A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I talked about a mod that adapted the original StarCraft campaigns to run in StarCraft II, an impressive and incredibly faithful effort guaranteed to send a powerful jolt of nostalgia through any StarCraft fan.
After I wrote that, the mod’s creators continued to expand, iterate, and improve upon it. The last campaign was completed, and it gained the much fancier title of “StarCraft: Mass Recall.”
As of a few days ago, the latest version of Mass Recall was released, updated for Heart of the Swarm. This version contains many more improvements. I’ve been playing through it again, and I am once again blown away by the quality of this mod.
One of the more obvious changes is the level of polish that now exists. When I first played Mass Recall (back when it was just “StarCraft remastered”), it was an impressive accomplishment but obviously non-professional. It had various bugs and rough patches.
However, I’ve yet to encounter any significant bugs or hiccups in this version. You’d never know it was made by amateurs.
What impresses me even more is their dedication to keeping true to the original campaigns. Not only are there now many more custom models for all of the units and buildings that don’t exist in StarCraft II, but even many units that appear in both games now have updated models to more closely resemble their original incarnations. These include everything from marines, to SCVs, to battlecruisers, to evolution pits…
There are now custom unit portraits, as well, and these are fully animated.
Everything is so true to the original. It really is just like playing StarCraft I with better graphics and more polished mechanics.
They’ve even improved upon the original in some areas by adding more details or new cutscenes. This isn’t a Lucas-esque rewrite — nothing substantive has changed about the gameplay or story. But there are little extra touches to make it just that much cooler.
For example, in the first mission on Antiga Prime, Kerrigan’s assassination of the Confederate officers now has its own cutscene. It uses the original audio, but we are now treated to the visuals of the Confederates being gunned down.
Extra details have been added to hero models to make them stand out more. You can now see that it’s actually Raynor on his vulture, not just some generic dude. The Norad II now has a custom model.
They even made their own road sign doodad for Backwater Station!
I wish I could go back in time and tell my eight year-old self something this cool was coming. He’d have had such a nerdgasm.
Of course, then I’d have to tell him to avoid all my mistakes, and then use my time machine to kill Hitler, stop the invention of the atomic bomb, prevent the harmonica from ever being invented, and deal with inevitable temporal paradoxes created by my own meddling.
But I digress.
One of the big issues with the original version of the mod was that the difficulty was rather over-tuned. Even on the lowest settings, there were some missions that practically required GSL-level skills to defeat.
In the new version, difficulty has been heavily retuned. I’ve only played the first Terran campaign so far, but from what I’ve seen, the new settings are a lot more sane. Playing on normal, I’m finding it challenging enough to be interesting, but not truly stressful.
There’s also a new easy setting for those who wish to focus on the story rather than on challenging themselves.
Something I’m also enjoying about this version of the mod is the amount of bonus material they’ve crammed in.
The campaign includes several secret missions I never even knew existed. I’ve completed two so far — Biting the Bullet and Operation Silent Scream — and both turned out to be quite fun. Maybe it’s just the novelty of never having played them before, but I think they were actually a bit more inventive in their design than most other campaign missions of the time.
I haven’t played it yet, but Mass Recall also includes the Resurrection mission which explains the continued existence of Stukov in the land of the living, which has been declared canon by Blizzard.
There are also little bonuses for those who aren’t too concerned with being perfectly true to the original. You can still use certain Brood War units, such as medics, in the original campaign — though that can be toggled off in the options if you’re a purist.
While you can now play the dungeon crawl missions as they were in the original, it’s still possible to play them as a third-person shooter.
I am still blown away that this is even possible, and these missions have been greatly improved from their original incarnation. When I first played the shooter missions, they were horribly buggy and awkward, but now they’re much smoother, and it pretty much feels like playing a real shooter — albeit a stripped down and basic one.
I also quite enjoyed the number of Easter Eggs snuck into such missions. Apparently people will still be playing World of Warcraft and Diablo III in the 26th century.
All in all, Mass Recall is an incredible effort, and far better than we have any right to expect from unpaid fans tinkering in their free time. I’d consider it a must-play for any StarCraft fan.
Get it. Get it nao.
I’ve got a new article up at Nexopia on Great Songs From Wicked Games.