Home sweet Homeworld
It’s exceedingly rare that a game comes along which I waste an entire summer playing because I just can’t put it down. The last one I can remember is Payday 2 — I pretty much spent all of August straight through November playing it after it came out — but Homeworld 2 is one of the first. Fighters ducking and weaving in an elegant, almost dancing manner, while destroyers and battlecruisers fire missiles and cannons — it all looks and feels absolutely incredible. This is a series that was not only vastly underrated in its time, but has been all but unplayable since the advent of contemporary operating systems. Homeworld Remastered Collection aims to remedy this.
I mean, think about it: Nobody with a modern PC has been able to play Homeworld or to a lesser extent (it ran on Windows XP), Homeworld 2. That’s a huge gap when we’re talking about videogames; this is before a time when the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 were even announced, before smart phones were a concept that existed in any form. Usually, when referring to a “Remaster” or an “HD Version,” we’re talking about a year, maybe two — not fifteen.
The groundbreaking story is still untouched, though the visuals, sound, and even voice overs have been completely redone. This means that in higher quality, the voice acting is remarkably bland and lifeless. It’s unfortunate, given the grandiose scale of the story, that some of the coolest moments are overshadowed by flat delivery. The most unfortunate changes, though, come in the form of a completely redone user interface. The interface doesn’t scale terribly well, and reading your resource amount or seeing which specific ships are in a formation is often an exercise in frustration. Other facets, though, like the ability to resize the interface on lager resolutions — which, by the way, are supported up to 4k — are welcome breaths of air, given the rest of the genre’s obsession with a command card-style dashboard interface.
Homeworld Remastered Collection also features a completely new multiplayer mode, appropriately called “Homeworld Remastered,” which combines the two games into one giant amalgam of races, units, and maps. In addition, there are tons of new multiplayer options, like bounties (which give you Resource Units for destroying enemy ships) and relics (which grant staggered resource infusions for holding them). It’s amazing that Gearbox was able to maintain any semblance of balance, given that the two games’ races play completely differently. Speaking of multiplayer, I found it at its current stage nearly unplayable: I was getting disconnected every other match, and when I was able to stay in a game, the latency was almost unbearable.
Multiplayer misgivings aside, Remastered Collection’s two fifteen-hour campaigns are more than enough to warrant a $35 purchase, especially since they’re two of the best campaigns in real-time strategy history. In addition, playing against the AI is challenging and rewarding — I found that it is almost never unfair, as opposed to many other games in the genre — and the pure spectacle of watching your battlecruisers assault an enemy mothership is more than enough to warrant your time.
Homeworld Remastered Collection is simply a masterclass in remaking an old franchise: Take an old game, leave the almost flawless formula alone, and touch up the visuals and audio. Firing missiles at a mothership still feels immensely satisfying, and the focus on deliberate tactics instead of frenetic micro-management is a welcome respite for someone who loves strategy games but is atrocious at Starcraft. It’s just somewhat unfortunate that the voice acting and user interface didn’t carry over better, but those are minor concerns when we’re able to play Homeworld again.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Gearbox Software ; Developer: Gearbox Software; Players: 1-8; Released: February 25, 2015 ; ESRB: E10+ ; MSRP: $34.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Homeworld Remastered Collection provided by the publisher.