What makes Homeworld so great? | Unabbreviated Reviews

What makes Homeworld so great? | Unabbreviated Reviews

It’s been 20 years since the original release
of Homeworld. In those two decades, outside of the original
game, the franchise has only had an expansion, a sequel and a recently released prequel. However, today, that tiny family is set to
get a new arrival. But before we get to that, lets go back and
take a look at what made Homeworld so great. Way back in 1997 in the tiny Canadian town
of Vancouver, British Columbia, Relic Entertainment was founded with the goal to become the best
damn real time strategy developer in the world. Little did they know it would only take them
two years to achieve that goal with the release of Homeworld. Homeworld starts you out with a backstory
of desperation and hope that revolves around the inhabitants of a mostly hot, dry desert
planet that is well on its way to becoming an entirely hot, dry desert planet. A satellite tasked with probably trying to
find less hot, dry places started malfunctioning and scanning the massive deserts that encompassed
the majority of the planet’s surface and ended up finding a big broken space ship-shaped
thing buried in the sand. After the wild and elaborate events that are
retconned in the recent Deserts of Kharak game of 2016, it is discovered that this big
broken space ship shaped thing is actually an very old broken space ship and inside is
a piece of technology called a hyperdrive module. In addition to this, there was a fancy rock
upon which was carved a map of the galaxy with one particular area marked “Hiigara”
which translated roughly to “Home” as was later found. So with this new information and technology,
the Kushan set out to leave their dusty sand world and head on back to the land they assume
they’re from. A hundred years goes by and the Kushan have
built the piece de resistance, the Mothership. Inside they’ve hung up the fancy rock, bolted
in Karen Sjet, fixed up the Hyperdrive module, and gotten it ready to go for its maiden voyage. Now we’re finally getting in to the game
and boy is it ever an entrance. The grandeur and glory of this three kilometer
ship is orbited by the camera to the ear flooding sounds of Agnus Dei with a choir doing everything
it can to give you goosebumps so hard that Velcro will stick to your arm. My 13 year old self sat mouth agape as that
ship scooted a few hundred yards from its scaffolding and I instantly fell in love with
Homeworld. At this point I think I have to say that the
rest of this will have spoilers for this nearly 20 year old game, so if you want to experience
all of these magical moments for the first time, as you should, go play it. If not, suit up and strap yourself in for
this pilgrimage into the past to discover what makes Homeworld so great. Soon after you take control and get your bearings,
familiarizing yourself with the capabilities of your starting ships and getting used to
the unbroken ground of a real time strategy in 3D space, you end your ‘tutorial’ mission
with a test of the hyperdrive. With all of the ‘warping’ of scifi games
and movies past and present, I still find this expanding rectangle and corresponding
sound to be one of the most appealing ways to convey this sort of travel. During this initial test, you learn that a
support ship made its way as far as it could go for ten years through normal propulsion
and you’re jumping to meet up with it in a matter of moments. Yet when you get there, you can’t find it. You scan and send out some ships to try and
locate it, only to discover it’s full on blown up and your only option is to gather
the black box to figure out what went down. You hear their message saying “hey don’t
come here, bad guys” but obviously it’s too late and bad guys attack you. Given the circumstances, I suppose it’s
not too surprising to consider the idea of other people in space, but why attack you
when you’ve barely even taken the first steps? All you know is that you’ve gotta get home
and strap up because you didn’t even make it out of the solar system before people started
doing drive bys. So you pop on back home through the beauty
of yet another blue rectangle and you’re greeted with the now familiar view of your
mothership appearing, silhouetted by the sun in the background. Yet when you turn the camera to see Kharak,
it’s scorched and burnt. Agnus Dei starts playing again. The sound of glory and triumph in the initial
moments of the Mothership’s launch are now somber and painful. Karen Sjet, with as much emotion that her
now robotic voice can muster, tells you “No one’s left… Everything’s gone… Kharak is burning,” You left with hope and
dreams to discover death and destruction and then return complete devastation. You don’t know why this is happening and
you won’t get to try and figure it out just yet because the six cryotrays each containing
a hundred thousand frozen citizens to make this journey are under attack. While the number that you save doesn’t seem
to have an impact on the game, you’re compelled to save every one of these popsicle people. You’re also tasked with capturing one of
the attacking ships with your salvage corvettes in order to interrogate the crew and figure
out what’s going on. Once you’ve done this, you learn of the
Taiidan and how, in developing hyperspace technology, you violated a 4,000 year old
treaty and of course the penalty is mass genocide. From a gameplay perspective, little of this
changes the view of the player who’s aware that the game is about space combat and you’re
going to be fighting *someone* in the process. However, rarely in a game are you given such
a strong motivator to feel the need for revenge and to get all of these people to a world
they can call home. It goes from a desire to just discover a missing
link from your past to a matter of surviving in any capacity for future generations. Yet the gameplay comes back into this by reinforcing
the aspect of survival and moving forward by having each mission start with whatever
ships and research you’ve accumulated so far in your journey… and a journey is exactly
what it is. Every level is in fact another jump in the
most deadly game of Oregon Trail as you roam across the galaxy to Hiigara. It zigs and zags around known threats and,
of course, into even greater unknown threats. You discover even more aliens such as the
Bentusi, who are an ancient race of friendly traders that live exclusively in space and
are tied in to their motherships much like Karen Sjet. They provide the means for you to progress
your research into new weapons and ships in a logical way, much like you do throughout
