- Format: PC
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Gearbox Software
- Developer: Gearbox Software
- Players: 1 offline, 1-4 online
- Site: http://www.homeworldremastered.com/
- Game code provided by PR.
In 1999, Homeworld presented an approach to the RTS genre that was so unique in its scope and mechanics that it earned itself an unwavering fanbase that remains to this day. Does Homeworld Remastered Collection retain the wonder of Homeworld and its sequel, or have the intervening sixteen years rendered them dated?
Not only do the games remain unique, but they are remarkably fresh all over again. Since the RTS genre has reached something of a stagnation point due to no real innovation in core areas, Homeworld’s approach of space warfare and a genuinely strategic eye for mission design don’t just carve a niche for the game, but throw lasers and missiles at it until it’s a full blown chasm for it to dominate.
Each mission takes place on a huge map in which you can move your ships on every axis. You’re in space, after all. It’s actually very simple: If you want to move a ship up or down – and there are plenty of reasons to do so – you simply right click to bring up the movement marker, hold the left mouse button, and move your mouse according to where you want to go.
Simplicity to achieve unique and interesting things permeates the entire game. For example, the first game in the package features Salvage Corvettes which act as expected in terms of resource acquisition, but can also be used to go and steal enemy units. It’s a mischievous tactic that is sure to make even the hardiest of RTS veterans grin with glee. The sequel offers an equally nefarious alternative in the Marine Frigate, an enormous ship that dispatches squads of troops to take over enemy ships without having to take them back to the mothership.
Combat takes a similar approach with its various Fighter, Corvette, Frigate, and Capital class ships holding a rock-paper-scissors relationship with each other. The huge variety of them adds some depth, but most of it comes from how you approach each individual skirmish. You’re granted the ability to set each squad into a variety of formations that have a huge effect on the battle’s outcome depending on which ships you place at the front versus the enemy’s own front-line defence. In the sequel, this is taken even further with the ability to upgrade ships, providing you the opportunity to make certain ships more damaging or resilient. The choice is up to you.
The game utilises all of this to create missions that are challenging without being belligerently difficult. For example, units are persistent between missions, meaning you’ll be carrying each ship with you to the next mission. This isn’t always a good thing when you’re immediately attacked by a combination that happens to be particularly strong against whatever you escaped the last skirmish with, pushing you to adapt your approach and learn some of the unit’s tricks such as the previously mentioned Salvage Corvettes. This persistence can be somewhat frustrating when there’s simply no way for you to win – effectively punishing you for achieving only a minor victory – but this is mitigated somewhat in the sequel by the introduction of elite units, boosted ships that survived a mission in which you exceeded the minimum goals.
The game never gets dull thanks to the huge variety in mission types: struggles to seek out resources in a region that’s been plundered long ago, navigating thin strips of space surrounded by radiation and filled with mines, and fending off the “Junkyard Dog,” an enemy Salvage Corvette dead set on stealing your Capital Ships to name a few. This continues in the sequel with highlights including clearing fields of radiation to attack Carriers, or the climactic battle which seamlessly introduces some enthralling and challenging new mechanics.
The gameplay is all translated fairly well into the game’s multiplayer which brings the races of both games into battles that reward players’ big picture strategies, not just their execution or micro-management skills.
Homeworld Remastered Collection’s presentation is also impeccable, faithfully recreating the atmosphere of 70s and 80s sci-fi through masterful cutscene direction. This is done by things such as the screen lingering on alien ships as they slowly turn to face the player in an eerie silence, or using the gravity void of space to create a sense of vertigo in the player by panning around objects at an angle that should be odd. This is bolstered by some excellent voice acting that matches the vibe perfectly.
Animations add to this with little touches such as the mothership and your units warping in at the beginning of the mission in a way that seems so incredibly alien, it challenges our ideas of how movement is represented instead of lazily abiding by them to get the point across easier – a gamble that pays off enormously with the added depth achieved. The graphics themselves aren’t technically amazing, but they’re used well to create impressive visual moments such as the dogfights you’ll be sending your ships into.
This is all in service to the traditional space opera that is the game’s story; the last of the Kushan’s journey to their homeworld after unknowingly breaking a treaty preventing them from engaging in hyperspace travel. The Kushan’s battle against the Taiidan is filled with endearing hallmarks of the genre such as rebel fleets, benevolent aliens, and a human ship AI that come together in a completely serviceable story.
It’s a shame, then, that the original game’s remastered form suffers from a litany of bugs likely due to being shifted to the sequel’s engine. Nevertheless, Homeworld Remastered Collection comprises a pair of fantastic, unique games that hopefully serve as the launching pad for a successful revival of the franchise.