Blizzard Entertainment has recently released the first episode of StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops, which attempts to answer the age-old question of what happens to everyone after the main storyline is completed. The result? A rather ho-hum state of affairs.
StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops' first episode’s storyline is full of clichés and hokey writing, which is essentially defines modern single-player campaigns from Blizzard Entertainment. However, what makes this different from Legacy of the Void are the stakes, of which there are none. That isn’t to say that they don’t try to invest the player in the story, but both the characters and events within the story have no emotional pull on the player. The last time we saw Nova was around six years ago in Wings of Liberty, and that was only for a few missions. Why should we care about her, or for anything else that happens around her? Covert Ops doesn't give players a reason to care, and as a result there are no attachments to both the characters or the events that are occurring.
However, the story isn’t completely dull, as there are a few one-liners that are amusing. For instance there is one scene where Nova compliments an upgrade that she just received, to which the engineer replies with a hilariously cheesy “it’s science!” Schwarzenegger and Stallone would be proud. It's ultimately something that means very little, but it's still nice to see.
To the surprise of no one, Covert Ops looks, plays, feels, and sounds like StarCraft II, which is a very good thing. Blizzard Entertainment utterly dominates the RTS genre for a reason, and their mastery is demonstrated to good effect here, as even though Covert Ops feels like an afterthought, it without a doubt a well-crafted afterthought. However, there isn’t that much to say that I already haven’t said in my Legacy of the Void review. Presentation-wise, it is what you would expect from a StarCraft II release, nothing more, nothing less.
Something worth pointing out is that Covert Ops allows for some customization for Nova, which is neat. For example, if you have a shotgun and a jetpack, then you will undoubtedly play more aggressively, as you would not have invisibly to hide behind. The customization options force the player to accommodate how Nova plays to what they have chosen, which will then change how the player approaches a mission. It's a great idea and it is implemented well.
The three missions that players can play in the first episode are nothing special. There are a few in-engine cutscenes interspersed throughout, but the general gist is that Nova wakes up in a strange and potentially hostile Terran facility with her recent memories removed. The missions are interesting as a concept, but in-practice it was only just enough to keep me entertained. As mentioned beforehand, it doesn’t matter if the gameplay mechanics are cool, there has to be a reason for doing it. Covert Ops doesn’t give players many reasons to care what they are doing, and it suffers as a result. Mechanically the missions aren't too special either. Everything has been seen before, with the exception of the highway chase sequence, which is fun for a few minutes before it becomes tedious.
Overall, the first episode takes an hour or so to complete, which of course will depend on how good or which difficulty the player decides to choose. Essentially, the first episode contains three below average StarCraft II single-player missions, which will probably be enough for most potential consumers to decide whether or not they want to drop $15 for Covert Ops. It's not amazing, but it's not terrible either. We'll see if the story picks up in the next two episodes, but strictly judging this episode, I would wait.
StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops Mission Pack 1 was reviewed on PC via Battle.net with a code provided by the publisher.
With a ho-hum story and three run-of-the-mill missions that last for an hour of gametime, you may want to wait until you accept this particular Op.