Nero finds Pfaff, who is attempting to steal some money in an SCV with his friend Pard. Pard is destroyed by Nero, with Pfaff looking up to see Nero standing there. Pfaff attempts to save his life by pleading that it wasn’t his fault and that he would give Nero Kern’s location. Pfaff then tries to kill Nero with his SCV drill, but misses, and in a last-ditch resort to save his life tells Nero where Kern is. Nero kills him anyway and begins heading to his last target.

Meanwhile, Lassathar, a Dark Templar warrior and scholar lands on Roxarra, searching for Xel’Naga artifacts. He wanders near Kern’s homestead, and Kern’s daughter runs out to him. Lassathar is surprised that the child is capable of hope and wonder, unlike all other Terrans that he has met, who are simply “vile carriers of death and destruction”. With the child’s assistance, Lassathar finds the artifact he is looking for and walks the child back to her home. Coincidentally, Nero arrives on Roxarra at exactly the same time, and threatens to kill Kern and the rest of his family. Lassathar however, uncloaks and engages the Reaper. A fierce fight ensues, with Lassathar emerging victorious. Lassathar then notices that Kern has transformed himself from a hardened soldier to a loving family man, and leaves Roxarra with the knowledge that change is indeed possible.


“Fear the Reaper” has arguably the best story in the Frontline series. The story’s fight scenes are suspenseful, and the reader will leave with a newfound respect for the new Terran Reaper unit, a unit that is almost infringing on the Ghost’s territory. It was interesting that a Reaper could keep up with a Dark Templar who could dodge bullets. We have to assume that the Reaper was using Stims during that time.

Lassathar claims to be searching for a Xel’Naga artifact, but what’s interesting is that the artifact bears markings from the discord, the time in Protoss history when the Dark Templar were persecuted and rounded up for banishment. One of the markings shows a Dark Templar having his nerve tendrils cut off via a psionic blade, which, as we learned in the Frontline short story “Do No Harm,” is actually quite painful. Another marking shows Protoss chasing down another Protoss that appears to be casting a Psionic Storm, though the Protoss being chased does not look like a Dark Templar due to his nerve tendrils. Another curiosity is that the markings found on the crystal appear to be a type of writing, the same kind of writing as seen on a true Xel’Naga artifact in the “Voice in the Darkness” short story. What’s strange about Lassathar’s artifact as a whole is that he refers to it as a Xel’Naga artifact, and the artifact has what appears to be Xel’Naga writing, not Protoss. Yet the carvings on the artifact show a piece of Protoss history for which the Xel’Naga were not there to witness. Perhaps it would have been more apt to have called it a Protoss artifact rather than a Xel’Naga artifact? Or maybe the Protoss’ written language is similar to the Xel’Naga’s?

Story: 9/10
Art: 8/10


Voice in the Darkness


Dr. Morrigan and other research scientists discover a Xel’Naga artifact at Moebius Foundation research site KL-2. Morrigan, being a closeted psychic, claims that the artifact spoke to her and told her a great many things; the artifact is the lock, and she is the key. Her meager spark reached out across worlds, and unleashed the contents of the artifact. Whatever is released, the "voice in the darkness" possesses them. There were about 50 people at the site, but only 25 bodies were found.

A team of Dark Templar led by Azimar travels there, sensing from half a sector away that the void itself was defiled. Azimar is accompanied by two other named characters, Jarzul and Ty'lak. Jarzul scouts, only to be spotted, despite cloaking, by the scientist Hassan, who kills him. Azimar and Ty'lak attack Hassan. They cut off his hand but Hassan injures Ty'lak's eye and "pukes" on him. When they defeat Hassan, the Voice says through Hassan that it "wears many guises".

Azimar warns the Dark Templar that only their mental training lets them resist the Voice, and that they should try not to lose themselves to the Voice by holding on to their identity. The Dark Templar attack the central facility. After killing everyone but Morrigan, the Voice communicates with Ty'lak, telling him he would give him power and "make him whole" if he would give his soul. It tells him the Xel'Naga are false gods, and wouldn't kill anything, not even the Voice, instead locking it up. The Voice-possessed Ty'lak starts kicking ass while the possessed Morrigan boasts. However, Ty'lak frees himself from possession, kills Morrigan and sacrifices himself, using an Argus crystal to "re-seal" the Voice. The explosion kills him and presumably the Voice.

