Whether we care to admit it or not, the whole RTS genre has been on a downslope for the last several years and not only in terms of popularity but also when it comes to the number of good titles; Or even bad ones for that matter. However, all hope is not lost just yet because the best sci-fi strategy series of all time has returned for one last episode and it goes by the name of Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void. Blizzard Entertainment has carefully crafted a story that manages to tie up all loose ends while also offering new game modes, new units and more for those interested primarily in the multiplayer component. More on that later, though, because for now I really want to talk to you about the single-player campaign.
Before card games, Dota rip-offs and yearly expansions to an MMO that clearly should have died a long time ago, Blizzard was widely respected for one thing above all else – epic storytelling. Nowadays that’s rarely the case anymore, but Legacy of the Void proves that the company can still come up with some good stuff even after all these years. Don’t get me wrong, there are a truckload of generic and repetitive missions here, but there are also some interesting plot twists, well-executed tear jerking moments accompanied by heavy nostalgia, and a feeling that what you’re doing matters more than ever because this time around the very fate of the galaxy rests on your shoulders.
Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void puts you in the shoes of young Artanis, the new Hierarch of the Daelaam, otherwise known as the unified Protoss. I’ve known Artanis ever since the first Starcraft and can’t say that I really like him, not even now. Sure, these days he’s a badass gifted with incredible powers (for some reason), but he continues to lack charisma, one of the most important qualities of a good leader. I know, I know, it’s hard to be charismatic when you’re incapable of too many facial expressions so maybe I’m being too hard on him. Or maybe the voice acting should have been better. After all, Zeratul and Alarak are great characters and we can see even less of their faces. Personality aside, leading the Protoss as Artanis was definitely not a bad experience. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that Legacy of the Void offers the best Starcraft 2 campaign to date, even if it was a bit too short for my liking.
Whether you get to meet a new character or watch another one die, almost all of the campaign missions have something interesting to offer and that’s saying something because for the longest time the RTS genre has been plagued with boring and repetitive campaigns. The actual mission objectives in Legacy of the Void are not much better to be honest, as you’ll find yourself in the situation of having to destroy a few thingamajigs just to deactivate some contraption and wrap things up way too many times. But while the objectives are as generic as they come, the campaign still manages to remain interesting thanks to the customization options offered to you between missions. Similar to Heart of Swarm, Legacy of the Void also features a nice customization system that allows you to choose between various types of units before going into battle. In addition, Blizzard also added an additional system to the mix that lets you allocate resources and enable powerful abilities on the Spear of Adun, the massive Protoss Arkship that you get to command for the majority of the campaign.
Interestingly enough, this time around the campaign comes complete with a prologue and an epilogue consisting of three missions each. As mentioned above, Blizzard pretty much ties all loose ends here and leaves very little room for a sequel to this trilogy. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any more Starcraft games, but the story of Artanis, Raynor, Kerrigan and all the others seems to have ended here, though I won’t be too surprised to see the Queen of Blades in future titles judging by how Legacy of the Void ended. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but let’s just say that the Legacy of the Void campaign is not all about the Protoss, with the epilogue putting a bigger emphasis on the leader of the Swarm and why she is so important to the prophecy Zeratul kept talking about in the last two expansions.
So basically, the single player campaign is solid and did not disappoint, but what about the rest of the game? Honestly, I was expecting a bit more. The highly-advertised Archon mode is something we’ve already seen before in Brood War, albeit not under that name. In fact, Brood War did it better because it allowed two players of different races to control the same base, which is way more interesting than two players of the same race if you ask me. As for the co-op missions, you have very few maps to choose from and they’re all maps you already saw in the campaign. On the bright side, there is a nice leveling system for the commanders, which may keep you playing for a while as you attempt to unlock all the units and powers. I’m sorry to say that Archon mode and the co-op missions both feel more like mods the community could have created with the help of the map editor rather than new additions to the game carefully put together by Blizzard. That said, at the end of the day Legacy of the Void does feature some new ways of playing together with your friends thanks to these modes if you’re into that kind of thing.
