When StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was released back in 2010, it marked a change in how I played games. I got sucked into the competitive multiplayer mode to the point where I joined my university’s StarCraft II collegiate team as well as discovered the wonderful world of eSports. As time went on and StarCraft II failed to move on with the rest of the gaming world, my interest faded. StarCraft II’s latest expansion, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, tries to recapture that old flame.
If you haven’t been following the structure of StarCraft II, Blizzard has essentially split the campaigns into three different games based on the three playable races in the game: Wings of Liberty for the Terran, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm for the Zerg and Legacy of the Void for the Protoss. The Protoss are a highly advanced alien species, and Legacy of the Void tells their story as they seek to reclaim their homeworld Aiur from an evil entity known as Amon.
What Legacy of the Void does better than the two previous campaigns is tell a worthwhile story that is easy to follow. Cinematics and dialogue are in abundance here to help give some sort of a connection to the Protoss and get behind their cause. That said, the dialogue can become somewhat grating because the main Protoss leader Artanis seems to give heroic speech after heroic speech. There isn’t any subtlety here, and as a result, the characters can seem very one-dimensional.
What the StarCraft II campaigns have always done well is provide unique mission structure, heavily utilizing gimmicks. Legacy of the Void succeeds in this regard, presenting a large number of missions that are truly a delight to plan and conquer. The bulk of most missions require you to start up a base, create an army and complete whatever objective necessary. That core game play loop is as strong as it ever has been in StarCraft II. The strategy required to construct the right buildings and units composition, as well as execute that strategy in a precise manner, is varied enough thanks to the uniqueness of the Protoss race.
Some of the missions throw a curveball, though, and change up how you have to tackle the objectives. My personal favorite has your base on a platform in space that you can move around to find new resources while your massive spaceship army can dominate the enemies in the skies. However, far too many missions devolved into “Kill 5 special objectives!,” which felt a bit repetitive, and the final mission is almost a carbon copy of the final mission in Wings of Liberty.
As you progress through the story and unlock new army units, you can upgrade these units into different types. I could choose my melee-attacking Zealots to charge forward and stun enemies or have them deal tons of damage to anyone around them. It’s always so fun to see a unit with which I’ve played around in the past become super-overpowered with new upgrades. The other major element of the campaign is the Spear of Adun, Artanis’s massive spaceship. During missions, you can call upon your ship to help out in unique ways. These range from orbital strikes on an enemy’s position to giving a huge surge of productivity to a building. What type of abilities you can use is based on how well you collect side objectives in missions.
The combination of all of these forces, the solid story, fun mission design, unit upgrades and Spear of Adun abilities make Legacy of the Void such a great campaign to play. You constantly get more and more powerful with new, fun tools for game play. As a hard-core StarCraft II player, I found the most enjoyment playing on the harder difficulties. It forces you to be on top of your game, planning out the right unit compositions and micromanging your units to their utmost potential. There are also loads of in-game achievements that help spruce up the way you would normally play out a mission. As far as real-time-strategy campaigns go, Legacy of the Void is pretty damn good.
Of course, it wouldn’t be StarCraft II without multiplayer support, and Legacy of the Void brings in a number of wonderful additions. The heart of StarCraft II has always been its 1-vs-1 competitive multiplayer mode, which is still as intense and exciting as it ever has been. However, Blizzard has made drastic changes to how the game plays. Before, you started each game with only six workers, which meant that the first five or so minutes of the game was spent in boredom as you slowly built your base and economy. In Legacy of the Void, you start with 12 workers. It sounds small, but it massively increases the game’s speed because you get into the action far more quickly with a bigger income earlier in the game.
As always with StarCraft II expansions, new units are also added into the game. I’m a Zerg player, so I was particularly excited to get to play around with the classic StarCraft: Brood War unit called the Lurker. Its massive area-of-effect damage is wonderful against those pesky Terrans building giant balls of marines. The other two races also get their share of new units, but I’m not as well-versed as I used to be to see how they shake up different play styles. That said, it’s been fun to tinker around with new unit compositions to see what works in certain situations.
For those who don’t like the stressful nature of 1-vs-1 play, Blizzard has added some great modes for those who want to work together. The new Co-op mode has you joining up with another player as you complete missions with different objectives. You can choose from one of the six heroes offered, with each having their own perks and setbacks. As you play the missions, your hero levels up and gains new abilities. It has a very similar feel to the campaign, and these missions are pretty fun to plow through. It’s a shame that there are only five missions to play because what’s here is a great idea, but I fear that it will grow old quickly.
If you want something in between Co-op and 1-vs-1 multiplayer, the new Archon Mode is great fun. It’s a standard 1-vs-1 game, but with two players controlling instead of one. It allows two minds to focus on different tasks so that there isn’t as much stress on just yourself to get everything done. If you’re great at micromanaging units but terrible at keeping up with unit production, just have your friend take care of it. Because the enemy team is under the same circumstances, it can lead to some pretty wild games with action taking place across the map.
The rest of the StarCraft II multiplayer suite is here with the Arcade, team games and replays. With the new additions of Co-op and Archon Mode, the multiplayer offering has never been stronger in StarCraft II’s life span. If you didn’t like the standard 1-vs-1 game mode before, you didn’t have much else to get excited about. Now, there really is something here for everyone and with varying levels of engagement. If I want something more relaxing, I can play some Co-op. If I feel like crushing some dirty Protoss players in high-adrenaline 1-vs-1 play, I can continue to do that, but now with even better game play design than ever before.
Legacy of the Void marks the end of a trilogy that has been near and dear to my heart ever since Wings of Liberty launched five years ago. It’s great to see that Blizzard really pulled out all of the stops with this final entry. The campaign has a few blunders in its dialogue and mission structure, but it is still absolutely a blast to play. After the campaign, there is still a load of diverse multiplayer content for players to enjoy as well. This package just has everything. I may have lost interest in StarCraft II a couple of years ago, but Legacy of the Void has pulled me right back in like a Protoss Mothership’s Vortex.
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void is available for Windows PC and Mac formats.