It’s been a little over five years since Blizzard released the real-time strategy behemoth that is Starcraft II. The trilogy continues the story after the events of Starcraft’s expansion Brood War. Beginning with Wings of Liberty and continued in Hearts of the Swarm, in this third and final installment, Legacy of the Void, we are served the conclusion of this space soap opera.
Legacy of the Void focuses heavily on the Protoss race and their battle to retake their home planet of Auir from the Zerg. Don’t worry though if none of this makes much sense because you’ve never played any of the previous Starcraft games, as Blizzard are kind enough to include a recap movie. Whilst it can be a little overwhelming given the many different strands that are woven into the story at large it really shows just how much lore is at play. At the same time, the term soap opera wasn’t used lightly. The story is a little cheesy and the dialogue (and there’s a lot of it) can get rather long winded. It seems that in Blizzard’s effort to wind everything up they brain dumped pretty much everything into the dialogue. This is great if you’ve really engaged with the story up to this point but, if not, the constant stream of verbiage plus constant prompts for new conversations prior to missions can get a bit much.
The campaign itself is split into three parts. The prologue opens things up a little while after the conclusion of The Heart of the Swarm. The exile, Zeratul, is on the hunt and trying to piece together the final pieces of a prophecy that forewarns the return of Amon, an ancient evil. These three missions are optional but, especially if this is your introduction to all things Starcraft, it’s a nice way to ease yourself into the game and its genre. Speaking of introductions, there is also a series of tutorial missions which it is highly recommended you complete if you’re new to real-time strategy games. They help explain how each of the races differ in their makeup and how they compile their forces. These lessons will become important later as you will need a good grasp of unit types to ultimately conquer the main campaign’s nineteen missions.
One of the nice touches in Legacy of the Void is that as you progress and amass your allies and their forces you slowly get more unit options. Along with upgrades for your ship, The Spear of Adun, by the time you enter the latter missions Artanis is one badass Protoss who can call in some rather interesting aid ranging from orbital strikes to instant unit drops. These add extra dynamics to each mission, so making the right choice in these two areas can really affect how hard you find things. Make no mistake here, even on casual difficulty, Starcraft II will show you no mercy and if you get things wrong you will be punished, hard! This may put newcomers off but with time, hard work, and some patience, wiping a map clean of enemies becomes all the more rewarding.
Overall the main campaign is competent, it tells its story well with good use of cutscenes and inter-character discussions. As mentioned previously they can be a little long winded, but the overall picture is painted nicely and come the end you don’t feel like there’s a burning question left unanswered. Each mission has objectives and achievements attached, and if you’re in to that sort of thing it gives the single player component at least some replay value. There are some interesting maps with some fun twists which breaks up the cycle of build units, attack, rinse and repeat. There is also an epilogue which lays its focus on Kerrigan and essentially tying up her love story with Jim Raynor. The ending is a little cheesy perhaps but then, this is a soap opera after all!
If single player isn’t your thing then there’s always multiplayer and it’s here that Legacy of the Void shines. The multiplayer aspect of Starcraft II has been around for a long time and is known as one of the more difficult multiplayer games to get into. Whilst there is a tutorial the learning curve still remains steep but what Blizzard is trying to do with updates in Legacy of the Void is admirable. By increasing the starting worker counts they have cut the amount of time spent getting yourself ready. This speeds up competitive games no end and means you spend a little less time waiting and hearing that you need to build yet another pylon. This emphasis on making things that little bit quicker seems like a ploy to appease both sides. Experienced players will likely appreciate being able to squeeze a few more games in than before. As for newer players, there’s no better way to learn multiplayer than by doing, and with this and other tweaks it’s much more accessible, though no less forgiving.
If you’d rather play with friends rather than against them there’s also a neat co-op mode where you and another player take on various missions. You both start side-by-side and must concentrate equally on completing the mission’s objectives and defending your joint base by waves of enemies. It’s great fun to play either with friends or random players as this mode is excellent at hiding any player’s ineptitude at the game - though it always pays to pull your weight. What this means is that there should be something there for everyone. Want to play 1v1 but don’t want to tarnish your reputation? There are unranked matches. Think you’re the next hottest Starcraft II player? To the usual ranked leagues and daily competitions you go. If all else fails, you can just play with a friend and take whichever enemy you face to task. For some added intrigue there is also the arcade where player made modes exist which you can try, adding to the amount of replay reasons this game offers.
Legacy of the Void is a vast game with plenty to offer old and new players. Whilst the multiplayer aspect which, let’s be honest, is Starcraft II’s raîson d’etre is still difficult for newer players to break into, the changes made here make everything that little more streamlined and accessible. Legacy of the Void rewards players who invest the time to learn each race’s nuances. As you start to understand which units counter which and how to avoid some of the pitfalls that tend to befall newbies you’ll start to see why it’s still a hugely popular game. Sure, the singleplayer campaign is weighed down by the lore of its universe but the missions themselves are wonderfully compiled and executed.
If you’ve already invested time and money into Starcraft and Starcraft II then picking up Legacy of the Void will be a no-brainer. It completes the story that started long ago and makes enough changes to multiplayer to warrant a return. However, if you’ve looked at Starcraft II from afar but been put off by its steep learning curve in multiplayer then the changes made make now the best time to pick it up and learn.