The Protoss vs. The Zerg vs. the other Protoss vs. The Terrans vs. The other Terrans vs. The other Zerg. . . confusing, isn't it?
It was a dark day for the Protoss. Though the Overmind lay vanquished, renegade Zerg broods still lay waste to Aiur. The Conclave has been destroyed, buried under the bodies of Zerg Hydralisks. Only by reuniting with their Dark Templar brethren can the noble Protoss reclaim that which was once theirs. Unfortunately, internal forces may not allow that reunification. Will the first sons of the Xel-naga be able to reclaim their homeworld, or will their struggle be lost in the vastness of space . . .
With the destruction of both the Overmind and the Conclave, the new Terran Emperor Mengsk finds that he is not invincible. Forces within his Empire begin to work against this megalomaniac, and a ghost from his past resurfaces in the form of self-proclaimed Queen of Blades, Kerrigan. On top of that, Earth has not forgotten about its wayward colonies and has send a large force, under the auspices of the United Earth Directorate, to deal with the situation. Lost in the shuffle is Lieutenant Raynor, who helped in the final assault on the Overmind, but is now ostracized by every side. Will Mengsk retain control or will the UED take back what they consider to be rightfully theirs? While the infighting occurs, what will become of the renegade Zerg broods?
Without the Overmind to control them, individual Zerg Cerebrates will have to think for themselves for the first time in their existence. Needless to say, this leads to madness on the part of many broods. Kerrigan, now free of the control of the Overmind, but still possessed by the very essence of the Zerg, retains control of a few broods, and wishes to control more. Her lust for revenge against Mengsk, and the universe itself, my have driven her on a self-destructive rampage. Not to mention that she must work against other Zerg broods to stop them from reforming the Overmind and retaking control of all the Zerg. In this time of weakness, will the Zerg broods destroy themselves or will they reunite into a stronger, unbeatable force that will bring the universe to its knees?
Nobody ever claimed that StarCraft: Brood War didn't have an interesting storyline. As can be imagined, this expansion set follows the plot of the original game. Through a brand new campaign mode, players must take control in each side of the battle, following the unfolding plotline. On top of that, Blizzard has given players two new units per side and new battlegrounds to frolic in. Are these modifications worth $30-$40? We shall see . . .
The gameplay is identical to StarCraft in almost every way. Some modifications were made to the firing rates of some units, others were given longer range weapons. In adding the new units, Blizzard hoped to iron out some of the exploits and imbalances that players have found over the last year.
The Protoss, though they lost their homeworld Aiur, gained some fearsome weapons in their strife. Not only can they now produce Dark Templars, a permanently cloaked footsoldier, but those Templars can now unite and unleash the Dark Archon. Though the Dark Archon has no direct attacks, its magical abilities, if used properly, can tip the outcome of any battle. On top of that, the Protoss can now produce the Corsair, another annoying flying unit that can disable others and attack other flying ships. In my opinion, the disable feature is just plain annoying.
The Terrans, however, gain a way to counteract most disabling features. Using their new Medic, the Terrans can cure anything, from parasites, to lockdown, to even a severe case of pneumonia. Also, the medic can blind opponents and heal any non-mech unit, even each other. Including two medics with a group of soldiers makes them more powerful than you can imagine. Also, the humans get an air-to-air combat vessel, oddly called the Valkyrie Bomber, specifically designed to take out capital ships. Terran scientists have also discovered technology to increase the range of the surface to air missiles shot from the Goliath. Sounds good to me . . .
Never fear, dear reader, the Zerg aren't left out in the cold. New genetic strains have burst forth, despite the loss of the Overmind. The Lurker is new unit that buries itself in the earth and attacks from below. Primarily a defensive unit, the Lurker can attack multiple units at once with its sharp spines and can lay waste to the unsuspecting aggressor. (A tip: Try burying Lurkers behind objects such as trees or shadows. Makes them both harder to see and harder for the enemy to target.) Strange Mutalisk passions have given birth to a new strain of air-to-air combat ships. The Devourer is a match for any capital ship, and its corrosive shots continue to do damage even after the fighting has finished. Top that off with speed mutations to the Ultralisk, and you have some serious firepower on your side.
While the unit upgrades are good, the scenarios still don't cut it. In total, there are 26 new single-player missions to beat, divided evenly between the three races. Though I'm happy to play more single-player (my favorite part of the game), expansion sets should have more missions than the original. All the time that was spent on the engine for the original release should have been given to mission designers in the expansion. They could have even had gamers design the missions, then all they would have to do was add voice intros and such. This wouldn't have even affected the movies that lay at the beginning and end of each campaign (except the humans, whose initial campaign movie is the intro). The mission designers essentially used the map-maker that was included with the initial release of StarCraft, not even bothering to edit out some of the inconsistencies (ex. Kerrigan referring to the humans as Cerebrates). While the designers carefully added the new units while trying to maintain the balance, they seem to have left the mission design as an afterthought.
For those multiplayer minded folks, Blizzard has broken BattleNet into two groups, those with Brood War and those without. They also included 100 multiplayer maps to help you along. Of course, anyone can design multiplayer maps, and there are thousands on the web for free, so these aren't all that important.
All in all, StarCraft: Brood War is a mixed bag. If you loved the original StarCraft and spend hours every day on BattleNet, you'll probably love this as well. Brood War is a fun expansion, but, for many people, not enough to warrant the extra money.