Review: Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void (PC)
My life for Aiur! The Protoss were forced into exile when the Overmind learned of the location of the Protoss homeworld so many years ago. The great cities of their civilization were destroyed and they were forced to leave, something this proud nation has battled with for a long time. Now it is time to get it back.
Starcraft II‘s single player campaign has always served two purposes: to tell the story and to teach you about the new units and various mechanics in a place where the rules are slightly different from the multiplayer. The campaign and its prologue and epilogue took 13 hours to complete, meaning it isn’t the longest campaign, but the missions you do tend to feel important rather than padding to make you play for longer. One memorable mission puts your entire base on a moving platform, with you controlling where it goes as you hunt for scarce resources. Another requires you to defend a point until the Zerg wash over the planet like a tide of flesh and claws, before you detonate the entire planet when over a billion Zerg arrive. This is the point the Protoss have reached: they are pursuing their goals relentlessly, with you following along with Hierarch Artanis.
Artanis has a large burden on his shoulders and he doesn’t lead from the front in the way Kerrigan does. Heart of the Swarm’s campaign got flak for so many missions being about the anti-hero instead of the swarm. Artanis spends a lot of time planning things from the Spear of Adun, your base of operations. This ancient ship is from eras long past, the height of Protoss innovation and strength. It is your advantage in battle and can provide support to your troops in the field. Whether it is warping a pylon to anywhere you have vision or calling down an orbital bombardment, the Spear is a last, desperate attempt to stop the end of the known universe.
Besides the Spear of Adun’s support abilities, you can change how units work in battle, from three options. Do you equip your Zealots with newly found psi-axes so that they can do whirlwind attacks in melee, or do you use Dark Templar variants that can charge through other units by using the Shadow to reach their foes? These can be changed per mission, adding a lot of options to the way you face your foes. Do you want Dark Templar that can attack multiple foes at once, or would you prefer they teleport back to base when they take a fatal blow, reborn to fight again? It adds a lot of fun choosing a strategy and it showcases the strengths of the various Protoss tribes.
Zeratul arrives from the prologue with a warning about Amon’s return and the Protoss will need every possible advantage if they want to avoid obliteration at the feet of the Dark God. This has been spoken of since Brood War, and its about time that we move against Amon. On board the Spear you get to talk to so many Protoss, really fleshing out the lore and story of this rather enigmatic race. If you enjoy getting a feel for the Protoss, or are just a lore nut, there are a lot of conversations to be had to explain more about these proud, reclusive people.
Legacy of the Void is the ending you have been waiting for. It wraps up Starcraft II and the original Starcraft story so compellingly well that I would be happy to see it end there. Starcraft III, if it is ever made, can be in another galaxy or many years later. It is a hard-fought, hard-won ending to a five part series of games that makes you happy, with a twinge of sadness, that it is over. It also doesn’t just wrap things up in two minutes the way that Assassin’s Creed III butchered all the story before its anticlimax.
Multiplayer and friends
Of course singleplayer is only one facet of Starcraft. Multiplayer is intense and can be rather daunting, especially to newcomers. A good way to start learning how the multiplayer works is co-op mode. Here you party up with one more player and pick a commander, with each commander having a specialization. Swann, for example, is a Terran commander who doesn’t build a barracks at all and who uses custom turrets instead of bunkers and the giant laser weapon from Wings of Liberty. The two of you will take on objectives starting with nothing but a few workers and a main building each.
This mode teaches you about managing resources, building up quickly and getting an expansion going. Attacks by the enemies as well as several timed objectives will teach you to build an army quickly and efficiently, while researching all those techs you had for free in the campaign. Its a lot of fun and I really look forward to seeing what happens with co-op mode. Its the closest I have ever gotten to being able to tackle the story with a friend and it is good practice for planning an assault or making sure your forces complement each other.
Another way to take the fight to others with a friend is Archon mode. Two players controlling one army can be amazing, but it can make your head spin too. Is player one happy with managing bases and resources, while player two controls an army and harasses enemy expansions? A lot of it boils down to trust and skill level. Two equally skilled players will learn to work together. Someone with a higher skill level will quickly get frustrated by the extra work they have to do while fending off two players. This mode will either be a lot of fun for you, or put strain on a friendship. This is the price of becoming an Archon: don’t become one with the guy you don’t like.
In multiplayer the initial start is more generous than it used to be thanks to extra starting worker units, putting less focus on that initial economy setup and more focus on your first decision. Enemies can rush much sooner thanks to this better start, so you either need to start getting defenses up or start your own rush. Its tough as nails and games can end pretty quickly but a lot of the fiddly choices have been removed. A lot of abilities are auto casting, so unless you tell your healing unit to attack, they will be healing units in the immediate vicinity. That’s not to say that things have been dumbed down though. The new Protoss Adept will reward players that are effective at controlling lots of units quickly, either giving you more damage or sending your Adepts beyond defenses to where they can slow down an enemy’s economy or too close to Siege tanks, within minimum firing distance. Of course the Terran player might have transports waiting to move the tanks while they are still in siege mode, dropping them off just out of reach for an attack, before scooping them up and moving them again.
If you want to get into multiplayer and you are worried about competing on a ladder, the game has automated tournament brackets every couple of hours, which will allow you that feeling of being involved in a tournament without all the other hassles. It also feels good to reach top 8 after being bottom of the log for ages. It encourages you trying again once you learn more about your counters and have improved your build order to get your army ready a few seconds quicker.
There is so much to do in Starcraft that it borders on mind-boggling. Whether playing custom games in the arcade or fighting against massive armies with your friends, or losing to that guy who seems to have extra arms all armed with mice, or just enjoying the story, I expect to spend a lot of time in Legacy of the Void.