Homeworld Remastered Review

HW1_Remastered_01 ReviewWay, way, way back in 1999 a small studio named Relic Entertainment made a game named Homeworld.

This was a real-time strategy game set in space and was one of the first games (if not the first), to have total 3D movement. No bottle necking an area with hundreds of tanks, no parking in one spot on a map that you knew your opponent couldn’t get to. Simply because, you couldn’t, there were no areas that were blocked, it was space, and they could fly around the asteroids and shoot you in the behind.

For its time Homeworld was a beautiful looking game, the music was atmospheric, and the fleet combat played out on screen like a beautifully choreographed action set-piece from a sci-fi movie.
A standalone expansion pack was released in 2000: Homeworld Cataclysm that was developed by Barking Dog Studios (who later became Rockstar Vancouver and worked on Bully and Max Payne 3) this carried on the story 15 years after the first game and focused more on smaller fleet combat. A full blown sequel was released in 2003, Homeworld 2 was set 115 years after the first game but did not receive the same levels of praise as the original game nor the expansion.

2004 saw Relic Entertainment being bought by THQ, they then cemented their reputation as a solid RTS studio by developing and releasing the Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War series.
THQ bought the rights for the Homeworld games and everyone’s hopes were raised for a continuation of the series. Unfortunately, the original founders of Relic left to form a new studio and THQ went bankrupt in 2013. And that was the end of Homeworld…

That is until Gearbox Software stepped in and bought the rights to the Homeworld franchise and announced plans to re-release Homeworld 1 and 2 as a HD remake, the Homeworld Remastered Collection.

HW2_Remastered_04So 16 years after its original release, gamers around the world can sit down and play possibly one of the best Real Time Strategy games of all time. So the question is, can we forgive Gearbox Software for Aliens: Colonial Marines?

Homeworld: Remastered combines Homeworld 1 and 2 in one glorious HD package, the source code for Homeworld: Cataclysm is long gone and has gained urban myth status, some say the code was lost while others say that there is a backup copy sat in a cupboard somewhere waiting to be rediscovered.

The story for Homeworld follows the Kushan, a race living on a harsh desert planet known as Kharak, the ever present fight for survival and resources led the clans to be constantly at war with each other, until the discovery of a massive ancient ship buried out in the desert.
The ship contained technologies far beyond any that they had known (you know, like deep space travel) in the centre of the ship lay a stone tablet with a map of the galaxy and two coordinates etched in, one was for Kharak on the outer rim of the galaxy, the other Hiigara which meant “Home” in the centre of the galaxy. With this, all wars were ceased as plans were made out to build a ship capable of travelling the large distance and discover their Homeworld. Over a century, and many scientific discoveries later, a scientist volunteered to be integrated into the “Mothership” to be its living command core.

hwrm_01The game starts at this point, and it’s up to you to help the Kushan find their way home and work out why they were apparently dumped on this planet. Over the course of the collections of 31 Single player missions (16 for Homeworld and 15 for Homeworld 2) you will Fight, Mine, Research, and occasionally trade with the single friendly race encountered in your travels.

You start off each map with your Mothership and a couple of resource collectors, these are the lifeblood of Homeworld, without resources you can’t build ships, without ships you can’t attack or defend yourself, and without being able to attack or defend yourself, you will die a horrible but beautifully rendered explosive fiery death.

Resources are gathered from asteroid fields, floating wreckage and various clouds of space dust. Build resource controllers to accompany your collectors and it saves the trip back to the Mothership to drop off that valuable resource.

There is a good variety of ships on offer to build, from the quick but weak Fighters, the more role orientated Corvettes, or the overwhelming firepower of the Capital ships, each one has a job and it does its job well.

It does take a bit of time to get used to the fact that your enemies can attack from any direction, ahead, behind, to the sides, from above and below. But when you’re used to it the game is a joy to play.

So what’s different to the 1999 release? Let’s check the Gearbox Software description.

“Homeworld Remastered Collection includes updated high-res textures and models, new graphical effects, and support for HD, UHD, and 4K resolutions. Homeworld’s original audio and video artists have also recreated cinematic scenes in beautiful high fidelity. Homeworld Remastered Collection uses Homeworld and Homeworld 2’s original source audio to create a stunning new mix of effects and music.”

In simple terms, they have taken a fantastic looking game from 1999 and turned it into a fantastic looking game in 2015.

As well as they Remastered versions of Homeworld 1 and 2 Gearbox Software have also included the originals, updated to run on modern Operating systems. The difference between them is astounding.

The more interesting addition to the Remastered edition is multiplayer. Gearbox has gone along the route of merging the multiplayer modes from Homeworld 1 and 2 into a single game mode. This mode is currently in Beta, as it says when you first fire it up.

“This is an all-new agglomeration that combines bits of code that are over 15 years old with bits of code that were written last week.”

There are bugs, and there are glitches.
I’ve read reports of fleets disappearing, or moving when not told to.
Others not so major, I only experienced a few minor ones, at one point I had my entire fleet colour scheme randomly change to another, not game breaking.. but it was confusing to me until I realised it was my fleet getting annihilated and not the opponent.

hwrm_08 reviewThere is also no matchmaking service, at the time of writing, and finding a game can be difficult. After 25 minutes of trying to join servers only to get dropped moments after starting the maps, I decided to try and host my own game. Within moments I had an opponent eager to do battle and was promptly destroyed within minutes, but that’s pretty standard for me and online real-time strategy games.

If you have never played the Homeworld series, I wholeheartedly recommend buying the re-mastered collection; it’s one of the few games that every strategy fan should own in my opinion.
If you are a long-time Homeworld fan, and still own the originals, £26.99 is a lot to pay out for the same games you already own with a shiny coat of paint on top.
If you are a long-time fan but don’t own the originals, I highly recommend picking this up!

I can now forgive Gearbox for Aliens: Colonial Marines.