Who is Soban, and what does he do?
Two months ago, I reviewed Deserts of Kharak, and liked it a great deal. It gave me the mix of huge battles and hands-off macro-management that I loved so much about Homeworld, while doing enough of its own that I appreciated developer Blackbird Interactive’s spin on the series. Last week, Gearbox released Soban Fleet Pack, which adds the titular Soban Fleet as a playable faction. It’s an interesting and weird concept, adding a new race to a real-time strategy game as a piecemeal offering, but it’s not without precedent: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Retribution added two new commanders to its Last Stand mode, neither of which are represented by their respective race in the game.
It’s not an entirely new race, mind you: The Soban Fleet is just a different spin on the Coalition, one of the playable factions at launch. Soban relies on more of a defensive and retaliatory approach to combat, and I should say that I actually prefer the new fleet to the regular Coalition, since I’m more of a defensive player and having the ability to toss turrets which double as unit cap increases out of my mothership is a novel and fun concept. Having improved railgun units is nice too, since the railgun is my favorite weapon anyway. Especially on the Soban Battlecruiser, which has been retrofitted with two railguns in place of its normal cannons. Another nice change is the Soban Baserunner, which has a long-range weapon disable that I thought was extremely useful, especially in contrast to the vanilla Coalition Baserunner, which I almost never used. Even the Carrier has been equipped with a railgun instead of smaller cannons, in addition to a microwave emitter that deals area-of-effect damage to any units which stay within its radius. All the new units are flashy in a way that feels at home in a Homeworld game, which is to be expected, but thematic consistency is always nice.
I hesitate to use the word “new” when speaking of the Soban Fleet, because hardly anything is different from The Coalition faction. There are a few new units, a more defensive style of play, and a bigger focus on railguns, but otherwise the fleet is nearly identical to The Coalition. This is a problem, since Gearbox is selling the pack for $7, especially since the number of maps since launch has only gone from five to seven. An argument could be made that buying this pack shows that folks are still interested in Deserts of Kharak, which is certainly valid, since the multiplayer servers are all but dead (I waited in automatch for more than ten minutes before getting bored and switching to the still-unbalanced skirmish vs. AI).
The real question — “Should I buy this?” — comes down to if you’re still playing this game. That seems obvious, but I’ve played downloadable content that reinvigorated my interest in a game before. This isn’t that. This is a piece of content for a game with hardly any active online players and a skirmish mode whose easy AI only knows how to rush with light units. If you are indeed still into Deserts of Kharak, or you have friends to play with and don’t mind dropping the seven bones to play a more defensive spin on The Coalition, buy this pack. Otherwise, stay clear.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed) ; Publisher: Gearbox Software; Developer: Blackbird Interactive ; Players: 1-6; Released: March 22, 2016; Genre: Real-Time Strategy ; MSRP: $6.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on review code supplied by the game’s publisher, Gearbox Interactive.