Homeworld: The Return Of A Game That's Almost Perfect

Homeworld: The Return Of A Game That's Almost Perfect

Playing through Homeworld again after all these years is weird. Games are forever changing. Usually, they're advancing. They progress not just in terms of visuals, but design. Shooters, for example, change the way you take cover and recover damage, while stealth games have developed smoother controls and give the player a greater awareness of what's going on around them.

If you played a shooter from 1999 and then a shooter from 2015, you'd notice the differences immediately, not just in how they looked but how they played, how smartly they were designed.

Homeworld was released in 1999. The 20th century. Play its remastered edition in 2015, though, and you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a brand new video game. Almost everything about it -- and I'm not talking about its new visuals -- feels fresh.

The way it works its narrative into the missions, the way you get audio feedback from distant units, the control scheme (which somehow nails movement in a 3D space), the user interface...it all works, and works almost perfectly, with a simple elegance that space games released over a decade later have yet to match.

Homeworld: The Return Of A Game That's Almost Perfect

I used to wonder why, in the dark times between Homeworld 2's release and the more modern run of entries in the genre (like Sins of a Solar Empire), why nobody had come along and just cloned Homeworld (even Sins, perhaps its closest "competitor", has a vastly different strategic side to its action).

After all, that's how it works in other genres. A game comes along that rewrites the rules, sets a new standard, and suddenly everyone else is making the same damn game. To bring up the blockbuster genre again, shooters are notorious for this. It's derivative, sure, but at least you get to play more of the same once you're done with your first choice.

Yet we never got a Homeworld clone. Still haven't got one. I'm starting to think it's because Homeworld was just so timeless we never needed one.

Homeworld: The Return Of A Game That's Almost Perfect

Here are some other things I jotted down in my notes after playing for a while:

  • Boy, Homeworld 1 really needs a button to speed up time. Homeworld 2 has one, and it makes a huge difference, since there are plenty of times you're just hangin' out, harvesting resources.
  • So, the story of Homeworld is basically the same as Battlestar Galactica. What's funny going back into Homeworld after the BSG remake was how that TV series itself seems to have been inspired by Homeworld, at least in terms of its soundtrack, with both featuring a heavy dose of Middle Eastern-inspired tunes to really set the mood for a deep space caravan. That might be a coincidence, but...
  • While both Homeworld games are close to perfect, they're not quite there. There are a few quirks, like some questionable spawning tricks and mission pacing, that remind you games were harder in 1999 (or at least more randomly brutal) than they are today. It's a shame the series expansion/spinoff, Homeworld Cataclysm, wasn't also included, as I remember it being the smartest entry in the series.
  • While the remastered editions are the ones everyone will flock to, it's still worth going back and taking a look at the originals, which are also included in the pack. If only to admire just how timeless the art design is.
  • I'd forgotten that one of the coolest things about these games is that your fleet isn't just a disposable force that you build and destroy each mission. Your units survive between hyperspace jumps, meaning you can develop an attachment to your favourite Ion Frigate or Carrier and see it carry you through. It's a nice touch, making you fond of tiny fake spaceships, and it's one I wish more strategy games could/would make.

Comments

    Homeworld was a masterpiece, years ahead of its time. As a singleplayer game, you will see few RTS games capable of telling such a dramatic story alongside amazing visuals, music and gameplay. It is quite sad that RTS games have devolved into mind-numbing click-fests or their stale and repetitive cousins, MOBAs. Homeworld is valid proof that game design in the late 90s on PC was at its peak.

    Loving it. The only thing that erks me is the Homeworld 2 game balance system creeping into the Homeworld 1 Campaign. In that on some missions the enemy will have a larger fleet based on the size of your own fleet. While this is great to make things challenging (which HW1 is known for, unless you salvaged everything not nailed down), it led to some interesting encounters.

    Like, for instance, the Ghost Ship having a fleet of 20 something Assault Frigates orbiting around it, in addition to the missile destroyer, 2 multibeams and ion array. I had to get real creative trying to take that thing down cost effectively. It doesn't help that some systems of HW were lost in the process like effective formations.

    Apart from that. Homeworld is something I have missed for a long while and am more than happy with the remake.

    Last edited 28/02/15 11:17 am

      Yeah, seeing H1 being driven by the H2 engine has been getting on my nerves too.
      I can accept fuel being removed, even if it kind of ruined some of the missions where managing your own and cutting off the enemies supply was pretty much the driving aspect.

      In the Kadesh missions the enemy Mothership used to ram your own but no longer does :(

      The fact vehicles no longer behave like hey used to, corvettes act like fighters now and you no longer have an evasive stance. So annoying.
      As you mentioned the ghost fleet, evasive tactics with your fighters was very important.

      Im loving it for sure, but it doesn't quite feel like a true remake of H1 just yet.

    I always played this game when I wanted to relax. I'd get a squad of fighters and set the camera to follow and just send them out to the middle of nowhere. Listening to the beautiful soundtrack and the chatter of the squadron was just Brilliant.

    I want to get this game but I've seen some people have had problems with it?

    Found one issue already.

    when I was playing though the tutorial, it would keep on asking me to press ok then just continue without me pressing it, If I did it would just stop talking to me expecting me to complete the objectives with no instructions to what they where.

    still don't like the view system its annoying when you miss something because it is above the point you can zoom out.

    It's not just that your ships carry through from mission to mission, its even smarter touches, like your control groups for those ships carry through as well.

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