Format reviewed: PC - Windows
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Submitted by: Robert Frazer
Starcraft is regarded as a very fast-paced game – we all marvel at manic Koreans whose fingers flurry with a dizzying click-per-minute ratio that would outpace hummingbirds – but it's a slow-paced experience which has settled into my memory.
The .MIDI era was behind us in 1998, but while the advent of CD soundtracks allowed game music to be many things, one thing that it still invariably turned out to be was loud, brash and insistent. The beat continually chivvied the player to the next challenge. Even games with varied scores, such as RPGs, made their music a constant backing to every single scene and scenario, a prod smacking you back to the appropriate emotional path.
Starcraft, however, danced to a different tune. The music was quiet, scarcely a murmur, and frequently drowned out altogether by the din of combat (and the witty humour of units that you clicked on repeatedly). Indeed, a common practise amongst the creators of custom campaigns crafted with the game's impeccable, powerful and wonderful level editor was to insert their own (noisier!) soundtracks.
Simply because the music was toned down, however, does not mean that it was ineffectual. The music became ambience, gently merging into the atmosphere of the environments and the varied characters of the diverse races. Subtler, more delicate, but precise and so no less vivid.
My epiphany came early in my experience of the game, in only the second mission of the single-player campaign (itself a thick, meaty adventure with more to it than the anaemic modes of many modern RTSes). I was constructing a base with a quiet, diligent industry; had this been Command and Conquer, there would have been a pulse-pounding (and mind-battering) industrial-techno theme screeching maydays into my ears; but here the measured, laconic twangs of a single guitar lulled and beguiled me with an affecting unspoken magic to a state of enchantment. This was a wargame, and I was absorbed before a single blow had been struck.
This aural story is just one flashing gleam of the multifaceted jewel that is Starcraft, a real gem of gaming.