Two players, one base: Testing Archon Mode in Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void

The Terran and Zerg races had their moment in the sun, now it's time for the fancy-armored Protoss to shine in Legacy of the Void, Blizzard Entertainment's upcoming standalone expansion to the sci-fi RTS StarCraft 2. It's only fitting, then, that the recently revealed additions to the game - the new Adept unit for the Protoss, and the 'two players, one base' Archon Mode - both trace back to everyone's favorite Aiur-based aliens.

Let's start with the Adept, a Tier 2 Gateway unit with a ground-only ranged attack, and the latest reveal (thus far) from five new multiplayer units in LotV. Refreshingly, this is the first female Protoss unit that you can view in-game (not counting the Mothership, since that's basically just a giant blue-and-gold saucer of death). The Adept's primary abilities are extremely complex, seeing as she can A) project a phantom copy of herself that she'll eventually take the place of after a few seconds, and B) create a damaging chain reaction if she scores a kill on a unit.

It's still unclear what the Adept's core strength is, and what part it will play in Protoss armies, but I'm thinking that she'll excel as a harassment unit. The mirror image can't attack or be attacked, so it could theoretically be used for scouting - but you can't prevent the spatial switcheroo, so you'd risk losing her in enemy territory. Instead, it seems like the Adept is best used to sneak past the front lines to pester workers, then warp away (as far as her temporary mirror image will take her) when enemy defenses finally respond.

Of course, such a maneuver demands a good deal of micro-managing skill - which brings me to Archon Mode. Like the Protoss unit of the same name, two players combine into a single entity in Archon Mode, fully sharing control over units and resources while playing as any of the three races. If you so choose, you could have your partner focus purely on the buildings and expansions necessary to maintain your team's economy and upgrade your tech tree, while you control all the units charging into battle. Whereas a lone player has to constantly juggle attention between their army and their base, Archon Mode lets you focus purely on the aspect you're best at (while possibly gleaning tips from how your teammate does things).

This is how I put Archon Mode through its paces in a few matches - me on units, my teammate on base management - and the experience was a ton of fun, though I could see it introducing as many challenges as it alleviates. Since players on unit-control duty don't have much to do in the early game besides scout and harass, novices will need to be extra vigilant against early aggression or cheesy strategies (yes, I did tower rush the opposing Archon, and for that I am ashamed). And while new players can divvy up responsibilities into more manageable chunks, communication becomes more crucial than ever when your base is under attack and both players are suddenly in panic mode.

Still, having tried Archon Mode, I don't think I can go back to floundering around by myself on the solo ladder. There may be ranked matchmaking for Archon Mode in the works, though Blizzard hasn't detailed the specifics - but it'd be fascinating to see if two pro players would become more than the sum of their skills when joined together, or if relinquishing total control would cause the duo to crumble. We'll find out soon enough, as invites to the closed beta for Legacy of the Void go out on March 31st.