Back in November, the long-awaited Legacy of the Void finally arrived, the final installment of Starcraft 2. Starcraft 2 came out late in 2010, so it has been a good five years since Wings of Liberty. In many ways, it’s rather late; SC2 is kind of old news now and did not grab the immense popularity of its predecessor. At the same time, LotV unsurprisingly sold well and breathed some new life into the Starcraft community and the RTS genre in general. I got the game in December and I’ll jot down some thoughts on it. Gone are the days where I play online, so in that regard, I have nothing to say. I will exclusively talk about the singleplayer campaign and the storyline, though I hope to play some of the co-op missions at some point with a friend. Note: I have beaten the entire campaign on Brutal difficulty and have gotten every single achievement save a couple of them on the last mission of the Epilogue campaign. I’ll get to it soon.
Anyway, first I’ll talk about the story before I talk about the gameplay. Warning: Spoilers.
Story: Eh… it finished, I guess.
I have generally felt that the Blizzard storylines for their three major franchises–Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft–have steadily regressed. It was silly that they retconned the Overmind’s mission and personality in WoL, ruining that character and making the Zerg far less interesting. What is even more ludicrous about this narrative choice is that it was almost exactly like how they retconned the Orcs’ personality in Warcraft 3. “No, the Zerg and Orcs aren’t mean and bad by nature, some evil entity made them that way! Feel sorry for them!” Please.
Amon was an incredibly boring and lame evil villain who came off as a whiner. He was far less interesting than Kerrigan and the Overmind in Starcraft and Broodwar, but the latter was neutered as a villain (granted, he’s dead in SC2) and the former was made into some weird Xel’naga angel at the end for… reasons. Because they wanted her redeemed, I guess, even though she had done awful things in both Starcraft 1 and 2. But it’s not her fault! It was Amon’s fault for corrupting her… even though the Overmind specifically made her to be free from Amon’s influence. The Overmind somehow did this despite the fact that he had no free will independent of Amon (how does THAT work?). And even though that was his purpose, Kerrigan was still influenced by Amon which is why she did all of these horrible things until she was cleansed of Zerg DNA by the Artifact, but she still then turned back into a free, primal Zerg because there are somehow still “primal” Zerg on the Zerg homeworld who eat “essence” and… okay, you get the idea how dumb and contradictory all of this is.
Contrast this to the storyline of SC1 and it gets more annoying that they dropped the ball. In original Starcraft, the Zerg were a mysterious race that came out of nowhere that befuddled the Terrans and the Protoss. The Protoss, powerful as they were, underestimated this force and lost their homeworld, Aiur, to them, partially because of political infighting. A desperate Protoss and Terran force was able to kill the Overmind, but the Protoss still had to flee Aiur because it was overrun with Zerg. Broodwar, the expansion, was about how Kerrigan, with the Overmind gone, consolidated her control over the Zerg broods by manipulating her enemies to kill one another before betraying her “allies.” Because of her actions, Starcraft heroes promised that justice would come to her: Zeratul told her that she would regret letting him live and that they would meet again, and Raynor straight up promised to be the one who killed her. What a great setup for a sequel; the Protoss want their homeworld back, Raynor wants revenge and justice, and the “Queen B**** of the Universe,” as Kerrigan called herself, is slowly gaining power. And in the background, there is a mysterious force making Zerg-Protoss hybrid that will throw a monkey wrench into all the political realities of the sector.
Blizzard crapped all over this setup with nonsensical retcons, a cheesy romance plot, and the creation of Amon, a bitter Xel’naga. It was quite disappointing. In LotV, it finally looked like the player would take command of an epic military campaign of a united Protoss force to reclaim their homeworld. Certainly all the trailers hinted at this. Instead, just a couple of missions in, that military campaign is over because of some stupid idea of Amon taking control of the Protoss through their nerve cords and collective conscience called the Khala. I guess they just really wanted the player to be cooped up on one ship just like WoL and Heart of the Swarm. This was also stupid because in WoL, Zeratul’s vision of the Protoss’ fall to Amon does not include Amon possessing all the Protoss who haven’t severed their nerve cords. That would be rather unobservant of him not to notice this, given that he is Dark Templar, a faction of Protoss who are identified precisely by the willing severance of those cords. It basically amounted to Blizzard thinking, “Well… we kind of want the player to be on one ship, but how can we do that when we promised a giant Protoss armada? OH WAIT AMON CAN POSSESS THEM LOL!”
