It’s with a sigh of relief that I can happily say: Legacy of the Void (LOTV) was a great end to the Starcraft 2 story.

Throughout the lead-up to LOTV the common question relating to the story was “Will this be a messy follow-up to Heart of the Swarm?” or “Will this just be about cleaning up the horror of the Heart of the Swarm storyline?”. It’s no secret that many felt that the HOTS campaign was quite bland, had odd continuity problems, and just didn’t have the punch that you come to expect from the middle act in a story.

From a storytelling perspective the second act in a trilogy is often the most popular or most interesting. It’s where the big questions are raised, commonly the “bad guys” are in control, and very explosive situations are setup and executed or sometimes left on a fuse for the third act. The first act tends to revolve around setup – explaining what’s going on, who these people are – those standard ‘W’ questions. The final act in a trilogy is answering all the questions set-up in the second act, so in a way it can lack some of the same kick from a storytelling point of view.

Empire Strikes Back is one of the greatest examples of this. After dealing a strong blow to the Empire in A New Hope, the Rebels got some time out to Netflix and chill with a Wampa – until the Empire shows up and starts stomping over the party. The rest of the movie brings in the aforementioned storytelling aspects that make it great – chase scenes, character development (because we know who they are, thanks to A New Hope), new questions and quests, and towards the end we’re left on the hook – not only with a spectacular plot-twist, but the bad guys are in control. What a riveting ride! Return of the Jedi is not always viewed in the same light – ignoring various questions regarding the movie itself – but because it spends a lot of the time solving the questions and quests presented in Empire.

This is just the simple nature of storytelling in trilogies or in a story overall – it’s no easy feat – and commonly there tends to be one act that lags a little behind the others. HOTS let us down in many aspects as noted above, but I was thoroughly impressed how LOTV saved the day – and it’s not just because of my Protoss bias.

SPOILERS AHEAD

In HOTS we left off with Kerrigan going for a cruise into the sky, Mengsk had been dealt with, and Zeratul was going on about the end of the universe. The templar just wanted to head back home and retake Aiur – no mean feat given that last time we were on Aiur, Tassadar had dived into the Overmind Jax Teller style in the original Starcraft 1 story, and then we had a brief glimpse of it during Brood War when Jimmy and crew had to escape through the Warp gate to get to Shakuras and hang with the Dark Templar.

It’s very important to note the distinction with that – the Templar are the “original” Protoss that we deal with initially – whereas the Dark Templar have taken a different path and don’t follow the standard fanaticism towards the Khala and other religious aspects that the OG Templar do. I know I’ve already spoiled some of it – but if you haven’t ever played the Starcraft 1 and Starcraft: Brood War campaign – you definitely should. It had excellent storytelling and wonderful characters that are recalled quite often through Starcraft 2 – especially in LOTV – it’s well worth the play-through.

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We jump into the prologue and some weird stuff is going on – Terrans are attempting to use warp-in technology (David Kim pls) and Zeratul finds out that that Tal’Darim are best buddies with Amon – certainly not a good situation to be in.

The main LOTV story starts off with a bang. In an almost iconic Protoss style that I’m sure a lot of Protoss, Zerg and Terran players alike would have been thinking “Well this is just standard Protoss…” –  as you essentially 1-A across a map saving warriors and setting up Warp nodes for reinforcements. Once that’s over, things start to get very interesting.

The downing of Zeratul was a bit of a shock to me – don’t get me wrong, I had predicted that of all the 3 main characters; he’d be the one guaranteed to go down, but this quickly? I was expecting that he’d get taken out at some point near the middle of this story, perhaps as a sacrifice to go see the Xel’Naga or something like that.

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Another interesting part that came into effect right away was how Amon was suddenly sundering the power that the Protoss had – it was a very cool element as it brought forward a lot of emotion quickly and early in the piece. One minute we’re cruising over Aiur with a foot on the gas following up that awesome intro video to LOTV – then suddenly our main hero is dead, and our forces have been swept up from underneath our feet. A true rollercoaster of emotion  and it brings in a sense of panic – what do we do now? How do we save Aiur? Are we even going to get to? What do I do with all these feels for Zeratul?

After Zeratul went down the main character arc fell to Artanis, who had been featured a little in SCBW, and in some parts through SC2 – generally by way of being a character off to the side who’d swing his mighty Protoss hammer as needed. Now as the Hierarch of the Protoss race, Artanis had a lot on his shoulders, especially without Zeratul to provide his little guiding light as to “the next step”.

