Save the universe from being remade in the image of an evil god.
PC Release: November 10, 2015
By Ian Coppock
Well, this is it. The conclusion to the StarCraft II trilogy. I hope everyone has enjoyed these reviews; more than anything I want to get the points across that StarCraft II‘s narrative is good, but also that everyone can access it. Everyone can enjoy it. For this final installment in the series, we’re going to take a look not only at what Legacy of the Void does well, but also the accomplishments of the series as a whole, and where it goes from here.
As we’ve discussed this month, the overarching series of StarCraft II is divided into three full-length games that each focus on StarCraft‘s three core races: the Terrans (humans), the Zerg and the Protoss. Wings of Liberty, the first game, followed human rebel Jim Raynor on his quest to collect alien artifacts and battle a totalitarian government. Heart of the Swarm, the second installment, features the Zerg as its playable civilization and their leader, Kerrigan, on a quest for absolute vengeance.
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void is the third and final game in the series and features my favorite civilization in StarCraft: the Protoss. These psychic, highly advanced aliens have made appearances in the last two games, but take center-stage to help save not only themselves, but the entire universe.
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void begins some time after Heart of the Swarm. While Jim Raynor was busy hunting down artifacts and Kerrigan was preoccupied with revenge, the Protoss have been preparing to retake their lost homeworld of Aiur. As some of you may remember, Aiur was invaded by and ultimately lost to the Zerg in the first StarCraft, and after too long a stint of space homelessness, the Protoss have returned to take it back.
Under the command of Hierarch Artanis, the Protoss land their troops on Aiur and begin fighting the Zerg, in what is surely video gaming’s most heated alien rivalry. A string of flawless victories against the Zerg emboldens the Protoss, and my god were they glorious to play through.
But, just like in the last two games, things go to shit very quickly. Throughout the StarCraft II saga, there have been whispers that an ancient alien god named Amon is returning to the galaxy after countless millennia, to take over the universe and recreate all life in his image. Turns out that the whispers were true, as Amon arrives on Aiur and takes control the Protoss telepathically.
Artanis and a few of his warriors are freed from Amon’s influence at a devastating price, and barely escape from Aiur aboard an ancient warship, the Spear of Adun. The battle to retake his homeworld has turned into a war for the fate of the universe, and Artanis, like it or not, is at the helm of the war effort. In Legacy of the Void, we see what role the Protoss play in this saga’s conclusion, and in saving the galaxy as StarCraft fans know it.
Artanis serves as Legacy of the Void‘s main protagonist, having gone from being an ace pilot in StarCraft, to the leader of the united Protoss in StarCraft II. In many ways, he’s still the bright-eyed optimist we saw in StarCraft, though the burdens of leadership and ensuring his people’s survival have certainly taken their toll.
Artanis has his buddies, just like Raynor and Kerrigan had theirs in the last games. He counts among his closest allies Vorazun, the matriarch of the Dark Templar Protoss, as well as an ethereal librarian named Rohanna and the engineer Karax. Each ally provides a different service to Artanis throughout the campaign, helping you to make the most of your units.
Your headquarters is the Spear of Adun, a colossal 70-kilometer warship that came complete with some superweapons and a slumbering army of Protoss soldiers. Artanis is not a playable character in most missions like Kerrigan was in Heart of the Swarm, but you can level up the ship to provide different offensive or defensive capabilities.
The Spear of Adun‘s solar array can be fired up to destroy enemy encampments, or you can turn on the teleportation generator to speed up training your units. As long as you can find enough solarite minerals on each mission, the Spear of Adun‘s capabilities will be there for you. You can’t have them all turned on at once, though, so allocate your capabilities carefully between missions.
Legacy of the Void presents a novel way of choosing units to fight for you between missions. The Protoss government is an alliance of various tribes, and each tribe has come up with its own spin on a mainline unit. The Zealot is the classic Protoss melee unit, but if you’re playing a mission where stealth and speed would be more helpful, you can switch out the Zealot for the Dark Templar’s Centurion. You’ll even have access to units from the original StarCraft through this system, like the Dragoon and the Corsair.
Once you’ve picked your mix of units, it’s time to teleport down to the battlefield. In stark contrast to the Zerg, who breed overwhelming numbers of weaker units, the Protoss fight in groups of smaller but much more powerful warriors. Training each one is expensive, but you can accomplish with a handful of Protoss what would otherwise require an army of humans or Zerg. This makes the Protoss my favorite civilization in StarCraft; I’m a quality-over-quantity type of strategist, and fewer units also means less multitasking, which, even for a man, I’m horrible at doing.
