Courtesy Blizzard Entertainment
Kerrigan demands better motivations. She’s a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man.

I don’t know how many writers would be willing to admit this. Good ones, I’d imagine. But here’s a shocking fact that may take you by surprise: no writer is an island. Even great writers who sell millions of copies don’t really work alone. They need people to read their work. They need publishing houses and agents to get physical copies on store shelves. And above all else, writers need editors.

For some, these can be test readers that point out plot holes and typos. For others, these are professional gate-keepers, savvy and mature folks who know when to say “No” to something and also when to slap a writer’s wrist for trying to pull a fast one. This is especially true if you have multiple writers working on the same project. Without someone in an editorial position overseeing the work, said work is going to end up as a confused mess with conflicting visions and nonsensical passages. In short, it’s like trying to run a kitchen where one person is undercooking the steak while another is using the wrong spice for the potatoes. You can have the freshest, highest-quality ingredients, but if someone does something to those ingredients that don’t work for the dish, the entire meal is ruined.

Case in point: I finished the campaign for StarCraft 2‘s “Heart of the Swarm” expansion and… my feelings are very, very mixed.

I would feel a lot better about it if so much of it didn’t feel like a retread of earlier Blizzard works. There are direct parallels to be drawn between this and Warcraft 3‘s “Reign of Chaos”, specifically the Orc campaign. It was difficult for me to discern anything I’d call a meaningful arc for any of its characters, even Kerrigan. Some of the conversations feel less like actual discussions and more like one-liners traded between characters put into a scene the way you put two ships into a harbor to pass in the night.

However, I never found myself completely disgusted by any of this the way I was by how romance overrode what could have been character development for Kerrigan. Her quest for revenge becoming a consolidation of Zerg power under her rule that gave way to a greater understanding of the Swarm would have been a lot more interesting and involving if we weren’t constantly reminded of the romance. I don’t see why Kerrigan ever needed to be ‘saved’. I would have enjoyed the campaign a lot more if she’d made her own choices and stood her own ground more.

So what was good about the campaign? The expansion on the history of the Zerg was interesting, some aspects stretching back past the original writing of the Zerg background. Several of the characters, from the new Ancient Zerg to those returning in new forms, are interesting conceptually and have unique points of view, moreso than similar characters in the previous campaign, “Wings of Liberty.” While some of the dialog was eye-rolling in its delivery, it wasn’t all terrible and there were moments where I was taken aback or found myself having a good-natured chuckle in response. And as egregious as I found the romance in which Kerrigan found herself entangled, when she was on her own I saw glimpses of a character who was thinking, growing, and moving forward for her own reasons.

There’s so much more than could have been done with this story. There’s potential in its concepts and history that went unrealized or underdeveloped. Why? Too many writers, not enough editors tied into a singular, clear vision. Kerrigan could have been much stronger if she hadn’t been yanked around between learning about the Zerg and being lovelorn over her dude. The story would have felt a great deal more smooth if plot points from “Wings of Liberty” had been remembered more clearly. The concepts and characters could have been given more time to breathe and develop if the story wasn’t so busy cribbing notes from earlier games. What we got wasn’t the worst game story I’ve ever played, and it’s left more of an impression and a desire to play than the first campaign did – but it could have been much, much better.