Blizzard’s Failed Legacy
One of my earliest memories, if not the earliest, is being four or five years old and watching the ending cinematic for Blizzard’s original Diablo.
Yes, my folks made some questionable parenting decisions.
Diablo was the first game I had ever played, and it quickly got me hooked into the entire Blizzard catalogue. The only Blizzard games I haven’t played are Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm. I have at least a basic level of lore knowledge for all of their main universes. I am a tremendous fan.
Which is why Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void is such a bitter disappointment.
The Starcraft franchise has dipped in relevance with the rise of MMOs and MOBAs, but the original Starcraft essentially created e-sports. To this day, it remains my favorite video game.
Fair warning: Starcraft and Starcraft II spoilers abound, accompanied by an angry rant. You can cut to the last paragraph if you want the non-spoilery summary.
The original Starcraft was released in 1998. Wings of Liberty, the first game in the sequel trilogy, didn’t come out until 2010. Legacy of the Void, the final game in said trilogy, came out in November of 2015.
I was already hyped for this game, and then the trailer, depicting a Protoss effort to reclaim Auir, was released.
The Fall of Auir occurred midway through the original Starcraft game, ripping the Protoss civilization apart. The reclamation of Auir holds a symbolic significance that is unrivaled in the franchise.
And after two or three missions spent on the assault, you lose control of the entire Protoss invasion force in a cutscene and have to give up Auir again.
That is terrible writing. Auir meant something. Yeah, the sudden twist set the stakes for the game, but you cannot sacrifice a years-old plotline just to raise stakes.
And it’s all the more tragic because Blizzard simultaneously did effectively set the stakes by killing off Zeratul.
Zeratul’s death was well done. His arc revolved around his victories being turned against him. Across the course of the series, this tendency had him more and more isolated, until nearly his entire race treated him as a pariah. He was a noble but tragic figure. Letting his possessed friend kill him in order to reverse said possession is a perfect end to his arc and warns us just how bad things will get.
Killing off Zeratul is cruelty with purpose. Tearing away Auir is just gratuitous.
Unfortunately, the problems don’t stop there. The entirety of Starcraft II has suffered from some degree of oversimplification, but Legacy kicks it up a notch.
The original Starcraft was all about complex, factional politics. Each race had multiple factions. As you moved through the campaigns, you were able to experience in each a half dozen perspectives. In Brood War, you both charge into battle alongside Fenix and later brutally murder him. Even the monstrous villain who ultimately emerges, Sarah Kerrigan, is complicated and deeply sympathetic despite having a penchant for genocide (more on her later).
In Legacy of the Void, that’s gone. There is no more effort to become the dominant faction; everyone unites with little trouble. Hell, it’s not even a battle between humanoids anymore, but a struggle against Amon, a godlike being whose sole motivation is “Kill them all.” It’s simplistic and boring. Even the color scheme is more simplistic: the evil factions are all black and red, no exceptions.
And the endgame, the finale of a nearly 20-year-old franchise? Boring and insulting. You reinvade Auir to prevent the aforementioned god from materializing, which you do by destroying a few defensive structures and then watching as your fleet wipes out his body. The majority of the game’s missions boil down to “Break these five objects,” so it’s pretty stale by this point, especially since you don’t even get to confront the god.
The last mission is more interesting, a clever and frenetic variant on Starcraft’s classic “hold the line” missions, but it’s tough to care by that point. Any feelings you did have are then shredded by the epilogue… bringing me back to Kerrigan.
Sarah Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, is easily my favorite Starcraft character. She is forced to become the Queen of Blades, but in time, she embraces it, even revels in it. She is terrifying, cunning, and overwhelmingly powerful. She handily outplays five rival factions in Brood War. She is the self-proclaimed Queen Bitch of the Universe, and pretty damn happy about it.
By the time Legacy ends, Kerrigan is a full-on hero, so weighed down with guilt that she’s willing to sacrifice everything to become a Xel’Naga like Amon so she can destroy him forever.
A few things.
First, her ascended form is essentially just her original form doubled in size and turned gold.
Second, it hovers, but it can’t fly.
Third, you get to use her in the final mission, and her supposed godlike strength is nowhere close to what you would expect.
Fourth, all her villainous traits, which had admittedly diminished in Legacy’s predecessor, are completely ignored.
And finally, the animators are sure to very carefully craft her butt.
Seriously. Kerrigan is the most intimidating and powerful character in the franchise. Yet somehow, her precisely rendered ass manages to be the focal point of her character model.
I don’t even know what to say about that. I think its ludicrousness speaks for itself.
I waited years for Legacy of the Void. I have never been so hyped to play a game. But it was a terrible letdown.
With this latest iteration of Starcraft, Blizzard has sucked the life out of one of the world’s most famous video games. If you only care about the multiplayer, you’ll probably be fine, but if you care about the story at all? This game is an abysmal failure, a miserable plunge from the franchise’s height.
I’m gonna go bitterly replay Brood War now.