Legacy of the Void is the final chapter of the Starcraft II saga, and at long last we get to play as the final race yet to feature in the campaign. The Protoss have always been a favourite of ours, and we haven't been able to escape the feeling that Blizzard have been saving the best for last. There is something epic about the Protoss' desperate struggle. All races fight to save the galaxy from Amon and the hybrids, but the Protoss are also fighting to reclaim their home world and save a culture on the brink of extinction. This desperation comes across as more genuine and credible, and that's why we found ourselves holding our breath as we kicked off the main campaign of Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void.
Nothing has been held back this time around. Without Kerrigan's Zerg monsters as a constant threat, the Protoss have built an armada to reclaim their home planet. During the first mission we take part in a massive invasion and we feel overwhelmingly powerful as our armies of Protoss rollers destroy legions of almost helpless Zerg.
The Protoss has a Battlestar Galactica or Quarian-like quality to them. They are an exiled people who have been travelling between stars in a giant fleet, with dreams of reclaiming old glories. Now they have true purpose. The protagonist of the campaign is Artanis, the charismatic and sympathetic leader of the Protoss. Where Jim Raynor is an impulsive cowboy and Sarah Kerrigan is vindictive and merciless, Artanis is revealed as sensible and tactically skilled. He considers his options carefully and always has his people's best interests as his main motivation. We enjoyed playing as Protoss in Legacy of the Void because it feels as there is an end goal. Something meaningful and grand.
Within the missions the tasks before you always make sense. There are no pointless retrieval or guard missions, but specific and tactical tasks that usually provide real benefits, both in terms of the campaign in general and within the missions themselves. Starcraft games have always been good at giving the quests a sense of importance, and Legacy of the Void is no exception.
The story of the three-way conflict in the Starcraft universe ends spectacularly in Legacy of the Void, with philosophical undertones and epic set-pieces. The distant and vague threat represented by Amon and the hybrids in the two previous games is now close and very much real, and in the midst of it all Artanis is trying to do what he feels is best for his people. But what is the best path? Ensuring a future for one people, or a future for all races in the galaxy? The cutscenes between missions are both beautiful and violent, as we've become accustomed to in the Starcraft II series. Add Artanis' struggle and the cinematic feel is complete. We have never felt that the Starcraft II gameplay quite lives up to glorious cutscenes, but we still get carried away by them and the underlying storylines.
To this end, the fact of the matter is that design and gameplay, the balance between power and in-depth strategy, are still main strengths. That being said, Legacy of the Void spices up the same polished gameplay with new options in the single-player campaign. These new additions come from Artanis' command ship, the Spear of Adun. The ability to call in a pylon anywhere, or to call in bombardment from space, provides new and previously unimagined possibilities in the heat of battle. Our favourite tactic with the Protoss has always been to build lots of Warp Gates, and then teleport large quantities of zealots in behind enemy lines. This tactic has become even more proficient in Legacy of the Void because you no longer need to send a probe out in dangerous territories to build a pylon you can warp to.
The Starcraft II series is also renowned for its strong multiplayer. In South Korea professional Starcraft tournaments were shown on television many years before Dota or League of Legends enjoyed the popularity it does today. Blizzard and Starcraft have always been praised for having gameplay so balanced that the player's skills and tactics, and not luck or overpowered units, are the deciding factor. Even so, with The Legacy of the Void Blizzard proves that they are not afraid to tweak an already stellar formula. Among the new additions we find a co-operative mode where you can play with a friend, and an option where players can play competitively in pairs, called Archon Mode. There are also a handful of new units that all serve their purpose well.
Visually there is little difference between this and the previous two games, which is somewhat disappointing but not a major concern. The textures and the models do look a bit outdated even at ultra settings, but Blizzard has always been ahead of its competition when it comes to animation and character design. Everything holds up surprisingly well. Also, the soundtrack is simply magical and, as in all Starcraft games, the voice acting and dialogue is enough to give you goosebumps.
In the end the conclusion is simple: if you enjoyed the first two chapters in the series, there's absolutely no reason to skip the epic conclusion. Blizzard has spent five years trying to tweak the formula, and Legacy of the Void comes close to perfecting it. The gameplay, map design, story and multiplayer will, between them, give you hours of fun, even if there are no groundbreaking changes to the game's recipe. The only things we missed were some visual updates and a user interface that's easier to navigate, but then again we don't find ourselves spending too much time in the menus, after all there's a war to be won.