Reader Review: StarCraft

Reader Review: StarCraft

Reader Review: StarCraftDo you have what it takes to get a review published right here on Kotaku? Dana does, as she’s in no rush to play the latest games.

Yes, that’s right, we’re publishing reader reviews here on Kotaku. This is your chance to deliver sensible game purchasing advice to the rest of the Kotaku community.

And thanks to the very kind chaps at Madman Entertainment, purveyor of all kinds of cool, indie and esoteric film, the best reader review we publish each month will win a prize pack containing ten of the latest Madman DVD releases.

This review was submitted by Dana Koch. If you’ve played StarCraft, or just want to ask Dana more about it, leave your thoughts in the comments below.

StarCraft (PC)

Yes, yes, I know that the whole gaming universe has its mind currently set on StarCraft II, but this only served as incentive to see what all the fuss was about. Here’s an RTS virgin’s look at StarCraft – not only a good game, but also a deeply influential game, the one that really put real-time strategy on the map.

Loved The S in RTS: Coming from a turn-based strategy history, dipping one’s toe in the world of real-time strategy is a bit of a shock – but it’s a pleasant shock. StarCraft quietly teased out in my mind an appreciation for the strategy potential in the genre from the rich variety of situations it presents to you: “simple” time-based survival missions, non-construction, exploration-based missions, or longer, sprawling missions to build up a deadly force to overcome the enemy. There’s strategic value on many levels — the units themselves, the units across the three races, the dynamic with pitting these races against each other, and more.

Intensity: Because everything happens in real-time, all actions happen at once. This makes for an engrossing playthrough, that demands focus and attention. It’s intense, but it’s not the frustrating, nerve-fraying “intense” like traditional combat-based games can get; you’re kept on your toes, but you always feel like you’re in control.

Polish: Clearly, Blizzard understand the requirements of the genre to streamline gameplay; instead of mousing about wildly across the map, you can set up hotkeys to jump between groups of units so you can coordinate your troop movements, or to jump between areas of the map to, say, focus a strike upon.

Hated Lack of automation and higher-level actions: It probably sounds a bit contradictory to the genre to want more automation; I suspect that part of the challenge of the genre is to manage most things manually. But personally, I really wanted to set up a number of things for certain units to do all at once: for example, to fly a dropship in to one point, unload it at a given point, then get that ship back to safety. Higher-level movements would have also been nice: instead of saying that this group should all move to another point and crowd around it, there’d be examples where I’d want to advance a line of troops in a certain direction.

Engine constraints: This is a major gripe (and luckily, I have been informed that this has been fixed in StarCraft II); you can only move up to a fixed number of troops at a time. I have also heard that a lot of the slight clunkiness in the gameplay in StarCraft has been refined in StarCraft II, so this should make StarCraft II a more streamlined experience as well as a cleaner and graphically improved one.

I’m not sure whether this will have the refreshing appeal to others with different gaming backgrounds as it did for me, but the success and influence that StarCraft had should suggest strongly that it would.

Reviewed by: Dana Koch

You can have your Reader Review published on Kotaku. Send your review to us at the usual address. Make sure it’s written in the same format as above and in under 500 words – yes, we’ve upped the word limit. We’ll publish the best ones we get and the best of the month will win a Madman DVD prize pack.


  • Wait, I thought Reader Reviews had to be fairly recent games? I checked the calendar this morning and it said 2010 not 1998…

  • I used to play SC on the NT4 PCs at work with the team, but never had windaz to play on after I left that job. Thankfully it works mostly perfectly on Linux now.

    I picked up SC battle chest after getting the taste again from Halo Wars. Still a fine game.

  • Nice review. When you say ‘move a line of troops’ do you mean like a formation?

    I can see how you would want for that. As for the higher level actions, if you hold down shift you could select the destination, select unload all, then select the return point and it would of performed all those actions sequentially. It’s called an order queue.

    Unless you meant something more in depth.

    The clunky feel is understandable,especially now that it’s so dated. In regards to the limited units you can select at once, in single player this was frustrating, but in multiplayer (where the game shines) many people just consider this restriction a part of the skill set you need to manage to succeed.

    Besides games don’t usually get to the stage that you need to control 30+ units 😛

    I too hope people, who never played the original, read your review and think to have a look.

    • Great! That works well. The keystroke help doesn’t make the consequences of using shift as clear as it could be.

      Yeah, formation support would be a nice touch, lines are just one example that would be quite useful.

    • “Besides games don’t usually get to the stage that you need to control 30+ units :P”

      Every Zerg player ever is raging at you right now.
      And every bio Terran player
      And every Protoss player playing against a Terran player.

  • Good review.
    I think in SC2 you can tell a dropship to do that – you can use shift to set up a sequence of commands.

    The formation thing would be good, perhaps the ability to toggle units to move individually or keep a formation. But managing that kind of thing manually is a large part of the game, for better or worse.

  • I prefer movement in SC1 to be honest
    The thing about the movement clunky-ness is a constraint top players know how to get around.
    For example, units must slow down to a complete stop and then turn around, and accelerate again in order to do a complete about-face. You can instead rapidly order your unit to turn 60 degrees three times to achieve the same 180 degree movement, faster, since the units don’t need to slow down to turn that little.
    A lot of people may have problems with this, but I think it helps to differentiate the difference between a new player and a top level player.

  • Uh.. were “Engine constraints” and “Lack of automation” seriously used as cons in this review? That’s like writing a retrospective review on Duck Hunt and docking points because it wasn’t in 1080p or doesn’t work with Wii Motion Plus.

    If you look back at 98, hardly any games had any level of ‘automation’. Hell, Starcraft was one of the few with relay points. The reason why Brood War is STILL the esport of choice for the highest level of competition is its lack of automation. Everything had to be assigned and commanded manually, requiring more multi-tasking and APM. It, more than any other game (including SC2) separated the men from the boys.

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