As Azimar leaves, though, the Voice talks to him. In short, the Voice is Cthulhu. It is a part of the Void. It cannot maintain itself in a Terran for a long period of time, so it considers the Protoss to be superior "food". Also, by possessing living beings, it increases its own power, enabling it to break free from its prison. It considers itself the one true god.


“Voice in the Darkness” is a fun but macabre story. The Voice, a Lovecraft-inspired creation, is a malign cosmic entity that makes his possessed puppets bleed darkness out of their eyes, and has a penchant for evil. It is fun to see a brave group of Templar contend with this monstrous and horrific creature. At first glance, “Voice in the Darkness” seems to be a self-contained fringe story, until we discover that the seeming god of the void wasn’t destroyed after all. What part will this Void god play in StarCraft II and upcoming StarCraft media, especially considering that this is the last of the Frontline volumes?

We learned from this story that the Xel’Naga do not destroy anything, but imprison it instead, suggesting that they are wholly benevolent. The Voice seems to have a hatred of the Xel’Naga. Duran himself said that he knows hatred very well. It’s tempting to think that Duran was possessed by this voice, but that’s highly unlikely, since these stories take place after the Brood War, and the voice was only recently unlocked. It is possible however that Duran is a human that was possessed by a similar cosmic entity, or perhaps whoever Duran serves attained from the Voice the knowledge of how to hide in the void and control others.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10



Continuing from where the previous story left off, Corbin Phash is sent to Umojan Orbital platform UE3255 to seek protection within the Umojan Protectorate due to his political value. When he arrives is assured that he will be safe there, and his wing has been sealed off from visitors. Corbin also notices that the Umojan Protectorate has recently been forced to ship food to their colonists in pressurized crates due to Mengsk’s high tariff increases.

A Dominion Ghost is snuck onboard the orbital platform that Phash is staying in, and kills the two guards protecting Phash’s wing. While discussing efficient ways to get holo-vids broadcast in the Dominion, Phash’s room goes black. A tech appears on Phash’s screen as well and tells him that a Ghost is onboard and that he needs to run. Phash remembers the mental tricks he used on Colin to hide his thoughts from him in his childhood, and attempts to use them with the Ghost, who normally knows what someone will do before they do it.

First Corbin turns on the fire-protocols, drenching his entire wing in water. Then as the Ghost came closer he ran an electric current through the water-drenched floor, which injured the Ghost. Finally making it to the cargo bay, Phash hid himself in a pressurized crate, but tricked the Ghost into shooting the SCV, which then drilled a hole in the wall and jettisoned the contents of the cargo bay into space. The Ghost died but Corbin’s body was detected and found in a pressurized crate. Later on, Corbin is angered at the fact the Protectorate cannot strike back at the Dominion after this attack, and that his son, now in the Ghost Academy, could be sent on similar assassination missions.

Meanwhile, Colin is being introduced into the Ghost academy by Superintendent Angelini and Director Bick personally, where they attempt to indoctrinate him with ideas of Ghosts being superheroes that save Dominion lives and keep the peace. Colin is a special student even for the Ghost Academy, and is put through a series of tests. The first test for telepathy had five Marines point their guns at Colin, at which point he had to pick out the one with the loaded gun if he wanted to not get shot. He succeeded. The next test involved putting him into a chamber filled with Zerg, where he demonstrated the use of his “quiet voice,” which forces the Zerg to lose interest in him as he shifts his mental energy. In the next test, where his quiet voice ability was negated, he demonstrated the astral projection ability, which is the ability to relocate his mind. Colin’s memory was then wiped. His story will continue in StarCraft: Ghost Academy.


In “Orientation,” Benjamin and Shramek have improved upon the quality of the writing as compared to the prequels: “Weapon of War” and “War-Torn”. It’s good to see more of the Umojan Protectorate’s story fleshed out, especially that concerning their politics with the Dominion. However, it would have been nice to see the characters in this story drawn a little more distinctly. For example, superintendent Angelini and the man Corbin was initially talking to look virtually the same.

“Orientation” gives us a detailed look into the Ghost Academy. The Ghost Academy is on Ursa, which was first said in StarCraft: Ghost to be a planet, but is now a moon orbiting Korhal. The Academy has always been a building that was in public view, both on Tarsonis and on Ursa, yet that didn’t seem to impede the Zerg research and cruel and unusual training from going on in that building. All newborns must be submitted for a psionic aptitude test; the Academy is also presented as a benevolent institution that helps psychics control their power from birth. Yet Ghosts are feared throughout the sector for their abilities; Dr. Eddie Rainsinger for example didn’t even believe in telepathy. Hopefully the upcoming StarCraft manga “StarCraft: Ghost Academy” will delve further into these topics.

