Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Genre: Real Time Strategy
When Blizzard announced that the sequel to the world-renowned and arguably greatest RTS of all time, StarCraft, would be delivered in three “chapters” that would be full-length campaigns for each race, fans met the news with varied responses. I was excited, because the original StarCraft its Brood War expansion were all-time great games, and I expected no less of their sequels. Among the incredulous was my brother, who felt that the extension of the franchise’s long-awaited sequel into three games was a direct result of Activision’s
meddling with acquisition of Blizzard. Wings of Liberty launched in 2010, and it would not be until the tail-end of 2015 that we would see this final entry, Legacy of the Void, with the Protoss starring as the lead race.
Violence: While the Protoss have a tendency to evaporate into soul-cloud when they die, Terran and Zerg perish more gruesomely, gruesome, exploding in miniature puffs of blood and gore, some red and some purple.
Drugs/Alcohol: Cigar-smoking Tychus Findlay is not in this game for reasons revealed in Wings of Liberty.
Language: While the Protoss are a noble race that shuns crudeness, the Terran are not as refined, and may use all but the four-letter strains of profanity.
Sexuality: A silhouette of the female anatomy is a prominent figure in the epilogue, clothed in nothing but golden celestial splendor.
Spiritual: The fundamental core of Zerg and Protoss lore concerns how they were created by the Xel Naga. The concept of a benevolent, god-like race persists here, including the “ascension ” of a key figure into creator-like status.
If the two videos featured in this review of StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void are not evidence enough that Blizzard is among the best in the business in terms of production value, I do not know what could be more convincing. Then again, I would at least concede that the writing of Artanis’ character is lackluster, as his verbiage strikes me as something I would expect from the young, naive Executor Artanis from the days of StarCraft, rather than a battle-tested Hierarch, the highest rank of Protoss. Nevertheless, Blizzard opens this franchise finale with bombast. After Brood War, and off-screen during Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, Artanis constructs the largest fleet ever assembled by any race in the known universe, the Golden Armada, on the Dark Templar’s planet of Shakuras, for the sole purpose of invading the Protoss’ homeworkd of Aiur, which fans of the SC series will remember is occupied by the Zerg. Despite Zeratul’s warning, Artanis initiates the assault, with the first mission granting players a 200/200 unit population count of Zealots, Stalkers, and Immortals, who are joined by stray Colossi along the way. The Zerg are not feral, but tactical despite not having an Overmind or Cerebrate present to control them, yet effort is a success.
The trap is sprung! Amon, who will incessantly taunt the player and Artanis throughout the campaign as Azmodan does in Diablo III, corrupts the Khala, the communal psionic link between all Protoss in which they share, and begins to possess first the weaker vessels, and then Artanis himself. Zeratul rallies his fellow Nerazim brethren to save the Protoss Hierarch by severing the nerve cords—the dreadlocks which many fans used to think were merely cosmetic—of their dominated cadre, but the cost of the endeavor is severe. Artanis is freed of the corruption of the Void however, and recruits phase-smith Karax to activate some deus ex machina known as the Spear of Adun, a mothership-class vessel facilitating their escape and second exile from Aiur. According to Zeratul, Artanis must retrieve the keystone from the Terran—the same keystone used in WoL to de-infest Kerrigan of her Zerg influence, as it yet again holds the secrets to defeating Amon.
The very first mission establishes how much is at stake, as the Protoss who are known for strong, expensive units to be utilized with efficiency, yet how units are haphazardly thrown into the fray compounds the desperation. I was deeply disappointed by the music in Heart of the Swarm, though as a Zerg fan I experienced both envy and relief upon hearing the proud orchestra in “The Golden Armada,” the agony brought forth by the melody from the french horns in “The Stars Our Home,” and the despondency juxtaposed with valor in “Blades of Justice.” This redemptive soundtrack maintains a proper tone throughout the campaign as players will spend much of their time traversing not traversing the crude concrete and steel topography of the Terrans or the organic creep of the Zerg, but the seeming celestial platforms built by the Protoss, Dark Templar, Purifiers, and Tal’darim factions.
The gameplay in LotV is as flawless as that seen in WoL and HotS. The great tragedy however, is that these gameplay elements are blighted by massive retcons. Beyond the purpose of expanding the length of the Protoss campaign, I will not spoil why the Purifiers and Tal’darim exist. What I will address is how each faction, much like prior campaigns, provide three different options for unit types, and I abused the snot out of them. For example, I preferred the Sentinels (Purifier “Zealots”) because after death, they self-repair to full health, an ability that goes on cool down for one minute thereafter. I also favored the Dragoons (Purifier “Stalkers”) due to their range, health, and nostalgia. Avengers (Khalai “Dark Templar”) respawn at the Dark Shrine after death, which is more inconvenient than the Sentinels that revive on the front line, but not so much to outweigh the resources saved from such a restoration. As the tech tree advances, the units become further distinguished than vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors, and become more like choosing between a hamburger, steak, and chicken sandwich in most instances. For example, I was torn between the tempest, carrier, and mothership options in the capital ship tier.
Not to be outdone by unit options, what I called a deus ex, the Spear of Adun, offers an (overpowered) arsenal of its own. Protoss fans may faint in sheer bliss at the idea of being able to instantly warp in pylons, followed by any unit, for in the campaign, robotics facilities and stargates can turn into warpgate mode just like the (zealot production building). Being able to instant-army like the Zerg, except that Immortals and Colossi are being thrown down with carrier support, is an experience that StarCraft fans must feel! And that is not all: should armies fail, the Spear of Adun can launch its own WMDs, all but nuking enemies caught in its cannon fire. Combined with the unit variety, LotV offers dozens of ways to conquer and reclaim.
StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void is bittersweet in several ways. Despite its own quality and polish, it still gives me a lingering feeling that it could be better. I feel that my perception of LotV benefits from the shortcomings of other traditional RTS games such as Grey Goo and Act of Aggression. The feeling of dread that this very well may be the final StarCraft game ever also admittedly factors into my regard for the game.The melancholy could also be attributed to the finality of this saga that ends not with an ellipses, nor an exclamation mark, but an ordinary period.
The Bottom Line
Legacy of the Void is a StarCraft game, which means it is quality by default. Indeed, this is a game that upholds expectations.