Blizzard, I hope this isn’t formulaic

Big shiny red STARCRAFT 2 SPOILER ALERT!!! Don’t read any further if you haven’t finished the “Echoes of the Future” mission in the single-player campaign (the one where Zeratul visits Aiur).

At this point, I assume you’ve either played the campaign all the way through, or don’t care one way or another about StarCraft 2 (in which case, I still wonder why you’re reading this. But regardless, onward!), so as such, let me say this:

Holy crap, it’s freakin’ Tassadar!

What. A. Badass.

Now that that’s out of my system, I have a concern to voice that has to do with what I believe is Blizzard’s greatest strength: its storytelling. Throughout its StarCraft, WarCraft, and Diablo universes, Blizzard has woven intricate, complex, and meaningful tales. Over years and multiple installments, Blizzard has yet to really stumble on its own writing, taking the original stories and extending the lore in creative, yet historically respectful, ways. In a word, brilliant.

But the storyline’s development following this particular StarCraft 2 mission struck a rather familiar chord. An excerpt from the exchange between Tassadar and Zeratul:

“I have come to tell you of this creature’s…courage.”

“Courage?! It was an abomination!”

“Not always. The Zerg were…altered. A single, overriding purpose was forced upon them: the destruction of our people.”

So here, we have a vast army beyond imagining of ugly critters that, in effect, assimilate all others in their path.

This is the part of the program where I make a thoughtful pause…and ask my readership if this particular story element sounds familiar.

Yes, this is WarCraft III. The third installment of the WarCraft universe, which introduces one heckuva curveball to what had previously been a fairly standard conflict between humans and orcs. Now, both armies are assaulted by what seems to be hoards of undead – one’s own army could be used against itself as soldiers fall to the encroaching plague of infestation.

But all is not as simple as it seems. For this scourge of undead is not simply a ploy by a rogue dreadlord, but rather serves as the massive forward army for the true players, the Burning Legion, led by Sargeras and his lieutenant, Archimonde.

Doesn’t this strike a familiar chord?

The Zerg, countless in number, potent in their ability to infest unwitting Terrans into their ranks, rampage all but unchecked across every world they invade. The enigmatic Protoss and hapless Terrans wage war against each other in their confusion as much as they try to defend against the Zerg, until the singleminded goals of each is the total annihilation of the other.

And yet, the Zerg are apparently slaves in their own right: once more, they serve only as the massive forward advance of a greater power, the “Fallen One.” Possibly Xel’Naga in origin – as he admits to having created the Zerg and the Protoss, as well as the hybrids – but ultimately of unknown identity.

There are still two more installments of the StarCraft II universe to go; there is quite a bit of story yet to tell. And this single similarity does not a pattern justify; all in all, the storylines are exceptionally divergent and unique unto themselves. Blizzard has remained true to its reputation as a master sci-fi storyteller, and I don’t expect that to change with the next two expansions. I simply want to voice this thought and see if anyone else had any further insights on the matter.

And now for a very appropriate lolcat…

Yeah. I went there.

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About Shannon Quinn

Oh hai!
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4 Responses to Blizzard, I hope this isn’t formulaic

  1. Pingback: The Fallen One | theatre of consciousness

  2. Sean says:

    Hey, just stumbled across your site. I had the exact same thought when I was playing SC2! The Zerg turn out to be good guys, forced to fight against their will by the devil-like bigger bad guy, just like the Orcs turn out to be good guys controlled by the devil-like Legion. It’s suspiciously familiar.

    Did you also notice there’s kind of a parallel at best, and recylcing at worst, between Kerrigan/Arthas? Both were the good guys who, after undergoing a metamorphosis, took over from the bad guys and reigned in the ruins at the end of the games. I guess there are key differences, like Kerrigan being coerced v. Arthus just going Vader, however I still think the plot structure is kind of strikingly similar.

  3. magsol says:

    Hey Sean, thanks for commenting 🙂

    Your Kerrigan/Arthas parallel is interesting, but there are enough differences that keep me from thinking there were any serious similarities. Writers do tend to recycle ideas, but the good ones know how to make a used idea fresh again 🙂 Kerrigan was forcibly metamorphosed after being betrayed; Arthas simply succumbed to his own inner demons. Also, some interviews with the Blizzard writers indicate that Kerrigan was, originally, not found to be “interesting”; it was only when Brood War came around that the writers decided to her into a more serious character.

    SC2 is pretty freakin’ awesome, isn’t it? 🙂

    • Sean says:

      SC2 is awesome :-). Yeah, with Kerrigan-Arthus, I suppose sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between just a common plot element and just lack of creativity. But, I think in this case you’re right that theme-wise, Kerrigan-Arthas probably are different enough in function, to be cool.

      But on your original post, one thing Blizzard are good at is coming up with surprises, so hopefully they’ll put a twist on the Fallen One/Hybrid/Xel’Naga plot line to make it fresh. Another thing Blizzard is good at, though, is taking their time to do things, so I’m just hoping we don’t have to wait too long to find out!

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