I wanted to air my opinion about StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void. This will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t finished the single-player story campaign (beside the epilogue, which I haven’t played either), skip this post. Probably spoilers in the comments as well.
If you wish to see my real-time reaction while playing the game, I’ve posted many screenshots to the facebook album Icel Plays StarCraft.
I’m going to touch mostly things I didn’t like about the game, since they bother me the most. Overall, it’s a very good RTS and a very good epic space opera story. But the problem is that it’s a terrible StarCraft story. It is a similar problem I had with Skyfall, for example. Skyfall was a very good movie- but a bad James Bond film.
What made the original SC and Brood War so good was their focus on the war drama itself, and the characters involved in it. It was a human story about a war between aliens. The Zerg were an existential threat, yes. But mostly for the Terran in the Koprulu sector. Part of the amazing UED cinematic in Brood War was their propaganda that the Overmind was planning an invasion of Earth- just like real life war propaganda (and a tribute to the amazing 1997 Starship Troopers film).
Brood War was never about epic, world/galactic threat to all life. On the same vain, WarCraft 2 wasn’t about a threat that can destroy the world either. It was about the Orcs and Humans fighting for land, essentially. It wasn’t until WarCraft 3 that the rumored demon army became a reality and the world was at stake.
For a lesser extent, both Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm had some of the same qualities that made the original game excellent. Yes, WoL had the protoss “memory missions” that first started the Amon storyline, but they were not the meat of the story- it was a war story, about a civil war and later an awesome invasion to the evil aliens plant.
HotS was a more personal story that showed us a conflicted Kerrigan, at the same time still the megalomaniac, revenge driven, Queen of Blades, and a more humane Sarah that agreed to give time to evacuate civilians. What’s more interesting is that her character conflict wasn’t resolved by the end of the game.
HotS also gave us some of the best alien characters with Dehaka, Abatur and Zagara.
And then we have Legacy of the Void. An entire campaign that only deals with the end-of-the-universe storyline. Almost no character development. Almost no war drama. Just the protoss destroying everything that made them protoss, supposedly because they discovered they were created by the dark-evil itself (why is the khala affected despite being created almost a millennium after the protoss drove their gods away, I don’t know).
Beside the destruction of Shakuras (an act in line with past protoss behavior, I don’t have a problem with it), every plot twist in this campaign was predictable. Since the first trailer showed Artanis using a green warp blade, it was obvious Zeratul would die. Since they introduced the faction system, it was obvious the Tal’darim will change side and join them.
And about those Tal’darim, where did they come from? Yes, every protoss bad guys since WoL were Tal’darim, but we were told they’re just a religious fanatic sect. Suddenly they’re a whole faction on the same level as the Dark Templar, with a homeworld and whole culture of their own (which is essentially the same as the Sith Empire from the Old Republic), existing since the Aeon of Strife and having no connection to the Khala (the same Khala that ended that civil war, but for some reason now the protoss can live without).
Speaking of evil guys, every evil guy in this campaign is brainwashed. No ideological differences, no political agendas. I think I would’ve been more okay with the whole threat to the universe if at least Amon was more subtle about it and not mind-rape every one of his servants (also, the preserver becoming corrupted was obvious. They tried telling a minor story there about how the Khala is worth saving, but they abandoned even that).
And the last thing I’ll say about this storyline: everything was foretold from the beginning of the universe? Really? They even etched Kerrigan’s image on the walls? Just no.
About the presentation, here I’m torn. On the one hand, they “drew inspiration” from a lot of sources. There are parts where you can just see Star Wars or Mass Effect or Dragon Age clearly, and it bothers me (I felt like the guy from CinemaSins, narrating some of those moments). On the other hand, Blizzard always have tons of references in their game, and we usually love it. So I can’t decide.
I will say they used those influences to create an amazing epic space opera story. Yes, I don’t like the “starcraft-iness” of the game, but if I separate it from their previous works, it’s an amazing space opera game.
More good stuff: a lot of excellent cinematic. The Spear of Adun power system. The side characters (again I’m torn if bringing cylon-Fenix into this was a good idea, but I like his character development). The soundtrack is amazing. Most of the missions themselves.
There are only 19 missions, but with the cinematics and RPG elements it took me about 10 hours to finish it on Normal. I wanted it to be longer, but it isn’t bad.
However, we got some very annoying defense missions I thought we left behind in WoL. And the freaking final mission was defending the damn artifact AGAIN.
Also, despite making a big deal about it, Kerrigan had nothing to do with defeating Amon. That is a completely wasted bit of storytelling.
I liked it. It’s an amazing RTS. It’s worth the money I paid for it. But god, Blizzard, I want my war drama back. Take away all the elder gods and threats to the galaxy. Give me personal stories again.