There are some games that get spoken of in hushed tones by fans, legendary titles that stand as gods amongst their lesser brethren. Homeworld is one of those titles. So when the chance came up to review the remastered collection of what was and still is a personal favourite, I threatened to maim anyone who got in my way. No, seriously, limb removal was mentioned, just ask the editors.
In September 1999 the world as we knew it changed in two ways. Firstly, a company by the name of Valve software released some digital distribution thingy called Steam or something and secondly, Relic Entertainment released Homeworld.
It was the first time anyone had done a real time strategy game that included 3D movement in space and it’s still the best implementation I’ve seen in the 15 years since. The maddening thing about those 15 years is for most of it, no bugger has been able to buy the games! There are in fact 3; Homeworld, Homeworld : Cataclysm, and Homeworld 2. Of the three, Gearbox has remastered, updated and released the surviving two in this collection. Cataclysm appears to have been lost in the swirling maw of the dread beast office move. It might be in a box in a Rockstar / Barking Dog office somewhere, one can only hope.
The two games are, in effect, the two halves of a story stretching across an entire galaxy. It’s hard not to use words like “epic” and “enthralling” when describing the trials and tribulations of the Exiles as they follow the instructions found on a stone in the desert alongside the wreck of an ancient starship. A quest to find their ancestral homeland Hiigara in Homeworld and then to survive the attentions of a resurgent Taidan Empire that really wants that planet back in the worst way in Homeworld 2.
The stories of the Homeworld games are stark in their simplicity. You survive the trials in front of you, or your entire race is gone. Roy Batty “tears in the rain” gone. Whether it’s the Taidan or the Vaygr, these people want you reduced to a footnote in history.
Happily, the remaster also includes the original version of the games made viable for modern OSs, which is fantastic. The new versions have a few changes to the games. Gone is the hellish “fuel” mechanic from the first game; the UI from Homeworld 2 is in both, which is also a good thing. It’s clean, functional, and gives you exactly enough information without cluttering the screen in nonsensical fluff. A malaise that has affected all too many more recent games.
Sadly, the balletic formation flying of the original versions is less reliable in the remaster. Fighters tend to get a little lost after a pass or two and end up spread all over the shop. This is just one example of an AI that can be a little cloth-headed from time to time, but it’s easily fixable by breaking and then reforming the strike group.
All of the various pretty things in the upgraded engine are great, but it’s not really more than a veneer of awesome on top of what was already pretty damned awesome to begin with. Besides, you can still play the originals. The lack of fancy lighting and new Anti-Aliasing tricks with some remastered audio doesn’t detract from the experience of playing the original versions of these two.
If you are a fan of RTS games, space opera a-la Battlestar Galactica, epic choral soundtracks, and excellent voice acting you will love this game.
It is also worth mentioning as a final thought that Homeworld 2 is a massively modded and moddable game, and mod support is available through the Steam workshop. There’s one or two nasty bugs to fix, the most annoying of which is a crash to desktop if you have the textures cranked to maximum, and multiplayer support is still in Beta (through Gearbox Software’s excellent Shift system), but no doubt the boffins at Gearbox will have it sorted in no time. In the meantime the community on Steam are helpful souls who put you right.
In closing…. buy this.
Homeworld Remastered Collection (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
The titan of the RTS genre is back, made all pretty, and still as playable and enthralling as ever. This is one that deserves to be in your library.