Review: StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void

It’s been a long time coming.

Hierarch Artanis and Executor Selendis rally the Golden Armada in StarCraft II: Legacy of the VoidAs StarCraft fans, we waited over ten years for a follow-up to Brood War, and as a Protoss fan, I had to wait even longer for the expansion that would at last put my favourite race in the spotlight.

It’s been a long time coming, but to paraphrase that most quintessential Canadian band, it’s well worth the wait.

The End War:

I enjoyed the first two installments of StarCraft II. Wings of Liberty had some flaws, but mostly it was a strong story that I enjoyed. Heart of the Swarm was somewhat of a disappointment, but even it had many highlights.

Legacy of the Void vastly outstrips both its predecessors. The fact I am a Protoss fan may bias me, but I think there’s a lot more to it than that.

LotV’s campaign begins with the full might of the Daelaam Protoss united at last, ready to retake Aiur from the Zerg and reclaim the pride and tradition of the Firstborn. But in remarkably little time, things go terribly wrong.

Artanis and Raynor in StarCraft II: Legacy of the VoidThus begins the End War, the final conflict with the void god Amon. Whereas the last two installments spread themselves thin over many stories that had at best only tangential relationships with one another, LotV focuses entirely on the conflict with Amon, and while it can at times feel a little abrupt or rushed, mostly it does an excellent job of selling the idea of a universe teetering on the brink of destruction.

Over the course of the campaign, Artanis must bring together the disparate tribes of Protoss, some familiar and some new in LotV, to forge an army capable of facing Amon. Something that I’ve liked about the Protoss from the start is that although they are a very alien race, they are also very diverse, with many differing viewpoints and philosophies within their ranks, and LotV builds on that well, further deepening the Protoss culture even as it goes through great changes.

Legacy of the Void is in many ways a story about multiculturalism and the strength it brings. Although its handling is at times somewhat inelegant, I think this is a very noble message to send, and quite relevant in this day and age.

The story doesn’t end with Legacy of the Void’s main campaign, though. There is also an epilogue campaign consisting of three missions that give you the chance to play as each race once more.

Actually, calling it an “epilogue” is perhaps a bit misleading, as it is every bit as epic and intense as the main campaign, and it at last brings a close to all of the story and character arcs that began all the way back in the 90s.

The Spear of Adun comes under attack in StarCraft II: Legacy of the VoidI was sufficiently impressed by that ending that I struggle to think of what to say about it. It was awe-inspiring. It was emotional. Most of all, it was immensely satisfying.

The mechanics of storytelling were also better than ever this time around. Cinematics are as ever a feast for the eyes, and they are both incredibly numerous and more seamlessly integrated than ever before. At times, cinematics even play in the middle of missions, shifting from gameplay to cutscene and back with total smoothness. Very impressive.

That’s not to say the entire campaign was perfect. I can poke some holes here or there.

By far my biggest complaint is how small a role was given to Executor Selendis. Blizzard has spent years dropping hints that she was going to be a big deal in the coming story, but in actuality she appears in only a handful of missions, and then in a relatively small role.

I also had issues with some of the ways the Protoss culture changed over the course of the campaign, including but not limited to the fact they tend to happen a little quickly and/or with poorly explained reasoning.

Still, on the whole, it was definitely the best part of the StarCraft II saga, and possibly the best installment of the franchise to date. Definitely a worthy end.

The wrath of Amon is terrible indeed…Except it’s not the end; story DLC is already on the way, which is now giving me mixed feelings. On the one hand, yay, more StarCraft. On the other, there’s pretty much nowhere to go from here but down.

RTS done right:

From a gameplay perspective, Legacy of the Void’s campaign is also a step up from its predecessors.

Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm had excellent mission design, bringing a breath of fresh air to the sometimes stale RTS genre, but they relied too heavily on missions with some sort of time limit. Every level was a sprint the finish, and it became exhausting after a while.

LotV still has some missions like that, but they’re not as omnipresent. There are a lot more missions that allow you to take your time, plan your strategy, explore the map, and gradually fight your way to victory. There’s still a lot of fresh ideas, but it also brings back some of the long, epic battles of more old school RTS games. It’s the best of both worlds.

