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Homeworld Remastered Collection review

Chris Finnamore
26 Mar 2015
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Homeworld Garden of Kadesh
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
27
inc VAT

Beautifully updated graphics and sound mean Homeworld Remastered will appeal to both old Homeworld fans and new players

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Specifications

Available formats: PC

Homeworld was simply a sensation among PC gamers when it launched in 1999. The sci-fi RTS had beautiful graphics, a moving soundtrack and a story brought to life by impressive voice acting and cinematic animated cut-scenes. What's more, Homeworld seemed to achieve the impossible by making 3D real-time combat in space not only comprehensible, but fluid and exciting, too.

16 years later, Gearbox has remastered both Homeworld and its 2003 sequel, Homeworld 2. Both games run on a modified version of the Homeworld 2 engine, but with super-high-resolution textures and plenty of fancy graphical effects.

Your ambassador corvette certainly has its work cut out in a hostile galaxy

Homeworld's protagonists, the Kushan, live on a desert planet, but one day find the wreck of a huge spaceship buried in the desert sands. A stone galactic map inside shows that the arid Kharak isn't the original home of the Kushan people. This knowledge unites the planet in building a giant colony ship to find its true homeworld – Hiigara.

Unfortunately, the ship's launch is marred when the fleet of an unknown and implacable enemy turns up and firebombs the entire planet. What follows is the desperate flight of the mothership across the galaxy pursued by a genocidal enemy, with plenty of Star Trek-style encounters with other beings along the way.

Homeworld 2 follows a similar pattern, but gives you a chance to save your planet through your heroic actions. Homeworld 2 was generally considered to be inferior in terms of plot and atmosphere, but we still enjoyed building up our fleet and taking the fight to Makaan and his vicious Vaygr fanatics.   

Homeworld 2 Tanis Shipyards

Homeworld 2's Tanis Shipyards - enjoy them before the Vaygr get here

Both games revolve around your mothership, which much be protected at all costs, but is far from a simple colony transporter; it can be used to construct ever more powerful ships, from fighters to frigates and destroyers. Each ship type has its own strengths and weaknesses, and a balanced fleet is vital: your ion frigates may demolish enemy carriers, but nimble enemy bombers will easily evade your slow-to-target ion beams.

Your economy relies on harvester vessels collecting bits of asteroid and other materials. You're not awash with resources, and you carry your fleet from mission to mission, so you need to guard your ships well: small, cheap fighters are somewhat expendable, but losing a frigate or, heaven forbid, a destroyer, can make your life difficult in the next fight. If you're feeling sneaky you can use special salvage corvettes to capture enemy ships mid-battle, and robbing a couple of enemy destroyers to add to your fleet can really tip the balance in your favour in the next mission.

Homeworld assault frigates in action

Assault frigates are just the ticket for dealing with enemy fighters

Controlling a fleet in three dimensions isn’t as hard as it sounds. Your ships will mainly sort themselves out when you issue attack orders to your strike groups, but moving to a specific point in space is trickier. After setting the x and y coordinate with a click on the sensor screen, you hold down shift and moving the mouse to set where on the z axis you want your ship to end up.

This isn't something you need to do particularly often, however, as most of the time you're too busy fending off multiple threats to worry too much about advanced tactical manoeuvres. One significant change from the original game, as a consequence of using the Homeworld 2 engine, is that ships are now much more lax about keeping in formation. In the original Homeworld you could set your fighters to form a protective circle around a capital ship and they would do their utmost to keep formation. In the remastered edition, the fighters are more likely to form a vague circle somewhere near the precious capital ship, then forget about the formation as soon as they get into combat. Using formations just isn’t quite as satisfying as in the original Homeworld.

Homeworld capture destroyer

Capturing enemy capital ships is the cheeky route to victory

The graphics, however, are lovely. Textures are hugely high-res, there are some impressive lighting effects, and unlike the original the game runs properly at modern monitor resolutions. The graphic novel-style cutscenes have also been redone, and the wonderful speech and music is clearer than ever.

We did, however, have some problems with performance. We managed a perfectly playable 65-75fps running at 2,560x1,440 with everything turned up to maximum on a system with a Radeon HD 7950 graphics card, but the graphic novel-style cutscenes were jerky and stuttering at these settings. The only way to smooth them out was to sacrifice in-game detail – we wish there was more of a balance between the cutscenes and the game in terms of rendering difficulty.

Your precious fleet is the thin line between salvation and annihiliation

We also encountered a couple of graphical bugs at this resolution; there was a strange dead spot at the top-left of the screen which wouldn’t respond to clicks, so it could be tricky to use bounding box selection on your ships, and fonts wouldn’t scale correctly, leading to some text being cut off in the interface ("Corvet" rather than Corvette, for example). We also experienced one game-breaking bug that meant we had to go back to a previous mission as the current one kept failing as soon as it had loaded.

As long as you’re prepared to tweak the graphics settings to get the best experience, Homeworld and Homeworld 2 Remastered stand up as superb, atmospheric and fun space operas with excellent plots, exciting seat-of-your-pants gameplay and a real feeling that you're part of a life and death struggle against the odds. We hope that Gearbox can tweak the in-game cutscene performance and squash a couple of bugs, as these are two games that, with graphics brought into this millennium, still stand up to RTS scrutiny. 

SPECIFICATIONS
Available formatsPC
OS SupportWindows Vista/7/8
Minimum CPU2.2GHz dual-core
Minimum GPUNvidia GeForce 8800 GTS (512MB)/ATI Radeon HD4800
(512MB)
Minimum RAM1GB
Hard disk space20GB hard disk space
Detailswww.homeworldremastered.com
Product codeHomeworld Remastered

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