Originally a pre-order incentive for the upcoming Legacy of The Void, prequel campaign, Whispers of Oblivion, has now been made available to all and sundry completely gratis. Given that StarCraft’s story will end with Legacy, this die-hard fan went in with high expectations. Perhaps impossibly so.
Previous campaigns, Wings of Liberty and Heart of The Swarm, were certainly fun, and as honed and polished examples of traditional single player real-time strategy as you could possibly expect. But therein lay the problem, and possibly the reason for the genre as a whole’s fall from grace.
Allow me to elaborate. Every so often, while playing through Whispers of Oblivion’s paltry but enjoyable 3 missions, I’d experience a moment of deja vu. In those instants, I’d reflect on how many times I’d been there, building bases, completing objectives, reloading when things don’t go to plan, before and understand, then, why single players RTS no longer enjoys the wide currency it once did. Clearly, it became as good as it was was ever going to get a long time ago and things just moved on.
The missions featured are all based on the same archetypes we’ve seen many times before, both in StarCraft and elsewhere. That is, performing tasks within time limits, building armies while being denied access to certain recourses and guiding hero units through mazes, and such. I still enjoy this kind of gameplay despite its overfamiliarIty, although current trends within PC gaming would suggest I’m part of a ever dwindling minority.
Indeed, no developer really puts any stock into single player real-time strategy anymore, or at least, not with the gusto of old. Recent efforts such as Planetary Annihilation and Act of Aggression are heavily focused on competitive play. So in a way, Legacy of The Void will be something of a swansong for a key component of what was once my favourite genre. It may well go down in history as the last time we see a major studio put their full weight behind this kind of experience.
But my hopes for better quality writing this time around have been dashed. The original StarCraft was exquisitely written, but its three part sequel has paled in comparison and continues to do so. It’s not bad, exactly, just very ‘sci-fi by numbers’ – more Mass Effect than Bladerunner; same script, different actors. Ho hum.
Come November the 10th, I’ll be approaching Legacy of the Void with something of a heavy heart. The game’s mulitplayer will no doubt continue to shine despite the massive changes being made to it, but as for the old school RTS narrative? A relic of a bygone age for which Blizzard are performing last rites.