By Chris Paredes, Web Content Developer for Evil Geniuses
It is an exciting time for StarCraft fans with the release of Legacy of the Void less than a month away. Upon release, LotV will automatically become the default mode for professional competition, as well as the preferred multiplayer setting for almost every player that picks up the expansion.
The release will instantly breathe new life into the franchise that has seen viewer and player numbers dwindle as Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm aged. But as the final chapter in StarCraft II, there will be no more future opportunities to refurbish StarCraft II with a fresh coat of expansion paint. So a lot rides on LotV not only bringing multiplayer veterans back, but keeping them for a long time. And as StarCraft II’s balance has often failed to live up to the lofty standards established by Brood War, that will be a challenge indeed.
But there’s another side to the LotV that eSports fans often neglect. LotV will almost assuredly see return of many players who rarely compete on the ladders but will come to complete the anticipated single player campaign. With a story nearly two decades in the making, LotV’s campaign has a lot to live up to.
The StarCraft universe is filled with memorable characters and rich intricate lore. So before we dive back into the story next month, or for those making their first foray into StarCraft, it may help to look back on the tale so far and consider the loose ends that still require tying.
A Brief Recap
Wings of Liberty
WoL begins four years since the end of Brood War, the conflict which saw the infested Sarah Kerrigan take control of the Zerg and become the dominant power of the Koprulu sector after eliminating the United Earth Directorate. However since the end of Brood War, Kerrigan withdrew to the Zerg homeworld of Char. This left Arcturus Mengsk and his Terran Dominion to take control.
The story picks up with Jim Raynor leading a small rebellion seeking to overthrow Mengsk. Raynor’s ragtag group cannot fight the Dominion head on, but quickly became a thorn in Mengsk’s side by destroying a prison to release political dissidents and broadcasting recordings to turn civilians against Mengsk. In order to fund his revolutionary activities, Raynor enters dealings with the Moebius Foundation, a scientific research organization which commissions him to find fragments of alien artifacts in exchange for sorely needed funds. These fragments are eventually revealed to be part of an experimental weapon that Mengsk’s son Valerian wishes to use in an assault on Char. Valerian believes that the artifact can purge Kerrigan of her infestation, thus leaving the Zerg leaderless.
Image from us.battle.net
Raynor agrees to invade Char based partly on visions given to him by the Dark Templar Zeratul in which Kerrigan is revealed to be the key to stopping Protoss-Zerg hybrids from using the Zerg to wipe out the Terran and Protoss. The assault on Char is costly, but ultimately successful.
Heart of the Swarm
HotS begins with the re-humanized Kerrigan in a lab testing what remains of her Zerg abilities. Kerrigan is impatient to leave, wanting to pick up Raynor’s mission of overthrowing Mengsk — revenge for his betrayal that led to her Zerg infestation years ago. However Dominion forces locate Kerrigan and Raynor and launch a surprise attack that forces Raynor’s forces to flee. Raynor is separated during the battle and is subsequently announced as executed by Dominion broadcast.
Enraged by Raynor’s apparent death, Kerrigan sets out to use the Zerg to destroy the Dominion. Zeratul advises Kerrigan to travel to Zerus, the original planet of the Zerg, where she transforms once again but is able to retain her sanity. After leaving Zerus, Kerrigan assaults a secret Moebius Foundation research station where Protoss-Zerg hybrids are being bred. Kerrigan destroys the facility and kills Moebius head Emil Narud who declares that Amon is coming.
Afterward, Mengsk contacts Kerrigan and informs her that Raynor is in fact alive, but that would change quickly should she attempt to overthrow the Dominion. Kerrigan and Raynor’s crew are successful in freeing Raynor, but he is angered by Kerrigan’s choice to re-infest herself. Raynor cannot bring himself to fulfill his promise from StarCraft to kill Kerrigan, but departs declaring that he is done with her.
With Raynor free, Kerrigan assaults the Dominion capital during which Raynor has another change of heart and joins the battle. Mengsk’s capital falls under Kerrigan’s assault and he soon follows. HotS ends with Kerrigan leaving Raynor to battle Amon and his hybrid.
