The Homeworld games have a special place in the history of the real time strategy genre. The original Homeworld launched in 1999 with a then revolutionary graphics engine and offered up the first truly 3D space battle experience. It also featured an intriguing scifi universe that fans could dig deeper into, if they felt the urge to do so. It was later followed up by Homeworld 2, which took much of what the first one did so well and improved upon it. Better graphics, more complex gameplay, and a story that might not have reached the same levels as the first one, but still entertained fans, while expanding its universe. Unfortunately the series looked to be dead once its publisher and developer went under. But Gearbox was there to snatch up the rights to the series and begin work anew. The first offering is Homeworld Remastered Collection, which bundles together Homeworld and Homeworld 2 in both original and HD remastered form. And thanks to the deep love that the developer obviously has for the series, fans can look forward to a fantastic reimagining of the classic games.
Homeworld tells the tale of the Kushan, a race of people living on a desert planet. After the discovery of an ancient spaceship underneath the sand, along with a special tablet that pointed toward the stars, the Kushan begin constructing the Mothership, a mobile starbase that can get them to their possible new home. On their maiden voyage things don’t go according to plan though, and they end up setting out on a journey across the galaxy, surrounded by enemies, and carrying the last vestiges of their people.
This standard tale is used to great effect in Homeworld, underpinning an interesting science fiction universe, while setting the stage for the unique gameplay that shifted the RTS genre. Homeworld’s biggest revolution was offering full three dimensional movement of ships. This seemingly simple change altered the entire landscape of the battlefield. No longer were troops locked to the X and Y axis, instead they were able to attack from above, below, or any other direction. Utilizing this and the rock/paper/scissors style of ship types, players could achieve unique strategies and tactics that other RTS games simply didn’t offer in 1999. Other games may have copied the formula, but few have improved upon it. Homeworld and Homeworld 2 still feature fun and challenging strategy gameplay that anyone can enjoy if they put enough time into it.
This is very much a classic RTS game, featuring intricate gameplay and tough competition
Another uniquely fascinating element of the game is that you are very much on a journey throughout Homeworld Remastered Collection. As you travel across the cosmos, gathering resources and building an army, you are actually building the ships that you will use throughout the campaign. All of the ships left alive at the end of the previous mission carry over into the next. This creates a sense of permanence and importance that is usually only found in Roguelikes. However, it can also lead to the unfortunate scenario where you don’t have the ships or resources to carry on. If that happens though, it is likely due to a fault of your own, and can usually be fixed by loading a previous save. Still, it can happen if you aren’t skilled or careful enough.
That is a key factor to consider for anyone that hasn’t played the originals and is looking to catch up with Homeworld Remastered Collection. This is very much a classic RTS game, featuring intricate gameplay and tough competition. There are some handy tutorials, but the game doesn’t hold much back. It rarely, if ever, feels unfair and you can usually formulate a strategy around any obstacle, but don’t expect to have your hand held throughout the campaign in either game.
So the core of the game is all solid, but what about the main draw of this set, the remastering? Homeworld Remastered Collection is a near complete visual rebuild of both games. Gearbox has taken what was once a good looking game, that hasn’t aged particularly well, and upgraded it to a truly modern level. Quite simply, Homeworld Remastered Collection looks fantastic. Featuring some of the best looking space vistas in the genre, the collection truly lives up to the legacy of the original games, while updating things for a more modern audience.
Ships feature high-res textures and good enough geometry to look stunning at a distance, and still hold up when closely zoomed in. The real star of the show are the effects and backgrounds though. Totally recreated with the originals as a template, the starfield in the background of each level adds drama to the proceedings, while also creating some stunning vistas. One of the best things to do in the game is to pick a ship in combat, zoom in, and simply watch the action unfold. Larger ships explode with beautiful lighting and particle effects, while smaller ones arc and dive through the combat zone with their engine lights trailing behind them. Aside from figuring out the best way to defeat the enemy, the most fun in Homeworld Remastered Collection can be found by simply watching the battles take place.
The graphics weren’t the only thing that got an upgrade though, as the entire UI for both games has been revamped and consolidated. Now, both games feature a uniform user interface, making the transition from one title to the next feel seamless. Building ships, forming squads, and researching new technology is all easy to understand and control, after the initial shock of figuring it all out passes, of course. Controlling ships in 3D space still feels a bit clunky though, and little has been done to improve in this arena. This was likely meant to preserve the gameplay of the original games, so it is certainly understandable. However, if you’re used to more easy to control RTS games, Homeworld Remastered Collection will take some getting used to.
The audio and cutscenes also received a significant amount of work from the remastering team. Updating and improving both the voiceover work, as well as the music. The final product is certainly the best that Homeworld has ever sounded. Overall the presentation is extremely well done, making for a modern feeling game all around. The newly updated cutscenes mirror the in-game graphics by preserving the style and feeling from the originals, while offering an updated presentation for the contemporary market.
All together, Homeworld Remastered Collection is a truly great compilation, which offers a ton of content for gamers to enjoy. There are the two classic games, which have been presented in their original form, with the only difference being they are easy to get running on modern machines. Then the remastered versions create whole new experiences without sacrificing the look and feel of the originals. For those that just want to jump into the action, there is also a Skirmish mode that combines elements from both games. Finally there is a multiplayer mode that comes with Homeworld Remastered Collection, which is currently in a beta form so don’t expect a perfect experience here. This all adds up to over 40+ hours of great RTS gaming, which should please any gamer even remotely interested in the genre.
Fans of the Homeworld series will thoroughly enjoy Homeworld Remastered Collection thanks to its combination of respect for the past and upgrades for the present. Those who have never experienced the games will find a perfect jumping on point for the series, as they can check out the originals in classic or upgraded form, the former will likely only be used to see the stark difference the remastered versions make. With their still fun and unique gameplay, and an exceptional HD upgrade, Homeworld Remastered Collection is a great reintroduction to this classic franchise.