So I've seen a lot of discussion in the past about how SC2 has a terrible story, but how is the SC1/BW story?
I first played SC1/BW back in the early 2000s and I simply consumed the story without critical thought since I was young and lacking in critical thinking skills. Years later I came back, when my tastes had matured and I was consuming fiction like Game of Thrones and The Expanse. Considering how much people compare the SC1/BW story favorably against SC2, I'm astonished by that fact that it isn't actually all that good.
Most of the world building is in the manual, which most people didn't actually read. I was lucky that I knew there was a manual, but without it a lot of the events in the game can easily seem incomprehensible.
Anyway, the plot feels very disjointed and haphazard because the level design is trying to fit studio mandates about tilesets and versus battles. According to interviews, the cinematics were made separately from the game levels so they don't always mesh well with the story.
What plot there is also feels shallow, lazy, and in some cases outright ridiculous. It feels to me like the writer started with a pre-determined set of highlights to hit, but couldn't actually write a series of events that felt believable.
The Confederacy are cartoonish villains whose behavior doesn't make a lot of sense, at least not when you compare them with historical authoritarian regimes. The Korhal rebellion, genocide, and takeover doesn't feel very believable: the closest comparison I can think of would be to the USA nuking Puerto Rico for wanting to secede, somehow without causing a civil war due to the mass murder, then the surviving Puerto Ricans nuking Washington D.C. and taking over the USA without complaint... and this takeover occurred after China and Russia spontaneously attacked the USA then left after destroying most of the infrastructure. The interstellar politics don't feel believable.
I didn't think it was a good use of time for the terran campaign to focus on rebellion and neglect the alien invasion part. The aliens are treated mostly as a plot device and later plot convenience when the zerg conveniently destroy Tarsonis for Mengsk's benefit. When the aliens then leave rather than continuing their attack because it would be inconvenient for Mengsk if they stayed, then I totally lost my suspension of disbelief.
The zerg campaign didn't feel well put together. The zerg have consumed countless worlds and species, yet they went on a wild goose chase to capture one girl and praise her as a messiah? This feels really silly and incongruous. Most of plot is about her and her highly questionable contributions to the zerg, then in the last two missions she disappears from the plot even though she was originally intended to fight that conflict and not the one she finally ended up in. Again, the plot doesn't feel organic and the plot threads do not line up in a satisfactory manner. I think it would have made much more sense if their campaign was about the invasion of human worlds and processing the population for psychic mutations.
At this point I'm too tired to keep trying to find problems, but I'll try. The protoss campaign didn't feel well constructed either. The dark and light protoss schism isn't well explained or resolved in a satisfactory manner, they just get forced to fight together because it's the apocalypse. At one point a protoss leader surrenders to halt the bloodshed, then when you rescue him by fighting another bloody he's very cheerful and not at all concerned about the soldiers you killed to rescue him. The story tries really hard to make the light protoss look like the bad guys, but reading the manual it seems like their actions are justified since the dark protoss nearly caused an apocalypse in their own past. The story never gives a satisfactory reason for the two to reconcile beyond an alliance of convenience.
There are some terrans there too, but their presence in the story doesn't feel genuine but a result of studio mandate due to the prior trajectory of the story. I think it would have made more sense for the protoss campaign to focus on their invasion of terran space, which would make the presence of terrans and any alliance with terrans feel much more organic.
The ending includes an obligatory sequel hook, but it feels really forced since the campaigns all ended with every side being devastated by apocalyptic conditions. (Don't get me started on the plot of the following BW campaigns.)
Overall, the story of the first three campaigns feel mediocre to me. Whatever story they tried to tell was hamstrung by a combination of studio mandates and the writer making highly questionable decisions.
I don't blame it for being bad, considering the technical limitations and budgets and tons of other factors. Most video game stories aren't very good, since they're games first and foremost.
What really confuses me is that fans of the story still praise it 22 years later, even though it really isn't very good. I've found myself in more than a few arguments where my opponents think the story is perfect, which confuses me to no end.
What do you think?