I found the character development of Artanis through LOTV to be quite decent, you get to experience the struggles he goes through trying to come to terms with the fact that his wise friend is dead, that his forces have been thoroughly dismembered, and that he has to take his remaining brethren down quite a number of paths that they may not like.

Artanis recovers the Spear of Adun – an old capital ship built a long, long time ago and effectively an ark for the Protoss. Containing not only facilities for rebuilding their warriors and reviving those put into stasis a long time ago – the Spear also becomes the main hub for the player. Through a material called ‘Solarite’ we’re able to upgrade the systems on the ship, allowing some cool little abilities to be utilised during missions.

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I felt like a few of the options fell into a “why would you not take this?” and some fell into “when would this ever be useful…” but your mileage will vary of course. The ones you see above were what I was using most of the time, as I found them (especially Chrono Surge) to be most useful.

We were also to utilise the Spear to slowly bring in unit upgrades as you progressed through the campaign. I quite liked the way this was done in terms of the mechanics of it – WOL’s “pay for these new things” was a little clunky to me – though it fit Jim Raynor’s “rebel outfit” quite well. This method in LOTV was very cool, and very Protoss. After picking up new forms of tech or meeting up with new friends and soon-to-be allies, we are granted options for new units to take into the next battlefield. As with the Spear of Adun’s abilities I found some of the unit selections quite academic (Energizers are amazing) – and some seemed a little bit of a waste.

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Once you start pushing through the latter parts of the campaign some very cool units become available – including the Reaver, Arbiter and the venerable Dragoon. At some point I’m going to try and play through the campaign again using only units found in Brood War which might make an interesting challenge!

Through Wings of Liberty and HOTS we encountered a couple of “decision” missions or moments which I really wasn’t a fan of. I do understand the appeal in some situations where storytelling can be a bit of fun when the ‘reader’ gets to choose their adventure – but to me I just wanted to be a reader; someone being told a story – not being involved in it directly – at least not in the plot.

The story takes us back to Korhal, meeting up with our old buddy Jim Raynor to check out how his crew is going – and it’s not going well. Amon has started sticking his nose in all parts of the Korprulu sector, taking over Terran, Protoss and Zerg armies with gusto – wreaking havoc across many worlds, and even attempting to steal away the Xel’Naga artifact that Jimmy worked so hard to… steal himself back in WOL. Artanis, Jimmy and Valerian Mengsk team up and fight back, helping to crush some of the Hybrid forces and stop Korhal from becoming a smoking wreckage – albeit at the cost of some brothers in arms.Screenshot2015-11-17 19_52_37The scenes on Korhal were quite saddening, both Valerian and Horner down on the ground showing their condolences towards their fallen soldiers – while up above Raynor and Artanis discuss the losses in a solemn manner. It was very cool to see this re-unification again, as Jimmy and Artanis were pals back in early Brood War – if memory serves Artanis even mentions how he’s a “brave warrior” or something to that effect.

With this friendship back in action, Artanis and his crew head out, and Beard-Protoss figures out via the Xel’Naga artifact (aka Keystone) that there’s a hidden Xel’Naga platform out amongst the stars, and off they go.

At this point we’re about halfway through the campaign and I was thoroughly impressed. The storytelling did have some wishy-washy lines that didn’t make sense – including a poop-joke a little later on that just seemed silly – and in some parts I felt like some of the lines and engagements were very forced. With that said, it certainly made up for it with the emotional ride that we were on; losing heroes, meeting old friends, and trying to simply find out where this ride was taking us.

If there was a drinking game for LOTV it would probably revolve around taking a shot every time Artanis talks about “fate” – and you’d probably be quite merry after finishing the game. It’s oddly similar to how in Return of the Jedi the word “destiny” is used at least 84 times.Screenshot2015-11-15 10_29_19After Kerrigan and Artanis head into the Xel’naga crib and find out that the Xel’naga are all dead – things unravel a little. They’re forced to back out and abandon the area, as there will obviously be no salvation from the long forgotten race as they’re in a crumpled mess on the floor. There was little direction at this point and I felt like the plot device of Q Alarak was a little ham-fisted but it got the job done. We were drawing in another ally into the web and it just felt a little easy that the Tal’Darim were the ones we were to bring in – they’d been a foe for a very long time but with their “tribal war leader” mechanic in effect it wasn’t too bad.

