Thoughts on "Heart of the Swarm" (MAJOR SPOILERS)
As you all know, I'm a big fan of the computer game StarCraft. I bought the original game when it came out when I was in middle school, I've read some of the novels set in that universe, and although the computer I had at the time couldn't handle it, I at least took a stab at Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.
I plotted out a novel I could pitch to Blizzard that would take place between Wings of Liberty and StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, a novel that would have stood in the place of StarCraft II: Flashpoint. Although gameplay is always fun, my major interest has been in the storyline. It was for that reason that last night, before the game even came out, I watched the uploaded cinematics on YouTube.
So how does Heart of the Swarm come out story-wise? Well...
*They didn't kill off Jim Raynor, which would have a major downer. Instead they let Sarah Kerrigan think he was killed, which certainly pushed her in a very dark direction for awhile. That scene was well-done. Flashpoint began with Raynor abandoning his longtime friend Tychus Findlay on Char after shooting him to protect an de-infested and semi-catatonic Kerrigan and I was afraid some infested undead Tychus would show up and kill Raynor. Earlier SC material had UED commander Alexei Stukov, who was killed in battle, infested by the Zerg, and later de-infested, so there's precedent. If Tychus didn't immediately die from Raynor's bullet, it would have been even easier to have him returning "from the dead," since the Zerg could have prevented him from dying in the first place. Unfortunately this meant the death of Horace Warfield, who didn't really deserve it.
*I liked the second round between Kerrigan and Zeratul. The timing of Zeratul grabbing her by the face and mind-melding with her was actually quite funny.
*However, I didn't like the idea of "primal Zerg" on the Zerg homeworld of Zerus and how they were especially adaptable. The Zerg have always been especially adaptable. There was no need to have the return to Zerus in the first place, especially since the Zerg left it hundreds if not thousands of years before and it's likely EXTREMELY far away. Plus any Zerg left behind would probably be second-stringers the Overmind figured wouldn't be that useful for its campaigns of conquest and assimilation across the galaxy. Kerrigan could simply sail around looking for new life-forms to incorporate into the Swarm, have a protracted war with the Dominion or Protoss who don't buy Zeratul's theory that she's needed to save the universe, or go to Aiur to commune with the dead Overmind and the shade of Tassadar to learn more about the Dark Voice, the "real enemy."
*And the "primal Zerg" thing ties into her voluntarily being reinfested, in order to better control the "primal Zerg." Although this was hinted at from very early on (how she was building her powers "through mutations"), there's tinkering with your DNA to be faster or stronger or have retractable claws or something and there's turning yourself back into the monster that killed millions if not billions of people, including your boyfriend's Protoss battle-buddy Fenix. I did like the confrontation between Raynor and re-infested Kerrigan though, in which long-forgotten Fenix is finally brought up.
*Samir Duran is dealt with. That fight was a fun one, especially when Duran confronts her in the guise of Raynor. Yikes. We also learned who or what the Dark Voice actually is--apparently it's an undead Xel'Naga. The idea that the Zerg had not completely wiped out the Xel'Naga and they'd be back for revenge was circulating in the fan community as early as Wings of Liberty and possibly as early as the Zeratul bonus mission in Brood War in which he learns Duran is creating Protoss-Zerg hybrids.
*The ending. That SOB Arcturus Mengsk gets what he deserves at long last, although I was hoping he'd bug off with the hybrids he and Duran had created in the face of a coup by his two bitterest enemies and his own son in hopes of immortality, supernatural powers, etc. from the Dark Voice. That way he can stay a dangerous threat to the Dominion, our heroes, etc. well into Legacy of the Void. Power-mad near-psychopath (or full psychopath) that he is, that'd be in-character. And the big difference from the leaked trailer from over a year ago and the canonical ending is that Mengsk had the Xel'Naga artifact that de-infested Kerrigan in the first place, something that Raynor and friends have now. That's actually a "Hope Spot" in TVTropes terms, since it allows for her to get de-infested again later on. Raynor and Kerrigan's last conversation is also rather touching.
(Yes, as far as Raynor and Kerrigan are concerned, I'm a hopeless romantic. Sue me.)
*It looks like they didn't go with the idea I had where Kerrigan liberates the Ghost Academy and finds Johnny Raynor, Raynor's son from his first marriage who was strongly implied to be taken by the Ghost program during the days of the Confederacy. Darn--that could have been used to create some additional depth and flesh out Raynor's back-story some more. I posted the idea on Blizzard discussion forum (here and possibly other places) and some people actually really liked the idea. However, I remember reading somewhere that companies are very careful with ideas they find online for fear of getting sued. And apparently one can only join Blizzard's creative team if someone dies or retires, so good luck with me getting hired.
*Kerrigan's last speech as the Zerg leave Korhal sets the stage for the next game. Having learned from Duran who the "real enemy" is, she's going to fight him (it?) with the full might of the Zerg. Since the last part of SC2 is the Protoss campaign, I'm assuming the player will be fighting alongside her against the Dark Voice in the last game. And scuttlebutt is we'll see Raynor again...