As I play Legacy of the Void
, I’m amazed how much more fun I’m having now, with the newest version of a six-year-old real-time strategy game, than I did when it was new. Maybe it’s the framing: Wings of Liberty had to live up to the genre-redefining StarCraft and Brood War. Legacy of the Void just has to be a great new edition of StarCraft 2, and it does that very well.
Watch the first 29 minutes of Legacy of the Void above.
Legacy of the Void offers a lot of new things, especially to people who may have been frustrated with the focus on ladder play and high-level competition that defined early StarCraft 2. Without compromising the competitive side, there are more things than ever for casual players to enjoy once the campaign is over.
Brothers In Arms
It might be the single best mission in StarCraft 2 since Wings of Liberty’s dusk-til-dawn zombie battle.
Co-op missions are a hugely pleasant surprise, thanks to demanding mission design and unique heroes who provide their own twist on the three races. There’s one particularly clever mission where you and your co-op buddy control a base at the center of the map, and must fend off attacks from two sides while you sally forth and intercept enemy freight convoys. It might be the single best mission in StarCraft 2 since Wings of Liberty’s dusk-til-dawn zombie battle.Army variations and progression bonuses tweak the experience each time through. Playing as the mechanized Terran engineer Swann, for example, is a completely different experience from controlling any other Terran army. Swann only has access to expensive, high-tech armored units and defenses, which means his army is incredibly powerful, but gulps down resources like no other. Learning to use each hero, and trying harder difficulty levels, make co-op much more than a gimmick.
Watch the Legacy of the Void launch trailer above.
Co-op is extended to traditional PvP multiplayer, and though I’m not sure Archon Mode will change anyone’s mind about StarCraft multiplayer, it’s certainly a fun option. Sharing control of a single base and army with a friend is a more social, and sometimes more hilariously frustrating way to play the same fast-paced, unforgiving RTS that StarCraft has always been. I can’t say I’ve ever been fully on the same page with an ally, and Archon mode has caused me more mis-cast spells than it has created clutch plays, but I’ve enjoyed myself with each outing. It doesn’t turn StarCraft into an accessible, easy-to-learn game, but it does make it less lonely and isolating to play competitively.
A New Suit of Armor
The Protoss Adept forms the new backbone of the early Protoss army.
Legacy of the Void brings new units to the battlefield for each multiplayer race, but some of them have such specific problems that I didn’t get as much use out of them as I hoped. The Protoss Adept forms the new backbone of the early Protoss army, using its strange spin on teleportation to open up interesting new strategies, while the awesome transforming Liberator gunship does the same for the Terrans. But I had trouble finding room for the Zerg Ravager in my standard Zerg armies, or employing the Protoss Disruptor as anything more than an annoying curiosity. It’s worth mentioning that both these units are very micro-intensive, and they can be a dangerous distraction if you’re not up to the task. For an average-skill player like me, units like the Terran hit-and-run specialist Cyclone are new ways of getting into trouble when I’d be better off running a more standard, older composition.
Watch us unbox the Collector’s Edition above.
Legacy of the Void makes it up to you, however, by transforming some old, familiar units into something more exciting. I don’t know if the Carrier will be used in competitive play much, but I sure had a great time using its new “release interceptors” ability to launch waves of suicide pilots on strafing runs while my carriers withdrew to safety. And because games get off to a quicker start with the new Legacy of the Void economy and starting positions, I feel like I have more freedom and opportunity to try weird, surprising builds.
Why So Serious?
The campaign has lots of neat ways you can change your army.
The campaign itself is very good, with lots of neat ways you can change your army (picking between three powerful variations on each unit as options gradually unlock, and freely switching those choices at will) and upgrading your flagship, the Spear of Adun. In each of Legacy’s 22 missions, you can call down support super-abilities from the Spear of Adun, like a time-warp that freezes enemy units in place while your units go to town on them, or summoning a the mechanical clone of an old Protoss hero to wreak havoc on the battlefield for a short time.
The single-player (and co-op) is also the place you’ll find a lot of special units for each faction. The mighty Dragoon, which was the staple of the Protoss army in StarCraft, returns for this campaign, as does Brood War’s Dark Archon, which can mind-control enemy units and turn their armies against one another. It’s great fun playing with a lot of these units, especially since they’re not balanced for competitive play, but for awesomeness.
The Protoss are a drag to hang out with.
However, I have to warn you that that the Protoss are a drag to hang out with. This is a relentlessly serious, grave game, full of characters using language that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Bible movie or a particularly faithful adaptation of the Silmarillion, talking about a war with a generic ancient evil. It had me longing for the days of Wings of Liberty, when I was hanging out with Jim Raynor aboard the Hyperion, and it kind of felt like I was finally getting a Firefly reboot.
But the missions bring plenty of fun thanks to a demanding mix of Alamo-type holdouts, search-and-destroy, and control-point missions. They’re far more traditional in style than Wings of Liberty’s innovative campaign, which remains the high-watermark for the series in terms of both mission design and campaign structure, but I never got bored with Legacy’s missions the way I did Heart of the Swarm’s hero-centric campaign. I wish there were something to fill the huge gulf between the cakewalk normal difficulty and the extremely challenging hard setting, though. Anyone capable of fogging a mirror can beat the game on normal, which lavishes so many handicaps on you that there are almost no resource bottlenecks, while hard takes those advantages away while bumping the number of enemies into Zerg-swarm territory.