Story: 8/10
Art: 6/10


StarCraft: Frontline Volume 4 Review



This volume marks the last of the Frontline series. The Frontline volumes have improved with every iteration, and Metzen's own contribution to this volume is well met. The manga had a great run, and delivered some quality stories for StarCraft fans. However, the fun doesn't stop here: be on the lookout for the next StarCraft manga, Ghost Academy, by Keith R. A. DeCandido.

StarCraft: Legacy Frontline Reviews:
Volume 1 - Volume 2 - Volume 3

starcraft frontline volume 3 review

WARNING: The following review contains major spoilers for the manga in question.





On a UNN news broadcast, Kate Lockwell reports on the Zerg attack on Maltair IV, discussing the story of Senator Corbin Phash and his son Colin, who’s psionic potential was hidden from the Dominion. The Dominion attempted to turn public opinion against the Senator, but public support for the Senator continues to grow. Kate Lockwell is joined by Greggor Altman, a representative of the Dominion, who reminds UNN’s viewers that the boy’s psionic abilities are a danger to himself and others if left unhindered, and that everyone should report his whereabouts to the Terran Dominion. Meanwhile, Senator Corbin Phash speaks to Minister Jorgensen, leader of Umoja, in order to seek out asylum within the Umojan Procetorate. Colin is hiding on a backwater moon called Gohbus with Mr. Ballenger, his protector. A terraforming tragedy on Gohbus forced the colonists to take refuge on their moon’s military outpost, living in squalor and filth. Gohbus’s crust is barely holding together, and the Gohbus moon will be hurled out of orbit once the planet explodes.

Randall , a Dominion Wrangler, tracks Colin and Ballenger to the moon and is forced to use lobotomized Zerglings to sniff out Colin. The Zerglings have a collar on them that will explode at the touch of a button, and the Zerg that are loosed on the Moon’s civilians is made to look like a random Zerg incursion so that the Dominion can’t be implicated. The Wrangler tracks Colin and Ballenger to the neighborhood they are hiding in. Colin forces his thoughts deep down in order to avoid detection by the Zerg, but the Wrangler attacks him with a Psi Screen, an expensive piece of equipment used to pacify psychics. Ballenger takes Randall down and attempts to escape with Colin before they are ambushed by Zerg. Ballenger gets killed protecting Colin, but a Reaper squad flies in and saves him. Meanwhile, Randall wakes up and sees that a Zergling is coming for him. He attempts to blow up the Zergling’s collar, but it doesn’t work. Colin is captured and taken to the Ghost Academy, with the UNN acting as if disaster has been averted and the boy was saved. And deep within the recesses of the Umojan Protectorate, Senator Corbin Phash vows that he will expose the Ghost Academy for what it really is – something that Minister Jorgensen claims he can help him with.


starcraft frontline volume 3 review


“War-Torn” continues where “Weapon of War” left off in Frontline Volume 1, and the writing/art has much improved in the process. At first, it was strange seeing Kate Lockwell, a character from another Frontline story “Newsworthy”, depicted differently by the artist. Lockwell appears different in the Wings of Liberty single player demo as well, so now we shall have three different renditions of Kate. The artist of this story should find better ways to distinguish his characters: Kate Lockwell looks too similar to Macy from “Ghost Story,” and a random Marine named Smith looks too similar to Chuck Tyrosine from “Ghost Story” as well. The story also has a possible plothole. The studio holo-cast is dated June, 2500, which is during the events of the original StarCraft, but we see a Reaper squad in this story, and the new art style of Hydralisks in the previous story. Regardless, the story is engaging, and is an improvement over “Weapon of War”.

Story - 8/10
Art - 8/10

Do No Harm


Templar Muadun, from Frontline Vol 1’s “Why We Fight,” has retired his rank as a Templar and has dedicated himself to nurturing the Alavash, a plant that grew on Aiur alongside the Protoss which enhances one’s connection to the Khala. Muadun’s friend, Azimar, attempts to dissuade him from this path, but in the end leaves Muadun to himself, who is later captured by a Protoss-human hybrid dubbed Gestalt Zero. Gestalt Zero is a Terran Ghost that is augmented by Khalai nerve appendages and whose mouth is stitched up. Muadun wakes up in the clutches of Dr. Burgess, a stereotypical madman scientist. Muadun is restrained, with his skull cracked open to expose his brain and a neural inhibitor implanted into his cerebrum.

