StarCraft Remastered Review

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Posted September 6, 2017 by Sean Capri in Video Games

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment

Release Date: August 14, 2017

Platforms: PC

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Let’s see, how does this work again? Right, build a few SCV units to collect minerals and vespene gas. Get to work on my Barracks and construct a few Supply Depots to spit out a few Marines and Firebats. Oh right, I’ll want to upgrade their weapons and armor. Now, what’s next…oh yeah! Siege Tanks and Battlecruisers!

This game is absolutely, undeniably, and timelessly a masterpiece.

Orcs in Space

Representing a complete departure from the WarCraft 2 formula where Humans and Orcs were ostensibly skin swaps (although Blizzard was already dipping its toes into differentiation with units like Ogre Magi and Paladins), StarCraft introduced three fundamentally different races. The Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss each have meticulously fine-tuned characteristics. Each seems to have a few seemingly unstoppable units and set of strategies that are ultimately upended by either a crippling weakness or an ace-in-the-hole opposing unit. For example, Protoss are protected by regenerating shields and are generally more powerful one-on-one. However, they are extremely resource hungry and can be quickly outnumbered by the Zerg swarms or outflanked by the versatility of the Terrans. Even the way Supplies are handled by each race is unique and provides different opportunities. Terran Supply Depots are similar to the traditional farms of old RTS games but Zerg’s Overlords are huge blimps capable of detecting cloaked units and upgradeable to shuttle batches of ground units for a sneaky drop. The Protoss need three specialized units to do all that.

In a gentle way, the Campaign is designed to teach the player how to use increasingly more powerful and advanced units. Starting with the basic base-building mechanics and how they are different per race, each mission progresses the player to focus on a particular strategy to achieve the mission’s objectives. It’s not dissimilar to Link using a Hook Shot in a dungeon shortly after acquiring it for the first time. Ultimately, the Chapters close with more open-ended and missions that require a more layered approach. This is brilliant game design that subtly graduates the player to become a skilled strategist and multitasker. After a few missions of steamrolling with a fleet of Carriers, StarCraft introduces a few dead-in-your-tracks counter measures that force you to consider alternatives.

The StarCraft and Brood War campaign stories are among the best in video games. The Terran and Protoss are utterly distracted by civil war and infighting while the Zerg is dead-set on total annihilation. These campaigns explore what it means to win at any cost and, appropriately, that means something completely different for each race. The Terrans seem almost enthusiastic to trade human lives for perceived gains in the war and the Zerg are more than happy to oblige with one of the franchise’s hallmark moments and the most iconic set of dreadlocks in gaming.

The mechanisms by which these stories are delivered, however, are rudimentary and have not been updated whatsoever in the Remastered edition. Revisiting the Campaign allowed me to gain a new appreciation for the excellent voice acting and consider how ahead Blizzard was (although Praetor Fenix sounds a little too Orc-ish to go unnoticed). I mean, I absolutely despise Arcturus Mengsk and am enthralled by Tassadar.

Mission briefings still feature Skype calls and brief cinematic sequences bring the player from the top-down view to the war-torn battleground. And don’t expect any Halo Anniversary-esque treatment to these cinematics. The gameplay is undeniably timeless but, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the very 90’s short films that reward the player every few missions. A few explanatory illustrations (glorified powerpoint presentation) are new and stretch the “enhanced narrative” bullet point on the box to the weakest limit of its meaning.

Brood War is also Remastered in this package and is such a substantial “Expansion” that it quickly became the definitive version. More units were added to help further balance the three sides with all three races receiving some help to deal with air attacks – arguably the Protoss Corsairs being the most effective while the Zerg Devourers are slow and easily confused by more agile foes. Terrans get a Medic and while this can certainly turn the tides in Campaign, Medics seem to play a more impactful role while playing Custom Scenarios with players using other races. I thoroughly enjoy the perverse cooperation of my Medic healing a friend’s Hydralisk.

Job’s Done

There was almost no question that the gameplay would remain intact. After nearly 20 years, StarCraft is difficult to topple and may be as close to a perfect game as I’ve experienced in my years of gaming. Going back to the original two games reminded me of the simplicity, both good and bad, of the early days of the RTS genre and how bravely Blizzard bulldozed the prior expectations into smithereens. Some of those smithereens shot off to become the building blocks for WarCraft 3 or hero-based MOBAs – or, dare I say, hero-based shooters.

This is purely a visual and audio upgrade, however. Don’t expect AI tweaks to help the Dragoons maneuver their way through tight corridors. They are still as clumsy as they were back in the 90’s. Players still can’t sequence building commands by holding shift like you can with movement way-points or like in StarCraft 2. There are plenty of innovations Blizzard has made since StarCraft that weren’t included in this Remaster, all in the name of maintaining the core gameplay – mostly in the interest of eSports – and that’s neither a pro nor a con of the game.

The sensory upgrade is gorgeous, the widescreen aspect ratio is more helpful than expected, and the ability to zoom in to the action and appreciate the new details, particularly the enhancements to smaller units like Zerglings or Zealots, is nice – even if only momentarily useful. Lighting effects on Dragoon blasts or even on some buildings like the Protoss’ Nexus while training units is a nice touch. Other upgrades in include Cloud Saves. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this review and for the past few weeks since the game’s release, Cloud Saves have not functioned reliably. Sometimes the save files appear, then quickly disappear never to be seen again so the accounts are linking and the data is being uploaded but I experienced a heck of a time syncing my experiences between my desktop and laptop. Surely this will be patched soon but players who plan to rely on Cloud Saves should check in before buying.

The in-game Actions Per Minute (APM) tracker is a great feature to remind me how disastrously slow and uncoordinated I am at StarCraft. Another way to learn this is to jump online to play competitively on Blizzard’s Battle.net. Personally, I focused on Custom Scenarios and a couple cooperative matches – all of which felt and played exactly how I remember, with the added bonus of the enhanced visuals and audio. Though, it is nice to play with a reliable internet connection now in 2017.

Final Verdict

It’s worth noting that StarCraft Remastered is $14.99. If all you play is the Single Player Campaigns across the original game and Brood War, this is an easy recommendation. Custom Scenarios and Multiplayer, of course, offer limitless replay ability.

Visually, StarCraft Remastered faithfully restores one of the greatest games ever created. Players looking for tweaks to AI or gameplay mechanics that have been employed since 1998 will likely be (unjustly) disappointed. Combining the original StarCraft and Brood War expansion, this restoration is entirely worth the attention of old schoolers or anyone curious about the origins of MOBAs.

StarCraft Remastered




StarCraft Remastered


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Final Score

9/10

    Pros

    • Timeless gameplay now in 4K
    • Single Player Campaign gives ample content for novices
    • Breath-taking voice acting
    • One of the best sci-fi stories ever told
    • Rock-solid multiplayer

    Cons

    • Cloud saves don't work
    • No noticeable updates to cinematic sequences



    About the Author

    Sean Capri

    I am a beady-eyed Canadian. I play video games and feed/walk my three dogs.