Apparently 2015 is the year the PC gets serious about the HD remake craze. Resident Evil, Grim Fandango, Homeworld — it's only February and already three of the most notorious games in history have shown up in my Steam library, spruced up and ready for prom.
HomeworldRemastered is of course the latest of the bunch, with Gearbox resurrecting Relic's 1999 space real-time strategy game for another go-round. Once again we pitch the most important question: Does the experience hold up?
Nothing but the rain
Surprisingly, Homeworld holds up better than pretty much any HD remake I've played, including the aforementioned Resident Evil and Grim Fandango but also genre kings like Halo and God of War. And it does so for one very important reason: There's still not a lot like it.
It's been fifteen years since Homeworld's original release. Fifteen years since the advent of the fully-3D real-time strategy game. Look around. How many of those do you see?
There are the occasional lookalikes. In fact, Paradox and CreativeForge attempted a Homeworld-alike just this past year with Ancient Space. Even so, no pretender to the crown has ever dethroned Homeworld, in part because the real-time strategy genre sort of...stopped being a thing. Oh, we still have the occasional title like StarCraft or Planetary Annihilation, but by-and-large the RTS landscape looks a lot more bleak in 2015 than it did in 1999. And as for fully-3D movement in an RTS? Forget it. Nobody's messing with that. Even Ancient Space settled for 2D-pretending-like-it's-3D.
The point is if you've never played Homeworld, doing so now feels about as revolutionary as it did in 1999. It's a space RTS that actually takes advantage of the fact that space is, well, space. You know that Wrath of Khan, "His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking," eureka moment? It's a game built around that. It's a game where your ships move in three dimensions, and that matters.
The story is standard space-opera fare: The Kushan survived on the desert planet of Kharak for thousands of years until a chance find in the desert alerted them to the possibility of galactic space travel. They spend a hundred years working on the Mothership, meant to colonize a distant planet known as Hiigara or "Home."
The ship takes off only to find aliens lying in wait. The Mothership and its fleet fight off the aliens and return to Kharak to discover the planet's been destroyed. With no options left, the Mothership sets out across the galaxy as the last bastion of Kushan life.
Hey, it's basically Battlestar Galactica: The Video Game. The comparison is even more apt because there's an element of persistence. At the end of each level your surviving ships and retained resources are carried over to the next mission. You are literally holding together the remnants of Kushan society as you travel home.
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