Dr. Burgess cuts off Muadun’s nerve cords and implants them into Gestalt Zero, who, augmented with Templar-grade nerve cords, as opposed to Khalai caste nerve cords, performs at 187% combat effectiveness of a Ghost and above a level 7 Psi Index. Dr. Burgess claims that humanity’s victory in the psionic arms race is ensured, and he sends Gestalt Zero on missions in which he always returns victorious.

In the meantime, Dr. Burgess decides to test the Khala by sitting Muadun alongside another Protoss who has had its eye sliced out. Burgess tortures the Protoss such that Muadun can feel its pain as his own, and, unable to withstand such an atrocity, Muadun conjures up a Psionic Storm which destroys all the hardware in the room. Muadun breaks free of the metal restraints, but is pacified by Gestalt Zero. Later, back in his cell, Muadun realizes that the neural inhibitor cannot restrain his powers, and he calls up a Psionic Storm yet again, disabling the entire block. Gestalt Zero is sent to pacify the Protoss again. Muadun is killed, but not before he uses the Khala to implant his mind within Gestalt Zero. The Protoss, heeding Muadun’s psionic summons, warp in right above the base over where Burgess is conducting his experiments and, overrunning the human defenses, burn the entire base down. Gestalt Zero finds Dr. Burgess and kills him. Gestalt Zero’s mouth is unstitched, and he returns to the Protoss base as he grabs a leaf of the Alavash plant. Thus, Muadun’s place in Protoss legend has been assured.


starcraft frontline volume 3 review


Josh Elder, writer of “Why We Fight,” has no doubt produced the best stories in Frontline. This one however, was also the most shocking. The experiments done on the hapless Protoss was difficult to watch, but redemption was found when the Protoss returned for their comrades and burned the Terran base to the ground as the cruel Dr. Burgess was impaled on the end of a Psi Blade. A little quirk in the art is that though Protoss are supposed to be over 9 feet tall according to the original 1998 StarCraft box, at the end, Gestalt Zero is nearly one half the size of a Protoss when usually he is depicted as being slightly shorter than a Protoss in the rest of the manga. These are the kinds of things that a manga should clarify, not make more confusing. Nonetheless, this little quirk takes virtually nothing away from the story, and there are many scenes which look extremely stunning, such as Muadun’s last Psionic Storm, with his eyes glowing and nerve appendages flying back.

Story - 9/10
Art - 8/10

Last Call


Starry Lace is a lounge singer at Sour Moon bar on the backwater mining post of Meteor Station. Ulrik, a Kel-Morian diplomat, stopped by the bar and got himself into a fist-fight with a mercenary. Starry saved Ulrik from getting pummeled further by getting on stage and singing. Afterwards, the two met up in Starry’s apartment where Ulrik mentioned Zerg sightings in nearby orbit, which elicited old memories from the singer. Starry was a singer in Tarsonis City when the Zerg attacked. As she was running away from the swarm, a Zerg Queen injected a parasite into her temple that does not show up on any full body scans.

After Ulrik left, Richard, a Dominion Colonel whom Starry has a relationship with, returned to Starry’s apartment and explained his troubles. Kel-Morians dug up a Xel’Naga artifact and he is supposed to retrieve it, which is becoming increasingly more difficult because he doesn’t know who he should talk to about it. Starry spends another night with Ulrik and asks him whether he is here for the Xel’Naga artifact, which he is. Starry then concocts a plan to have Richard and Ulrik meet so that they can resolve this issue. As Starry leads Richard to the meeting ground, the two start to question their relationship, but not before Ulrik arrives and they exchange the artifact. Unfortunately, the Zerg were interested in the artifact as well, killing both Richard and Ulrik. Starry wakes up later in a hospital, still under the thrall of the parasite which infested her on Tarsonis.


starcraft frontline volume 3 review


“Last Call” offers a good look into the Terran civilian’s life in the StarCraft universe, but apart from that the remainder of the story isn’t very appealing, lacking the typical action found in StarCraft: Frontline novels. The Zerg parasite that does not appear on scanners is quite interesting; any human could potentially be a spy for the Zerg swarm. Yet, it seemed unusual for anyone to be infected by the parasite during the Zerg invasion of Tarsonis. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason why the Zerg Overmind would have required human spies at that time. The purpose of the Zerg incursions into Terran worlds at that time was solely to gather genetic material. It was also somewhat odd seeing the new style of Zerg Queen appear in the flashback to the StarCraft timeline. Strangely enough, the new Hydralisks in this story were more reminiscent of the Hydralisks from the original game than the new style seen in StarCraft II. It didn’t seem that there was any kind of focus on accuracy and continuity. Yet, “Last Call” still offered a good look at current diplomatic intrigue between the Dominion and Kel-Morian Combine.

