Yesterday I closed out my writing for the end of the semester and decided to attempt to finish up Heart of the Swarm. Heart, or HOTS as it is sometimes known, is the Zerg (read: space bugs) campaign follow-up to the Terran (read: human) campaign of the original StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, and it requires such a complex knowledge of the inner workings of the game universe that I’m going to skip right over any of the content (which you can read about here if you want) and instead just talk about how it made me feel.
Creating a story for an real-time strategy game seems like it would be really difficult. You’ve got a couple methods at your disposal: you have pre-mission info dump, post-mission info dump, and scripted events in the game. Or, to put it another way, you have “you gotta do this!”; “whoa you did that!”; “holy mother of god this is happening!”
The nature of RTS games is that the player grows in power throughout, but she is also generally starting from zero every session; you’ve gotta come up with a reason why a player with the strongest units would start a mission with a bare-bones base from which she builds Fort Kickass.
The structure of Heart is such that the stakes are constantly increasing because of Kerrigan’s constant fighting against progressively more dangerous enemies in more and more extreme locations. I wasn’t exaggerating above when I was talking about the mode of excitement that RTS games need to deploy in order to keep things escalating. Heart is a game where enemies, allies, and unknown parties keep telling me how badass they/I/someone I’ve never met before is without any proof. I was told that a mission was the hardest of Kerrigan’s life only to start the mission, wipe everyone off the map, and wait for the timed scripted sequences to trigger.
I write all of that to say that Heart of the Swarm is a really strange game in that it is mechanically very solid with some really excellent scenarios (and some amazing blending of DOTA-style gameplay sometimes) that total bungles any sense of pacing and plot escalation that could happen. It’s frustrating, and it’s sad.
Are these some RTS games that really get the narrative parts right? What games were awesome at the execution?