It’s a good thing that Protoss know how to fight, because what we’re up against in Legacy of the Void made me shit my pants a little bit. Amon, the aforementioned alien god, is the last vestige of a race that created the Zerg and the Protoss. He has huge numbers of both aliens at his command, as well as a large contingent of mind-controlled humans. What I’m saying, you guys, is that most missions will pit you against a combined human-Zerg-Protoss army, wielding the strengths of all three races.
Lemme just tell you; there is nothing more terrifying than receiving a knock at the door from a group of Terran Battlecruisers, Zerg Ultralisks and Protoss Archons.
Artanis and his Protoss are not alone in their fight against this satanic coalition. Jim Raynor phones up our alien hero to commit the humans to the fight, and he also drops off the artifacts he collected in Wings of Liberty to see if the Protoss can’t unlock more of their secrets. Kerrigan has returned from her own journey after Heart of the Swarm, and her Zerg are chomping at the bit for a shot at Amon. You won’t control these forces during missions, but they’ll fight alongside you in some of them.
The overarching narrative has a grand, Star Wars feel to it, and the missions holding it up are a mix of recruiting more Protoss and fighting against Amon. Until now, Amon existed as a puppeteer, manipulating certain events of Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm from behind the scenes. The cues that this was going on are there to see, and Blizzard does a good job of taking those plot points and elevating them to the forefront in Legacy of the Void.
Though the main narrative of saving the galaxy is certainly compelling, I was disappointed to find that StarCraft II‘s character dialogue took a significant step back in Legacy of the Void. There is almost no character conflict between any of the main cast, and this made the down time between missions insufferable. In Wings of Liberty, there were barfights. In Heart of the Swarm, there were arguments over morality and ethics. In Legacy of the Void, the Protoss are so busy sniffing each others’ asses and giving out the Medal of Warm and Fuzzy Feelings that the dialogue is a bore.
Legacy of the Void is a good example of how boring stories can become when there’s no conflict among their characters. It’s a story that’s grand in scale, but there are absolutely no shades of gray. Everyone loves each other, and hates the enemy. Artanis and his buddies spend the whole goddamn game talking about how brave they are, and how strong their hearts are, and all that other lovey-feely bullshit. It isn’t until a defector from Amon’s army arrives that some discord gets sown, but by that point the game’s mostly done.
Perhaps if the dialogue hit some speed bumps, the level design is okay? Again, Legacy of the Void takes a step back from the terrific level design of its two predecessors, dumbing the StarCraft formula back down into what made the first game so predictable.
Most missions in StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void revolve around interacting with 4-6 objects that are scattered around the map. Sometimes they’re power generators, sometimes they’re giant alien keyholes, but it doesn’t matter. In most levels, you train up your army and send your units to defend these positions until you’ve gotten them all. It’s the exact same strategy dressed up a different context, and it makes Legacy of the Void‘s levels boring. In Heart of the Swarm I was riding hovering trains and blowing up spaceships with my mind. This time I’m just training an army and taking an objective.
It made me sad to see these problems come to the forefront after enjoying the narrative and level design excellence in StarCraft II‘s prior installments. I don’t know if there were some shakeups in the StarCraft II design team, or if they all just got lazy, but the quality of Legacy of the Void‘s story and gameplay is markedly lesser than that of the two games preceding it. The dull dialogue and samey level design stand in stark contrast to Wings of Liberty‘s seedy atmosphere and Heart of the Swarm‘s free-flowing level insanity.
To be frank, I can yammer about how big a story is all day, but I don’t feel comfortable trying to sell a game to you guys on something as trivial as scale. You can write a story about the biggest goddamn war ever, but it’s not going to make a difference if the characters in that story are poorly written. You can’t make such a tale exciting when each chapter of this battle is written the exact same way. That’s what Legacy of the Void feels like to me: a story of a huge battle, with little substance being fought over.
To be fair to Legacy of the Void, despite dumbing down its dialogue and level design, does conclude the StarCraft II narrative on a satisfactory note. The last level of the game, while difficult, ties up a bunch of loose ends and sets the StarCraft universe on solid footing going forward.
Ultimately, I believe that the entire StarCraft series is the tale of Sarah Kerrigan. She is one of video gaming’s strongest female characters. The first StarCraft was the tale of her villainy and other characters’ reactions to it, much like Darth Vader in Star Wars. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was one man’s quest to save her. Heart of the Swarm was the story of her return to power. In Legacy of the Void, the Protoss clear the way for her fulfillment of an ancient destiny, that ties all of the StarCraft experience together quite well.
My recommendation of StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void hinges upon how badly you want to see the end to the story. I found the level design and Protoss dialogue to be soundly underwhelming, and only you can decide if both of those things are worth enduring to see the conclusion to the StarCraft II narrative. For my part, I enjoyed seeing the end to this experience and walked away from it feeling satisfied, but I don’t intend on returning anytime soon. Our time in the Blizzard-verse is coming to a close, and I have one more card to play.
You can buy StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.