StarCraft II: Legacy Of The Void
A few months back when some of my gaming developer contacts reported to me that the next installment of the StarCraft II franchise was finally nearing a release, I have to admit that I sniggled juuuuuuust a little bit. StarCraft’s next game is really going to come out – I said to myself, come on! I sort of dismissed them out of hand as overly optimistic StarCraft fanboys who were just drooling at the prospect (however unrealistic) of it actually happening, after all, I’d heard similar rumblings in the past, year-after-year.
Five years in fact. That’s how long it has been since Blizzard released StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, which was one of the flagship RTS titles at the time. Well, besides the Warhammer franchise there really weren’t any other games holding the RTS banner high around that time. Sadly, the Age of Empires series had fizzled out (although I am excited about the recently released Age of Empires II HD: The African Kingdoms expansion), with its death knell sounding after the release of the abysmal Age of Empires Online, and the Total War series weren’t ever truly RTS games.
Modern times haven’t been kind to the RTS genre as well, as over the past five years (and beyond) the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) juggernaut has vampirically suctioned them away and filled them up within its ranks. In an age where attention spans are measured in milliseconds, and developing an in-depth strategy is viewed as too old school and boring (code words for actually having to stop and think), the MOBA genre has taken the gaming world by storm. StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void gallantly fills the rather vacuous RTS void by standing up and saying: “Nay—we are not finished yet!” But does such a brave proclamation hold any weight in today’s gaming climate…?
Honestly speaking, the StarCraft series has always seemed like Warhammer 40k lite. Whereas the latter always maintained a more realistic, grimy, war-torn aesthetic, StarCraft games feature a much more cartoony, bright, and cheery look. It’s almost like comparing Metal Gear Solid’s Snake to one of the Mario Brothers. Even StarCraft’s three main races are direct facsimiles of Warhammer 40k’s; the wise, tech-advanced Protoss being the space-elf Eldar; the Marines are the Space Marines; and the Zerg representing the horrid Tyranids.
As far as the core mechanics of Legacy of the Void are concerned, the tried and true gathering up resources with peasant units and build up a base and military forces—formula is fully represented here, and that is a good thing in my opinion. However, when it comes to its actual gameplay, things begin to fall apart. First of all, the game is just way too fast. Combat is truly a case of throwing your most powerful units against your enemies and just hoping things turn out in your favor, with almost non-existent micro-ing.
Whereas in older RTS games, such as the classic, first Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War, players could adjust the game speed in order to slow the action down and in that way, better manage their armies, here the action is frenetic and confusing, like much else these days. This may be a boon for more fast-twitch, hot key wizards (usually of the younger variety) who don’t play games to experience them, but rather merely as something to win. But for more seasoned gamers who actually like to utilize strategy and tactics across a more lengthy time table, Legacy of the Void can seem spastic and bereft of any actual depth. Sure, Blizzard has sprinkled in a few new units and game modes, but most of the time it just boils down to building the most powerful units and spamming them against your foes as quickly as possible. Playing it with like-minded friends can be a more enjoyable experience, however.
To its merit, Legacy of the Void features a fully fleshed out (and lengthy for the game’s price) campaign. It centers on various Protoss factions which are vying for power, and I found the narrative, along with the space-dungeon-esque hero romps, pretty entertaining. Although they play out rather predictably, with flashy cut scenes dropped in here and there, the presentation is polished and really makes the most of the game’s aging StarCraft II engine.
Multiplayer is sure to please fans of the StarCraft series, and offers a good amount of replay value when the campaign has been completed. It features daily tournaments that both pros and intermediate players (non-ladder as well as ladder) can be matched up and participate in. StarCraft II: Legacy Of The Void also introduces a first for the series: Full-on co-op modes, where players can either be connected at the waist and control one base together, or play together in a fun objective-based mode, where players team up and tackle missions together.
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void’s visuals really nail the jazzy, color-saturated look that it strives for—fans of more cartoonish graphics will be right at home here. For what they are, they serves their purpose well. Meanwhile, the sound department checks in nicely, with great hefty explosions, zappy laser sounds, and girthy yells and screams from fallen enemies. The spoken monologues and dialogues are a bit indecipherable at some points during the campaign, but there is enough that unfolds on-screen for players to get the gist of what’s going on. Gamers with higher end gaming PCs (especially those with 4k gaming rigs) will be especially impressed.
In conclusion, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void is a welcome addition to the rather thinned-out RTS ranks, and shows that the genre still has life in it yet (thankfully). While its super-frenzied gameplay doesn’t necessarily suit myself, others who are into faster games will probably love this one. It features a good storyline, colorful units and environments, a decent campaign, and a healthy multiplayer scene with a full suite of features and game modes. I, for one, am glad that the RTS’s of old seem to be making a comeback.
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