This is a reminder of where it all began for many people. No I don’t mean RTS, there were many others around that time period. I meant the space story that would take 17 years to finally reach a conclusion. Aliens eating a galaxy, other aliens purging worlds in fire to get rid of the first group of aliens and political power plays by a man who believes “no matter the cost” is a good line to use to inspire those around him, StarCraft set a large story in motion that ended up spanning five games. It is also a great place to hop on if you never played the original StarCraft. If you never played it before, well strap yourselves in, boys.
Puzzle me this
StarCraft’s campaign levels play out a lot like a puzzle. The first part of the puzzle is finding the weak point, the chink in the defenses or an army that probably outnumbers you. From there you establish a new base (not even an efficient one, because there is no Vespene geyser here), a foothold as you wipe out one faction or base, before moving onto the other one. Bit by bit you chip away at defenses until you have an economy that can push out a massive war machine, before closing in for the final kill.
Once you get used to seeing every level as a puzzle that needs to be solved and then crushed under your heel, things come together.
Once you get used to seeing every level as a puzzle that needs to be solved and then crushed under your heel, things come together. I mean this in a grander sense than knowing the rock paper scissors fights with the various units. The levels are designed with special weakpoints to defences, or in a way that a certain tactic or approach just isn’t really worth it. Going straight at your objective means travelling through dozens of anti-air, but look, if you take the other way around, there are almost no anti-air units protecting that island. Good job, you just found where you will build your next expansion to improve your economy. Now find the place to land and deal with all that anti-air.
For a game from so long ago, despite the pathfinding quirks and the management of things that are often automated now, I had a great time replaying StarCraft and reliving the beginning of this tale. Having improved visuals and extra art adds to what is already a great game and it also shows just how far the RTS genre has come since then. Next time I fire up StarCraft II I am going to be a lot more appreciative of units moving out of the way to let their friends get by, and SCVs heading to work or automatically repairing nearby units and buildings when on standby.
Get ready to micromanage pretty much everything as your units stand by, watching their friends a short distance away get turned into zergling chow.
Same same, but different
While the graphics are definitely sharper, this was a reminder that the UI and systems have come a long way since then. While I am amazed at how the small quirks of the original game have been kept intact, like the way your units path on ramps or near objects, and the limit to groups of 12 units, you are also painfully aware of how many things have been streamlined or automated to make games more enjoyable or possibly, even easier. You know how you can set a worker relay point in StarCraft II so that your units start collecting minerals as soon as they are built? Yeah, that isn’t there. Queuing up research? Nope. Get ready to micromanage pretty much everything as your units stand by, watching their friends a short distance away get turned into zergling chow. Units go on sightseeing tours because someone decided to park in the middle of a ramp, blocking everyone else from going on about their business.
The graphics though. Did you know there is a tiny guy on the Vulture, piloting it? I never knew. I thought it was more like a closed up vehicle than a bike. You can zoom in to see your old favourites up close, but they still have the same silhouettes as the original StarCraft. The health models and portraits have been upgraded to show the units and heroes more like how we see them now in StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm, but with that same style of short cycling animations. After trying to play StarCraft again then moving onto the remaster, it looks so good to see nicer textures, the writing to be neat and legible and actually see the details on the units. This is probably what the game looked like in my mind’s eye, reading through the game’s manual and looking at all the concept art for the game. Now it just looks a lot closer to how I remember it all, through that lovely fog of nostalgia and time.