StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void Review

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Blizzard took an interesting and controversial approach to the release of their popular RTS series, StarCraft II, in that they gave it to fans in pieces.  Five years later, a trilogy of releases has been completed, each focusing on a faction for the game while continuing to mold and sculpt the competitive multiplayer offering.  Wings of Liberty released in 2010 and focused on the Terran faction.  Heart of the Swarm launched in 2013 and focused on the Zerg.  While Legacy of the Void focuses on the Protoss and brings the story full circle to a satisfying conclusion where the three factions align to save the galaxy.  It’s not uncharted territory for a Blizzard story, but one that wraps things up neatly for those invested while also offering new ways to dig into StarCraft with cooperative campaign features and more tools than ever to lessen the high barrier to entry on the competitive side of things.

Despite competitive multiplayer being the most popular aspect of StarCraft II, Blizzard hasn’t skimped on single player content in any of the three releases.  Legacy of the Void once again offers a robust campaign, and one that allows players to get a closer look at the faction this story centers around by introducing a number of a new characters within the race, and a Protoss battleship to wage war from.  Like Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, players are given options in this central hub.  You can select different missions, manage upgrades, and speak with advisors to get even more color on the story, which is mostly delivered via Blizzard’s amazing CG clips.  In-engine cinematics also appear to be better and more prevalent than we’ve seen to date.  For those that aren’t up for the challenge of competitive play, Legacy of the Void is an entirely competent and rewarding single player experience, one that offers plenty of challenge with multiple difficulty tiers to tackle and a good variety of different mission types and ways to personalize your Protoss army as you progress.

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A lot of what you find in the Legacy of the Void campaign isn’t in multiplayer.  Unit abilities can be chosen to upgrade the Protoss army in unique ways, that give familiar units unfamiliar abilities.  This makes campaign missions play differently than what you would find in battles against human or AI opponents in a standard StarCraft II match.  While this does add some variety to the campaign story missions,  the game does fall back on its RTS roots for the most part.  Where highlights to the campaign are the missions that focus on heroes rather than building up armies and attacking or defending objectives.  That said, these core RTS components are also StarCraft II’s biggest assets and single player is a great spot to get your feet wet and learn the intricacies of the complex Protoss race.  The campaign will teach you the basics of the faction, learning things like Pylon placement, Warp Gates, and other important facets.  At the end of the day, Legacy of the Void kind of plays out the way you expect it to in terms of the overall story and mission structure.

Where Heart of the Swarm started to introduce new tools for newcomers to learn StarCraft II, Legacy of the Void continues to build on this inclusive trait by offering new ways to play and learn the game.  While StarCraft II can be an incredibly brutal game to cut your teeth in competitive play, Legacy of the Void offers cooperative multiplayer to fight against AI units while commanding hero-led armies.  Raynor, Kerrigan, Artanis, Swann, Zagara, and Vorazun each have an unlockable set of abililities tied to a progression system for the mode.  Cooperative play against the AI gives players a chance to practice core tenants like base building and unit management while giving them the ability to try new things.  This is a player vs. enemy experience that we haven’t seen before in StarCraft II and a welcome addition to the core multiplayer and single player modes.  Legacy of the Void’s cooperative missions don’t have much depth, but random objectives and missions can make this mode feel unique each time you play it.

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Blizzard has been constantly updating and tweaking StarCraft II since 2010 on the multiplayer front, but expansions bring the biggest changes to the competitive space with the introduction of new unit types and rules that can change the way the game plays for competitive players.  Is it drastically changed from Heart of the Swarm?  It depends on what your definition of drastic is.  New units for each of the factions can change the way any single match plays out, as players will need to adapt to new strategies as the StarCraft II community starts integrating these new units into their battle plans.  As a whole, StarCraft II feels faster than ever before, giving players more things to manage, more quickly.  Competitive multiplayer in StarCraft II is a demanding experience, one that requires players push far away from simply pointing and clicking their way through the game.

Blizzard seemingly eliminated early “cheese” strategies with some minor changes to the game like increasing the number of workers you have at your disposal from the onset, removing some of the tedium in early game building.  This has affected the game in a number of ways but it forces players to potentially manage more things at once, right away.  What hasn’t changed with Legacy of the Void is the high barrier to entry with this game in the competitive space.  If your APM count is low, the competitive community will still ultimately cut through you like a hot knife though butter.  StarCraft II is still one of the most daunting competitive experiences out there, one that requires months or years of practice to compete in even the mid tier ladders.  What was already a very complex game has become even more complex with more units to incorporate into your strategy.  For those who had already mastered everything Blizzard has thrown at them in the Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, this is a good thing, with additional strategic units, new maps, and tilesets.

All of the popular multiplayer features are still here with the addition of some new ones.  Ranked play still has you facing off against the most competitive sect of StarCraft II players, with a matchmaking system that should have you competing against players with similar skill level.  Win more against better players and you’ll graduate to higher status.  You can also play unranked games, where many players try out new strategies against live opponents.  AI matches and Training modes are still also available for those that just learning the ropes.  For those that want a more rewarding experience right away, daily tournaments have also been added to the equation.  There are a number of tools in the competitive parts of Legacy of the Void to improve your play, whether you’re just learning or have been playing for years.

The Verdict

Legacy of the Void stays true to what fans have come to expect from Blizzard in terms of expansion content.  A true game changer that was designed to keep things fresh for competitive players, offer new ways to play the game cooperatively, while offering a equally satisfying single player mode to close out another chapter in the StarCraft franchise at the very best it’s ever been.

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