the game. Rather than just randomly conceptualizing
wild new weapons and ship designs, the game’s armory grows through trade and scanning or
capturing enemies. In your journey, you also find hostile aliens
whose only interest is taking you out. The “Kadeshi” hide out in a nebula and
use hyperspace inhibitors to trap you inside and then for some reason decide to “cleanse”
you buy blowing you up. Upon defeating them, however, you make the
discovery that these aliens have a relic of a ship that is nearly identical to the wreckage
you found in the desert of Kharak. They were the same group of refugees from
Hiigara, just like the Kushan, but took a different sociological and ultimately religious
path after deciding to hideout in this nebula. The way that this slowly paints a picture
of the mysterious lost events that lead to the beginning of the game makes Homeworld’s
story feel almost like a film noir, which is certainly aided by the black and white
cutscenes throughout. It takes the gameplay of a straightforward
real time strategy and augments it with a sense of urgency built entirely around the
player’s will to hit that next hyperspace jump and see what curiosities are found and
questions are answered. As you progress in Homeworld, the story continues
to unfold, further illuminating your ancestors’ escape to Kharak. You also continue to build an increasingly
strong fleet and learn that your actions, or more so the actions of the Taiidan in committing
genocide, have begun a rebellion. This adds another layer to the story, and
one that is seemingly necessary considering the stated scale of the Taiidan forces. Finally, you’re not all alone against the
universe. It starts to feel less like a desperate attempt
to dive face first into a gauntlet and more like a war that you might win. While the later missions of the game are more
limited in their strategic difficulty since your fleet is probably quite powerful at this
point, one thing to consider is how a wayward mission could leave you with a significantly
weaker fleet going forward. In my first playthrough of the original game,
this made the final few missions extremely difficult. Though that difficulty didn’t come in to play
during the remaster, the idea of it looming over my every action made me consider each
ship to be much more important. As you move in to the final mission it puts
you right in front of Hiigara. After all of the trials and tribulations,
the destruction and loss, the drama and discovery, you’ve finally made your way across the galaxy
to your homeworld. The battle that ensues is not easy. The Taiidan throw everything they have at
you and it’s only possible to strike back after the rebellion shows up to aid you. When you do strike the final blow and destroy
the enemy fleet, you’re shown the beautiful ending cutscene describing the outcome and
aftermath. You’ve saved your people from wasting away
on that hot dry desert planet and given then a new home in a lush vibrant world that you
were forced to flee from thousands of years before. Homeworld was a groundbreaking game in its
time. It was visually impressive being 3D at a time
when real 3D and 3D accelerator cards were only just becoming common. It stood out from its contemporaries in a
way that few other games have ever achieved. Not only did it shine graphically, but it
established a type of gameplay that wasn’t prominent in real time strategies, one that
had you hauling every unit you ever built from mission to mission. It did all of this while weaving a narrative
thread that felt as good or better than much of the science fiction of the period. A story written to evoke a full spectrum of
emotions that would give the player a drive that wasn’t just to ‘beat the game’, but to
seek revenge, to explore the mystery of their past, and to save the the last of dying race
of people. Relic tied all of this together with a soundtrack
by Paul Ruskay that lifted up every sequence so perfectly that it went on to win Best Soundtrack
of 1999 for PC Gamer and Eurogamer. He tapped into the powerful vocal adaptation
of Adaggio for Strings in Tears of Karan, his rendition of Agnus Dei, the song was used
throughout the game pivotal moments of both joy and tragedy. It used its long somber rising and falling
notes to key the listener into knowing that what is happening is important. The soundtrack set the tone for drifting in
space with low bassy notes that are synonymous with space games of all sorts. He also used upbeat tribal sounding drum tracks
and high pitched whines to instill the urgency of the combat. With all of these pieces combined, Homeworld
became a cohesive titan of high quality game design. Thankfully, with Gearbox’s remaster of Homeworld
and Homeworld 2, another generation got to experience this engaging story and timeless
gameplay. While Homeworld’s only expansion, Cataclysm,
was not remastered due to the source code being lost, it was ultimately re-released
on GOG under a new name, Homeworld Emergence. This means that today, nearly 20 years after
the initial release of Homeworld, you can play every game in the series on modern hardware. The remastered versions have wonderful updates
to textures and run exceptionally well even on less-than-stellar PCs. I can’t recommend enough experiencing these
games and everything they have to offer. Homeworld is a game that left a marker in
my life that I’ve always looked back to with appreciation. It’s one of a handful of games that defined
my interests for years to come. I’m certain every gamer has a collection of
games that fit in that category, but for me, Homeworld stands out even above my other favorites
as a title that showed me that games can be more than a sum of their parts, they can be
more than beating the boss, saving the princess, or getting the high score. They can be a work of art that sticks with
you for the rest of your life. The saga of Homeworld didn’t end here though. A great expansion and sequel built upon the
wonderful writing and gameplay creating a series that would last until 2003. Outside of Deserts of Kharak though, the series
ended with Relic being bought by THQ and moving on to other projects. However, on August 30th of 2019, Blackbird
Interactive announced Homeworld 3, a game set to take place in the story following the
events of Homeworld 2. It’s currently being crowdfunded on fig, but
isn’t set to be released until the fourth quarter of 2022. So while we wait for at least another three
years, I’ll have plenty of time to clear one or two games fr om my backlog and maybe make
videos for the other Homeworld games. You’ll just have to wait and see…