Story - 6/10
Art - 7/10

Twilight Archon


The story begins with Rihod and another Protoss on a Mothership observing a species on a planet as per the dictates of the Dae’Uhl. Rihod claims that the Protoss are the species’ students, just like he is the student of Lekila, a Protoss female with whom he trained in the Templar school in Velari. Lekila is still training and enjoys teaching her students, as well as learning from them.

Meanwhile, on Aiur, the Templar school in Velari comes under attack by Zerg. Lekila leads her students away as Rihod races back to Aiur to aid in its defense. Rihod decides not to risk the Mothership once he learns that Aiur is being evacuated and goes in a shuttle. Lekila and her students have to fight their way through many Zerg to reach safety. Lekila has her nerve tendrils cut and can no longer connect to the Khala or sense any of her people, thinking that they have all been slain. Rihod barely stops Lekila from killing herself with a psionic storm from grief, and they return to Shakuras. Lekila is attended to a Dark Templar healer named Tyrak, where she grieves over her loss of the Khala. She tells the healer not to touch the devices on the remainder of her appendages, as they are there to stop the energy bleed. Lekila and Rihod are later sent on a mission to recover the Kassia crystal from the lower temple at the Velari school, which only Lekila knows now how to navigate. The Kassia crystal was believed to be used by the Xel’Naga to benefit population growth on Aiur, and it can also be used for the opposite effect. The Protoss eventually find the Kassia crystal, but Void energies are needed to actually retrieve it, which Lekila is forced to use. In order to save the Protoss ship waiting for them to get the Kassia crystal back to their people, Rihod and Lekila merge into a Twilight Archon. The merging created a mushroom cloud explosion, and the energy was seen from high orbit, as if it was a massive hurricane.


starcraft frontline volume 3 review


An interesting thing of note in this story is that it reveals that the artwork showing the Protoss standing on floating dais on is actually the interior of a Protoss Mothership. We also see what are perhaps new, crescent-shaped, Protoss ships. In addition, the Xel’Naga temple on Shakuras was shown to have a strange four-legged device sitting atop its shield, vaguely resembling a Xel’Naga artifact. However, the story does have a possible plothole: as soon as the Velari school discovered that the Zerg were attacking Aiur, they were ordered to evacuate within an hour. An entire StarCraft campaign spanned from when Aiur was first attacked to when the Protoss were ordered to evacuate. The high contrast art style in this story looks great. The downside is that it makes things hard to distinguish on many panels. Each StarCraft: Frontline artist has a different style for drawing Protoss. The Protoss females in this novel had faces that seemed a bit too round, and the males had strange facial patterns with ornaments on their chin seemed out of place. However, the Protoss bodies were arguably the best so far! The Protoss looked amazing in their power-suits, especially when they turned on their shields.

Story - 7/10
Art - 8/10


starcraft frontline volume 3 review



The Frontline series of StarCraft comics are improving – of that there is no doubt. However, there still needs to be more attention on continuity. Among other things, drawing the new style of Zerg units (i.e. Queen) in the time of the original StarCraft is unnecessary – it is basically a retcon that serves no purpose especially when we could assume that the Zerg evolved over the years. Nevertheless, Blizzard and Tokyopop have produced awesome comics for StarCraft fans. We eagerly await the next volume. Here is a preview of what’s in store:

Chris Metzen, Blizzard Entertainment’s Senior Vice President, Creative Development, brings you a never-before-seen story of Jim Raynor’s past that leads directly into the highly anticipated videogame StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty…

Colin Phash is inducted into the Ghost Academy while his father Corbin runs for his life from which Colin is to become…

A sneak peak at StarCraft II’s repaer unit in a tale of revenge that explodes across the StarCraft universe and invites the wrath of a protoss dark templar…

A brave team of protoss dark templar face down an ancient evil threatening to envelop the Koprulu sector in madness…

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