Review: Starcraft Remastered23 Aug 2017 1
Review: Starcraft Remastered
Released 14 Aug 2017
“Hell, it’s about time,” rumbled from the cigar chewing mouth of ex-con and former marine Tychus Findlay when Blizzard Entertainment introduced Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty seven years ago. Now Blizzard uses same phrase to market its latest release, Starcarft Remastered, which warped in from hyperspace on August 14th, 2017. It makes sense. This is the original 1998 game Starcraft and its official Blizzard expansion (there were two others not produced by Blizzard) Brood War, completely retooled to look like a modern day release with the graphics to match.
Why all the fuss? Because Starcraft is not a game. Starcraft is more of a passion or profession in the realm of computer gaming. Yes, many will say it’s simply a good RTS (Real Time Strategy) game that mimics the Warhammer 40K environment with the UED Dominium, Protoss and Zerg substituting for the Imperium of Man, Eldar and Orcs (well, Orcs and the insectoid Zerg are a bit of a stretch, but still). Many will say it’s the same venerable game process of each species collecting resources and building fighting units like all the rest. But it was more. Starcraft introduced the bedrock RTS foundation of three dissimilar antagonists each functioning in different ways, each with its own unique blend of strengths, weaknesses, tactics and weapons. The Protoss have psionic powers and advanced energy weapons, for example, while the organic Zerg use low tech biological weapons with units that can be produced much more quickly and cheaply. It’s a convention now so common in RTS as to seem eternal, but it once was not.
And the gaming world responded. Starcraft and its add on Brood War sold over 10 million (that is not a typo) copies, and pulled not less than four Guinness World Records for categories such as Best Selling PC Game EVER. In Korea, fighting it out with Brood War is actually a professional sport with national TV coverage and one young gamer reporting a yearly income of $245 thousand. They even have sports bars – excuse me, barcraft – for this game. The original game’s only real negative is how archaic it looks for today. . . until now.
What Starcraft Remastered is Not
Starcraft Remastered comes with both games, Starcraft and Brood War, and will set you back $14.00 | £12.99. It actually seems to be an upgrade of sorts because you have to have both the original games to play it. Blizzard, however, has made this a non-issue by offering both original titles as a free download. As with all Blizzard games, the software needs to be run via the company’s Battle Net app, which is also a free download.
However, this does not mean a significant hardware upgrade is needed for the remastered edition. The game does take a lot of time to load up and start, but once running does so flawlessly and effortlessly, even on low end machines. Right now I use my wife’s tiny Lenovo ThinkCentre work station to run the game, and although there is a 2.41 GH quad processor involved, we’re talking an Intel onboard video card, and that’s overkill. Got a Microsoft Surface or similar? You’re fine.
Likewise if you are looking for an entirely new set of missions supporting a brand new story line, you won’t find them. Instead this is the same space opera as the original with the same cut scenes, the same unit types and so on. This means you are now back in Koprulu Sector, an unsupported colony of the United Earth Directorate (UED) that went off course and wound up on the edge of Protoss space. Various human factions such as the Sons of Korhol vie for power, all the time being watched by the mysterious Protoss and threatened by the bug-like Zerg. It’s the same story using the same controls on the same layout as before, same colors, all inviting you to replay a classic and discover for yourself how agent Sarah Kerrigan became the Queen of Blades, overlord of the Zerg, and why the UED does not exist in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.
Changes even remotely affecting game play are “under the hood” and very transparent, mostly concerning multiplayer matches. There is optimization for Windows 10, multiplayer matchmaking, social integration with other games and a multitude of player preferences synced to Blizzard’s online servers to include key binding, custom maps, replays, settings and so on.
Yet the original game’s unique compromise of a 2D environment fused to a forced isometric perspective (I have really no idea what that means, but it sounds good) remains. This means that the quirky yet classic gameplay that evolved from this graphics combination remains as well, so players will find no need to go back to the academy for a refresher course.
What Starcraft Remastered is
Visuals often get short shrift in computer game reviews, and that’s a bit sad. Gameplay of course is important, but if presentation wasn’t as well, then one might as well use blocks with NATO symbols as game pieces. Visual impact is often what draws a gamer to a computer game and it’s why people install third party video cards with enough power for a holodeck on their PC motherboards. If you can’t see Storm Bolters and pulse laser cannon pulverize enemy battlemechs, why use a computer? Just for mathematics, number crunching and records management? Most folks say no.
The original StarCraft and Brood War expansion are classic games that have all the basic functionality of more recent RTS games, but with less complexity and a tried and true digital engine that runs like the proverbially well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, compared to the modern visuals found in today’s computer games, the old Starcraft games are woefully inadequate and simply cannot compete. OK, let’s be real. They suck.
But they don’t suck now, not the graphics and not even the sound. For the latter, this means that all sound effects and all dialog has now been rerecorded in high definition sound. And, yes, you can hear the difference. The characters voices are now clearer and cleaner, while sound effects such as explosions sound much more realistic vice digital reproductions. Given Robert Clotworthy’s already perfectly tuned voice for Jim Raynor, this is impressive.
The real star of the Remastered collection, however, is the set of redone graphics, same terrain, same unit design, same scale, but now redrawn to support up to glorious 4K Ultra High Definition, to include widescreen support which is really a bit jaw dropping. It’s really hard to explain the difference unless you can sit in front of a screen and compare then and now. Fortunately the game lets you do that by allowing a switch to the old graphics configuration as well as a zoom in tool. Taking a unit like the Protoss Dragoon, one of my favorites, you will notice no pixilation but smooth, sharp, crisp lines instead. Maybe it’s just me, but this seems to make movement more fluid and natural. You really need to see pictures vice my description, but in a nutshell this is Starcraft Remastered.
Why Should I Get It?
True story. Many moons ago I decided to spring for a limo to take my family from Harrisburg, PA down to the Port of Baltimore to catch a cruise ship. We were going to be picked up from the house at around 2:30 in the AM so I figured I’d just stay up and start a new game of Brood War. Two in the dark thirty comes, luggage is packed and the wife says, “Sweetie, time to go.” I respond, “Please tell me the driver can wait another 30 minutes for me to finish this mission.” The room gets hotter than a photon torpedo on overload and I look down to see a battalion of lead wargaming miniatures melting under my wife’s gaze (they can do that?). I grit my teeth, hit SAVE and off I go. Yes, even as a game in its own right, it’s that addictive. Simple, easy to learn and play, with all the baseline elements you’d expect in a solid RTS, not to mention one of the most intriguing story lines out there IMHO.
At $ 14.99, it's a bit of a no-brainier. Got your plastic out yet? Hell, it’s about time.