When you look at characters that would have interesting stories that continue on from StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, I wouldn’t have considered Nova among them. The likes of Zagara or Alarak who played bit parts in the various SC2 expansions could have interesting stories following the Into The Void missions based on LOTV and the epilogue. However, Blizzard got off on the right foot with the first mission pack of Nova Covert Ops. The second mission pack is a bit of a miss, though.
Spoiler Alert: Plot points from Legacy of the Void and Nova Covert Ops: Mission Pack 1 will be brought up in the review of Mission Pack 2. If you haven’t played the previously released StarCraft II expansions and don’t want spoilers, this is your warning.
The second mission pack of Nova Covert Ops follows Nova as she continues to investigate and presumably foil the Defenders of Man, a rebel faction in Dominion space that claims to be saving people from zerg attacks but actually instigating them. The last mission pack was focused on Nova trying to investigate the Defenders of Man. This one is about Nova trying to remember how she started the game at the Defenders of Man’s base.
The big problem with Nova Covert Ops is the story. It’s just so dull. There are no memorable twists. There is one that comes in this mission pack but it feels like a half-hearted one. I saw something like this coming (and I’d imagine that everyone else does too after Mission Pack 1) but Blizzard didn’t give it any punch by including an established character in the twist somehow. I’m sure there’s another major swerve coming soon and hopefully it will include a more prominent character. The game’s ending cliffhanger also fell flat because you know that’s not going to stick by the end of Mission Pack 3.
To compensate for the story, a brief appearance from a fan favourite from Legacy of the Void happened. I didn’t expect this character to show up but his appearance wasn’t unwelcome. It was underwhelming as he showed up briefly in a cutscene between missions and said nothing of consequence just to send you off to the next mission. I was hoping Zagara would show up in some capacity as the zerg are being portrayed as the villains to Terrans outside the Dominion leadership. It seems like a missed opportunity to not incorporate the new zerg queen into a story related to the zerg.
The actual gameplay has improved from the previous mission pack. The first mission sees you alternating your attention between zerg and protoss forces in a manner very similar to the Safe Haven mission from the Wings of Liberty campaign. It kept me on my toes because I had to be ready for attacks from both sides by both ground and air units. Speaking of repeated missions, the second mission is similar to WoL’s Welcome to the Jungle mission but has the benefit of adding Infested Terrans to the protoss forces to make your resource gathering mission more difficult. The final mission is a largely defensive one as the zerg make frequent and very strong attempts to destroy your base while you can get away with letting Nova solo her way to the waypoints.
Overall, I’d say that the missions in Mission Pack 2 were far better than Mission Pack 1 because of the variety of enemies and the need to keep attention on multiple fronts at the same time. The first mission requires defense at two points and a travelling attack force. The second mission keeps you constantly on the move and has some optional boss fights if you want to test your might. The third mission is a bit of a letdown as you can turtle up and let Nova do all the work if you really want. For the most part, Mission Pack 2 makes you work for your
The best part of Mission Pack 2 is the introduction of some new units and abilities. Nova gets nukes in the first mission which gets really fun when you build additional Ghost Academies to keep the nukes rolling. The Liberator also makes it’s SC2 single-player debut. On the one hand, I understand why everyone hates playing against them because their damage is OP but now I understand that the slow rate of fire means you need a lot of those to cover an area. I learned that when infested Terrans and Protoss kept getting past the single Liberator I had at each choke point I set up near. You also have all of the abilities and power-ups from both mission packs for Nova and her army units so you can customize them to fit your approach to combat. It adds a little replayability since you can play Nova as a sniper or try her as a melee unit. I really should do that before the next mission pack is released.
To be honest, I’m a little down on Nova Covert Ops after the second episode. The re-appearing SC2 character felt like a fan service cameo rather than being a substantial part of the plot and the rest of the story just isn’t very interesting or compelling. At least there is some decent gameplay if you’re more interested in the RTS aspects of the game than the story. However, Blizzard has always been a company known for compelling stories and deep lore. If you only ever played Nova Covert Ops, and especially Mission Pack 2, you would think that they’re just trying to slap a story on top of gameplay. It’s a shame because I liked SC2’s story and everyone raves about SC1 and Brood War.
Still, Blizzard has a lot of room to close Nova Covert Ops with a great final act. They just have to pull it off. The opening was interesting and memorable. It’s just a shame they can’t carry that along through to the finish instead of skipping straight there and leaving us with filler.
StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops was reviewed on Windows PC but is also available for Mac OS X. This post does not constitute a full review of the game. Impressions of the game may differ depending on platform played on, PC specs and if you’re looking for a great Blizzard story in an episodic DLC pack.