StarCraft is something which has become something more akin to a religion than a video game. It was a cultural phenomenon in South Korea and is still played by thousands of people all around the world nearly twenty years after its initial release. What is especially clear is when Blizzard Entertainment began entertaining the concept of a remaster, probably the first thing that they did was write "NO MEDDLING" on a whiteboard in all caps.
That’s what this game feels like. A game where any additions were considered only when they wouldn’t affect the integrity gameplay of StarCraft: Remastered. This means that the game you played two decades ago is still there. Going in, I felt some trepidation. Does it still hold up after all these years, even when compared to its sequel? Does the original StarCraft still play well, even with the gameplay being completely untouched?
I’m happy to say that the answer is yes, albeit with some reservations. Playing StarCraft is like stepping back to a time when the Internet was still a strange and exhilarating beast, and video games were played on giant CRT monitors. For me, playing through the campaign is like happening upon an old friend after years of lost contact. It’s comfortable, rewarding, and it still makes me excited to see where it goes next, even though the story beats remain familiar. This means that everything you loved – or hated – about StarCraft is still there. You can only select twelve units at a time, and the pathfinding is still as bad as ever. Nothing gameplay-wise has changed, for better or worse.
What has changed is the presentation, as StarCraft: Remastered can now be played on resolutions up to 4K alongside a visual remaster that is just below perfection. When I started playing, I wondered where the remaster was, as everything seemed like it should be. Low and behold, when I pressed ‘F5’, it switched back to the way it looked in 1998. The difference is both uncanny and eerie, as it looks exactly as I remembered it looking… and yet it wasn’t. Spectacular job, Blizzard.
Disappointingly, while it is a joy to see that StarCraft is still just as entertaining so many years later, there are some quirks. The menus, for instance, are still firmly stuck in the nineties. In-game navigation can be a pain, as it takes multiple clicks when one or two would suffice. An example of Blizzard's slavish devotion to keeping the game the same would be pressing F10 to reach the in-game menu when instead of pressing ESC - a placement which feels awkward and out of place.
This seemingly extends to the Borderless Fullscreen mode as well. Whenever I go to alt-tab, the game adamantly refuses to minimize, to the point where I either have to run the game in windowed mode or just forget about alt-tabbing altogether. It’s a minor issue, but it’s also something that shouldn’t be a problem. This leads nicely into the pathfinding, which is still horrible after all these years. Gathering even a few Marines and traveling somewhere on the map is a pain, and it feels like the pathfinding goes out of its way to select the longest route to its destination, like a self-aware GPS who only finds joy by engaging in schadenfreude.
However, the gameplay is still just as engaging as ever. StarCraft: Remastered’s graphics pop on the screen, and I sometimes couldn’t help but step back for a few moments and just watch my base grow, or my Marines get decimated by a well-placed group of Hydralisks. Dynamic lighting and other added visual effects only serve to make the newly added coat of paint sparkle and sheen.
The newly added audio sounds great as well, although I personally don’t see much difference between the old and new, Blizzard has stated that their goal was to “… reveal—not reinvent—what the game sounds like.” It’s definitely worked, as the game sounds like a modern StarCraft title to me. I can fully appreciate the sounds of gunfire, the chatter of the talking heads between missions, and the bleep and bloops of the various units within the game.
Speaking of talking heads, what I found both amusing and saddening was the lip sync – or lack of – between each mission and in-game. It’s entirely non-existent to the point where it’s distracting. The same goes for the lack of updated cutscenes, which is regrettable but also understandable. If this were a full $50 release I would be more annoyed, but for $14.99 I can't find the will to really complain.
The multiplayer is good, albeit with some concerns. Right now, only 1v1 is available, although Blizzard has promised that team games of all sizes, as well as FFA, are coming. Low populations (about three thousand in the Americas playing against both Free to Play and Remastered players) is concerning, but a quick glance at the custom games list reveals dozens of games ready to be played. Right now, the community is as active as it has ever been, and if you are worried about that, consider your concerns abated.
It is quite interesting to see how smoothly Blizzard’s modern Battle.net has managed to work with StarCraft. You can see modern Blizzard's influences on the title, ranging from cloud saves for single-player missions to some more modern updates to the interface, such as the added profile and connectivity with Battle.net so that you can talk with your Battle.net connected friends in-game. It’s weird to see the juxtaposition of new features mixed with the old, but it works well and I’ll probably be playing this off and on for another twenty years.
StarCraft: Remastered is a title which is more than the sum of its parts. If you were to judge this game at first glance, you would see an ancient title that has more than its fair share of quirks. However, if you were to look deeper, you would a title that still has the capability of holding your attention for many hours at a time. StarCraft remains a timeless gem, and any RTS fan this remaster is a no-brainer.
Our Starcraft: Remastered review was conducted on PC via Battle.net with a copy purchased by our reviewer.
StarCraft remains a title that excels nearly twenty years later. A few technical and aged related quirks aside, this will probably be the best RTS released this year. If you call yourself an RTS fan, this is a must buy.
- Excellent Graphics Remaster
- Great Sound Design
- Timeless Gameplay
- Archaic Menus
- Minor issues