According to the Blizzard developers working on it, the Legacy of the Void campaign is about one thing: Protoss fantasy. It’s a campaign made for people who take internet quizzes like “Who is your Protoss crush?” and “Are you High Templar, Dark Templar, or Tal’Darim?”
But even if you think the Protoss are a bunch of mouthless space know-it-alls, Legacy of the Void looks like it’s going to offer one of the most interesting single-player campaigns in a trilogy that’s become known for space operatics and innovative mission and campaign design.
There’s an air of finality to the way Blizzard is approaching Legacy of the Void. During the opening ceremony they promised that all questions would be answered, and that each of the three major races would have its story reach a satisfying conclusion with this final instalment of StarCraft 2.
This is unusual for Blizzard. Their stories are notoriously, frustratingly open-ended. If you were invested in the unfolding tragedy of Arthas’ slide into a moral abyss in Warcraft 3, it took the better part of a decade to see where that story ended. StarCraft has been torturing Sarah Kerrigan and Jim Raynor for sixteen years, reversing every major plot development almost as soon as it happens. She’s Zerg now! She’s chosen to stay with the Swarm! Wait, no, she can be human again! No, hang on, humanity sucks. Zerg for life!
Theoretically, Legacy of the Void is going to pay off on every dangling bit of story as Amon, the evil Xel’Naga who set the Zerg swarm in motion, returns to bring about the galaxy’s end-times. To stave off this final threat, the Protoss lead Artanis is making a return after a lengthy absence from the stage.
Even for someone who has gotten a bit exhausted of evil ancient precursor races (seriously, when are they ever not complete dicks?), there’s a nice air of fatalism and wistful grandeur to Legacy of the Void that, if Blizzard live up to their word, will be an appropriate tone for the end of one of the longest-running sagas in RTS games.
The fading glory and long-shot hopes of the Protoss are embodied in the Spear of Adun, a massive “ark vessel” designed at the height of the Protoss empire for just the kind of shitstorm that’s struck the race. The voyage of the Spear of Adun gives the campaign its structure, just as the Battlecruiser Hyperion gave shape to Wings of Liberty. But the Spear of Adun is a more memorable device, a massive and elegant clockwork warship that carries enough firepower and troops to carry on a war by itself.
Most importantly, it’s also upgradeable with a variety of in-mission super powers. Basically, the ship levels up and becomes a more useful tool as you work through the campaign. For instance, it’s always available to just unleash an orbital bombardment into the middle of a mission. You simply click the right button on the hotbar at the top of the screen, and the game pauses as you go into targeting mode and paint five targets on the map. A second later, a salvo of devastating plasma blasts will saturate the area.
Not everything is a magical super power, some of it is much more utilitarian. For instance, the Spear of Adun can also cast an instantaneous proxy pylon, which is a handy way to move a mission along with some warped-in reinforcements.
There’s also a series of options for upgrading each of the Protoss units, in keeping with the theme of Artanis’ quest to unite the disparate Protoss faction. But unlike the permanent, mutually exclusive choices of Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, you can change the loadout of your units from mission to missions. So if you want the Zealots that do an area-of-effect whirlwind attack in melee for one mission, but you want the ones that do a cloak-and-stun attack for the next, you can go to your armory and make the switch at any time.
During the Blizzcon panel on the campaign, the developers explained that Artanis’ first order of business with the new warship is to liberate the Protoss homeworld of Aiur, which has been getting all creeped-out by the Zerg since StarCraft 1 and is basically hellscape. But as is so often the case for StarCraft heroes, Artanis and the Protoss get the rug yanked out from under them almost as soon as they put their plan into action. Their impending victory turns to ash as Amon corrupts the Protoss collective consciousness, forcing Artanis to cut himself and all his forces off from the shared connection that defines the race.
From there, the campaign moves into familiar territory as Artanis goes around chatting up other characters and forging an alliance to deal with the impending onslaught. Since Legacy of the Void is also the conclusion to Raynor and Kerrigan’s respective stories, they’ll play a major role in events. But this is really a Protoss show, and it’s a final reckoning for a race that’s was touched by darkness at their inception.
The mission I played was fairly standard for StarCraft campaign mission: you and your army have to save a plummeting Terran defense platform from crushing Jim Raynor’s capital city on Korhal. To save the situation, you have to run around securing a bunch of different thrusters from rebel Terran forces. It was a bit too familiar a scenario from earlier campaigns, and stuck to Heart of the Swarm’s more bite-sized approach to level design.
Still, it was just one, early mission. It was also great having access to classic Protoss units like the mighty Dragoon once again, and using them to bulldoze a Terran base like in the days of old. The Spear of Adun feels a bit overpowered but, of course, that’s the point. Legacy of the Void is about the Protoss finally getting their own back after five games of getting kicked up and down the Korprulu sector, and watching every scheme blow up in their faces (or require some kind of depressing sacrifice).
Hopefully, the full campaign features some of the more exciting mission design we saw in Wings of Liberty, like the dawn-to-dusk Alamo mission for the Terrans, or the battle on the lava world.
But like Blizzard said, Legacy of the Void is about the “Protoss fantasy” the way HotS sold the Zerg fantasy. HotS was about setting up scenarios where Kerrigan and her Swarm could just rip people apart like it was an extension of the Zerg-porn cutscenes. Legacy of the Void is about the best-trained immortal warriors in the galaxy coming back for their final fight.
I just hope it feels as epic as it’s evidently supposed to feel, and not like a series of fetch quests and beat-downs the way the Heart of the Swarm could be. For the end of this series, it’d be nice to see it go out on a high note that will be as replayable as Brood War and Wings were.