I’ve been replaying the campaigns and I noticed that the writing doesn’t hold up compared to when I first played two decades ago.
In Episode 1, the zerg and protoss are treated like plot contrivances more than anything else. The zerg invade worlds, the protoss glass them, was rinse repeat. Their agency doesn’t matter, only that of the terran cast, making their actions seem contrived.
The Comfederacy is a wasted opportunity IMO. The wiki gives a bunch of lore, but the game doesn’t explain enough about them to care before they get shanked by Mengsk.
Mengsk himself feels pretty shallow, since his turn to the dark side comes out of nowhere and feels like a last minute choice by the writer to contrive cheap soap opera drama. IMO It doesn’t seem that hard to have added a political subplot where he felt he needed to dispose of bleeding heart liberals in the SoK would would prevent him from making the decisions to save humanity. He doesn’t need to be correct, but reducing him to a caricature villain feels like a waste.
The zerg in particular feel like a giant plot convenience. The zerg conveniently follow Mengsk’s emitters, conveniently steamroll the Confederacy for him to replace, conveniently steamroll the protoss, and conveniently leave after capturing Kerry once they served their purpose in the narrative.
Episodes 2 and 3 feel pretty weak, like the writer didn’t care for the alien characters as much. QoB takes the spotlight from the zerg, whose culture and characters outside of her is never explored (I don’t care about Amon/Duran, everyone knows that’s a retcon). The protoss culture is never explained, not unless you read the wiki that explains they fought a galactic war for millions of years. In that case, the Conclave’s fear of the dark templar seems perfectly reasonable even if the dark templar are actually cheaters who somehow maintain peace without a khala (how do they manage that, anyway? Meditation like jedi? Do they have to worry about the dark side?). Then the zerg and protoss cultures are destroyed at the end, so any world building potential is gone forever.
IMO, the plotting feels disjointed, key plot points feel lazy and contrived (not outright plot holes, just seem bizarre wasteful choices by the writer), and the world building is wasted. I would have liked to see the world building, politics, cultures, characters, etc explored a lot more than they were. I constant found myself asking why I should care about these characters because the writing didn’t do enough to detail them beyond stereotypes like space outlaw, evil overlord, and elf paladin. I would have liked something more like the Magistrate teaming up with Tassadar to fight off the Confederacy, zerg, and Conclave on Mar Sara. I would have liked something like the Taldarim showing up as villains while the Conclave were the heroes fighting them. The sky’s the limit.
Overall my criticism stems from the story not utilizing its premise nearly as well as I think it could. Three races fighting for dominance is a premise that could go in infinite directions, so I was frustrated by the very restricted execution in the first trilogy which I feel wastes a lot of opportunities for storytelling, characterization, and world building. A lot of that may have to due with SC1’s apparently tumultuous development and the limitations of the 90s (just compare the archives of the 90s Starcraft website in Wayback Machine, it changed hugely over development), but that’s not a problem for us in the here and now. StarCraft is old enough now that it could receive a reboot spinoff to explore possibilities disallowed by the narrative choices of the canon, and if not an official spin-off we the fans are free to write fanfiction campaigns or something. Perhaps making the zerg genuinely villains devoted to their loving Overmind rather than innocent space orcs enslaved by the mad whims of QoB and Amon, or a protoss Conclave who is competent, heroic yet flawed, and ruling a vast galactic empire, or a Confederacy with more depth that that survives for more than ten missions dedicated to killing them.
Don’t get me wrong. The gameplay is still great aside from a lack of QoL improvements (so Mass Recall is my only recourse), but the story doesn’t impress me. It’s not terrible—don’t get me wrong, it’s better written than plenty of big budget Hollywood flicks full of plot holes (low bar, I know, sorry)—but I think after a dozen more drafts it could be a lot better.
What do you think?