When it comes to Homeworld, I am no stranger to the franchise. So when THQ went bust and Gearbox acquired the rights to the franchise back in 2013, I thought that it would be shelved as quickly as THQ did with it and I’ll just be stuck with the classics for another decade, or until they become too old to run. But surprisingly, this wasn’t the case. The key people over at Gearbox knew the game well, they respected it. And not only that, they openly co-operated with Blackbird Interactive; the original developers of the Homeworld franchise. Fast forward two years later and BAM! Homeworld Remastered steps back into the limelight, breaking over 100,000 pre-order sales in the first month.
I was one of the lucky few to pre-order the Collectors Edition back when it was first announced in November and it was finally delivered to me on the day of the game’s release. Was it worth it? In short, YES. Now some people would tend to disagree, but when you actually look at the collectors edition, you can just see the sheer amount of effort put into it. For a start you get a massive white and blue box with the Hiigaran insignia on the front and the contents inside include a metal Hiigaran insignia key ring, a ‘historical and technical briefing’ art book and as the centerpiece, a beautifully crafted one foot long Pride of Hiigara statue that lights up!
But what about the game itself? Well for a start you don’t get a game but an entire collection: complete remasters of Homeworld 1 and 2 as well as their untouched classics. But what they have done to the remasters is what I’d call complete dedication.
Now, I’ve looked at many posts online about people having a go at Gearbox saying that they’ll mess Homeworld up as much as what they did with their other games such as Aliens: Colonial Marines and Duke Nukem Forever, and yeah, I’ll admit those games have reserved a spot in hell. So it’s understandable that people are rather skeptic. But as I said before Gearbox is also working with the original developers who actually know what they’re doing and what everything should look like. But has it paid off?
The remasters are nothing short of a visual masterpiece. Each level, each background, each ship and each frenzied battle is just a treat for your eyes. It seems that Homeworld, a game that was known to be beautiful back in 1999 can now, for the first time, be photo realistically beautiful. It is clear that Gearbox loves the franchise and have taken great care in remodeling, redoing the texturing and improving the audio immeasurably. For the first time in so many years, I felt emotional in the first few levels of Homeworld 1 because it just is so believable.
However once I looked beyond the visual and audio upgrades, I noticed that there have been many significant changes. For a start the clunky Homeworld 1 interface has been vastly improved to relate more along the lines of the Homeworld 2 interface. You can now combine formations from both games and you can still have individual fighters instead of complete squadrons. But then, sadly, it somewhat goes a bit downhill.
If you played classic Homeworld, the chances are that you’ve heard or you’re used to something known as the ‘E-Z’ tactic where you would just salvage everything to add to your fleet and therefore making the game a little easier. Well in the remaster you’ll be in for a nasty surprise as Homeworld Remastered now includes the dynamic fleet sizes found in Homeworld 2, so all that salvaging would just mean it’ll be harder in the next level. (As I found out in mission 5 when I was against about 15 assault frigates and 5 destroyers instead of 8 and 2.) But that still didn’t stop me from stealing the enemy carrier, which would then later spawn a squadron of enemy interceptors when it relaunched from the mothership. Many other veteran players also picked this up, but we came to conclusion that this might have been a bug. But then on top of that, you could no longer build units from the carrier. So I felt rather silly salvaging a heavy armoured dual resource controller with a hanger bay.
Then there were the Kadeshi. Now Gearbox focused most of their promotional videos on the introduction of the Kadeshi, which was pretty cool in my opinion, however in the game they weren’t exactly the frustrating little s**ts that I remember ripping through my resource controllers and assault frigates. In fact, they were far from it. No in Homeworld Remastered, the Kadeshi would mainly focus on your fighters, which in turn is fair enough, but that just meant that your assault and drone frigates could easily pick them off whilst your ion cannon frigates and destroyers could focus on the Kadeshi needleship. The swarmers also forgot about attacking my resourcers which they would usually be all over in the classic and in fact, is one of the primary objectives to protect them at all costs.
