Truth be told: I’ve never played Homeworld or Homeworld 2 before this review. Though I have played Relic’s games that have come after Homeworld, like the Company of Heroes series to the Dawn of War series. I had always heard great things about the Homeworld series, but there wasn’t any easy way to play them. Thanks to Gearbox Software acquiring the IP in 2013, that is no longer an issue. Now having played Homeworld and Homeworld 2, I’ve never played RTS’ so beautiful or well-crafted from 1999 and 2003, respectfully.
Starting Homeworld Remastered Collection is interesting, you’re presented a launcher that gives you the option of choosing one of five different executables: Homeworld Remastered, Homeworld 2 Remastered, Homeworld Classic, Homeworld 2 Classic, and Homeworld Remastered Steam Multiplayer (Beta). It’s kind of hard to know where to start for first-timers, do I start the older ones to see how they really look? Do I dive straight into the new ones? Well, I decided to start the remasters. After all, that’s where most of the work was done.
The narratives that drive both Homeworld and Homeworld 2 are exquisite. They are by no means perfect, but they tell realistic tales of humanity’s future and the plausible problems faced. There’s an air of similarity of “Battlestar Galactica” (which started in 2003) with epic space battles and trying to make it “home”, and even Homeworld 2‘s relic and artifact story also weirdly ties with BSG. The cinematics focus solely on the ships and audio from radio communications to tell you the story. There’s no faces to be distracted with, and in weird ways you bond with the faceless crews.
There’s some really well-detailed tutorials that help you get your space legs. Once, the Mothership is released into space to begin, a christening of sorts begins. From there you build ships, collect resources, and move out. And over time you’ll do research for upgrades. Both games start out roughly the same, with routine procedures met by forces quickly encroaching on your position.
Combat is pretty simple at first, and the AI of your scouts, interceptors, and corvettes are smart enough to engage their own tactics and go for self-preservation as much as possible. There are not any difficulty options to scale your experience, but I felt that everything was properly approachable from mission to mission. I felt that Homeworld 2 played a bit easier than Homeworld does. And the battles between units are very much the rock-paper-scissors mentality, allowing you to easily suss out what units are better than others. Tooltips on units before you build them gives this valuable information as well.
You can send ships to move in 3D space, along the z-axis, but I never used it that much, as there didn’t seem to be a demand for this within the confines of the story. This is also the first RTS where I felt I needed to create groupings in order to maintain control, as it is easy to lose sight of your units.
I’m thankful for the large maps in each game, it gave me plenty of time to assemble my forces, gather resources and outright stomp the competition back to primordial ooze. It isn’t always that fun, and some missions require clearing out asteroids or being an escort, this is where the large maps tend to be a slog.
Fleet persistence is a thing, as the story carries on moment to moment, so does your fleet. Losses suffered previously will still be gone at the next mission. Obviously I never knew that before. And from the moment I realized it, I began saving after every little victory. And if I lost a ship I couldn’t bear, I would reload that moment again to get it right. It slowed down my progression, but I couldn’t not be a mother hen at this point.
Homeworld Remastered Collection‘s refreshed textures and high resolution images are another example of recreating the look of the game as how you remember it, and not how it was. With being able to support resolutions up to 4K, is absolutely incredible. Of course, you can totally do that by launching either Homeworld Classic or Homeworld 2 Classic for comparison, which now run on modern machines. But even then, not much effort was put into them than that as resolution options are scarce. With the Remastered games, all too often I just kept focusing on a unit and zooming in and out to admire the details in its new skin amongst a backdrop of colorful explosion of rainbows of space.
Steam Multiplayer, only a Beta and links with a Gearbox SHiFT account (Borderlands 2 and Borderlands The Pre-Sequel players should be familiar with). Allows you to play any faction across both games, melding them together in great ways. It’s a slow burn to play online or off, but it is absolutely fun with the right people. It also creates fantasy mashups of including the Kushan and Taiidani, or Hiigarians and Vaygr to fight against in different ways.
Mod support is readily available, with Steam Workshop allowing for all sorts of modding such as putting Star Wars ships, Wing Commander, or player designed rebalancing. For this being my first time experiencing the series, I opted out of doing any kind of modifications to enjoy the pure experience that Gearbox Software provided. But the fact of how quickly these mods have gone up and are for use is a great showpiece for how committed the Homeworld community still is.
Homeworld Remastered Collection is quite the deal for $35. A lot of work not only went to making the classics playable on modern PCs, but also going through each model and texture to look as crisp and clear as possible was no easy task. Gearbox Software has done an incredible job of bringing Relic’s Homeworld series to 2015. This was a great opportunity to understand all the praise the series has been receiving after all this time, and having experienced it first-hand, I couldn’t recommend this collection more.
A Steam code was provided by PR for review purposes