StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void
The real-time strategy genre, once proud king of the PC gaming sphere, has all but been laid low over the past decade, infiltrated and co-opted by the multiplayer-online battle arena. StarCraft has defied the MOBA uprising, keeping the resource-gathering and action-per-minute metrics relevant and respected within the gaming galaxy. Five long years since the release of Wings of Liberty, the StarCraft II story comes to an end with Legacy of the Void, resolving the fate of many beloved characters and bringing some old faces out to play once more.
The core real-time strategy mechanics are familiar and fun (especially for those who played the last two installments), but the gameplay still has its ups and downs. The missions structured around heroes and personalities are far more interesting than the missions that boil down to building up and destroying objectives, and the “defend the thing in the middle of the map” crutch wears out its welcome as you progress. These missions feel like a chore defending, getting to supply cap, and spamming cannons and defensive structures as you protect the objective. A handful of compelling maps break things out from the traditional real-time strategy confines and play with the rules, but they’re plucked back out of the stars by the reliance on almost back-to-back, last-stand defense arenas.
The “dungeon dives” sprinkled throughout the campaign allow players to get into the hero pilot seat and control key story characters with special skillsets, and they’re much more entertaining. However, the customization options in Legacy of the Void do a lot to make the core campaign maps fun, and I had a blast mixing and matching different faction unit styles. The player begins only being able to pick from Nezarim and Aiur in each army slot, but significantly different options are available about halfway through the campaign. I was a huge fan of the Tal’darim, especially the Destroyers – modified Void Rays that come with a chaining laser weapon. The Spear of Adun, the protoss supership and your mobile home base, is also a key customizable aspect of the campaign, and allows the player to allocate solarite (collected from completing side objectives in each map) to obtain both passive bonuses and extremely powerful activated abilities. Together these two methods of customization deliver on bringing enjoyment to even the most trivial of campaign stages.
There’s nothing wrong with a campy sprawling space opera, and we finally get many of the answers to questions we’ve been pondering since Wings of Liberty. Sadly, things don’t come together as well as they could. The story is at odds with itself: a by-the-book, sci-fi narrative that has trouble explaining some of the more esoteric plot points as they develop. It’s a bumpy ride, bouncing through an ever-changing narrative explained via cardboard clichés. However, Blizzard provides more of some great characters, the absolute show-stealer being the would-be leader of the Tal’darim faction, Alarak. Alarak’s “ambitiously evil” personality provides a nice foil to the rest of the cast, and witnessing his ruthless style of getting things done is fun. The prologue and core campaign progress predictably, and the three-mission epilogue wraps up major story elements. Dialogue, cinematics, and other story-focused fare await between each and every mission, and watching psi-blade battles never gets old – but the finisher falls flat.
Legacy of the Void brings with it a handful of new units and balance changes for multiplayer that should shake up the competitive scene and keep things interesting for years to come, especially our old Brood War favorite the Lurker. Multiplayer has a smattering of other new fun features. If you’re interested in getting into competitive StarCraft, automated daily and weekly tournaments are now regularly available and provide additional chances outside of ladder to hone your skills and take on evenly matched opponents. Archon mode puts two players in control of one base, making it perfect for veterans teaching new players how things work – or a cool new way to face off for pros. Multiplayer co-op allows players to essentially play refurbished objective based missions with a commander dictating abilities and playstyles, and players can level up these commanders and unlock new units and abilities. This mode is great if you’re looking for a multiplayer StarCraft PvE experience and are not interested in competitive play, offering some progression aspects and additional longevity for those that want to play with friends, but not against other players. The system doesn’t have a lot of complexity and depth, but it’s a nice addition to the rest of StarCraft II’s multiplayer suite.
Legacy of the Void is an extremely polished experience packed with features for all styles of players, but the campaign suffers from a muddled, middling narrative and maps that sometimes feel too much alike. Overall, it’s still an impressive experience with powerful protoss style and flavor, a handful of cool levels that play with the genre in unique ways, and a cache of fun multiplayer components that come together to create a solid conclusion to one of the most iconic real-time strategy games of all time.