Granted, for gameplay purposes, you have to tolerate some illogical things happening, like Raynor’s Raiders being able to fight off a Protoss armada by themselves, but throughout these three games, there just too many plot problems and silly narrative decisions. I don’t know who is writing stories for Blizzard now, but it’s like they didn’t give a rat’s rear end about Starcraft 1 and wanted to make their own mark. The result was a poorly constructed and convoluted story.
Gameplay: Fun, but repetitive overly noob-friendly
The actual gameplay of the campaign is fun and most of the level designs are sharp. It is also pretty cool to see a few old Protoss units return, such as the reaver, corsair, and dragoon. That said, I was disappointed at how many levels felt like repeats of old ones. There is a point where this is ok, but how many levels do they need with the player defending against endless waves, waiting for something to charge up or transform? The last WoL campaign was pretty cool, with the player defending until the Artifact fully charged up… and then in HotS, you had to defend Kerrigan when she changes back to the Zerg. Had enough of that yet? Well, in this one, defend the temple for a while until it is ready to destroy Shakuras and all the Zerg on it. After that, defend the Artifact again so it is ready to purge Amon from the Protoss. Oh, need more of that? Defend Kerrigan one more time as she fully transforms into Xel’naga. My goodness, could they not think of different scenarios? Heck, it can be more fun if you put giant forces against the player and the mission objectives are merely, “Go wreck your enemies.”
Some of the more interesting scenarios were when you had Zerg and Terran allies that you could actively help and that were not a burden that you had to babysit. But those happened only in the epilogue missions, which was a missed opportunity.
As far as the new units, some of them were cool and fun to play with, but I just do not understand Blizzard’s insistence to not let the player upgrade during actual gameplay and make permanent decisions on upgrades. WoL was way better at this because in that campaign, you got access to a whole bunch of units at once and had to make decisions on what kind of unique upgrades to purchase with your limited resources. And even then, I criticized the fact that normal upgrades, like stimpack, were included in these special upgrades that you bought and were not normal things that you just upgrade during the game. All of those upgrades should be unique and cool stuff for the campaign, not things that you can get normally in multiplayer. It made me even angrier that I had to CHOOOSE between the zergling speed and attack speed upgrades in the Zerg campaign, upgrades that you can get together in multiplayer to make cracklings. I’m not a freaking idiot, Blizzard. I know how to upgrade that crap at the spawning pool.
This campaign made similar mistakes by often making the player choose between different units before every level, and then you were not even able to choose specific upgrades. They might have thought that his increases replayability, but it really doesn’t. In WoL, it was actually fun to go back again and choose different unit compositions and upgrades because upgrades were permanent choices and units were almost all available to the player, with few exceptions. In the Protoss campaign, because of some odd desire to avoid overlap, the player is not allowed to have reavers and collossi in the same army or even very different units like arbiters and void rays. What? Why? Just make them all available and let the player choose during gameplay. It makes it worse that they flat did not allow the player to use warp prisms as transports, either because they didn’t trust that the player could use them or because they were too lazy to design scenarios that could reward a player for using them. Also, the scout didn’t make a return because, again, they probably thought it overlapped with other units, but so what? This is the campaign; let us use as many units as possible. It’s not a hard concept.
In WoL, I could play through the campaign primarily with goliaths and other vehicles, than play through it again concentrating on infantry, then again with air units, and then again with cloaked units, etc. There is no reason to play through HotS and LotV like that again. What they should have done is to let the player have access to a wide range of units and let him choose what upgrade path he wanted. You want ultra powerful zealots? Grab that whirlwind and blink dash ability. Don’t make me choose between three different ones.
Overall, the gameplay is still fun, but some levels were kind of a drag and not every unit was interesting. Some achievements were fun to get, but others were just exasperating and tedious.
For any Starcraft fan, you kind of have to get it, especially since it may be a while before Blizzard returns to the Starcraft universe. It wasn’t as great as it could have been, but you’ll still get several hours of fun from it. Also, the co-op campaign seems interesting, so grab some friends and play that and I’m sure that will be entertaining. It’s not a bad purchase, but it’s definitely not as good as WoL and certainly not as good as Broodwar for its time.