It’s nearly midnight, I have work in the morning and my fiancée is getting increasingly pissed off with me. I’ve been hunched over my PC for nearly 4 hours now, occasionally mumbling “nearly done” in whatever direction I think she’s currently at but I can’t leave now. My fighter squadrons are decimated, desperately trying to hold back waves of enemy ships. Frigates and support vessels are trying to hold a line against the tide but finding themselves slowly, irrevocably pushed back towards the Mothership. Laser and cannon fire is exchanged over vast distances as my surviving destroyers try in vain to take out their opposing numbers but everything is going wrong. Don’t worry Hun, I’m nearly done. Just five more minutes. Honest.
Homeworld is a game that, 16 years after its original release, still holds a special place in the hearts of many gamers and for damn good reason. Its blend of beautiful imagery, intelligent gameplay and emotionally compelling storyline won fans across the world. Its subsequent follow-ups, 2000’s Homeworld: Cataclysm and 2003’s Homeworld 2 continued the trend and completed the overall saga of the Exiles/Hiigarans in a surprisingly satisfying way.
A dedicated and talented modding community have kept the games alive since then with numerous patches and remakes and it’s hard to find a strategy/sci-fi gamer fan of a certain age that doesn’t have fond memories of their time with the Homeworld series. When it was announced in 2013 that Gearbox, the studio who had acquired the rights to Homeworld after THQ went bankrupt, would be not just re-releasing but also remastering the game for modern systems, it’s fair to say certain sections of the gaming world lost their collective minds, myself included but before that, for those of you who are new to this, just what is Homeworld?
Homeworld is a space-based RTS revolving primarily around ship to ship combat. Your fleet, led by the Mothership, is on a journey across the vast gulf of space to find and reclaim Hiigara, the original home world of your people. I won’t spoil the story but this isn’t your run of the mill sci-fi. Genocide, tribal warfare, galactic politics and rebellion all have a part to play.
From start to finish, Homeworld is an emotional roller-coaster that treats you like an adult. Its story is an intelligent blend of history and myth that conjures images of Mongol invasions and crusades, refugee columns and falling empires without smacking you in the face with its inspirations. In short, it’s space opera at its finest. Its music is critically acclaimed and it’s entirely deserving of that weaving various themes and motifs into a compelling, unique soundtrack. Trust me when I say you’ll never listen to Barbers ‘Adagio for Strings’ or it’s vocal equivalent ‘Agnus Dei’ in the same way again.
Technically, the game revolves around resource management and tactical combat. Missions are varied and diverse but you will often find yourself carefully nursing your resources and ships for the greatest outcome. Homeworld has lost some of its tactical complexity in its translation to HD due to its use of the Homeworld 2 engine and interface but it will still hammer you for fucking up. Spent all your resources on frigates and just watched them get chewed to pieces by enemy cruisers? What a shame, now you get to watch as your Mothership is blown to pieces.
You can move in a 3d, X/Y/Z axis which means up, down, left, right, forwards and backwards for the uninitiated. You’re actively rewarded for moving in all directions – for example, frigates have weaker armor on the top and rear so maneuver yourself above and hammer them in the weak points. Various capital ships now also have subsystems so instead of worrying about that weakened cruiser limping off to heal you can just take out its engines and let your crews go to work at their leisure. It’s an interesting evolution of the game from its original and it still manages to feel fresh compared to some of its modern day rivals.
Homeworld also comes packaged with the remake of its sequel, Homeworld 2 and both original games in their old school state. It’s worth giving the originals a hit just to see how well Gearbox have done with this and Homeworld 2 is just more Homeworld, a good thing in short terms. Homeworld also comes with a unified multi-player that wasn’t yet working at the time of review but looks interesting at least. When I first picked this up for review, I was worried about the response I’d receive. Homeworld was an important milestone for me in gaming and one of the first true joys I had on PC. I must’ve lost countless hours on it as a kid and it helped me through a rough patch in my life. I’m happy to say that Gearbox has pulled a blinder with this. It’s polished, primed and bloody brilliant. Pick it up on Steam for a bargain price and treat yourself to a classic.