Beyond The Fate of Aiur
The Protoss homeworld of Aiur has been an integral setting in the StarCraft universe. Most of the original StarCraft campaign dealt with the invasion of Aiur by the Zerg. While Kerrigan no longer leads the Zerg remaining on Aiur, the planet has remained infested since its evacuation in Brood War.
This seems set to change in Legacy of the Void. The opening cinematic depicts the Protoss launching an assault to reclaim their homeworld under the leadership of Artanis, who will serve as LotV’s main character.
Image captured from StarCraft’s YouTube Channel
However there is little chance that the Golden Armada, Artanis’ magnificent fleet built to reclaim Aiur, will be successful – at least not initially. Blizzard’s Chris Metzen, VP of Story and Franchise Development who writes StarCraft, has likened the LotV story to that of King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans…indicating that the glorious and massive Protoss fleet is unlikely to be in Artanis’ command for very long.
Plus with Mengsk, the most hated man of the galaxy, finally dead and HotS ending with Kerrigan declaring her intention to use the Zerg to fight Amon, the fallen Xel’Naga and his hybrid seem like sure bets to move to center stage as the main villains. Therefore it would seem that Aiur is actually destined to be the final battleground of LotV. Afterall, in all the hybrid encounters we have seen in StarCraft II so far the hybrid have commanded a swarm of fodder Zerg; with Kerrigan having reunited most of the rest of the Zerg under her command to fight Amon, Aiur’s remaining cache of Zerg would appear to be the prime candidate for Amon’s discount supply.
The Union of Protoss and Zerg
Artanis will undoubtedly have to regroup, and reassemble a force for a final assault on Aiur. The interesting question will be who, or what, is included in this force.
We already know that Kerrigan plans to lead her Zerg swarm against Amon. While the Zerg and Protoss were initially presented as polar opposites, two sides engaged in warfare for thousands of years, we have learned bit by bit that the Protoss and Zerg are actually more akin to two sides of the same coin. Both races trace their origins to creation by the ancient Xel’Naga race.
In Amon, the hybridization of the Protoss and Zerg represents a perverse, but a nigh unstoppable union. It seems clear that in order for Artanis and Kerrigan to triumph, their Protoss and Zerg forces will need to unite as well. Heart of the Swarm gave the player control over an increasingly powerful Kerrigan. Will Legacy of the Void see her return to the battlefield and allow the player to command both the Zerg and Protoss in the fight against Amon?
And from a narrative perspective, after the inevitable fall of Amon what happens to the Zerg? While Kerrigan seems to be in clear control, the swarm is ultimately a mindless weapon whose sole purpose is proliferation. Before Vincent D’onofrio’s Jurassic World character tried to take velociraptors, we saw the United Earth Directorate try to turn a leaderless Zerg swarm into biological weapons in Brood War. With Amon gone, will the Protoss allow the Zerg to continue to exist afterwards?
The Human Factor
And speaking of the UED, we have yet to see the aftermath of Earth’s failed expedition to the Koprulu sector. While LotV will focus on the Protoss and Zerg fight against the Protoss-Zerg hybrid, StarCraft is a story of three people and the Terrans will undoubtedly come into play at some point.
Given his importance in the StarCraft story, and his relationship to both Kerrigan and the Protoss people, it is a fairly safe bet that Raynor and his forces will be present in some capacity to carry the banner of the third of the Koprulu sector’s races. But will he be the only Terran faction?
Even if he is, chances are things will not stay that way for long into the future.
The Light and the Dark
As important as theme of Protoss and Zerg will be, it bears keeping in mind that this is ultimately the Protoss expansion. More important than the Protoss unification with the Zerg may be the Protoss unification with itself.
Image captured from StarCraft’s YouTube Channel
From the onset of the StarCraft storyline, there has been tension between the “normal” Khalai Protoss and the Nerazim dark templars. Even as the Nerazim opened up their world to the Aiur refugees, tensions between the two peoples swirled under the surface and even boiled over into open rebellion at one point.
Blizzard’s pre-LotV content has revealed that the years since Brood War has done little to quell the tension, especially with the disappearance of Zeratul. While the Nerazim leadership has thrown in behind Artanis and the effort to retake Aiur, many dark templar are reticent about sacrificing their lives to save the Khalai that once exiled them. With Blizzard stating that Artanis will have to play politics to unify his race, it seems certain that the civil unrest between the Protoss will play a large role in LotV.