Monday, September 27, 2010

StarCraft 2 Spoilers Part 1

I still haven't finished the game yet - close, so close! - but I just felt the need to comment on Tychus' emasculation ala the post-Sigma Quadrant mission. Minor spoilers.

Here is a brief list of 5 things Tychus could have done that would have been cooler than and made more sense than throwing a jukebox at Raynor.

1) Set up Raynor so he can make his 'inspiring' speech. A wink, and we know he didn't mean all the things he said, he was just helping out. What a pal.

2) Actually be trying to kill Raynor. You know how he said he lost 9 years of his life to prison because of Jim? Why not act on it? He's already down for murder.

3) While we're at it, Tosh warned Raynor against Dominion spies. We know Tychus' suit is out of his control - a clever ploy by Mengsk or his progeny to use Raynor's friend as a sleeper agent doesn't seem so far-fetched.

4) Taken control of the ship. Why not? Stage a mutiny, get to punch Horner in the face, then go kamikaze on Mengsk's butt. Heck, the way the Dominion seems to be crumbling like anything I try to bake suggests flying their flagship up to the palace windows and shooting Arcturus in the kneecaps with a Yamato cannon would be a walk in the park.

5) Cabaret. Unconventional, but entertaining.

This all reminds me of the rarely seen pilot episodes - turned into a direct-to-DVD movie - of Disney's Atlantis: Milo's Return. The new writer absolutely loved Mole, and if you've seen the original, you know there's nothing much to love. Suddenly, Mole was charming, solved every problem and was more intelligent than the guy with the PhD.

This is Mole.  See the guy in the background?  That's my reaction to people choosing to follow Raynor.

I happen to agree with Tychus. Raynor is a coward and a drunk who drinks while commanding an army because he can't move on. I have no problem with drinking, but when I'm taking orders from the guy who can't let a bottle of Scotch get lonely, I begin to worry.  As for his past, he may be tortured, but it's misguided self-torture, and I have no pity for that. Of course, that says much about me, as I covered in my previous post with Epictetus, blah blah blah, but essentially a self-pitying drunk isn't really my type.  So Tychus is my main point of reference, and watching him get beaten, not only in an unfair manner, but by Raynor, who suddenly comes across as all morally superior, is like slapping my grandma and expecting me to laugh.

Okay, so it's not quite that bad.  My grandma isn't a convicted killer in a welded-shut space marine outfit.  But James 'Eugene' Raynor is essentially a Mary Sue.  Like Bella in Twilight, his actions make little sense.  He has a tragic past - check; he's out to right a terrible wrong from said past - check; people follow him because of his 'charisma' - check; he's plagued with doubts - check; he makes what seem to be terrible decisions that always work out for the best - check; he gets the best of people who are more physically and/mentally capable than him - check; he has respect from a strange and wonderful alien species even though they were recently hell-bent on destroying the dumb humans who wandered into Zerg territory - check.

Running through a quick Mary Sue quiz from what I've gleaned from the storylines of StarCraft 1 & 2, Raynor comes up with:
Your Mary Sue Score: 63
"56-70 points: Über-Sue. You've got one hell of a Mary-Sue on your hands here, and it's not going to be easy to set things right. But do your best. There may be hope for you yet."

Sorry, Raynor.  As a mouthpiece for player satisfaction, I suppose he works, because players want to feel cool, and if you can identify with Raynor, that would definitely be the case.  Taking on an evil emperor who killed not only your girlfriend but also possibly your wife and child?  That would feel good.  Winning would feel awesome.  Seeing Raynor's fatalistic attitude turned on its head when he's victorious would be a triumph.  Really what I'm complaining about is my disconnect with the character, based on his personal traits that I see as vices, rather than virtues.  It doesn't help that I've seen it all before, either.  

But that's what comes of reading books, watching movies, and then moving to games.  Games haven't had the same stereotypes for as long, so something that's old hat in written sci-fi becomes new and amazing when translated into a game.  Each stereotype has its day, from the hoodie-d protagonists of Prototype and inFamous to playing as a wanna-be god ala God of War or Darksiders.  The twisted "You were working for the wrong side all along!" plotline was popular for quite a few years.  Personally, I'm glad that one's gone, because there are only so many of those plotlines you can take before it's just too predictable.

And, really, I feel the same way about Raynor as I do about Bella - they're fine for some, but I'd rather watch something else.  Anything else.  The gameplay in StaCraft 2 is what keeps me going - that and Tychus, who I would argue is the only 'round' character, according to E.M. Forster's definition, unpredictability lending life and all that - and that's what I enjoy.  As with all games, or as it should be with all games, story is secondary.  Coming from a games writer, maybe that's a newsflash but, hey, I'm realistic, at least some of the time.  I can ignore the story.  I can't ignore the gameplay, and the gameplay is good.  I'm looking forward to trying it on a harder difficulty setting, and I got quite a thrill upon discovering the secret mission, so they're keeping me happy in that regard.

I just wish I could like Raynor.  He's not that bad a guy.  He's got at least one right motive.  But the more they try to make me like him, the less I do.  I know I'm not the target demographic.  I wonder when I will be.  Someday, magically, there will be a game that's aimed directly at my heart.  I have high hopes for The Last Guardian.  Dragonquest 9 is doing an admirable job so far.  But I wonder that I'm not allowed to like my RTS, and also like strong characters, characters who have a tragic past and get over it, and move toward a brighter future.

Then again, optimism isn't really a forefront value in the StarCraft universe.  In fact, optimism will get you killed.  I wouldn't last an hour on board the Hyperion.  Maybe that's the biggest disappointment of all.

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