by Ben Petchey
reviewed on PC
Protect your piece of sand
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak opens with your civilization clinging to the last remnants of life on a vast, treacherous desert planet. The planet is under siege by technologically advanced religious fanatics, the Gaalsien. The main character, Rachel S’jek leads a dangerous expedition into the vast wastes to seek a powerful artefact that could save the entire planet.
The Kapisi – a huge aircraft carrier – acts as a mothership and a base of operations on this expedition. You will use this ship to produce units to take on Gaalsien attackers, provide air support to your troops and rain down on your foes with turret fire. You must protect the Kapisi from enemies. Failing to do this will cause you to fail a mission – luckily you can assign your units to escort the Kapisi while you and your team transverse the harsh, dry, Deserts of Kharak.
Addictive and gorgeous
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a difficult game to stop playing. I often became so immersed in the gameplay and story that I forgot that I was meant to be reviewing the game! This was primarily due to the stunning art style and fantastic voice acting throughout. Deserts of Kharak is a very pretty game; from the beautiful 2D cutscenes, to the way the vehicles kick up dust as they thrash towards the Gaalsien forces – it’s astounding. This game also has some of the best cutscenes that I’ve seen for some time, and are nicely topped off with some fantastic voice acting – creating a believable drama of a planet that faces a terrible fate.
Combat is simple and rewarding; line-of-sight and unit positioning are both crucial to your success. Controlling your units is simple, and even if you have the wrong units for the job, you can more often than not brute-force your way through battles, and if you see that your units are taking too much fire, you can get out of there and receive repairs from Rachel S’jek or any other support vehicles that are around.
Missions are linear, but offer a rich story that keeps you playing – sometimes longer than you should. However, sometimes after a battle is over, you are left watching your salvagers slowly trundle their way back and forth from resources back to the Kapisi. These resources are essential though as you need them in order to be able to create new units and unlock new upgrades and vehicles.
The voice acting is superb. Not only are the cutscenes well-acted, but during missions you will hear your different units chatting to each other out of the military formalities. Not only is this something that I’ve never personally seen in a game before, but it also adds a new level of desperation and general investment into the characters, when hearing soldiers yelling that Rachel is under heavy fire and needs to be protected. This radio chatter will let you know what’s going on even if you missed an objective or announcement – handy for when you’re preoccupied with another part of the map.
Sets the bar higher
Deserts of Kharak is a fast-paced real-time strategy game that keeps you on your toes by throwing regular curve-balls that force you to adapt the way that you play, as you play. Thanks to the responsive user interface, it feels like the game trying to have fun with you, rather than trying to cheat and frustrate you for the sake of it.
I must admit that when I first found out that this game was set solely in a desert, I was a little disheartened. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety in the kinds of landscape that you encounter and shocked by what the game had to offer. You will often come across beautiful landscapes, and it is really surprising how varied the levels have been designed. In fact, the deserted sand-covered ships often reminded me of the humongous crashed Star Destroyer in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Homeworld: Deserts Kharak not only sets a new standard for RTS games, it proves that there is a lot more the genre has to offer yet. Its use of voice acting, stunning visuals and fantastic gameplay helps make it one of the best, most consuming RTS games I’ve played for a very long time. It’s fast, tough and makes sure that it hurls another curve-ball just as you are getting too comfortable with the gameplay.
Fantastic atmosphere, Stunning graphics and cut-scenes, Great writing and acting
Aftermath of battles can sometimes be long and dull