I played StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty when it first launched but after that, and for the longest time, I couldn’t get my hands on the other campaigns, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the void, the Zerg and Protoss campaigns respectively. But then a big digital sale came around near the end of last year!
But even so, the games languished in my backlog until just very recently when I decided to binge on them, to complete the campaigns and see the rest of the story, following Kerrigan and Zeratul.
I loved Wings of Liberty, it had a great mix of search & destroy missions—where the goal is to raise and army and crush the opposing bases—and other styles, from one-off infiltration missions, hero missions and even a few resistance-type missions, where the goal is to simply hold out for given time or until story events trigger.
I kicked off Heart of the Swarm excited to see the next step in Kerrigan’s story, a bit confused about her becoming the Queen of Blades once more after reclaiming her humanity at the end of the Human campaign, wondering what would make her turn back. I loved the story. Kerrigan, despite once again assuming the mantle of leadership of the Zerg, was herself again, pragmatic and decisive but not overly cruel and with a crushing vulnerability hidden behind bravado, a lot of attitude, psionic power and her insectoid carapace. I am a bit disappointed that her visual design didn’t change and was just a rehash of the original Queen of Blades look, especially once you meet the Primal Zerg. I hoped her appearance would match theirs, less insectoid, more saurian.
But once again I found a great mix of mission styles, even having one where you begin as a Zerg larva, slithering across the ground and infesting other bodies around you and eventually growing into a Brood Mother. It brought back memories of Alien vs Predator 2 on PC from ages ago.
Heart of the Swarm also gave you Kerrigan to run around with and you could even customise her powers, turning her into a walking siege engine. She complemented your strategies and often served to counteract some of your deficiencies.
So, loving the first two campaigns, I expected Legacy of the Void to be the tour de force of StarCraft II, the crowning achievement in campaign and story design. But what I found was a subpar story with a profoundly boring campaign structure, one that at times feels simply unfair.
The Protoss are slow, their units are expensive and even the basic Zealot takes ages to come out. It stands above the other species’ basic units of course, and that’s what offsets their cost, the sheer power they wield. But one thing the protoss are terrible at is crunch time. Everything about them takes ages, even with the building time speed boosts you unlock—and yes, that includes the super boost you can unlock with Solarite.
And yet, almost every mission in that campaign is a time-crunch, both the cases where you have an actual timer or counter and those where you need to complete an objective as fast as possible or the opposing forces will become overwhelming. And unlike the previous two expansions, you don’t have a Hero unit running around with you to fill in those gaps. Nope, you’re on your own.
Worse still is that where the other campaigns slowly ramp up the difficulty, having you deal with basic or weak units first, the Protoss campaign skips that entirely while still locking your units and structures behind story progression, meaning that for your starter missions you’re dealing with Zerg Ultralisks and Abominations and even those annoying overpowered Hybrids when you have only Zealots, and one other unit, and they’re all super slow to pop out.
It doesn’t help that the campaign story is as bland as they come, with a nebulous villain that fails to impress and one that despite being a galactic destroyer, feels inferior to Arcturus Mengsk, the main baddie of the earlier campaigns. Worse still they make the mistake of replacing the hero you want with one you don’t give a damn about. Zeratul sadly bites the dust on the first mission and you’re left with Artanis a cookie-cutter templar.
Though I will give it something: Dark Templars are cool. Ridiculously expensive, but I finished entire missions with just four of them in a squad.
Now my time with StarCraft II is at an end, and I find my memories bittersweet. Two campaign of absolute glory and some really personal and emotional stories marred by a disappointing and frustrating finale. But I’ll always have the fond memories of Wings of Liberty and the amazing time of Heart of the Swarm, where I created nightmare armies of mutant creatures!