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    StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void, Play as the Protoss in StarCraft II’s final act.

    I noticed something odd during the campaign for StarCraft II’s third standalone RTS expansion, Legacy of the Void: you never see the Protoss sit down. StarCraft II’s high-tech warrior race love to tease humans with doom-laden prophecies, and have  a knack for decloaking dramatically in cutscenes, but it’s only when you spend time aboard their spaceship a huge lava lamp called the Spear of Adun that you realise they have no chairs. Or cupboards. How do they eat? Where do they poo?

    The starring race of  Legacy of the Void were designed to look good on the battlefield, but don’t have a home life, a discernible culture or much personality. The result is a considerable tone-shift from the grotty bars of Raynor’s battleship in Wings of Liberty and the slimy hive of Heart of the Swarm. Wings of Liberty was blue; Heart of the Swarm  was purple; Legacy of the Void  is beige. Expect lots of serious sermonising about a galaxy under threat from a mysterious, ‘indomitable’ enemy.  As commander Artanis, you have to wrestle the universe back from that enemy and wrap up StarCraft II’s trilogy for good.

    What the Spear of Adun lacks in amenities, it makes up for in lasers. You can call in orbital strikes from the mothership during campaign missions, and deploy custom units built by the ship’s onboard army-forge. This works in the same way  as Raynor’s engineering bay and Heart of the Swarm ’s gene-splicing facility.  You get binary upgrade options for core Protoss units that change their abilities  and appearance. I favoured a chunky spider form for my custom Stalkers that turned them from fast-attack teleporters into slow, reliable siege machines.

    The mission I played was as heavily scripted but as well crafted as any you’d find in  StarCraft II ’s existing campaigns. I used stealthy Dark Templars to chop up Zerg scouts, which allowed my elephantine Stalkers to break through to the main hive and rescue besieged Protoss civilians. Every so often, I’d nuke a Zerg worm with the mothership to clear an escape route.

    I was suitably rewarded with the sight of a Protoss ship ferrying the civvies to a glowing warpgate in the middle of the map. With a flash of light and a “schwoom!”, they were teleported light years away to take up valuable Protoss standing room  in a safer corner of the universe. The warpgate and bombardment effects have been enhanced with fashionable lens flare the only notable visual upgrade.

    You can pick your missions from a space map in the Spear of Adun’s control room. There, you can also talk with colleagues like series regular Zeratul, and Rohana a medium who channels the wisdom and memories of long-lost Protoss civilisations. It’s familiar but fun. Legacy of the Void won’t mess with the structure set out by  Wings of Liberty  in 2010, but it’s essential if you’re keen to see whether old friends Raynor and Kerrigan make it through/hook up/die.

    Away from the main campaign, LotV also has a chain of co-op missions and a new ‘archon’ mode that lets two players command a single army in tandem. Senior game designer David Kim tells me that the mode was developed so that Blizzard could test new multiplayer units at a near-professional level, before they found it fun enough to include in the expansion. “We’ve been testing as three-people archons or four-people archons, but four gets crazy.”

    Multiplayer is Kim’s area of expertise, and he’s excited about shaking up the professional scene with new units that require even more extraordinary feats of micromanagement scary news for new players. He enthuses about the new Terran Cyclone, which has to lock onto a target and stay within range to maintain damage. You have to keep the enemy close enough to deal damage, but stay out of enemy range at the same time.This requires a lot of clicking.

    Blizzard wants faster pro matches, and plans to encourage this by reducing the amount of minerals you can farm from each crystal in multiplayer. This forces players to expand faster and get into fights sooner at least in theory. Balancing  StarCraft II ’s multiplayer mode is a difficult task; Kim and co are messing with an international sport worth millions of dollars.

    “A lot of people say that StarCraft II is like the chess of this decade,” says Kim. “The best thing for StarCraft II is to continue that tradition and make it super strategic but also physically very involved. On that side of it, I think we’re excelling pretty well.”

    We’ll find out when  Legacy of the Void is released, most likely this year.

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