The legacy of Homeworld is indisputable. Evident by the reaction of the recent PAX west reveal. Strategy game enthusiasts are marvelling at the announcement of Homeworld 3 as Gearbox are linking up a third edition in the titanic sci-fi strategy series.
During the Homeworld 3 reveal it was announced that Gearbox had teamed up with Blackbird Interactive, the brains behind Deserts of Kharak (should we be worried…) to bring us third edition in the series.
Blowing the amusing $1 target out the water, the Homeworld 3 fundraiser capped $50,000 within an hour. But, before you get too carried away, the release date is tipped as 2022.
But we’d rather the wait and have a third instalment that does the franchise justice, right?
Younger gamers out there might be questioning what all the hype is about, and gamers with first hand experience might have had a wave of nostalgia triggered with the recent announcement.
So lets re-live the legacy of Homeworld during a time when the strategy game genre was a mainstay of PC gaming, and not the shrivelled up has-been it is today.
Homeworld 1 was released back in 1999. The same year as the release of Age of Empires 2, a prodigious time for RTS games.
HW1 revolves around the survival of your species, the Kushan, through the Pride of Hiigara. An impossibly shaped mothership floating through space. Thanks to the Taiidan Empire your home world of Kharak has been cleansed through an act of groundless reprisal for discovering hyperspace technology.
Gradually, thanks to the convenient supply of minerals the player builds an economy that can support ship building in a bid for retribution on the Taiidan. Your fleet building will range from small fighter squadrons, to destroyers.
The legacy of Homeworld starts with its atmosphere. A residual influence that you can see in more recent releases such as Sins of a Solar Empire. The Homeworld series does a beautiful job of depicting the vastness and silence of space. Interrupted by the peculiarly tranquil noises of ship engines, music and cannon fire.
With no visibility of your opponent’s ships, the game can lead you into a false sense of security as you begin to build up your economy and quietly watch your colony prosper. A hard reality check comes in the form of a few red blips on your map initially, followed by a deluge of Taiidan ships bent on one motive.
The appeal of Homeworld 1, (aside from presiding over your own space economy!) lies in its difficulty. The punishing loss of units that roll over to each campaign mission and uncompromising AI can snowball the game into unmanageable levels of difficulty if you put a foot wrong.
Whatever units you have left at the end of a campaign level get rolled over to the start of your next mission. Why is that punishing you may ask? Each mission gets progressively more difficult with more aggressive enemy AI. By mission 8 on wards if you don’t start with a decent sized fleet you will be wiped out within 10 minutes of starting the mission.
The first edition in the series also saw ships running out of fuel, talk about realism. However, extremely frustrating during dog fights or at critical parts of the mission.
But back then games punished you for not thinking long term… how I miss that.
The success of HW1 prompted the development of Homeworld 2, which was released in 2003. The second instalment follows on from the recovery of the Kushan home world, Hiigara, from the Taiidan. The threat continues from an expansive species called the Vashan who have been consolidating Taiidan planets into their empire. The game begins with a space assault on Hiigara. Fun fact: this was one of the first games me and brother got working on LAN.
Drawing on the game’s original strengths, but spruced up since its 1999 predecessor, HW2 removed some frustrating features such as fuel loss. It also introduced battle cruisers, huge dreadnoughts capable of massive feats of firepower. With a borderline ridiculous weakness for bomber squadrons.
The dynamic difficulty level, where the strength of the enemies starting fleet depended on the composition of ships the player started the mission with enhanced the challenge. Although it was exploitable where players could “recall” all their ships for RUs, the game’s in game currency. that would also roll over to the next mission. The enemy fleet would be scaled down to match but the player would be able to quickly amass a huge armada.
The second instalment came at a time when RTS games had peaked. Games like Age of Empires and Empire Earth had seen their day. The legacy of Homeworld had a far further reach on the real time strategy genre by breathing life into its diminishing market share, albeit temporarily.
In 2013, 10 years after the release of HW2, Gearbox jumped on the remaster cash-cow that has surfaced in recent years and announced a project to release HW1 and HW2 in HD editions. Later named the Homeworld Remastered Collection.
The project producer Brian Burleson stated neither game’s code was in a releasable state so was heavily reliant on the support of the HW Mod community to help recreate the original development tools. By February 2017, 700,000 copies had been sold.
If you haven’t already, try out Homeworld Remastered collection. Everyone should play it at least once.