Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jim Raynor is not a pretty man

So, despite my best intentions, tonight has been a night of StarCraft 2.  I say best intentions, because I really wanted to write.  Funny, but I guess the hype of last night got to me after all, and I cracked my Collector's Edition shortly after I got home.  The art book is nice, and I'm very interested in the behind-the-scenes DVD.  I didn't open the comic - for a game that's he sequel to something with a fantastic story, I find I'm just not that interested.  Then again, I said I wasn't particularly interested in the game, either.  I hadn't really counted on the story.

Coming from a long lineage of multiplayer-only RTS experiences, I must say, two missions in (give me a break, it's late), and I'm already enjoying waiting to find out what'll happen next.  Despite the fact that I know the stories of StarCraft and WarCraft 3, I've never played them, because I didn't have the patience.  StarCraft 2 is managing to keep me interested, even though - and this I freely admit - I don't like Jim Raynor.

He's an alcoholic.  He's a smoker.  He's laconic.  He's an ex-outlaw.  He's one of the heroes from the original StarCraft but, as I've already said, I owe him no allegiance thus far.  His one shining light has been the photo he keeps of Kerrigan, and even that hasn't really warmed my heart.  The first mission (spoilers, if it matters) sees him rescuing colonists from Dominion control on Mar Sara.  Everyone seems happy to see him.  I do enjoy the after-mission news reports, where the news anchor is trying to make Raynor look bad, while his on-the-spot reporter keeps contradicting him and being cut off.  It's cute.  But Raynor himself...  Well, he's a hick.

Then again, it seems most of the people in the StarCraft universe are.  People marvelled when Firefly combined sci-fi and Westerns, but StarCraft did the same thing in 1998, just without the horses.  The miners were hicks.  Most of the marines, while serving for crimes too numerous and horrible to mention, are also usually hicks.  The exceptions are the General and 'my good Alexi', and then they become the oppressive bureaucracy.  Mengsk fought for freedom, and became an overlord.  I wonder that they then expect us to trust to Raynor's altruism.

Apart from that, I'm enjoying the single player campaign a lot more than I thought I would.  Like most Blizzard titles, it stands out in polish.  The radio chatter can be irritating at times, but I'll probably get used to it soon.  Either that, or I'll turn off the sound, though that's hardly ideal.  I suppose it adds character, and saves on assets to have Jim say, "This is getting ugly.", but since the early missions function as a tutorial (never mind that there's also an actual tutorial), the amount of chatter if you already know what you're doing is enough to be distracting.  I also take issue with the Adjutant saying, "You have new tutorial videos to view, Commander." in the same way I rage quit Dungeon Siege 2 after the tutorial Sargent told me to, "Press the Spacebar, maggot!"  I know why they do it, I just wish they'd hide it better.

There is one area where StarCraft 2 gets a lot of praise from me, though.  While I was initially confused upon finishing the first mission, as I wound up back in the bar, but with some crazy side-on view, as soon as my partner said, "Point and click adventure!" I was in love.  Sure, the actions are limited for now, but being able to explore my environment and gain backstory or useful information gives the game a triple super++ from me. I've already mentioned the news broadcasts, but you can change the background music (jukebox), look at elements of Raynor's past (corkboard), talk to an accomplice or start a new mission, which appears to be coming out of some kind of beat-up old suitcase.  It's a nice way to have a visual menu, without the need to heap story on the player.  The mission-start briefings tell you everything you need to know, but if you want to hear it with more character than the Adjutant has, you can talk to other people or sail the mists of Raynor's nostalgia.

I'm still not sold on Jim Raynor as a character, but the rest of the game is giving him a good start.  The environment design also helps - there's a chair behind him with "0.02^" on a piece of paper taped to it - so I'm hoping he's going to show himself to be more honourable, and maybe even stop drinking so much.  I know life is tough on the outer rim, and I know I'd hate him just as much if he were perfect, but when I feel like I'm beheading one tyrant to enthrone another, or to bring them anarchy as Raynor seems to intend, it doesn't bring me much hope for humanity.  Maybe the Zerg will change all that.  It's an entertaining thought.

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