Now with the combined forces of Jimmy and his crew, Artanis and the Spear of Adun, Kerrigan and her Swarm and now Alarak and his fanatics it was time to make another hard decision for Artanis – do we engage the Purifiers, or leave them be?

The Purifiers were somewhat similar to the rise of Skynet in the Terminator franchise. After fussing about with robotics and artificial intelligence, the Conclave tried to integrate the consciousness of warriors into the robots in the hopes of making an unstoppable army – and in a way, pave the path for immortality given that one’s consciousness could “live forever”.

But just like in the Terminator story, the machines weren’t too thrilled about the setup, and started getting all sassy about it. One of the most awesome moments of this campaign in LOTV was the revival of Fenix. I loved the character in Starcraft 1, and it was great to see him brought back after his demise on Antioch, and yet again he’s back in the thick of it. It’s a very Blizzard thing to do – bringing back those who’ve died (sometimes on multiple occasions) but the Fenix character was always a fun personality. He was generally a badass warrior and was straight up – no fussing about. In LOTV he comes back with this yet again, perhaps even more brutally honest.

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During one of the missions “Unsealing the Past” we’re tasked with heading down to a planet – Endion – which is noted as a “Forest planet” to destroy shield generators for the orbiting platform Cybros. In one of a few interesting callbacks here – this one made me giggle quite a lot given the glaringly obvious similarities to part of the Return of the Jedi storyline. There are times when the folks at Blizzard make me smile.

After bringing the Purifiers into our posse – we’ve now not only cut down quite a number of Amon’s own forces but we’ve quite boldly scaled up our own team. We’ve got the robotic Purifiers, the overtly questionable Tal’Darim, Artanis and his small group of Protoss, Kerrigan and her swarm, Vorazun and her Nerazim “Dark Templar” and also we can’t forget good old Jimmy and the Hyperion. Sounds like it should be enough to take down Amon right?

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After destroying Amon’s “body” we charge up the Xel’naga artifact and zap the infection of Amon out of the Protoss Khala, and these last few missions were pretty cool, though very similar to the WOL finale. It really felt like we were drawing the curtains on the story, with a great summary and a fantastic battle at the end. Through LOTV we saw some great character development for Artanis, and I really appreciate the work that Blizzard did with his story – it really felt like this was about him taking on the mantle of Hierarch of the Protoss and reclaiming their legacy. I still think that beard-toss was a little forced and that a couple of characters had some strange lines and quirky moments – but overall the storytelling in the main campaign was solid, and very nicely done. However, after crushing Amon’s phsyical form and freeing the remaining Protoss by cutting their “nerve cords”, we are quickly summoned by Kerrigan to head over the Xel’Naga station… and into the Void…

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I honestly felt like we could have let the story go at that point – but there were certainly a few unanswered questions, and not to mention a “fate” that hadn’t really come to fruition. Throughout WOL and HOTS, Kerrigan was tipped as the “savior” of the universe, one way or another. Given that it hadn’t really gone down that way through the main campaign, obviously something big was coming up here in the epilogue.

With these remaining three missions we’re pulled into a strange story where “Tassadar” asks us to come help out – and it turns out another old “friend” is the one keeping him in chains – Narud.

Across these final missions it seems like a wholehearted “goodbye” to the franchise – in the first epilogue mission you play Protoss, the second you play Terran and defend Kerrigan as she ascends into a Xel’Naga, and then in the final mission you finish things off as Zerg. It felt strange at first after playing around 15 missions as Protoss – but somewhat poetic, to me quite a heartfelt way of signing off to the story of the Starcraft world.

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Even as a very passionate player of Starcraft since the early days – I’d like things to be left as they are, with no Starcraft 3 after this. I think things were tidied up nice and tight, with many of our primary heroes fading away, and much of the universe now in a neat little order. When any story, TV show or heck even movie (hello Fast and the Furious…) goes on for too long it starts to lose quite a lot of it’s ability to provide memorable moments. Often, characters are resurrected, or clones are created in an attempt to refocus back to what we once knew. I’d like to hope that we can leave this book closed with no further chapters, but I do think that Blizzard have done a solid job with this last chapter, not exactly a “happily ever after” ending (thankfully…) but also not one that is shrouded in misery and disappointment.

Legacy of the Void was a great completion of this franchise, and I’ll definitely be playing through it again at some point soon to catch some of the things I undoubtedly missed. I trust you have also had an enjoyable experience.