Preserving a masterpiece.
Somewhere deep in the annals of gaming history, there’s an entire wing dedicated to StarCraft: Brood War. Not only is it regarded as the one RTS to ever come close to reaching a perfect balance between playable races, it also kickstarted what we know today as E-Sports. No one knows what the gaming landscape would look like if Starcraft was never released, but I can say with confidence that it would be drastically different, likely not for the better.
So when it comes to remastering a title of such renown, one must tread carefully, as even a single misstep can do irreparable damage to the game’s legacy and enrage long time fans. Blizzard, placing themselves in the unenviable position of attempting this difficult task, decided to play it safe by putting the focus first and foremost in preservation.
Let me get this out of the way, if I were just reviewing Starcraft and Brood War, it would be an easy 10 out of 10 without any question. It’s one of my all time favorite games, and there is nothing I can say about it that wouldn’t sound redundant at this point. However, that original game is free and available for everyone and needs no review. Instead, what is in contention is the remastered edition retailing for $14.99 and whether or not that has enough value to warrant its price point.
To that end, let us take a look at all the notable changes and additions exclusive to this version of the game.
The most apparent, and by extension the biggest, reason to pick up the remaster is its visual upgrades, where every sprite and character portrait has been replaced with brand new models. The sprites also have more visible angles and frames of movement adding for a smoother visual experience, and even though the 3D portraits still contain the same amount of animation frames, they look much sharper. There are numerous shadow and lighting effects as well which serve to make the visual upgrade feel even more impactful. Better yet, all these changes can be toggled on and off at will with the press of a single button, really hammering home just how drastically improved the visuals are.
Even the cinematics have seen a boost and now render at 1080p, and while it is most certainly the weakest part of the presentation given Blizzard’s rapid improvement with FMVs over these two decades, they’re still charming in their own way.
From an audio standpoint, the music and sound effects have been improved as each gunshot and death cry rings out clearer than ever. The same can be said of the voice over work, which sounds crisp, and even after almost 20 years the performances still sound convincing.
Lastly, there are a suite of multiplayer focused additions including but not limited to competitive matchmaking as well as the use of the Blizzard apps and all its functions.
What hasn’t been changed or enhanced in any way is the core classic Starcraft gameplay. The strength of each unit, the short-key commands- down to the seconds it takes to create a particular unit remains true to the original.
This is both a blessing and a disappointment at the same time, as whether you’re playing the original Starcraft or the remaster, you can be certain that they are in fact both the same games outside of the visual/audio enhancements.
As I spent time building up my wall of siege tanks and prepared my drop ships with an army of stimpack-ready marines, I couldn’t help but miss the quality of life improvements from Starcraft 2. Not being able to rally my SCVs to mine for minerals right away or controlling more than a dozen units at once came as quite the shock at first. Even worse, the pathing and movement of the AI was much worse than what I remembered, as they constantly became stuck in the geometry or went the wrong direction time and time again.
It’s a difficult thing to ask the developers to make these quality of life improvements so that I can have a better casual experience, when I know that every single mechanic, good or bad, is a strand in the DNA of this classic but I couldn’t help but wonder all the same on what a full remake would be like.
We’re currently at a time where remasters of classic games are becoming rather commonplace. Contrary to the practices of developers that make adjustments to the original experience to make it more palatable for the current generation, Blizzard played the role of an art restorer, being careful with their strokes to preserve the original and touching up the masterpiece known as Starcraft: Brood War in a way that is sure to garner the attention and appreciation of new fans all across the world.
Fun Tidbit – Terran for life.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.