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.

Homeworld Remastered 4K Cinematics Trailer

index

Fan favourite Homeworld is another to join the long list of remasters, geeks rejoice at this one though!

Here comes to PR blurb…

Yes, revel. Roll around in it. Rub it all over your body, already tender from the anticipation of this exceptional remake of one of the best strategy games ever. This video is full of so much beauty, it will easily find its way into every eager crevice of your fleshy self.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review

2K_Borderlands_The_Pre-Sequel_LOGO

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

PC

2K Australia

One thing I’d never considered before about game development, is to what extent it was like cooking. Specifically, following celebrity chefs, buying their cookbooks and then trying to make their delicious Tarte Tatin.

In this instance, Gearbox Software are Delia Smith; a world-renowned chef to the common man, who makes tasty titbits to be enjoyed by all. 2K Australia on the other hand are more like a semi-finalist from TV’s Masterchef, in which regular plebs, who’ve had a bit of a go at cooking try and do it properly for the entertainment of others. 2KA have started out by following the recipe set out by Gearbox, but somewhere along the way have settled for cheaper ingredients in some areas and brought some of their own herbs and spices from home – with mixed results.

BTPS_Review_In-Game_Art_JackSo Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel tells a story that’s set between the events of Borderlands 1 and 2, before Handsome Jack became the crazed villain we all loved to hate in the second game. It turns out that Jack started out as simply a wise-cracking and thunderingly sarcastic git who has a little ‘something’ about him. You get to discover what that something is as you explore the new Borderlands setting – the moon.

Ah yes, the moon. Pandora’s moon, Elpis, is at once the games’ biggest strength and greatest weakness. It was a very good decision on the part of 2KA to change up the locale for the game. Whilst Elpis is a familiarly dusty wasteland, it’s colour palette is markedly different, with a lot more red and blue than the earlier games dusty browns. Being a moon it naturally lacks the atmosphere of the homeworld – a fact that ties in neatly with the mechanics. When in exterior locations, you are required to constantly be on the hunt to refill your dwindling oxygen reserves. Fortunately, opportunities to do so are frequent, with natural air-geysers (um) and oxygen posts liberally scattered across the surface.

Your precious life-gas isn’t just a timer for certain areas however, it is built into the boost jumps that are now capable of thanks to the lower gravity. The Pre-Sequel now boasts a high-degree of verticality to its play. Areas are designed in such a way as to lend themselves to both yourself and enemies taking advantage of higher ground. Even better, you are now blessed with a stomp attack, where you can thrust yourself into the ground causing enemies surrounding you to take considerable damage. It encourages you to keep mobile, with enemies who can drop in from all sides and heights, simply poking out from behind a box and shooting isn’t as effective as it once was.

Whilst this mechanic is superb, the drawback to Elpis is that it’s simply not as well conceived as many of the locations on Pandora. The first half-dozen hours in particular are pretty slow going, with trudging across the moon’s surface and endless requests to go back through areas on side-missions. Of course, this was a fault with the original Borderlands games as well, but since Pre-Sequel’s environments lack a key ingredient that those games had, namely characters. Too many of B:TPS’ characters feel like recycled versions of people we’ve met in earlier games. It’s very enlightening to see that, when you’ve trudged back across the lunar-scape for the umpteenth time to turn in a quest for Johnny-no-personality, quite how integral to the success of the Borderlands mission system those characters- like Scooter and Ellie were. If you’ve less desire to hear what the NPC’s have to say, due to familiarity or simply less entertaining script,  then your likelihood of doing all those side-quests rapidly diminishes.

BTPS_Review_In-Game_Art_Jack BTPS_Reviews_Screen_DahlBossFortunately what the game does get right is the combat. Shooting things in Borderlands remains as endlessly entertaining as it did in the previous games, especially with new abilities like freezing to add into the mix. Coupled with the increased mobility, gun-play is very strong. Your characters have skill trees that are significantly changed from earlier games and make all four (including various builds for each) markedly different and change up the game-play considerably.

One thing that struck me from the get go was a sense of, ‘huh, I wonder how that’s going to work’, when looking at how the skills pan out. It lends itself to increased re-playability when you’re very intrigued has to how things might develop. The shield-toting Gladiator, drone-equipped Enforcer and dual-wielding Law-bringer classes are joined by everyone’s favourite mechanical malcontent, Claptrap. Far from being a weak patsy for pratfalls and kickings, Claptrap is a rolling death-dealer with a delicious element of randomisation to his abilities. His VaultHunter.Exe skill allows him to draw upon the talents of other vault hunters – supposedly to best fit the situation, but it’s Claptrap. In order to deal with enemies, he’s constantly exploding, releasing copies of himself and buggering up the plans of his team-mates. It’s stupid and awesome, exactly what you’d hope of a Claptrap playable character.

BTPS_Reviews_Screen_SplitScreen_combinedHow much you’re going to enjoy The Pre-Sequel depends entirely on how saturated you are in Borderlands experience right now. If you’ve only just got around to finishing Borderlands 2 and you immediately bite into this title, I think you’re going to get pretty full, pretty fast. This isn’t all that unlikely, since that game has only relatively recently stopped getting DLC, despite being two years old at this point. B:TPS is more of the same, only with writing that would have been sent to the compost pile of the earlier game. If it’s been a while and your taste-buds are tingling for something familiar but with a little twist, then Pre-Sequel should definitely be in your list of things to indulge in.

I’m going to leave it to Jack to sign-off in his own (it turns out, relatively imitable style):

“I called you an asshole because I thought I’d hung up?

….

My bad.”

 

Karlos Morale

Score: 7/10

Borderlands: The Pre Sequel is out now for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3