Remasters have become somewhat common over the last few years so it’s no huge surprise to find Blizzard re-releasing StarCraft, an older behemoth within the RTS family tree, as well as within the gaming world in general, with a new polished look. While some remasters have been celebrated, there have been a few that either did too little or did far too much to the original product during development, so it’s understandable that some may be wary of the latest attempt to bring a piece of the past screaming back into the present.
StarCraft Remastered repackages both StarCraft and StarCraft Brood War into an all new visually upgraded product, though the fancy new threads aren’t mandatory; you can play the game with the classic visuals on if you so desire, and everything runs exactly as if you were playing the original StarCraft with the Brood War expansion installed – you’ll even see the familiar Brood War opening cinematic when first launching the game rather than the original (which did take me a bit by surprise) just as one would have with expansion installed back in the day.
All the textures and models have received a hefty boost in visual quality with water in particularly looking fantastic now, although don’t expect StarCraft Remastered to compete with modern products in terms of visual fidelity. Many units benefit from having more discernable details, such as having a clearer view of the Goliath’s cockpit and actually seeing where the heads of Overlords and Queens (as seen in their portrait), are actually located. For those who grew up with StarCraft, there’s a tickling joy in seeing what was previously obscured.
Character portraits have been upgraded as well, and tweaked in some cases. However, despite the visual upgrade, it’s another nostalgic pleasure to see that the portraits still retain their “random mouth movement” animation when talking. All of the original films have been kept as is, which may disappoint those who were hoping to see those cinematics redone with modern Blizzard magic. They have been slightly upscaled to fit on widescreen monitors though, so that’s something.
The story text between missions have also been given a nice visual makeover, with full imagery now accompanying the text, as well as some minor faction appropriate effects. Importantly, none of the visual upgrades go so far as to make the game feel too new to be classic StarCraft. Unit animations, such as the melting dead Dragoons, are just as limited in frames as they always were and while you can now zoom in, the game still feels as if it is as locked to a 2D plan as it always has been.
At any point, including in menus and cinematics, one can hit F5 to immediately switch between the Remastered and Classic visual mode, which often helps to gauge the degree of improvement when it isn’t always obvious.
Mechanically, StarCraft Remastered is identical to the original. All of the classic dated limitations that will bring nostalgic warmth to your heart return as they frustrate you, which is both surprising and impressive considering Blizzard had to rebuild the original game from scratch for the Remaster and they took extra effort to retain all of the quirks, good and bad.
In many ways, StarCraft Remastered feels like a proud grandfather telling all the “stuck up” kids how it was in his day and how the players were damn well happy with it! The horrors of pathing and unit traffic jams are the most immediate familiarity, and the one you’ll be wrestling with the most. Beyond that, veterans of the RTS genre will enjoy rediscovering limited unit selection, no research queuing and other small quirks of age that time has forgotten.
Ultimately, StarCraft Remastered offers a nostalgic return trip back to one of the most impactful and memorable RTS titles in the genre, and its quality hinges strongly on how much you value that. Those who haven’t played the original games before will likely only be frustrated with the limitations of the remaster. Without any nostalgia to cushion that, and there are those who have played the original enough times so that there isn’t as much sentimentality to return to, it is felt.
Like many good remasters, this re-release has gone far enough to match how we remembered StarCraft when we played back in the 90’s, but not far enough to alienate the original visual or mechanical design or try to fix gameplay mechanics that would annoy us in the present.
Last Updated: August 24, 2017