Thoughts on StarCraft Remastered

With all of this talk about the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Battle For Azeroth, happening in the blogosphere it got me to thinking about Blizzard titles I’m actually interested in. Despite playing WoW here and there over the years its never really held my interest like some of the company’s other offerings. I remembered the other day that I had picked up the Necromancer pack for Diablo III and never really played it all that much, and yes I also picked up a copy of StarCraft Remastered because it’s quite simply one of my favorite PC games of all time. I hadn’t played the original in over a decade at least, so my memory of it was fuzzy before I fired up the game. After a few missions I remembered plenty, though I don’t remember many details. Memories come in flashes, but it’s still clearly the same game with some slight differences.

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Graphically it’s still running on the same sort of engine. They haven’t made any sort of major changes to the UI, story or maps. This is still the game you would have played in the late 1990’s down to the sound effects and gameplay. What has changed is that it runs in a higher resolution (1920×1080) and though everything looks sharper from that alone they also changed out character models. The buildings look a little better. The units look a little better. The characters whom you talk to look better. Outside of that it’s the same game and I’m good with this. It would have been nice I suppose to have the game redone completely in the StarCraft 2 engine just so that it really stood out, but I guess holding onto some of the nostalgic bits is still desirable. I absolutely loved this game when I was in high school and I played it for a good few years. After Brood War came out I played it even more. I came back around to it at least once in my adult life, and now I’m a handful of missions into the Terran campaign and would love to finish it again. I still never beat all of StarCraft 2 either, so I suppose this could lead into that as well.

Bottom line, is purchasing StarCraft Remastered worth it? I think that’s subjective. You can currently play the original game for free through the Battle Net launcher, so you don’t necessarily have to play the remastered version at all if you just want you retro gaming fix. Otherwise, it’s $15 for the remaster and that’s not too pricey either. I think it was worth it to see a slightly more polished version of the game you loved. If you weren’t into the original, this probably won’t change your mind about it. If you have only played the sequel, the step back in graphics quality might be a turn off for you. For me, I enjoy going back and playing old games and I also enjoy new games that choose to use pixel art so I might be the target audience for this. And I’m good with that.

Thoughts on Tooth & Tail

Tooth and Tail is a game that I first saw advertised on Steam. I was a huge RTS fan as a youth, and although I’d say my interest in the genre has waned, I still enjoy the concept. I ended up buying my copy at some point during a sale on the Playstation store, and despite usually thinking RTS style games would be best played with mouse and keyboard, this one is simplified enough to work well on a controller. Graphically it’s pixel art, but elegant enough in its simplicity. The action is pretty fast yet feels easier to keep up on than most RTS games I’ve played — there’s less micromanagement. The story goes that sentient animals are tired of eating grain and want to eat meat, so they kill other factions to then eat them. I guess it’s cannibalism, but they’re rolling with it. There are four factions according to the lore, but thus far I have only played as one and met a second. I’m not sure what part the others play but that will be revealed.

After a short tutorial that directs you on how to use your general to rally troops, tell them to back off, or give individual orders to specific unit types, you’ll then learn how to claim and build buildings. You use your commander to do all the things, but this keeps you from having to jump all over the map to control individual groups.

During the campaign, new levels of depth are added as you progress. Generally, on most maps you’ll plant farms to feed your soldiers, build spawning buildings that make the different units, and then attack the enemy faction’s bases to capture them and eventually control the map.

In between battles you be able to explore this tavern that has various bits and bobs to read and NPCs to chat up. You’ll get your next mission from new characters each time.

On some levels you’ll recruit mercenaries that will help defend you as you build up your base. Each level has a win condition and then a “heroic” goal that will gain you an additional star rating. I assume this is some sort of gating or perhaps just a goal for trophies. I’ll figure that much out sooner or later.

Overall it’s a game like many others, but it has a certain charm that appeals to me. Outside of the campaign there appears to be a multiplayer skirmish mode which is probably where the real fun lies. If I’m not mistaken this multiplayer is both local and online. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a jump-in, jump-out strategy game. It’s fun in short bursts, and it’s definitely worth the price if you can get it on sale.

Thoughts on Battle Islands: Commanders

I’ve mentioned playing Clash Royale a time or two. It was one of the first games I played that does what it does (and does well) but whenever a new type of genre emerges, you can rest assured other developers will run with the concept. Genres from recent memory are MOBAs and the Hero or Class-based Shooter (Quake Champions looks like a pretty cool new iteration on that). I’m not sure what people are calling the Clash Royale type of game, but it’s real time strategy meets card collecting, and it’s pretty addicting and fun. Minion Masters is the last game I came across that reminded me of CR, and I’m still regularly playing CR on my phone as well. Minion Masters has been trucking along with development and it has a fair bit of character and mechanics that set it apart from CR, to the point that I wouldn’t call it a clone. Battle Islands: Commanders on the other hand, is exactly that. But is that a bad thing?

