How to play Starcraft, Civilization, and other classic games on Android

hands android app plays starcraft fallout play windows games on
There is no shortage of games out there for Android users. That said, there’s also nothing available for smartphones quite like the classic strategy games and RPGs for PC such as Fallout or StarCraft. For those who are fans of such nostalgia, one cool app to try is ExaGear Strategies, a new emulator that lets you play these classics on your Android device.

Built by Eltechs, a Russian startup based in Moscow, ExaGear Strategies is part of an upcoming line of applications that will bring dozens of classic PC games to your Android smartphone or tablet. Normally, it’s impossible to run games built for PC on Android devices. This is because the games for PC run on the x86 architecture, while smartphones use ARM architecture instead. You don’t need to know what either of those mean, to understand the basic fact that the difference between them makes the process of porting games a difficult task that requires rebuilding parts of the game from scratch to make it compatible.

Plans are underway with a major Russian games publisher to bring many classic games to Android in self-contained, easy-to-use apps.

ExaGear, however, has a way around that. By using a binary translator, Exagear is able to automatically convert the x86 code inside classic games like StarCraft and then run them on ARM-based operating systems like Android. With the help of tools such as WINE (which allows Windows programs to run on Linux), the software is then able to boot up classic games in real time as if they’re running on a Windows computer.

Since the process is using both a binary translator and third party software, it’s far from perfect. However, Exagear Strategies is still able to run dozens of popular PC games, and it’s much faster than DOSBOX and other emulators out there.

According to Vadim Gimpelson, CEO of Eltechs, the ExaGear Strategies app is just the beginning for the company. Plans are underway with a major Russian games publisher to bring many classic games to Android in self-contained, easy-to-use apps. One such app, a port of Heretic, is already available. The software was originally designed to support Heroes of Magic & Might 3, which was released back in 1999. Eltechs also plans to use its binary translator technology to allow companies to run their x86-based software on cheaper, more energy-efficient ARM-based servers too. The technology is also being pushed to micro-PCs like Raspberry Pi and Cubox in order to give developers and hackers the ability to run x86-based code.

Hands on with ExaGear Strategies

We should warn fans in advance that ExaGear Strategies is still in the early phases of development. As a result, games don’t always work as well as they should. Turn-based strategy games or older real-time strategy games are your best bet at this point. That said, you can test just about any older Windows-based game with this technology.

starcraft

In order to use ExaGear Strategies, you have to first own the classic PC games you wish to test, and have them installed on a Windows PC. Once the game is installed and working, you simply copy the folder it installed into (usually in Program Files) to your ExaGear folder in the internal storage of your device. Unfortunately, SD Cards are not yet supported. Once the files are on your device, you simply try to run the game and see what happens.

As far as we know, there’s no guarantee that your game will work, so it’s all a matter of trial-and-error. Some games only work with the CD versions they came in, such as Civilization 3. Other games, like Fallout, can play with DRM-free re-releases downloaded from sites like Good Old Games. Depending on how powerful your device is and which version your game is, you may experience lag or crashes even if the game is supported by ExaGear Strategies. So far, there is a community on the Russian site 4PDA trying to figure out which games work, but they are using Russian builds of the games being tested, which may have different results from their American counterparts.

We tested about four or five games with mixed results. By far, older 2D or isometric games ran better than 3D games. One game we had great success with was Stronghold, a classic medieval castle builder available on GOG.com. Games like Fallout were  a bit clunky with the interface, but Eltechs assures us a special, RPG-friendly version of ExaGear is on the way that will support Fallout. As for Civilization 3, the version we have available wouldn’t work, though others say they’ve had success. StarCraft doesn’t run all that fast, but it’s certainly a proof-of-concept. Like any emulator, the experience of course is not going to be just like the one you’re used to on the original hardware.

Rough around the edges, but worth exploring

If you’re a fan of older, classic games, ExaGear Strategies is worth a look. The developers are actively updating and supporting new games, so be sure to at least keep an eye out for future versions that will either support more games or run games like StarCraft and Fallout more smoothly. The program is free to download, but will prompt you to select virtual controls for the touchscreen, even if you’re using a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. Unfortunately, the controls only have a three day free trial. After the trial ends you have to pay $7 in order to continue using the app with one set of controls, plus an additional $7 if you want to use both sets of virtual controls. Basically, to play the game, you have to pay. Still, if you’re a huge fan of classic strategy games and want to bring them wherever you go, then give ExaGear Strategies a try.

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