For Protoss fans this expansion has been a long time coming. Finally bringing the Starcraft II trilogy to a close, Legacy of the void tells the story of the Protoss, while also wrapping up some loose ends of plot threads that have carried through the last two parts, Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm. Of course the expansion is more than just another chapter in the story, it’s also an overhaul of multiplayer and the introduction of three new fairly spectacular features, Allied Commanders, Archon, and Automated Tournaments.
The campaign is what many fans will have been waiting for and they’ll no doubt be disappointed by this entry. While many were hoping to see the culmination of an epic story that has been building up over many years, what we actually get is a rehash of Heart of the Swarm with a Protoss skin on it. This isn’t about the Protoss learning to fight alongside Raynor and Kerrigan, it isn’t about the overwhelming power of the Protoss, it’s not even really about reclaiming their homeworld and their legacy. The Xel’Naga’s part in it is underwhelming and Amon simply isn’t an impressive opponent. Instead you bumble about from planet to planet, gathering the different groups of Protoss that conveniently allow you to slowly unlock more unit types. Bizarrely the new multiplayer units (the Adept and the Disruptor) are completely absent from this mode, so you’re just going round unlocking units that you’ve been playing with for ages. There are a few gimmicks to some of the levels, such as a movable base or fog that strips your shields, but there’s nothing as interesting as the giant death lasers and rising lava from previous games.Even separate Protoss forces are given incredibly little development. A warlike band who settle things through fights to the death appear for two missions, sneer a bit about being told what to do, then do what they’re told with no more objection. The purifiers, tyrannical machines that were expressly designed to wipe out life, namely zerg life, join your ranks with no adverse consequences, like say the famed genocidal tendencies for which they were outlawed. All missions fall into two categories, either you build up a bass then construct a deathball big enough to roll over any opponents, or you control a small bunch of heroes and roll over your opponents with some ridiculous abilities. Admittedly on brutal things are much tougher, but just because you have to react and build faster. There’s no interesting quirks or more complex objectives, you just have to play against unfair odds and use trial and error to build exactly the right counters to incoming attacks.
By the end of the campaign we were utterly let down and have lost all faith in Blizzard’s ability to create a good Starcraft story. The ‘humanising’ of the Protoss and the Zerg have ruined the mystique they had and now they’re all just vaguely different aliens trying to get along in this big old crazy universe. The one thing I was really hoping for was some awesome CGI showing the more powerful Protoss units like Colossi and Tempest in action, but no such luck, there’s just the opening cinematic we saw a while ago and then a handful of character based ones that assume we really care about Tassadar. I don’t care about Tassadar.
Thankfully, campaign is only a small part of this expansion, and the rest of it is pure fried gold.
Multiplayer has received a much bigger overhaul than it got before Heart of the Swarm and the new economy changes really make a world of difference to players of all skill levels. No longer do you have five minutes of dead time before anything interesting happens as you now start with twelve workers and can start constructing an army almost immediately. Bases run out of minerals quicker too so you need to be much more aggressive with expansion leading to more varied strategies and faster matches, which can only be a good thing. The new units are a mixed bag and still the subject of much balancing, but it is nice to have some refreshing new options to deal with strategies that were previously a pain. See an incoming swarm of mutas as Terran? No problem, just get some Liberators out and absolutely wreck them with incredible AoE damage. Need to harass as a Protoss? Drop some Adepts in and kite enemies for days. Need to defend as a Zerg? Just build all the Lurkers in the world.
On top of new units and economic changes in mutliplayer, there are a whole suite of new modes to engage players of all skill levels. There are now automated tournaments that are focused on your ladder level (silver, gold etc) and start roughly every couple of hours. They’re a great way to get a competetive rush and feel like you’re taking part in the esport while you risk very little. Sadly there’s no spectator modes for these yet but I’m sure that’s something Blizzard are considering or trying to implement.
There’s also Archon mode, where two players control a single side. This is interesting because it allows for some incredibly micro as you can focus purely on army control, and gives players a unique way to learn the game, by playing alongside someone who is doing most of the difficult work. Of course it also leads to arguments and much finger-pointing, but thankfully you can now play Archon against the AI so it’s a slightly less frustrating experience.
The final new mode is Allied Commanders. This is a fully fleshed-out co-op mode entirely separate from the campaign. You and a friend select a commander from a choice of six and take on randomised co-op missions that are similar to the story missions in terms of objectives, but are catered more to two players. This might include defending a base or shooting down escaping shuttles, and always require you to build up a base and make the most of each commander’s unique powers and abilities. Raynow can call down Banshees or the Hyperion to support with someserious firepower, Kerrigan can get involved herself and devastate armies single handedly. As you play this mode you can level up and increase the difficulty as you go, unlocking new abilities and units and always giving you a serious challenge.
For those invested in the multiplayer, Legacy of the Void is a brilliant expansion. It’s kept what’s great about Starcraft and built on it in nearly every way imaginable. Sadly the campaign is mostly awful and for single-player gamers, this is one to avoid. The idea of what Legacy of the Void should have been is much better than this depressing reality. Our score reflects the multiplayer modes, because that’s where most people will be spending their time, but half it if you’re just going to play for the single player.