Platform: PC, Mac
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was a massive success when it was released back in 2010, selling more than three million copies across the globe within its first month (making it the then-fastest selling RTS game ever).
However, as fans know, the game’s story is only just reaching its conclusion now, five years on, with the release of the eagerly-awaited expansion pack Legacy of the Void. Not only does this end StarCraft II’s storyline, but also the overall StarCraft narrative that began with the original game more than fifteen years ago.
So, with so many of us craving the conclusion to StarCraft II, does Legacy of the Void send the story out with a bang or a whimper?
Arkships, Armies, and and Artanis
Following on from the previous expansion, Heart of the Swarm, Legacy of the Void is based around the protoss species. However, unlike the former release, Legacy of the Void is a standalone game, able to run without the original StarCraft II – meaning that even total newcomers can jump on board to enjoy the experience.
While multiplayer is available for Legacy of the Void, the main focus is on the singleplayer campaign. Focused on Artanis, the leader of the Protoss race, the story sees players given control of the Golden Armada – a massive fleet of warships – in an attempt to take back their homeworld.
However, if everything were to run smoothly, the game would be pretty short. Amon, an ancient force of evil, arrives in the galaxy with a dastardly plan for domination, and Artanis must reunite his race to make a final stand.
The Protoss are technologically advanced, and so their Golden Armada is incredibly powerful – but without bringing the factions back together as one army, any chance of saving the homeworld (and the galaxy itself) from Amon is lost.
Amon is an evil xel’naga, dedicated to ending the cycle of the xel’naga he believes is corrupt, ultimately planning to remake all life in his own image. As the universe’s most malevolent force, Amon is a great villain for the StarCraft story to end with – and the high stakes make sure the plot drives ahead nicely.
Artanis is an easy character to sympathise with, and feeling a connection with him helps to make the game even more enjoyable to play. Series regulars Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan also appear, playing smaller parts in the overall narrative, but players are unlikely to feel as if they are being short-changed.
Co-operation Saves the Day
Throughout the game, players need to work with various Protoss tribes in order to acquire allies, but the choices you make will affect the way in which others respond. For example, helping the leaders of one sect will cause others to turn against you, closing off certain aspects of the campaign. However, when new bonds are forged with allies, new technologies are unlocked, which brings a wealth of customization options. Tweaking your army helps to make victories more rewarding: you feel as if the units really are yours to watch over.
Campaign missions feature objectives, which often update on the fly to keep the action twisting and turning. Gameplay has been tweaked in various areas, with one of the main changes being how stripped-back base resources are: with less room for error and fewer disposable units to fall back on, players need to be more aggressive and bold. Gaining secondary bases early on into battle is vital, as is stopping your enemy from doing the same – allowing them to secure a foothold may be a big mistake.
There is also more importance placed on using micro-strategies: while focusing on building a large, well-armed, skilled army is vital, paying attention to tactics and utilizing specific units to the best of their abilities is just as key to victory. For example, while Artanis’ ship – the Spear of Adun – is not itself classed as a unit, it can be used to launch orbital strikes. When activated, these blast the battlefield with to devastating effect, destroying all enemies within range. This can give you an edge when trying to remove larger enemy-vehicles and structures, paving the way for units to press ahead.
Fighting Together, Winning Together
Legacy of the Void’s multiplayer mode features an impressive new option titled Archon Mode. This allows two players to take command of one army as they take on another pair: players must focus on their own specific parts of the battle, using separate tactics that complement each other effectively. This mode is designed to be accessible for newcomers, helping them to get to grips with the system, but experienced fans will find plenty to enjoy.
Co-op missions are also available, giving two players the chance to complete objective-based missions with a friend. Players get to assume the role of many commanders from the series, taking advantage of their respective abilities and bonuses; multiple scenarios can be played through, and new upgrades are unlocked along the way. For both new and seasoned players alike, this mode is a welcome addition.
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void is a fun, challenging, and epic conclusion to the trilogy, and is sure to please hardcore fans who have followed the story since 1998. Blizzard Entertainment has introduced enough new elements to keep the action fresh and streamlined, but stayed true to the core gameplay. The singleplayer campaign and multiplayer modes provide plenty to sink your teeth into, offering lots of replay value for years to come.