Man, remember when Blizzard made good games? That were well written? I’d forgotten that until I rediscovered my old copy of Starcraft 2, buried in my closet and thought “Eh, what the hell?”
While I do enjoy the story of Starcraft, I can’t say the characters within it are all that complex or interesting. Mengsk is just ‘crafty bad guy asshole’. Zeratul is cryptic and… yeah, that’s it. Kerrigan is just power (legit, this bitch is so OP) with a lady-boner for Jim. Tychus is the most predictable betrayal arc I’ve ever seen in my life. On their own, none of them are great; but put them together, and you get a pretty compelling sci-fi game!
And then there’s Jim Raynor.
Starcraft’s universe is filled to the brim with assholes. Which makes sense, if you dive into the lore. But that only makes Jim so much more interesting, given the context of the world. He’s one of the very few good men out there willing and able to make a difference. He’s a good man surrounded by selfish assholes and genocidal aliens.
Even if his arc is super generic. Satisfying? Oh, fuck yeah! But generic nonetheless.
The Wound: When She Was Left Behind
If you’ve played Starcraft at all, whether it was a complete run of SC1 or you only played five minutes of SC2, you already know what this is.
In his fight against the Confederacy, Jim got to know a Ghost named Sarah Kerrigan. Long story short, the two went on adventures together and fell in love. A nice bit of sci-fi, wartime romance.
Shame their commanding officer left her to get murdered by a swarm of alien murder bugs. Who then turned her into a murder hybrid thing. That went on to slaughter entire planets.
The Lie: His Fault and Mine
The obvious reaction to that would be to blame the dude responsible for it. And that’s exactly what Jim did. After that, he dedicated his entire life to destroying Mengsk. He started his own rebellion to tear down the new Dominion and get that payback.
But here’s the thing: he didn’t just blame Mengsk for what happened to Kerrigan. He blames himself even more.
What, you thought he had a drinking problem in SC2 because that’s what cool characters had? Oh, no! This dude is trying to drown his sorrows away because he hates himself! He blames himself not only for Kerrigan’s fate but her actions afterward! Those billions of people that died? He sees those as his fault!
Which, obviously it’s not. But it’s funny what you’ll blame yourself for when someone you live suddenly disappears.
The Want: Damage Control
Jim has a pretty firm goal in mind. Two, in fact: stop the Queen of Blades (Zerg-Kerrigan) and kill Mengsk. His outward reasoning is noble: he wants to save lives. And that certainly plays a major part in it. But there is a personal reason latched onto it like a leech. That being: to put his past to rest.
He doesn’t want to be a leader. Nor does he particularly care about becoming a hero. He just wants to put his personal demons to rest.
Unfortunately, he has no idea how to do that. Which leads into:
The Need: Something Worth Fighting For
When we meet Jim in SC2, he does have a fire in his belly. But ultimately, it’s more like a smoldering ember. The dude had been broken down so many times that the only thing he can do outside of battle is trying to drink himself stupid. At this point in the story, he’s just sort of going with the flow.
But then Valerian Mengsk shows up and says “Hey, wanna save your girlfriend and put that personal demon to rest?”
This one possibility completely reignites the embers in his stomach. He starts firing on all cylinders, getting up and ready to go. He finally has what he needs: hope. Something worth fighting for.
So, sure. Jim Raynor isn’t an especially original character. But he is an integral piece of the Starcraft puzzle.
He’s essentially the bridge between the three playable races. He’s the leader of the Terrans. He’s developed a great friendship with the Protoss. He and the leader of the Zerg have a romantic history. His actions helps bring them all together, which proves essential in ending the seemingly endless wars between them all.
How does he do it? Simple! He’s a good man. At his core, Jim Raynor is the heart of the Starcraft universe.
That’s what makes him such a compelling character. He isn’t some all-powerful alien. Nor is he a war-mongering asshole. He’s just a man trying to do the best he can in a terrible situation. Someone trapped in a huge mess, trying to keep it all together.
Which is pretty relatable, given the current times.