When talking about Legacy of the Void, you really need to first talk about the legacy of StarCraft itself. An e-sport juggernaut that can proudly claim to be one of the earliest forces driving competitive professional gaming – if not the first – it’s also one of very few games that still manages to thrive in today’s MOBA-heavy landscape. This is thanks to Blizzard listening to its audience, and evolving and refining its games over the long term.
In many ways, Legacy of the Void is an almost perfect representation of that attitude. It is a game that feels like the ultimate evolution of the StarCraft experience. It’s not revolutionary, but it doesn’t need to be.
The single player campaign picks up a few months after the conclusion of Heart of the Swarm and focuses on Artanis as he and the Protoss fight to reclaim their home world of Auir. The central story is more than a little guilty of overindulging in its character moments, and it does run the gamut from epic space opera to cheesy sci-fi b-movie in a heartbeat, but the high points here are the highest in the entire series.
So, even though the story can be a little uneven, its conclusion has been well worth the wait! It’s an ending that feels well-earned.
There are a wide variety of missions, which range from the standard – build base, defend – to more complex and more interesting narrative-focused and objective heavy encounters, and each is bookended by story-heavy cutscenes. Each mission also has optional objectives that unlock new options for your units or unique abilities.
The most significant of these is the Spear of Adun. This Protoss Baseship is a fantastic addition, and each of its 18 abilities can fundamentally change how a mission plays out. You could use its massive offensive power to unleash a devastating orbital strike, or use it to improve your logistics with automatic Vespine Gas extraction.
These new abilities consume Solarite, a new mission-earned currency that helps to balance the power of the Spear of Adun and provide spending dilemmas for the player. And of course, there is the risk/reward of actually collecting it in the first place. Throw unit build variations on top of these decisions and unlocks, and Legacy of the Void feels the most rewarding of the series to date.
Multiplayer is a little harder to judge. I am not a great StarCraft player, but that being said, StarCraft II is one of the very few online games I always return to. Jumping back into multiplayer after a couple of years off was at once familiar and new.
Five new units have been added to the game and one old one makes a welcome return (we missed you Zerg Lurker!) There are no massive sweeping changes here though, just a gentle shifting of the sands. Because resources are earned faster, there is now more urgency to the early game, and the new units have turned the mid- to late-game into a furious micro-managing contest where accuracy and agility add some much appreciated flexibility. Being able to target and destroy groups of units and counter long-established tactics is immensely satisfying.
This might sound like a bit of a nightmare to newer players and the less skilled (like myself), but the shift works well for all-comers. The mid- to late- game skill ceiling has certainly increased, but it has also opened up a lot of room for players to find their preferred strategy and improve their own skills early on. For the first time in years I felt like I was actually getting better, and I encountered less outright stampeding from a rush-focused opponents. In short, the multiplayer modes have been honed to fine edge, and balanced to perfection.
Another welcome addition to the multiplayer is Archon Mode. Here, two players control one base and share an army. It’s a great way to introduce your friends to the game. Or, as it was in my case, I was able to pick up some much appreciated pointers on how to better manage my base and units from a patient and far more skilled friend.
Archon Mode also has its own dedicated ladder, and was where I spent most of my online time. There is also a completely separate co-op mode that sadly I was unable to fully explore, but the limited time I spent with it was enjoyable, and will no doubt add more hours of online play to the overall package.
With Legacy of the Void, Blizzard has made StarCraft II game far more accessible and satisfying, while also extending and expanding the gameplay options in the mid- to late- game, somehow managing to better engage the new player and veterans alike. How the multiplayer meta-game will be impacted by the new units, refocused early game, and more macro-oriented late game I do not know, but I am sure the competitive and professional scene will provide answers in no short order. In the meantime, if you’re like me and just like to build bases and armies, you cannot go wrong with Legacy of the Void.