Starcraft: Legacy of the Void – Review
I approached this review with the knowledge that my engagement was at stake.
My fiancé already knows that I am not the best Starcraft player. I am impatient, I already demonstrated my lack of strategic thinking when I played Might and Magic Heroes VII, and I flake in and out of games so quickly that my games backlog is shameful (while he boasts that he has completed Total War Shogun a handful of times).
Thankfully, Legacy of the Void caters to the various neuroses of the strategy newbie while concluding the third chapter of the story.
The core campaign of LotV is technically the shortest campaign in Starcraft II so far, but its prologue and epilogue allow for a conclusion to the series that rivals Brood War. Finishing the trilogy with the Protoss rather than the Zerg was a significant change and in my opinion a bit of a risk. A full Protoss narrative, in comparison with the small scatterings in the original Starcraft series, would have a large dose of pompous exposition that would only engage the player if the context of the narrative complemented the language used. Sure enough, the Protoss dialogue is reminiscent of literary romanticism despite its technological jargon. However, the battle of the Protoss provides the game with a grandiose finale that compliments the discourse, placing a focus on the unity of the warrior race and its clans.
Artanis’ need to unite his people and his culture to go to war against a Big Bad Evil Guy gives a simple focus to finalise the series, despite complaint that Blizzard is taking a little bit too much influence from its Diablo franchise. The small religious undercurrent presented another interesting aspect of the Protoss plight; Legacy of the Void raised the extreme cultural differences of the Protoss clans to their trademark communal link – religious fanaticism, enforced conformity, and individual hermitage. Translating the focus of clans into campaign missions delivers mainly through the promise of unit variation (as opposed to “upgrades” or “mutations”), through the recruitment of allies from the fragmented Protoss factions. The units each have their own slightly different type of attack or a slightly different passive ability – it allows a small level of customisation given the racial confines of the game.
After my brief experience of the campaign, I was dragged by the heels to try the new co-operative offerings that my fiancé had been jumping up and down about for the last six months.
It is important to note that the co-op mode and the Archon mode are actually two completely different modes with a very similar purpose: to provide friends with more avenues to play together outside of the standard multiplayer 2v2 scenarios. While Archon mode was promoted due to its thematic relevance to the Protoss’ communal link, it felt like a bit of a gimmick in execution. The competitive two-vs-two format was developed to allow two people to control one army, but in practice this turns into one player controlling the base and the other player controlling the army. If you and your friend have the same ability level, this would be very enjoyable. However, a strategy newbie, it felt like I was being taught things by having someone else do a majority of it for me while I watched. Experiencing this as a toddler when my brother would not let me play with his Lego, I was uncertain why this would be enjoyable to me as an adult.
By far, the co-op mode (called Allied Commanders) was a lot more interesting. By taking on the role of one of the leaders of the playable races, we took on objective-based missions that saw us defending bases and ceasing supply of enemy units. Taking influence from another Blizzard game (Heroes of the Storm, anyone?), these commanders “level up” and unlock new tactics and units for use in missions. It provides incentive to continue playing as you develop a more diverse tactical repertoire, and an option to either focus on levelling one commander to a high level or to sample a variety of play styles. This is everything that I wanted from a co-op mode – it allowed me to contribute to a goal that wasn’t just “destroy the other players”, experience the races with an extra all-powerful special ability that is not available in standard multiplayer matches, and strategise effectively with other players. It is very newbie-friendly, and a lot of fun.
I had very minimal time with the standard multiplayer, playing one or two Terran games versus the AI. Each of the races have two new units in the multiplayer mode, and the competitive games now start with more worker units. This allows the player to make decisions about strategic direction early, but it also means that matches are shorter as a lot of the make-or-break conflicts occur earlier than in the Heart of the Swarm expansion. Daily tournament brackets are now available that provide a small taste of the larger competitive ladders, and provide a nice option for those who just want to have some bragging rights for a day or two.
For me, it was all of these small experiences that make Legacy of the Void a game that was not necessary to purchase on release in order to have the most worthwhile experience. The game provides a lot of small experiences that you can pick up and put down at any time, while also catering to the larger fanbase with the promise of future downloadable content. Blizzard knows what they do well, and even though they may have shamelessly borrowed thematic or gameplay elements from some of their other series, they have still managed to improve one of the most recognisable RTS games in history.