As for the traditional and highly acclaimed multiplayer component of the game, you’ll be happy to know that Blizzard made a number of changes once again and also added a couple of new units for each of the three races. Even though the Legacy of the Void campaign primarily revolves around the Protoss, I would argue that the Firstborn got the short end of the stick when it comes to new units. That’s not to say that the Disruptor and Adept are not useful in their own way, but they’re definitely less interesting than the new additions for Terran and Zerg, especially the later, with the Lurker being one of the most demanded units by veteran Brood War players. Why couldn’t the Reaver make a comeback, too, Blizzard? Oh, well. My personal love for the Protoss and their units aside, there are balancing concerns whenever a new unit is added, so we’ll just have to wait and see if Blizzard made the right calls here. I’m probably not the best person to discuss Legacy of the Void balance since I’ve stopped playing SC2 multiplayer a couple of years back so I’ll just leave it at that.
What I will say is that the game now more than ever seems focused on expansions, harassments and huge armies. In Legacy of the Void the starting worker count has doubled while the amount of resources found on mineral fields and geysers has been decreased by quite a bit. This means that you’ll have an easier time setting up your base in the early game thanks to the extra workers, but you’ll also want to expand faster than before because the resources will run out in no time. These changes, along with a few others, are meant to promote longer games that are actually strategy oriented and dissuade players from using cheesy techniques and rushes that can be more easily countered now. It may take a while for players and viewers to get used to some of the new changes, but in the long run I think Blizzard is on the right track if its trying to make Legacy of the Void more interesting for eSports lovers than previous installments, which I suspect is exactly the point here. At the same time, the multiplayer seems more punishing than ever to newcomers who will have a pretty difficult time controlling multiple bases at once and making heads or tails of the plethora of units. You may wanna stick to vs AI for a while if you’re new.
Speaking of other things that are pretty interesting, the company finally decided to add Automated Tournaments, a feature that Starcraft 2 players have been asking to see for a few years now. Better late than never I guess. Playing ladder is great and all, but there’s nothing better than playing in a tournament to really got those competitive juices flowing. The daily tournaments pit players of similar skill level (or at least, similar leagues) in 8-player single-elimination battles every day and 16-player group plays during the weekends. The system seems to be working quite nicely so far, as tournaments are following a regular schedule and include all the modes you know and love, such as 1v1, 2v2, and so on.
When it comes to the graphics and sound, there are next to no noticeable improvements I’m sorry to say, but I can’t really criticize Blizzard either because Starcraft 2 always looked and sounded great. Having said that, I was pretty sad to see that the company didn’t took the opportunity to make at least some of the Protoss characters and units in Legacy of the Void sound a bit more alien. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I swear the Protoss sound more human than ever, which is pretty strange given that they communicate telepathically and don’t even have vocal cords. Admittedly, this has always been the case in Starcraft 2, however, it really stands out in Legacy of the Void where you meet all these different factions and come to realize that they don’t sound so different from each other after all. Can’t we just bring back the old Protoss sounds already?
Luckily, the Protoss campaign offers a bit more variety than previous installments and the story itself has enough twists and turns to keep things interesting until the end, at least as far as the main campaign is concerned. The epilogue missions do seem like they were added just to wrap things up and force you to play some pretty difficult missions with each of the three races, which I find to be unfair to the players who just wanted to see the Protoss side of things. Naturally, you don’t have to play the epilogue, but if you want to see the game’s actual ending you’ll probably want to. As for the ending itself, it suffers a bit from the Mass Effect 3 syndrome where the game offers us these huge, galaxy-changing ideas, but doesn’t quite know how to execute them properly. I don’t want to spoil too much, but just know that the end of Legacy of the Void raises same very important questions that will probably not be answered anytime soon, which is a bit of a slap in the face to the fans who have been following this series for 17 years now.
Despite those lasts bits of criticism, I really think Legacy of the Void turned out to be the trilogy’s best installment in many ways and that’s saying a lot considering that the previous two were very good as well. The price of $40 may seem a bit steep for an expansion, but the campaign, multiplayer, co-op missions and all the new features make the whole package well worth it in my opinion. Blizzard also promises more content down the line, albeit for a price, so we’ll just have to wait and see if the upcoming content will be worth looking into as well. As it stands, Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy and serves as proof and Blizzard can still keep us engaged with a decent story even after all these years. Though not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, this title is a must-have for any Starcraft fan or just fans of real-time strategy games in general.