There’s a sort of space renaissance going on in the game industry, with titles like Dreadnaught, Star Citizen, Rebel Galaxy and others taking center stage. While these titles each approach the individual mechanics differently, they all provide a focus on the ships themselves more than an individual character. It’s an important distinction to be made because it puts players in control of not just one person, but rather an entirely collective. In a way it helps convey the feelings of how vast space can really be, and how insignificant one person really is when put up against the entirety of a fleet all working together towards the same goal.

In a way, Homeworld could be looked at as the progenitor for games like these. Developed originally by Relic Entertainment back in 1999, Homeworld offered players a chance to be part of their own space opera, following in the footsteps of series like Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica.

Homeworld saw players take charge of the last surviving members of the Kushan, a race of beings who sat on the verge of extinction. Originally a group of fractured tribes, the Kushan united with the discovery of a stone tablet that showed them the way to an ancient planet they only knew as “home.” After a century of combined efforts, the united Kushan boarded 600,000 members of their clans into the newly developed “mother ship.” The mother ship was a culmination of culture and technology, it served as the Kushan’s magnum opus. And yet, no sooner did the chosen 600,00 board the ship and enter cryostasis that its journey of discovery turned into one for survival.

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Their home planet of Kharak was all buy destroyed by the Taiidan Empire, a corrupt and evil empire which served as the game’s main antagonists. From then on, players were in control of the mother ship, and spent the game’s campaign on a quest for revenge and survival, with a long journey that would culminate in a mass exodus to their fabled home planet. Throughout the story, players would slowly increase the size of their fleet, taking on allies and the ships they brought with them. From then on the game would take on almost a roguelike mechanic, where progress would carry on from one mission to the next. The size of the fleet, the resources gained up until that point, it would all be carried over to the next mission.

Thankfully, a lot of the combat mechanics present during the original iterations of Homeworld and Homeworld 2 were already ahead of their time, giving players a simple and unobtrusive interface along with solid and intuitive controls for navigating in a 3-D space. With that foundation to work upon, Gearbox had little to do in way of remastering. Instead, Gearbox took what was already there and dolled it up. They polished the visuals with hi-res textures, upgraded the lighting effects, and made the game overall look nicer.

Movement is still intuitive, with players being able to move along the x, y, and z axis with little trouble. While having to consider a third axis may catch some players off guard, by the second or third missions it becomes simple second nature. Players will be able to move units in any direction without giving it much thought. That in itself is worthy of praise considering how challenging it can be to transition the concept of 3D space into a 2D screen. Moreso when players start experiencing how chaotic some of the space battles can be. Luckily, Homeworld makes unit control very intuitive. Like most RTS games, players can select a group of ships and hotkey them to the 1-0 keys, allowing players to effortlessly switch between battalions at the press of a button. Players can also set formations for their units, granting them a bit more combat strength as a group. In exchange however, the formation will only move as fast as its slowest unit. Couple this with the diffeent ship types and players can come up with some creative formations to tackle any situation. Maybe a large cluster of scouts can be used for hit and run tactics while you have your larger frigates hammering away.

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Gearbox also included a few quality of life improvements for new players to the series. Fuel as a resource has been removed, allowing players to simply enjoy the exploration and movement offered to them without having to worry about any restrictions. Resource harvesting has also been simplified, with both games allowing players to automatically loot any remaining resources at the end of missions. It’s a big improvement from the first Homeworld, where players would have to meticulously scour each and every individual resource node to gather what was left, or risk leaving it behind.

It’s interesting to note that both of these mechanics were actually present in Homeworld 2, and were modified from the more tedious iterations present in the original Homeworld. By making small changes to increase the uniformity of both titles, Gearbox manages to change the way the remastered collection is presented. Instead of players feeling like they’re playing two distinct games that have been spruced up, the remastered collection comes across as one massive title. It feels more like a massive space opera broken up into two acts rather than two separate games.

On par with the gameplay mechanics, another one of Homeworld‘s strengths was the way its narrative was presented. Being a space opera, the game’s exposition relied heavily on its voice over work, cutscenes and musical score to set the tone, all of which have been fine turned by Gearbox. The simple hand drawn cutscenes are been polished up and the audio quality and presentation for both games feel fresh, further adding to the overall cohesiveness in both titles.

There are a few small problems I encountered while playing both versions. The games had unexpected crashes and errors that would boot me back to my desktop, and it seems that its a not an isolated incident. Other times the game seemed to have issues with scripted events, were if certain actions were performed out of order it could render a mission unable to be completed. Other issues stemmed from the seemingly dynamic difficulty setting. The game seems to adjust difficult based on how well a player is performing, which can be a good thing in that it will always keep players feeling challenged. However, the jump in difficulty can be abrupt from one mission to the next, especially if a player simply found a clever way to win. As a result, it can feel at times that you’re being punished for playing smart.

While Gearbox’s history with anything that isn’t Borderlands isn’t exactly pretty, they managed to do something special with Homeworld. It’s often said that less is more, and for those that played the original Homeworld it will ring true. The upgrades to the game have been kept simple, and come across as more subtle quality of life changes and overall presentation than any drastic overhauls.

Homeworld was already a great game 16 years ago, and it’s managed to stand the test of time.

Homeworld Remastered Collection Review
Homeworld Remastered Collection manages to polish up a 16 year old series without sacrificing any of the gameplay elements that made it a great title when it first released.
The Good
  • Higher Quality Voice acting
  • Small quality of life improvements
The Meh
  • Some models can look a little dated
  • some minor bugs and crashes
8.5Overall Score
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