18 thoughts on “What makes Homeworld so great? | Unabbreviated Reviews

  1. I'm sure you want to get Homeworld now. I know I do… Here's a bunch of links. Some are affiliate links, some are not. This game is everywhere. Get it where it's cheapest.
    It's also on sale right now on Green Man Gaming and Steam for so little that it seems like some sort of mistake, but who am I to judge.
    GMG: https://www.greenmangaming.com/games/homeworld-remastered-collection-mac/?tap_a=1964-996bbb&tap_s=3612-0cec05
    Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/244160/Homeworld_Remastered_Collection/
    Humble: https://www.humblebundle.com/store/homeworld-remastered-collection?partner=abbrrev&charity=24627
    Fanatical: https://www.fanatical.com/en/game/homeworld-remastered-collection?ref=abbrrev

  2. Fun fact: The number of enemy forces in the next mission is dependent on the size of your fleet. For instance, if you mine every resource in the second mission and build all that you can with that, there will be a dozen assault frigates attacking the cryo-pods in mission 3.

  3. Don't you hate it when you leave your dry hot planet, and some asshole decides to make it even more dry and hot while you're gone?

  4. Homeworld was one of the few games that made me cry as a young teenager. Amazingly, it made cry twice.

    For Hiigara. For S'Jet.

  5. This game was and is a piece of visual and audio art.
    Everything about Homeworld just clicked.
    The fact that this was the first game from Relic was even more astounding.
    The story was simple and pure, the ship designs on both sides were incredibly beautiful and workmanlike, the glactic backgrounds were just jaw dropingly beautiful, the music is outstanding and the game actually had to be played strategically rather than overwhelming the enemy with sheer number.
    This game is just in a league of its own.

  6. I still have the original CD ROM for Homeworld :). I played it to death and the modding scene was incredible for the time with Star Wars, Star Trek, Bablylon 5… everything lol. Homeworld 2 was good and had prettier graphics but the story of the original sets a bar so high for an RTS I can safely say it hasn't been surpassed in any RTS I've played since. The stakes are so high, the art style, pencil like animated cutscenes, music… a unique combination.

    And you're right, the Mothership launch and return to Kharak still give me goosebumps!

    Fleet Command… online!

  7. "Kharrak is buring"….I can still hear the shocked almost emotionless delivery of Karen Sjet, that nonethless managed to convey utter despair and horror that hit the player right to the core. Homeworld is an amazing game, with cataclysm and to a slightly lesser extent HW2 being worthy sucessors. HW3, and I'll park the dodgy as fuck funding model issue, is going to have to deliver a lot to live up to this legacy. I hope the focus on a finely crafted narrative, that captures the simplicity and wonder of HW. Its not about being flashy or over the top, its a case of less is more, when that less is so finely crafted and so well delivered.

  8. Best game ever! Played every version and still am amazed how well it told a story and offered a unique gameplay! So excited for the HomeWorld 3 AND the Mobil Version! I'm a Galaxy Note fan and think HomeWorld on the Note10+ using an SPen to control the fleet will be epic!! Good time to be alive!

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