Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void Review (PC)
What began in 1998 as a space-themed variant on the sword-and-sorcery of Warcraft has become a gaming phenomenon, with a successful sequel and more expansion packs and gaming tournaments than you can shake a pylon at. Now, Legacy of the Void, the final expansion pack to Starcraft II, closes out the story which began nearly two decades ago, forcing players to push their actions-per-minute to the brink if they want to save the universe from the looming threat annihilating everything in its path (and pwn every Zerg-rushing noob this side of Korhal).
As Artanis, leader of the Protoss famous for his snazzy helmet and Optimus Prime impression, you'll scour the universe for the secrets of your ancient people to combat the threat of Amon, a Protoss-Zerg hybrid bent on enslaving the universe by pulling the classic Blizzard trick of corrupting the good guys.
Much like Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, the campaign allows players to choose missions in different orders, acquiring new technology and offering units and abilities which aren't available in the standard multiplayer. Each unit comes with three different variants, all equal in their own ways, allowing you to tinker around with various unit types and combinations to create an army which best suits your playstyle. New to the campaign is the Spear of Adun, a massive warship which grants Age of Mythology-style God Powers players can use to drastically alter the tide of battle. These abilities are add a nice dose of variety while also giving skilled players some clutch options for high level playing— which will definitely be needed if you hope to conquer LoV's campaign on its most difficult settings.
The missions themselves each have interesting wrinkles to them; sometimes you have to keep your army moving ahead of a deadly purifier beam, sometimes you'll have to amass epic defenses against a never-ending Zerg siege, and sometimes you'll just be in command of a small group of skilled units, forcing you to think on the micro scale rather than macro. While the previous SCII expansions offered a similar mission variety, they had occasional rough (or sometimes boring) missions that Legacy of the Void doesn't. LoV's campaign rocks, start to finish, from both a gameplay perspective and a thematic standpoint. Blizzard's writing isn't exactly the most complex or subtle wordsmithing. The Protoss are kind of a dry bunch as a whole, and will make you long for more colorful characters like Jim Raynor to get more screen time, but overall the story keeps a strong momentum and gets you to care.
Outside of the campaign, there are tons of different game types to explore. Starcraft II's ever-expanding Arcade Mode features custom maps from players and Blizzard alike. These custom maps shatter the RTS framework and, at times, turn Starcraft II into an entirely different game. There are shoot 'em ups, beat 'em ups, RPGs and more, and while the quality of random player-created maps can vary a bit, if you follow the community's recommendations you'll be in for a constant stream of unique, inspired games.
Co-op Mode lets you pick Starcraft II characters, each of whom comes with custom abilities and an army of special units previously only found in the campaign, and lets you team up with a friend against the computer. Again, variety is the name of the game, here, as these special armies drastically change the way you'll play, and teaming up with a friend to stomp the bajeezus out of a computer foe feels undeniably satisfying.
For many players, Starcraft has always been about the multiplayer, and Legacy of the Void expands on the core gameplay established by its predecessors by changing the flow of battle in key ways. Everything has been streamlined for faster battles that are more about military engagements and less about micromanaging workers. Gone is the early phase of only having a handful of gatherers— instead you start with twice as many gatherers, and they're already working once the match begins, effectively shaving off the first couple of minutes off of each match, which in turn allows you to more quickly make meaningful choices and get to the glorious combat. There are also plenty of new units, many of which are oriented around faster, skirmish-based combat. These new units are generally fun to use (though a few have complexity to them which lends themselves to higher-level play rather than casual). One caveat, however, is that there are now so many different units for each of the three Starcraft races that it can feel a bit overwhelming if you haven't been keeping up. There are tutorials abound, of course, and the campaign does a good job of sprinkling in new units to teach you the ins and outs of combat, but it still takes some adjusting.
As with most Blizzard games, everything is flat-out gorgeous. The cutscenes are some of the most high-caliber scenes in video games, the in-game graphics are gorgeous, the sound design is incredible, the music appropriately cinematic, and the voice acting superb. Blizzard has never been one to skimp on the aesthetics, and Legacy of the Void delivers.
Whether you're a casual marine-medivac dropper or the most hardcore, Idra-level max APM player in the world, Legacy of the Void offers a rich, varied experience. With an amazing campaign, phenomenal multiplayer, numerous gameplay options, satisfying story, nigh-infinite unlockables, and tons of nooks and crannies to explore, Legacy of the Void stands as one of the proudest entries in the Starcraft legacy.
This review is based on a digital copy of Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void provided by the publisher for PC.