I was browsing through the Playstation Store the other night and decided to take a look at the free to play section. I’m already playing a few titles (SMITE, Paladins, Warframe from time to time) on PS4 that are F2P, and for the most part I am very satisfied with them. As such, I stumbled upon this title and apparently it’s based on an already existing franchise called Battle Islands. I’d assume BI is to BI:C what CoC is to CR. And that’s fine. I’m sure the game world this one is based on is likely a Clash of Clans clone as much as this game is a clone of Clash Royale. I’m not really saying that the game being a clone is really a bad thing though. Honestly, this is Clash Royale (albeit horizontally aligned rather than vertical) with a WWII military skin on it. If you like CR, you’ll probably like this game, as pretty much every single concept is present, and it plays identically. I played on my PS4 because that’s where I happened to see it, but it is also available on Steam. It is free to play no matter the platform.

The game consists of various menus that any veteran of the genre should be easily familiar with. The meat and potatoes takes place on the above screen. Instead of towers, you have bunkers. Instead of a castle you have a warship. Otherwise the standard two lanes of combat exist, and you will play cards that spawn units with various abilities or perform actions like shooting missile barrages from off screen on a targeted area. These are obvious swaps from the fantasy creatures and spells from CR. For what its worth, the animations, the unit variety and the gameplay is on par with CR. It does seem to hitch a bit sometimes from lag, but I have that problem with CR at times as well. From what I’ve played of it the amount of chests that you will unlock from playing, and the costs to upgrade cards feel fair. There is a cash shop of course, and this is mostly used to upgrade cards, or buy chests that will also give upgrades, or to get currency to hurry up unlocks. These are all the same concepts used in CR. From the Steam reviews, it seems that the majority of negative scores point at the fact that it is “pay to win” and in a sense it is. However, just like every other competitive F2P title, you will earn the same power over time without dropping any cash. You’ll just get there faster if you do spend a bit. I see no problem with this.

 

Standard fare. Chests will give a variety of drops + some supplies and gold. Gold can be used to rush chests, and supplies are used to perform upgrades, and also buy cards from the shop that rotates cards out daily. You’ll earn stars from battles, and after 10 stars you’ll get a supply drop chest. Wins also come with chests, and they all take time to open. Cards start at level 1, and through gaining extra copies you can level them up. These numbers grow exponentially, and the costs go up as well. CR vets will understand this right away. Your overall account level is affected by this, in that each time you upgrade a card, you get some points to eventually level up your account which comes with the benefit of a stronger bunker and warship.

 

Overall I like the game. Is it a copy? Yes. But it’s reskinned and just different enough to warrant playing. Will I get significantly involved? Probably not as much because CR is with me in my pocket where ever I go. But for a couple quick rounds in between other things while I’m at home? Sure, why not?

Codex of Victory

Another gem to come out of left field, Codex of Victory melds several different strategy game elements into a fairly successful formula. A low poly, semi-anime style romp, the campaign boasts 20+ hours of gameplay, of which I’ve experienced a handful of missions, but the core gameplay has made itself known.

Combining three core game modes, there are elements of Real Time Strategy, 4x, and Turn Based Strategy rolled into one game. The majority of your time will be spent on the field of combat, which will be different configuration each time, but will encompass the TBS and RTS portion of the game.

You’ll find yourself on a grid based landscape, where action points (or AP) will be spent to both build units and to perform actions with said units. You’ll capture additional points of interest to gain more AP, and with that AP you’ll decimate the enemy. From there, you’ll spend some time building your base along with upgrading your units between battles.

After sufficiently preparing for the next battle, you’ll jump on the mission screen and fly to the next tactical strike point, completing missions and earning resources to build more stuff along the way.

Clearly the latter two portions of the game cover the 4x strategic requirements by picking up new territories and plotting attacks for various resources. The latter two portions also remind me the most of games like XCOM, but still feel right at home mixed with the other portions of the game. Honestly I’m surprised it works due to the various directions the dev team decided to go in, but it does feel just right. It’s not overly convoluted, not overly focused on graphics or storyline, is easy to pick up and feels appropriately difficult. For fans of really any genre of strategy games, you’ll find something to like here. It’s a $15 price tag on Steam unless you catch a sale (current sale is for $12) and is definitely worth it, should you be looking for something easy to jump into for a cheap price. That’s my two cents, anyway.