Amid the recent glut of HD remakes and updated versions of last-gen games, it would have been easy to overlook the Homeworld Remastered Collection. After all, since the first Homeworld was released way back in the mists of 1999, gamers are likely to barely remember it, right?
At the time, Homeworld garnered almost universal acclaim – and for good reason. With its sweeping, operatic story, great graphics and addictive gameplay, Homeworld managed to capture both the sense of commanding a vast space fleet and micromanaging each engagement in real time.
Detailing the continuing adventures of a people known as the Kushan, Homeworld is the tale of their exodus across the stars, in search for a new home – the mythical planet of Hiigara. Fighting back against the horrors of darkest space, the exiles form new alliances, discover new technologies and find their place in a changing universe.
Building on this sweeping story was a fantastically implemented 3D space strategy game – the first of its kind, and one that is still considered a genre-leading title.
This success was soon followed by add-on pack Homeworld: Cataclysm, and then Homeworld 2. The second game picks up the story years later, as the exiles are once again forced to the stars to battle a new and terrifying menace.
Homeworld 2 is when I first discovered the series, in my first year of university, playing on a crap laptop I picked up on the cheap. So enthralling was the gameplay, and so addictive the sight of your battle formations demolishing the foe, that I basically spent a week playing the game in every free moment.
So, naturally, when I heard that both Homeworld and Homeworld 2 were being remastered, I was first in line to return to the depths of space and rediscover a classic worthy of the word.
Back in black
Many HD remakes can fall short of their promises, but Homeworld Remastered hits previous attempts for six. Both Homeworld and Homeworld 2 Remastered look incredible – even on my fairly average gaming PC – and the inclusion of the original versions of both games allows a startling comparison of the graphical fidelity improvements 16 years have done for gaming.
While the lack of a remastered Cataclysm is a shame, the two core games offer up over 45 missions between them, ranging from small-scale scouting to immense battles featuring dozens of massive warships. Admittedly, a few missions are duds – the one forcing you to guide the immense Mothership through an asteroid field being a low point – but most hit that fine line between challenging and enthralling.
Homeworld Remastered has also had more than just a facelift. Some of the streamlined gameplay from Homeworld 2 has been coded into the first game in the series, such as resources auto-collecting from the entire mission map as you hyper-jump away. However, the necessity to build interceptors one at a time instead of in squadrons, as in Homeworld 2, is still an irritation.
On the grid
While learning to control the Kushan fleet can be a considerable challenge at first, mastering use of the 3D strategic overlay and steering your battle fleets through obstacles both above and below the galactic plane becomes second nature after a while.
Zooming in from the overlay offers up a visual delight in both titles, as Remastered allows the gamer to zoom in on formations or even individual fighter craft, as they wheel and strafe through the dense dust clouds of stellar nebulae. Zoom out slightly and you can take in the graceful movements of frigates and larger warships, all of which boast independently tracking turrets for the huge variety of beam weapons and solid slug cannons of the slowly expanding Kushan/Hiigaran forces.
In fact, I’d thoroughly recommend turning the user interface off entirely when larger fleets meet in combat, as the spectacle is something to behold in full.
The beautiful, black and white cutscenes have also been lovingly restored, and battling your way through the sweeping adventure once again feels like playing a whole new game.
The sound design is of a similar quality, with screaming engines, weapons fire and explosions all present and spectacular, while the series’ tribal, pulsating score has also been restored with the same love and care as that applied to the graphics and gameplay.
Also included in the package is a multiplayer option, and though this is currently in beta, it plays well enough. I’d recommend working through the single player campaign first, however, as human players are a tougher nut to crack than the AI, which sadly lacks the tactical acumen to put up too much of a fight once you’ve earned your stripes as Fleet Command.
The Homeworld Remastered Collection is a masterclass in HD remakes. Building from the already strong base presented by the original titles, Remastered turns everything up to 11, reskinning every ship, from the smallest interceptor to the largest battlecruiser, and offering a beautiful galaxy to fight your way through. With two games for the price of one, it’s a package that long-term fans and newbies alike are sure to love.
- Stunning graphical fidelity (especially as it’s an update!)
- Sweeping, story-driven campaign
- Varied missions
- Great ship design
- Some dud missions
- Multiplayer is still in beta
- No Cataclysm
Article written for Pass the Controller