So, here we have the final part of the Starcraft 2 trilogy, Legacy of the Void. A series of games that kicked off around 5 years ago, mirroring the classic games format of a campaign for each race in the order Terran, Zerg and Protoss. Blizzard took something of a risk by making each 20 odd hour Starcraft 2 campaign a single race affair for each game, but so far the results have been stellar. Each game allowed for a discrete story to be told while the overarching series plot weaved in and out. It also allowed for experimentation of the Real Time Strategy game formula in that each race has had it's own upgrade system and mechanics. Legacy of the Void is no different in this regard and while I felt the plot was the weakest of the trilogy, it's still a fantastic romp with high production values and super tight gameplay.
The RPG twist on the RTS formula this time around is the Spear of Adun. It's a massive spacecraft capable of holding an entire nation of Protoss as well as a reserve of warriors in suspended animation. If this sounds a bit like an Eldar Craftworld for Warhammer 40,000, that's because it kind of is. It's also not the only nod to 40K on show here but it's all done with Blizzard's own design flair so it's just different enough in concept and execution that it feels like it's not a rip off. That's also keeping in mind that a lot of stuff in 40K isn't exactly original and that Starcraft was once a game based on the franchise many many many moons ago. Anyway, the Spear of Adun has several abilities which in themselves have several levels that can be customised between missions. You collect solarite during missions and this can be allocated to these abilities. Anything left over can be pumped into a higher starting unit stock, fast construction or faster shield regeneration. Units are treated in a similar way, having three upgrade paths each based on the factions you'll meet during the campaign. Unit upgrades are not a simple case of having a different abilities though. Some units are changed entirely based on your choice of upgrade, going from say War of the Worlds style walking laser death machine to tanks that fire massive explosives that are so powerful that they need to be built by said stuit in the field. Combining these two factors, ship abilities and unit loadout, results in a satisfyingly broad amount of player options to suit every style.
Story wise, the closing part of the series sees you take on the roll of Artanis as he goes around the universe trying to reunite the scattered remnants of the Protoss race and defeat the fallen Xel'Naga, Amon. If this doesn't mean anything to you don't worry. Even as a veteran that's finished all the games in the series at least once, I found myself having to read up on the story to figure out what on earth was going on. I suppose there's no avoiding this when the games were released years apart. Thankfully for those who just want an overview or a bit of a refresher, there's a catch up movie that can viewed in the menu. This will probably suffice for most people. The presentation of the story is done through a mixture of lavish high quality cut scenes, in mission dialogue and conversations in the game hub. The latter is technically optional but adds a huge amount of flavour to the current goings on and rivalries between the Protoss factions.
From a visual standpoint, the game has had a few upgrades here and there but nothing drastic. It runs on a broad range of hardware as ever and for the most parts is fine chugging along on high settings on my 3 year old laptop. I'd argue the most impressive thing on show here, visually, is the art style anyway. It's a very pretty game which ever way you look at it though. The one thing I have got an issue with is the cloud saving. My saves always seem to be a few missions behind when loading up the game on different machines, thus making the system pointless. I had the exact same issue with Heart of the Swarm and it's a bit of a joke that it's still an issue after all these years. Thankfully the client itself seems to be quite robust as is the game. I suffered one random battle.net disconnect and zero in game crashes while playing the campaign.
Overall, negatives are few. I think that the in game army interface could do with some kind of hotbar for when multiple units are selected. I appreciate that these can be accessed by hot keys but a visual interface for us more casual players would be welcome. I feel that HotS has the better RPG elements and going back to just controlling standard units most the time was a bit of a let down. The customisation in LotV is still great in it's own way though. My last issue is with the Protoss themselves. The pompous space elf thing gets a bit tiring at times and I found them the least engaging of the three races in the game. It's a pretty minor gripe though and becomes less of an issue once other factions join the crusade.
While I'm not even close to being good enough to take on the multiplayer myself, I'm a massive fan of watching professional Starcraft 2 Tournaments. Specifically the Shoutcraft ones. What I've gathered from the LotV matches so far is that the game is now even more fast paced, with base set up times being reduced. It's mostly minor tweaks to shake up the high level play meta from what I gather. As an average player you'll probably not notice a huge difference. It's still the same solid competitive multiplayer experience loved my millions all over the world.
Legacy of the Void has an additional mode to check out in the form of co-op. This game type consists of two players doing campaign style missions with a special hero unit that can be leveled up. The choice of hero has quite the impact as they each have fixed troop types and abilities. In the case of the Zerg, the hero unit is quite literally spawns on the map ready to aid in battle. This looks very much like an extension of the Last Stand co-op mode in Dawn of War Retribution but more fleshed out and with base building. It's a rather cool addition to the expansion and well worth checking out if you have a buddy who's not so keen on the steep learning curve of the online PvP.
As a package, there's a lot of content to get through here. If you're a starcraft fan, buying this should be a no brainer. I'd go as far as saying that for anyone with even a passing interest in real time strategy games. I suppose it could be said that you're not going to get the most out of of single player if you missed Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm but then again you could get both of those and Legacy of the Void for roughly the price of one full cost console game at the time of writing. That suddenly turns the experience into a sixty hour adventure before you even look at all the other bundled content. Whichever way you look at it then, this is a great expansion that could easily be called a full game in it's own right and an essential purchase.