Starcraft 2 – Legacy of the Void rounds out a much-anticipated trilogy that started over five years ago with Wings of Liberty. Has the formula stood the test of time?
The original Starcraft is regarded as one of the great all-time classic RTS games – the sci-fi counterpart to the old Warcraft RTS games and a contemporary of the Command & Conquer series. Warcraft has since evolved into a MMORPG game and will soon be a Hollywood movie, whereas we haven’t heard from Command & Conquer in quite a while now. Real time strategy games are becoming a bit of a rarity these days, so as fans of the genre we were very much looking forward to Legacy of the Void.
As was the case in Heart of the Swarm, this is a standalone expansion that doesn’t require you to buy the first two episodes – but we highly recommend that you do. This isn’t just because they were excellent in and of themselves, it’s also because you will enjoy Legacy of the Void much more if you do. This is especially apparent in the single player campaign, where Starcraft 2’s story is finally brought to (somewhat of) a close. Blizzard serves up a nicely made and descriptive summary of the events that led up to the campaign in Legacy of the Void, but a description like that doesn’t quite do justice to the overwhelming amount of lore that has been built up over the course of the franchise. The betrayals, the sympathy you (don’t) feel for some of the main protagonists… it’s probably hard to experience the same kind of commitment that veterans of the series feel when you’re a newcomer.
Having said that, the campaign that Legacy of the Void serves up is of the usual level of quality. The core RTS gameplay is rock solid – something that was true for Wings of Liberty in 2010 as well of course. Since then, the formula has only been refined – and there’s little room for improvement from our perspective. Everything will feel instantly familiar to those who played the previous games, which is both a strength and a weakness of the game. It’s more of the same, and more of a great original – but it’s also a formula that hasn’t changed that much in the course of the past 5 years (and even longer if we look at the RTS genre as a whole). In that sense, Starcraft 2’s latest and last release (although expansion packs were recently announced) is almost starting to feel “retro.” Still, we’re not complaining – and neither will the millions of fans of the previous games.
We suppose the same could also be said for the game in the audiovisual department. The game engine is largely unchanged, which means your 5 year old gaming PC can probably still run this with ease – but you shouldn’t expect a game that will show off your brand new high power gaming rig. Despite this, the overall audiovisual quality is still excellent and on par with what people expect from Blizzard – a company that never wows us with next gen visuals but rather focuses on perfectly balanced gameplay first and then polishes everything around it. In the case of Legacy of the Void, this means that the cutscenes for the campaign mode are once again a treat to watch and the musical score is equally well done.
Though we’ve always been fans of single player campaigns in RTS games, we realize that the majority of Starcraft II’s players will be interested mainly in the multiplayer mode – as evidenced by the many tournaments and matches that take place around the world on a daily basis. While the majority of the “new content” in single player is of course focused on the story, the multiplayer section of the game introduces other changes – both subtle and obvious. New units have been introduced that tweak the balance in battle a little bit and allow for new tactics, which can also be said of the some of the gameplay and balance tweaks that were introduced. In multiplayer, a match might now heat up a little faster because resources are scarcer – while at the same time you have a bigger capacity for building (units) more quickly. You can also play cooperatively in selected missions – or do something similar in an online skirmish using Archon mode, where you and another player control the same side of the battle. Though intended for players of all levels, online matchmaking is better geared toward more experienced players – who have a lot more options when it comes to finding matches that suit their playing level. Newcomers may find the experience daunting – but hopefully Blizzard will introduce new matchmaking dynamics in the future that help alleviate this somewhat.
Starcraft II – Legacy of the Void is a fitting finale to a grand RTS epic, and was worth the wait. We wonder what will happen to the franchise after the upcoming mission packs, but we’re hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Starcraft.