Homeworld, like a cheese or wine, has been years in the making.
And like a fine hunk of cheese or choice bottle of red bordeaux, is
worth the wait. In an industry of rush jobs and last minute updates
it is refreshing to see a game that was obviously developed with
quality (and not a release date) in mind. Unlike another long
awaited RTS game recently released, Homeworld proves that it
was worth the long wait. Where C&C2 failed, Homeworld stuns.
Where other games relied on contrived formula, Homeworld
manages to shine above the crowd. Elements of strategy, space
combat, and economics are combined perfectly in a fully 3D
environment. A careful balance of fleet tactics, specific ship
abilities and resource gathering make every game challenging
It pains me to have to praise a game so heavily, but in all honesty,
it?s warranted. Over the span of a week I kept returning to play
Homeworld with an increasingly critic eye, trying to find the fatal
flaw that would deconstruct my high opinion. I found a handful of
flaws, but nothing that would come close to changing my
recommendation of this game. It?s quite the experience, so let?s
get into the details.
Homeworld is far and away the best-looking RTS game ever. True
3D. Fully rotating camera. Twenty-or-so highly detailed ships. Huge
space environments. Massive asteroid belts. The list goes on and
on. Homeworld is just fun to look at. The two races, the Kushan
and the Taiidan, each have their own distinct designs and
customizable color schemes. During battles, which by the way can
involve up to 200 ships, the camera can focus in on the actions of
one unit, or view the entire operation from far overhead. The
effect is nothing short of cinematic. Fans of X-Wing, Freespace,
and Star Control will totally get off on this eye candy. And so will
The sounds of Homeworld caught me a little by surprise. I was
expecting the standard fare of canned voice-overs usually found in
RTS games. Silly me. Every unit, squad or fighter will
communicate the status of their mission, ship and actions. Fighters
will request docking for fuel. A group of attack bombers will return
updates on how well their attack run is going. Research ships will
chatter, sensors will relay proximity intrusions. Again, the effect is
nothing short of impressive. The music in Homeworld, which mixes
operatic and contemporary elements, is equally as good, but I
found it more appealing to turn it off for a more ?realistic?
The gameplay of Homeworld, and of any other RTS game, is truly
the center of the entire production. At the heart of this game is a
monster. On one hand, it appears relatively simple. Everything you
do in the game, from harvesting nebula dust to scouting unknown
territory, is to achieve one goal: destroy your enemies. All the
game?s economics, science and research serve one purpose:
Military Superiority. So that?s the relatively simple ?why? of
Homeworld, it?s in the ?how? that things start to get complex.
There are a number of equally available, equally effective means
of winning the game. Any frequent RTS gamer will immediately
1. Offensive (Also known as: Destroy the other guys crap
before he destroys yours). Probably the most used and most direct
way to win the war. Homeworld has plenty to offer the player who
wants the quick kill. A number of small fast ships, known as Strike
Craft, can be produced in huge amounts, and in these amounts,
can be deadly.
2. Defense (Also known as: Turtling, as in to turtle.) Other
players believe in the age-old adage, ?A good defense is a good
offense.? Homeworld covers this style of play equally as well.
Larger, more powerful units, such as Frigates and Capital Ships,
are available fairly early in the game, but require huge resources
3. Resource Hoarding (Also known as: ANNOYING AS
FUCK.) Build a bunch of harvesters, grab every consumable on the
map, and then produce to ward off any attacks until your enemy is
out of money. Personally, I can?t stand this play style, and gave up
playing Starcraft when -everyone- figured out how effective it was.
By putting resources in a variety of map locations (and not right
behind your base) Homeworld makes gathering an extremely
challenging and strategic ordeal.
Homeworld?s game is broken, surprisingly enough, into single and
multiplayer modes of play. Single is a stock set of missions that
offer a small variety of tasks, but essentially just equate to the
multiplayer skirmishes with a few scripted events thrown in. To be
honest, the plot isn?t stellar. It?s borrowed heavily from Descent:
Freespace. (Two races, battling it out. Third race shows up, things
get squirrelly.) Retrieving cargo and salvaging broken freighters
isn?t my idea of a good time, so after getting the hang of the
controls. Which does take some time, by the way. I moved on to
the multiplayer skirmishes. Setup very similar to Starcraft?s
multiplayer, Homeworld allows you to setup various aspects of the
session, or choose from one of the pre-built scenarios. The
computer AI can be adjusted in both difficulty and diplomacy. Two
slides ditermine the strength and frequency of the computer
attacks on human fleets. Given the large range of choice in terms
of play style, unit research and military approach even the
smallest of levels can be used multiple times of a number of
Another interesting mix of game elements, and perhaps the most
difficult aspect to overcome, is the balance between the
?Metagame? and the ?Microgame.? I swear I didn?t make those
terms up. The Metagame concentrates more on a general over
view of the entire battle, and conversely, the Microgame places
the focus of the game on activities of specific units and squads.
While playing Homeworld I found it difficult to establish the
appropriate balance between these two styles of game strategy.
During one skirmish, I was busy docking a group of scouts that
were scheduled to attack an enemy harvester near the area. While
I was fiddling with these 15 or so scouts, checking fuel levels,
setting up squad formations, adjusting maneuvers, etc a large
group of attack frigates attacked my research colony. Alarms went
off and I had to quickly fire off my own counter measures against
the intruders. I should have seen the slow moving frigates moving
into my space from hundreds of miles away, but I was busy
tweaking my scouts, and I got screwed because of it! On the other
side of gameplay, which would be the Metagame for those of you
following along at home, small groups of fighters will be wasted
because they were out classes, in need of refueling or in the
wrong formation for the encounter.
The moral of this story? Developing playing skills in Homeworld
will take time, much like the before mentioned wine and cheese.
But don?t worry, in time you will know the ways of the Force. And
I?m sure there is going to be plenty of teachers on the WON servers
willing to take your sorry ass to school.