I was quite disappointed to not see the return of hero units as seen in Heart of the Swarm, but being able to call upon the abilities of the Spear of Adun is a decent substitute. They’re similar to the god powers of Age of Mythology, but with the advantage of not being limited-use.

Unleashing the Spear of Adun's full power in StarCraft II: Legacy of the VoidI also greatly enjoyed the mechanic for customizing units this time. Instead of upgrades in the traditional sense, each unit has three variations based on the various Protoss factions, each with different advantages. You can swap between different variations between missions, so there’s a lot of encouragement to experiment and tailor your forces to a specific challenge.

If I have a complaint about the campaign’s design, it’s that it takes a little too long to unlock more advanced units and abilities early on. It makes a certain degree of sense from a story perspective, but after two games, I’m kind of over the “slowly build up your forces from nothing” angle. Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?


I dipped my toes into competitive play for the first time in years, but I didn’t stay long enough to get a comprehensive view of what Legacy of the Void has brought to the table in that regard.

I will say that I think the economic changes are very good. They cut down on a lot of the tedious downtime at the start of a match and allow you to get to the action more quickly. If anything, they don’t go far enough — there’s still too much economic busywork in this game.

But mainly what I learned is that I’m still terrible at competitive StarCraft II, and still lack the emotional fortitude to deal with the high stress of it all. Especially now that the game is faster than ever.

A co-op mission in StarCraft II: Legacy of the VoidTo their credit, Blizzard has put some effort into opening avenues of multiplayer that are not so intense. Archon mode allows two players to work in tandem, splitting the responsibilities of running a single army. Cool idea, but to me it just sounds like you’d constantly be stepping on each other’s toes. Doesn’t appeal to me.

More interesting to me are the co-op missions, which allow two players to work together against the AI using powerful units and abilities from the campaign. These don’t replicate the campaign experience as well as I was hoping, and I feel they’re best played with a friend, but they’re still pretty fun, even if you’re playing with a stranger.

On the whole, I’d rate co-op missions the most positive addition to SC2’s multiplayer.

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With a stellar campaign and some solid changes to multiplayer, the final installment of the StarCraft II trilogy is also by far the best. This is why I’m such a big Blizzard fan; they may screw up a lot, but when they get it right, they get it right.

Overall rating: 9.5/10 Possibly the best Blizzard game since Warcraft III.

BlizzCon 2015: Warcraft Trailer, StarCraft DLC, and Other News

BlizzCon is upon us once again, bringing a tidal wave of news and reveals for Blizzard’s many franchises. I don’t wish to waste any time, so let’s get to it!

The Warcraft trailer:

The biggest reveal coming out of this BlizzCon was the first full-length trailer for the upcoming Warcraft film.

It’s everything I ever dreamed of.

Seriously, this trailer fills me with such overwhelming childish glee you’re lucky I can still spell, let alone type anything coherent about it. I love, love, love it.

I can’t even words. It’s wonderful.

I will say that I love how it’s clearly telling the stories of both the humans and Orcs and giving an even shake to both. This doesn’t look to be a story with black and white morality at all, and that is exactly as it should be.

If I may allow myself one small complaint, it appears that Draka will be pulling a “Moses among the reeds” with Thrall, and while I have long argued that Thrall is Orcish Moses, that’s a little too on the nose for my taste.

Still, on the whole, this trailer is mind-blowing.

StarCraft mission packs coming soon:

The one real surprise from this BlizzCon so far is the announcement that StarCraft 2’s story content will not end with Legacy of the Void’s campaign. Starting next year, Blizzard will be releasing a series of DLC mission packs to flesh out the story of the StarCraft universe. The first one, Nova: Covert Ops, already has a cinematic teaser.

More story, and Nova’s involved? I’m sold.

Again, I have little to say beyond the fact that I’m happy.