Some people say that it could be a bug, or it could be made easier because games back then were too hard and the ‘youth’ of today prefer games a little easier. That last one really got me. Strategy games are never easy. And if you can’t do it? Go back a few levels, re think your fleet layout and try again. That’s how I got around the Kadeshi when I first played Homeworld many years ago. But then the cherry was put on top of this cake in mission 8 ‘the Cathedral of Kadesh’ when I completely overpowered the swarmers, salvaged every multi beam frigate I could get (5 instead of 16… and they had been nerfed hard!) and destroyed the first needleship in the first two minutes when in the classic it would’ve taken me five minutes with about three multi beamers and a handful of swarmers tearing through my destroyer at the same time. And THEN when you tried to attack the second and third needleships, you couldn’t kill them! They would replenish their health bar no matter what you threw at it as they would slowly plod along to the ‘friendly signal’ (which can be revealed as soon as you entered the level) to their ultimate death. So I spent about five or ten minutes ‘escorting’ these ships to the point where I could finally kill them, when in the classic, you kill two of the needleships and the third rushes towards the ‘friendly point’ where it would be backed by 10 multi beam frigates and two walls of swarmers that would destroy half of your fighter formations before you would get close. But where there any of these back up units? No. And the needleship didn’t bother to fight back or ram into my frigates as it would’ve done in the classic either!
Now maybe I’m ranting over something that could’ve been another bug, but in the end, when you see things like that, you really do feel as if you’re playing a different game and not the one you remember being challenging. I mean, yeah sure the dynamic fleet sizes meant that missions 3, 5 and 6 were hard, which was great in my opinion as they used to be a breeze back in the classic. So well done Gearbox for that, but then again how hard is it to leave everything else as it was?
Going to Homeworld 2, the list of bugs is far less which is brilliant. The gameplay is exactly how it is in the classic and the visual upgrades are good, yet small to what they used to be, as if each ship just seemed to have had a quick re-texture. It was only when I really zoomed in to see that each ship has had a minor tweak and a few extra polygons added to their design on top of their improved textures. But nevertheless it was still a major improvement to the classic game. The only one major issue I picked up was some of the dialogue from Fleet Intelligence (who is now the same actor from HW1) where it seemed to be ‘unprocessed’ and raw as if it was recorded on a cheap microphone. Now even the game testers should have picked that issue up regardless of the other bugs as it seemed rather unprofessional, especially for a beautifully crafted remaster. However I am positive that Gearbox will solve that issue rather quickly.
The multiplayer is still in beta mode but pretty much reflects back to the classic multiplayer that used to run on Gamespy. I’ve played a few matches, won some, lost some but mainly I also couldn’t load half of them. One of the major issues with the multiplayer is that the game would crash whilst you were loading, especially if you were the host. But then again, it is in beta…
Reflecting to the remaster as a whole, the new lighting is superb, especially for the ion cannons and vaygr battlecruiser ‘trinity cannons’, as well as the dynamic background lighting in both games. The depth of field option also gives the game many screenshot opportunities, and there are many opportunities for a quick shot. The sheer attention to detail is also beyond belief. I took one close up screenshot of a Turanic Missile Corvette missile (which was partial luck because I didn’t pause it at the time) and noticed that they had highly detailed skull faces on the warhead. This is something I found rather special as it just proved that Gearbox really did take their time to make this game look spectacular on every aspect. Another factor I applaud both Gearbox and BBI for are the continuity sequences in the cutscenes from the upcoming Homeworld: Shipbreakers prequel including cameos of the Baserunner and the subtle line of dialogue from the old Shipbreakers gameplay preview trailer. The only sad thing is, there are still a lot of issues and bugs in it, most of the old Homeworld pilot dialogue has been replaced by the Homeworld 2 dialogue, which means they refer the resource controller in HW1 as the mobile refinery’ from HW2 as well as the assault frigate as the flak frigate. And on top of that, the YES song – Homeworld (The Ladder) is no longer in the credits for Homeworld 1. (Which was due to licensing issues, but has still made many fans rather sad.)
So in conclusion, should you buy this game? In short; yes without a doubt. Just like the classics back in their time, the remaster is a visual and audio masterpiece with gameplay that is not only unique but also fresh and challenging. I think one of the main reasons why this game has done so well in the first month is that many people are starting to grow weary of FPS games that are coming out left right and centre and so they have moved on to something new. (Which is quite ironic in this case.) There are still issues with the game but that won’t stop the many dedicated fans from contacting Gearbox and reporting each one to get them solved ASAP. And although Gearbox’s reputation has been scarred by past games, I’m sure that the future of this franchise will definitely be remembered alongside Borderlands as one of Gearbox’s greats.
Usually I would give this a solid 10/10 but because of the bugs I’m giving it:
(it’s still brilliant nonetheless!)