Where Does ‘StarCraft’ Go From Here?

Ryan Covey

With the release of StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void on Nov. 10 last year, the StarCraft saga has come to a close with an ending that tied up the series’ mythology with a neat little bow.  Many have speculated that this is the end for StarCraft; all the other major Real-Time Strategy franchises have either changed (Age of Empires and Dungeon Keeper became free-to-play online games, WarCraft became a famously-popular massive multiplayer RPG) or disappeared (Command and Conquer hasn’t been heard from since 2008, Rise of Nations and Empire Earth live on only in the hearts and Steam accounts of their adoring cult fanbases) and the prevailing opinion is that RTS games are going the way of the SHMUP.

The lack of fanfare accompanying Legacy of the Void’s release certainly serves as an omen of bad things to come for the genre, but in fairness it came out the same day as Fallout 4 and Rise of the Tomb Raider, with Star Wars Battlefront following only a few days later. This latest expansion was released two years after the previous installment, Heart of the Swarm, and nearly six years after the first entry in the StarCraft II trilogy, Wings of Liberty.

RTS games are hard to balance for multiplayer, their star is fading as Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games such as League of Legends have usurped the title of choice tournament game among PC gamers.  StarCraft is the last man standing in RTS arena and though it is still successful (Legacy of the Void sold 1 million copies on launch day whilst going head to head with those other games mentioned above), with the success of Diablo III, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and World of WarCraft the question remains as to whether the franchise will continue as an RTS or change into something else.

An answer of sorts will come in the form of a DLC pack for StarCraft 2.  “Nova Covert Ops will be a series of three mission packs centered around the Terran Ghost Nova (protagonist of the cancelled StarCraft: Ghost spin-off game) that picks up after the end of Legacy of the Void.  Information has been light but it appears to be a way to test the waters for StarCraft’s future to see if the interest is still there for more.  Will we ever see StarCraft 3, or will mission packs spaced out over several years be the series’ legacy?  It’s too early to tell but if we are getting more StarCraft, what could it possibly be about?

Spoilers of ‘StarCraft II’ follow.

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Things are pretty well tied up in Koprulu sector: the Zerg are peaceful enough now that the new queen, Zagara, is in control of The Swarm and seemingly keeping them in the star system surrounding the planet Char, the Protoss are all unified as one save the Tal’Darim who at least seem to have parted on peaceful terms, Matt Horner and Valerian Mengsk rule over what remains of the Terran Dominion, the dark Xel’Naga Amon is dead, the contemptible Terran emperor Arcturus Mengsk is dead, the Queen of Blades Sarah Kerrigan has ascended and become some sort of Xel’Naga and has taken Jim Raynor with her under ambiguous circumstances to what is presumably a sorely-deserved happy ending.  However, there are still plot points to exploit and explore. Here are some possible future plot threads we might see in the future:

Terran Infighting

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This has been somewhat confirmed by early reports of the plot of “Nova Covert Ops.”  A new faction within the Terran government is rising up in favor of the complete eradication of both the Protoss and Terran species, something which will surely spark many wars to come within the Koprulu sector.  But even within the Dominion it’s likely that Valerian and Matt are going to have to deal with people who are still Arcturus Mengsk sympathizers and want to overthrow the Emperor’s son as heir apparent to the throne.

Protoss Infighting

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The Protoss are now largely unified with the former Khalai, Nerazim, Purifiers, and those Tal’Darim that chose to leave before the larger group left for parts unknown standing together as the Daelaam.  But the former High Templars, Dark Templars, former heroes reborn as A.I., and more barbaric warrior caste will surely not mix well and while Alarak and the Tal’Darim are at peace with the Daelaam there’s no guarantee that Alarak will remain so, or that he won’t be challenged and lose to another warrior to take his place.  Conflict is nearly guaranteed.

Zerg Infighting

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Zagara controls The Swarm, but the aliens have been granted a great deal more individuality than they have in previous times.  The infested Alexei Stukov will likely not trouble Zagara but the Primal Zerg, Dehaka, is still floating around. Since he views The Swarm as an inferior offshoot of his species he only allied with to increase his power, there’s a good likelihood that he’ll be making trouble for The Swarm sooner rather than later.

New Growth in the Koprulu Sector

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It’s unclear what the “new growth” alluded to at the end of Legacy of the Void means.  It is assumed that Kerrigan influenced this, but it’s also stated that Kerrigan and Raynor were never seen again.  What could this mean for the future?  New races?  New planets?  Who knows? It’s an obvious point to be exploited for the future.

The Return of the UED

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The United Earth Directorate’s Expeditionary Force that was sent out in Brood War was little more than a scouting party.  The UED itself is heavily implied to have military and technological capabilities above and beyond anything in the Koprulu Sector, and though no part of the fleet made it out of the Korpulu Sector to report what had happened, it’s unlikely that they’re going to stay away with their recon fleet missing.  Stukov warns Kerrigan in Heart of the Swarm that “they will come back some day.”  The lore states that the loss of the expeditionary fleet had very little impact on the UED, but that they had to hold back and bolster political support for an invasion of The Koprulu Sector.  This is the most likely plot point to be explored later.

Xel’Naga Temples and Energy Creatures

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In the StarCraft novels there are references to giant Xel’Naga temples that work as incubators for immensely powerful “energy creatures.” Described as squid-like and winged, they absorb energy and are capable of wiping out entire armies of Protoss and Zerg whilst drawing in their essence.  It is unclear what these creatures are, though their description does sound a good deal like a Xel’Naga, which would imply that they are a larval stage of the species.  Legacy of the Void implied that the Xel’Naga (sans Kerrigan) are pretty much done, so it’s hard to tell if this is even considered canon any longer, but it would be another hole in the lore that could be patched in future installments.


Outside the Koprulu Sector

So far the lore of this series has all been focused on one section of outer space with only one set of interlopers, the Terrans of Earth, popping in to harass the locals.  Who’s to say there aren’t other groups of Protoss and Zerg outside the sector, or that there aren’t entire other species that could potentially pop in and make things complicated for everyone?  This is the most vague future plot line, but the one with the richest potential. Only Blizzard knows for sure what could be out there and how the StarCraft franchise can expand.

Whatever happens, it’s always a pleasure to follow along and see where this series goes and how it gets there.  The first episode of “Nova Covert Ops” is expected to drop this spring.

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