Eroldren cover his second spotlight review over Blizzard’s Heart of the Swarm short story series.
“These old memories of unheard deaths and battles read in a entertaining, fast paced remembrance, combined with the present time distress resulted in an unexpected but understandable outcome.” – The Founding Fields
Following after Matt Burn’s larvae-related story with “In the Blood” is another regular Blizzard short story writer, James Waugh, who explores the human terror surrounding the most basic fighting creature yet numerous in their numbers in the Zerg Swarm: Zerglings.
Virgil Caine has fought more than his fair share of nightmarish xenomorphs in his time. Memories of his many deployments still haunt his dreams, and the scars of battle run deep. So you’d think that if a chance presented itself to avoid getting recalled into service, Virgil would be the first to take it. But sometimes, the war that’s raging on the battlefield is nothing compared to the one a soldier’s fighting in his own head every day.
To add some background context, James Waugh is one of Blizzard’s senior story developers and writers and he’s got a notable fascination with World of Warcraft’s worgen: ”Lord of His Pack”, a Leaders of Azeroth short story on Genn Graymane and Curse of the Worgen, a Windstorm Comics mini-series that which explored Gilneas’ decades-long isolation, done in collaboration with Micky Neilson, Blizzard’s Publishing Lead.
Anyway, with “A War On” early pages of it takes awhile to fall into Virgil’s mindset while rotating between the present time where the Zerg Swarm invading worlds once more and his bygone battles and comrades. Once you get into that reading mindset the story should keep you entertained throughout these various death accounts – both sad and amusing – plus Virgil’s current and conflicted lifestyle. Even an immediate second reading round at it can helped grasping those earlier sections which I found myself a bit confused to understand while reading page by page. On a side note to the ending which I’ll brush over it as vaguely as I can but let’s just say I gotta condemn our fictional man for that one moment of dissatisfaction, even though it was somewhat understandable from his own perspective. It was bit of an unhappy tale like “In the Blood” was beforehand, just it was a different type of unhappiness instead.
On the lore side of things, I was somewhat surprised that we didn’t have ourselves a continuing presence from Project Blackstone operating behind the scenes with “A War On” and the zerglings verses Burn’s “In the Blood” had touched on. I was expecting this apparent StarCraft II ARG to try to surreptitiously embedded itself as part of Heart of the Swarm‘s short story promotion but that wasn’t the case in this instance. Seeded elsewhere here-and-there, we have a few handful of new planets (and old ones) dropped on us. Alongside the highlighted topic of Virgil Caine’s life as a marine, seasoned StarCraft readers and lore enthusiasts will get some slight extra insight here into Dominion Marine Corps from both their normal means of recruitment and those darker terms. And, being that “A War On” is free online newcomers of StarCraft’s expanded universe can gleam the general idea of those serving the Dominion Armed Forces in that same regard.
Until next time, more lore and more zerg!
Overall Verdict: 8.5/10