To put it bluntly, Homeworld is a revolutionary real-time strategy game. It is not only beautiful, but epic in scope, easy to play, a joy to hear, and overall, an experience like no other. All that, and it's incredibly fun too!
The game starts with a stylistic, black-and-white cut-scene that explains the back-story, about a race of people that live on the planet Kharak. In the uninhabitable desert, an ancient artifact was recovered that led to a startling revelation: the people inhabiting the planet are not native to it. These people are descended from aliens, who were somehow transported long ago, to this world they now think of as home.
This discovery brought the people together to build a giant Mothership, which will use the artifact as a map to seek out the true home planet. The Mothership takes 60 years to build, but as the game begins it has finally been finished. The player must use the capabilities of the massive Mothership, its alien technology, and his own wits to find the people's true "homeworld."
This brings up the only real complaint with Homeworld's single-player game. While the campaign itself is immensely enjoyable, challenging, and will be remembered for a plot that ranks with the likes of StarCraft and Myth, it also exactly the same for both the Kushans and the Taiidans, the two playable races of the game.
The way the game plays out, it would be perfect for two parallel storylines, as the Kushans soon attack the Taiidans (or vise versa depending upon which is chosen by the player). On a related note, the races themselves are identical, save for a few exclusive ships per side. In the end, however, this works well, as you can pick your race based on these few exclusivities, and at the same time be familiar with all of your ships and the ships of your opponents.
Since most ships are identical for both sides, you don't have to worry about thinking of the names or types of the enemy ships; you only need to concentrate on what is effective against them. This sounds like a dumb-downed approach, but it all adds up to a more cerebral experience with a greater emphasis on strategy and tactics.
If there's still anyone out there who judges games simply by their graphics, that person will want to pick up Homeworld immediately. With complete camera rotation and zooming at the player's fingertips, the gorgeous screenshot options are endless. The game's 3D textures all look magnificent, and are rather colorful (you can choose your ships' "base" color and secondary "stripe" color). Everything -- from the massive explosions to the ion trails coming from your tiny fighters -- looks fantastic. There are even nebulous background textures, so that space isn't always the same boring mix of "black with white spots." Planets, asteroids, ancient space debris; you'll see it all in the various levels of Homeworld.
The game doesn't stop by pleasing the visual sense; it pleases aurally as well. The music deserves special mention. This is one of those games that should sell its soundtrack as a separate product. The music ranges from above-average, space-opera scores to exotic melodies that sound like they could belong in a jungle movie, yet fit here surprisingly well. The only possible complaint with the sound effects is that the explosions don't feel like they have enough "oomph." A minor complaint, especially considering the explosions are still wholly believable; perhaps they just lack a bit of bass. Everything else in the sound department seems right on track, and it all mixes in perfectly with the game.
The game plays like a dream. Considering Homeworld takes place in complete 3D space, the idea that just the mouse and a few keyboard hot-keys can control the entire game is almost mind-boggling. The whole interface is amazingly simple to use. Left-clicking will select and deselect units. Holding down the right mouse button and moving the mouse rotates the camera. Right-clicking on a selected unit will bring up a menu of formations and tactics. Holding down both mouse buttons and moving the mouse will zoom in and out.
Setting the camera focus is as easy as selecting a unit and pressing a hot-key or two. The rest of the game is played through a simple point-and-click interface. Menus only pop-up when you need them, freeing up plenty of view space while keeping everything immediately accessible. The only other important aspect of the single-player game is the AI, which may not deserve any special commendation, but does provide its share of good challenges.
Multiplayer play in Homeworld is just like the rest of the game: immensely enjoyable. In fact, the replay value that comes out of the multiplayer modes almost makes up for the lack of multiple campaigns in the single-player game. Multiplayer options are easily customizable. You can set the available resources, the types of ships that can be built, and many other important elements. Multiplayer games are also well balanced, as ship production is limited by class.
For example, instead of being able to build 30 Scouts, 30 Interceptors and 20 Bombers (these numbers are strictly hypothetical), you can choose your own mix, since these ships are all in the Fighter Class. You could build 40 Scouts and 40 Interceptors, or a massive fleet of 80 bombers. This method of unit limitation not only brings balance and allows variety, but it makes you really think about what kinds of fleets you need to have.
Like the single-player combat, multiplayer space battles are truly epic, as massive Capital ships and Frigates collide, blasting each other into debris. Very little can match the feeling of pure glee instilled when one uses the hyper-space ability to almost instantly transport an entire fleet right in front of the opponent's Mothership. The only possible complaint about the multiplayer version of Homeworld is that the battles can become so huge and complex that it's hard to control the numerous ships and fleets, as they simultaneously engage in different battles and other activities. Fortunately, this quibble may be easily overlooked. Most gamers will have to start keeping towels on hand as they drool over the glorious deep space warfare taking before their eyes.
Homeworld does not allow for many truly defensive strategies, and this may require adjustment for some RTS players. In fact, some people may avoid the game altogether when they realize that the only defenses available for the Mothership are the ships that "stay home," and don't go out with the attacking forces. There are no structures to build, just research that leads to better ships. Nevertheless, real-time strategy veterans would be doing themselves a disservice to not, at the very least, give this game a try.
Homeworld is simply one of those titles that makes you say "Wow." You'll have to pick your jaw up off the floor when you experience it for the first time. It is a rare gem; an awesome feat of programming, graphical design, and sound production, all wrapped around superb gameplay. It deserves the highest praise.
Graphics: Three-dimensional brilliance. The graphics in Homeworld are like nothing ever seen before. Everything from the ship design to weapon-fire...even space itself looks amazing.
Sound: The music is stylish and cool. Virtually all of the sound effects are right on the mark. Explosions and weapon sounds could use more bass.
Enjoyment: Homeworld is a refreshing take on the RTS genre. Provides an engrossing single-player experience. Multiplayer games are extraordinarily fun.
Replay Value: The most disappointing aspect of the game, yet still very good. While multiplayer games offer hours of extended fun, the fact that there is only one single-player campaign between the two races is a minor let-down.
People who downloaded Homeworld have also downloaded:
Homeworld 2, Homeworld: Cataclysm, Star Trek: Armada 2, Imperium Galactica 2: Alliances, Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Age of Empires, Galactic Civilizations: Ultimate Edition, Star Trek: Armada
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