With the promise coming from Gamescom that StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void will truly launch this year, I can’t help but echo the thoughts of Tychus Findlay from the original cinematic trailer way back in 2007: Hell, it’s about time.
In the run up to Legacy of the Void, customers who reserve the game have been given access to three prologue missions designed to bridge the gap between 2013’s StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm and the new game (they'll be free to everyone later on). These missions revolve around the Protoss Dark Templar and pseudo-mystic, Zeratul, who has spent the past couple of games banished from his civilization as a heretic warning of a dire prophecy to whomever would listen.
It's understandable if that's all a bit foggy. The path through the twisting and at times unwieldy plots and sub-plots of StarCraft 2 is not easily navigable, particularly as it has evolved from a game primarily about one man’s obsession with his evil and mostly chitin-covered ex-girlfriend to one about galactic prophecies and the millennia-long impact of a particularly bad eugenics project. So here's a quick refresher.
Void where prohibited
The prophecy is centered around the “Fallen One,” Amon, a renegade member of a once hyper-advanced and now presumably long-dead race called the Xel’Naga, and Amon’s attempts to escape from the titular “Void” so he can do what all prophesied, evil creatures of immeasurable power are wont to do: kill everything. Zeratul’s attempts to thwart this prophecy have driven much of the narrative action of the past two games, including being the reason that James Raynor, at the end of StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, restores the humanity of his genetically modified half-zerg, half-human, ex-girlfriend Kerrigan—aka the Queen of Blades.
Of course, Zeratul goes on in the very next game to convince Kerrigan that now the only way to stop the prophecy is for her to, you guessed it, turn back into a slightly more powerful version of the Queen of Blades. So, points off for consistency, I guess.
The narrative does some Olympics-level gymnastics to justify itself on these and countless other points, but to go down the twisty logical route that helps one understand all the mumbo-jumbo would be an exercise beyond the scope of this article. For the sake of expediency, just know this: The Xel’Naga created the Protoss and Zerg. One of their more powerful members, Amon, corrupted the Zerg, and imposed his will on the Zerg’s Overmind. The Zerg launched a war that destroyed the Xel’Naga. In the process Amon was killed or at least banished to the “Void,” and he’s been trying ever since to return and fulfill his insidious plans.
This brings us to the Prologue missions.
Whispers of Oblivion
The prologue opens with the heretic Protoss Zeratul continuing his crusade to interpret the prophecy that tells of how Amon will be reborn, leading him to search for hints left behind by Narud, a shapeshifter that had been disguised as a Terran researcher until he was killed in Heart of the Swarm. In the process, Zeratul finds himself trying to rescue trapped Protoss on a Terran facility that is in the process of being overrun by Kerrigan and the Zerg.
Kerrigan and Zeratul have a complicated relationship, one that usually manifests in a particularly juicy cinematic fight, or at least has in both previous StarCraft 2 games. Here, however, Kerrigan is single-mindedly focused on destroying the Terran research into hybridization—creating creatures that are varying mixtures of human, Zerg and Protoss—and instead becomes an in-mission hazard to be avoided rather than confronted. While Zerg swarm periodically through the heart of the base, your mission is to side-step those conflicts and focus on releasing your brethren.
This process leads Zeratul to discover a plot involving the Tal’Darim, a sect of evil Protoss who seek to help Amon get out of his Void-y prison. This becomes the central plot points for the final two missions.
The missions themselves each have a particular flavor and gimmick associated with them that mirrors previous levels from the game, but none rise to the level of the best of what’s come before. The maps themselves are largely static places where you’re provided iterations of tasks to perform, but in the end they feel like exactly what they really are: a little bonus StarCraft to keep you busy while you wait.
Just a taste
None of the cool stuff promised for the expansion exists in here. No new units to play around with. None of the co-operative play. It’s more a Protoss-centered epilogue to Heart of the Swarm than an introduction to what the experience of Legacy of the Void will be like.
Which is fine enough, all things considered. After all, the prologue serves its fundamental purpose of setting key players like Zeratul, Kerrigan, and Amon into the right stage blocking for Legacy of the Void. With Arcturus Mengsk, the long-time villain of the series, now out of the picture it makes sense to try and set the scene for the final act where our ragtag heroes are now fighting an actual god as opposed to an emperor who just thought of himself as one.
Still, the difference between grocking Legacy’s story and not isn’t likely to rely on whether you dive into the Prologue missions or not. It’s some nice flavor-narrative for those of us paying attention, but as with World of Warcraft and Diablo, the story is really more there for those who dig the lore than to drive the game itself.
If you’re going to be playing Legacy of the Void anyway, there’s no reason not to get a fresh fix. StarCraft 2 still holds up as a fun game, even when the substance itself is missing a beat or two.