I just hope the packs aren’t too expensive. I mean, Blizzard owns my soul, so I’ll pretty much pay whatever they ask, but… Three missions with SC2’s pacing will probably take at most ninety minutes to finish, so any more than $10 would be a stretch.

There’s also word of some other new additions coming after Legacy of the Void, including new commanders for the co-op missions, the long-awaited Abathur announcer pack, and the option for players to sell the content they’ve made through the Arcade.

Quite impressed by how much Blizzard plans for a “finished” game.

World of Warcraft: Legion cinematic and details

As if the movie trailer wasn’t enough badassery, they also showed the opening cinematic for Legion.

As regular readers know, I’m feeling really bitter about WoW right now. My love/hate relationship has little love left in it after WoD.

But this cinematic blew me away. This is probably the best cinematic for WoW yet, and that’s saying something. It’s epic, it’s emotional, it’s intense. It’s everything a cinematic should be.

One does get the impression that Blizzard may be planning to kill off Varian, which has been speculated for a while. My initial reaction to the idea was nerd rage, as Blizzard has a terrible habit of killing off their most interesting characters.

However, the more I think about it, the more I think it might be okay. Varian has had an amazing character arc over the years, and if this is to be his end, then it’s a worthy one.

In other news, Blizzard’s website has been updated with previews of the artifact weapons for all classes. The biggest piece of news here is that combat rogues no longer exist; the specialization is now called “outlaw.”

I am curious what other changes are due for the spec. Hopefully it can recapture some of its former glory. I do like that its artifact weapons are swords, though they also seem to be one of the few artifacts without a particularly lore-rich backstory. And I’ll try not to be too bitter that rogues didn’t get a ranged spec.

A preview shot of Suramar in World of Warcraft: LegionSpeaking of artifacts, I love all the backstories Blizzard has come up with for them. Some pretty interesting lore in some of those, especially about the Titans’ servants. I feel a grave risk that my alt addiction may flair out of control as I try to experience as many artifact quests as possible.

Something interesting that’s just being revealed as I write this is that there is no set leveling path through the new zones. All zones scale to your level (somehow), with the only exception that the city of Suramar is always max-level only. Dungeons will also be scaled this way. Interesting idea. Not a massive change, but could make things a bit more interesting for alts.

Speaking of new zones, they all look incredibly beautiful, and all the lore seems to be about Elves, Vrykul, and Tauren, which is music to my ears.

They seem to be taking a lot of cues from Diablo for the endgame this time. There’s a new mission system that seems like a combination of traditional daily quests, D3’s adventure mode, and TSW’s new challenge system. Seems like a good idea — the emphasis seems to be on choice, which is desperately needed. We’ll see how it shakes out.

Challenge dungeons are also being converted to something like D3’s Nephalem Rifts. Failing to beat the timer is not, well, a failure — instead beating the timer simply allows you to upgrade a keystone, unlocking progressively more challenging (and rewarding) version of the dungeon, infinitely.

A preview shot of the Black Rook Hold dungeon in World of Warcraft: LegionMore emphasis on dungeons is welcome, and this sounds great for those with regular groups to run with, but I’m not sure how much it means for the rest of unwashed masses.

I am still a bit disappointed we’ve not gotten any really huge announcements, like a free to play transition or factions merging, but despite myself, I find my cautious optimism for Legion slowly becoming less cautious and more optimism.

The bad news is that Legion is not due until “summer,” which manages to be quite disappointing but not even remotely surprising. Welcome to a year of Hellfire Citadel.

Heroes of the Storm: The arena and more

The big news for Heroes is a new game mode, the arena. This seems to be an attempt to “bottle” the epic team fights that spring up around map objectives. Short, semi-randomized contests over objectives similar to those seen on the standard maps. Best two out of three wins.

Some variety is good, I suppose. Personally I think I’ll prefer the more traditional game format, but I’m sure arena will have many fans.

Heroes of the Storm arena previewA new map was also revealed, Towers of Doom. This ghastly map is part of the Raven Court universe, and promises some very unique mechanics. Cores cannot be attacked directly, only destroyed by map objectives, and there was talk of being able to take over enemy towns rather than simply destroying them, though what this means in practice is unclear.

I like this. The map looks beautiful, and it sounds like a refreshing change of pace from all the “summon a golem” maps we’ve seen lately.

There were also several new heroes announced: Genn Greymane, Cho’gall, and Lunara.

Cho’gall is by far the most mechanically unique. Taking a page from a former WoW April Fools joke, Cho’gall will actually require two players to control, one for each head.

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, that’s brilliantly original, and I can only stand in awe of Blizzard’s sheer gall (no pun intended). On the other hand, Cho’gall is a character I love, and this pretty much guarantees I will never, ever play him. So that makes me sad.

Cho’gall’s release will also be unique. For the first few months, only BlizzCon attendees and virtual ticket buyers will have access to him, but players who don’t have him can unlock him by playing with those who do. He is intended to spread across the playerbase like a virus.

A preview shot of Cho'gall in Heroes of the StormIt’s worth noting Cho’gall will eventually go up for sale normally, but not for several months.

The other two heroes, Genn and a dryad named Lunara, are not at all what I was expecting to see, but both look very, very cool. Genn appears to be able to fight as both a melee and ranged character by swapping between his Worgen and human forms, and while we don’t know much about Lunara yet, I love her aesthetics. I like that they’re going for the wilder, more dangerous version of the dryads. I mean, I love Mylune, but…

We also have confirmation that Overwatch’s Tracer will be coming to the Nexus in the future. Which brings me to…

Overwatch: Pre-sales and new heroes

Overwatch’s announcements began with an absolutely awesome trailer detailing not only all the heroes revealed over the past year, but also three new additions: Mei-ling Zhou, Hana “D.Va” Song, and Genji. All of these were teased beforehand, but now we have the details.

In a bizarre crossover, D.Va is a pro StarCraft player who now fights for her country aboard a combat mech. She can switch between mech and human forms, making for what appears to be some truly interesting gameplay.

Hana "D.Va" Song in OverwatchShe also shouts “Nerf this” when using her ultimate, which is awesome. I will be very disappointed if she doesn’t say “GG” after a kill.

Mei looks the most appealing to me. She’s a climate scientist who uses a freeze ray to trap enemies and erect ice barriers. After D.Va was announced, I figured Overwatch had hit max cuteness, but Mei is a contender for history’s most huggable video game character (sorry, Tali). She’s adorable.

Genji is a cybernetic ninja with a very interesting backstory that connects to Hanzo, Mercy, and Zenyatta. I am, however, a little disappointed that he is still primarily a ranged fighter and uses his sword only sparingly.

I am continually impressed by the incredibly colourful and inventive character design for Overwatch, and for how intensely likable Blizzard can make these characters with just a few paragraphs of backstory.

This also shows Overwatch’s commitment to diversity continuing. All three new characters are Asian, and two are female. The IDIC feels continue.

Super kawaii!The big surprise was that Overwatch will not, in fact, be free to play, but will require a box purchase (pre-orders are open now).

I am less than thrilled with this. While there is much about Overwatch that appeals to me, I’m not big on shooters and even less fond of competitive play, so I’m definitely not spending money on it unless I have a chance to try it first. Unless I’m lucky enough to get a beta invite, I might not be able to play Overwatch for a very long time.

I was also disappointed to hear no news of a story mode, an option to not have to switch heroes in-match, or third person perspective.

I don’t get it. Blizzard created this amazingly deep new setting with brilliantly original characters, and they don’t want to use it for anything but an arena where people shoot each other. They put so much effort into these excellent character designs — including optional skins — but you can’t even look at your own character. Why anyone would spend money on a skin you can’t even see yourself is beyond me.

It seems terribly wasteful. There’s so much potential in Overwatch, and the trailers always get me so pumped, but the reality of the game just seems very underwhelming right now. I don’t understand Blizzard’s reasoning.

* * *

There’s more news — like a new zone for Diablo III — but this post is already running long, and more announcements are bound to come, so I’ll save it for tomorrow’s post.

In the meantime, comment and let me know your thoughts on this year’s BlizzCon!