by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
And then came Homeworld
In recent years, I’ve developed a genuine distaste for the terms “remastered” and “HD” when used in conjunction with games. Similar to “streamlined”, these terms make me shudder and think “Oh God, what have they done to it now”. Many re-releases barely venture beyond offering a Windows compatibility update along with a dismal attempt at increasing screen resolutions. While that may be enough for some games, even 5 year old user interfaces will feel completely outdated today and textures made for VGA resolutions look horrible when stretched out to modern standards.
And then came Homeworld Remastered Collection. Wow.
Not from around here
But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s backtrack a little bit. Homeworld is a 15 year old space-strategy game. Rather than having sci-fi armies duke it out on the ground, Relic Entertainment figured they would try something new, and had armies duke it out in space instead. The result was an instant classic that has been emulated many times but never with the same degree of success. Only its sequel, the 4 years younger Homeworld 2, has been able to captivate fans to the same extent.
The Homeworld Remastered Collection contains both games, allowing you to rip through the two lengthy campaigns without requiring a second purchase. The campaigns tell the story of the Kushan people who have only recently discovered that the planet that they thought of as home is actually the crash site of a starship built by their ancestors. Within the newly discovered wreckage, a map - of sorts - points towards their forefathers’ home planet. The full industrial might of the Kushan is used to build a giant mothership that would undertake the trip “home”.
What follows is an adventure filled with intrigue and RTS action, one that requires much more than a single mothership, however huge it may be. You’ll research and build new warships, collect resources, explore the galaxy and - above all - combat those who are opposed to your plans.
While the story itself remains untouched, pretty much everything else has been lifted up to today’s standards. In gaming, 15 years is an eternity and during the last decade and a half innovation did not constrain itself to graphics alone. Music, voice, user interfaces, nothing created then would not feel clunky and unfinished today. Realizing this, Gearbox went all out to bring Homeworld into this day and age.
The original dialogue has been completely re-recorded, fortunately using the original actors. Both the musical score and the sound effects were also brushed up, making everything coming out of your PCs speaker system sound crisp and current.
Despite the excellent work on the audible side of things, it’s the graphics that steal the show. While you should not go in expecting to be blown away by Hollywood-quality renderings, the difference between the original games and their remastered kin is incredible. Everything looks smooth and solid, leaving no trace of the blockiness fans still playing the games have grown accustomed to. New graphical effects and completely redrawn cinematic scenes complete the picture.
Last but not least, the User Interface has been cleaned up and modernized. It’s not quite up to what you’d expect from a game that would be releasing today but it gets close enough that you don’t feel like a leper while trying to unlearn everything you’ve learned over the past 10 years.
Playing the remastered Homeworlds is a trip through memory lane. Carried by the original’s fantastic story, the series has been restored to the point that it feels and plays like a brand new game. It doesn’t quite reach the triple-A quality that we’d associate with the Homeworld label, but it gets pretty damn close. I don’t think Gearbox needed to reach those levels - or even set out to - for fans to flock back to the franchise, but what they have achieved here does more than just pay lip service to their fans. They have surpassed everyone’s expectations, resulting in two games that will appeal to new players as much as fans of old.
The Homeworld formula is wooing a whole new generation of gamers and I am betting sales will prove that there is room for another sequel. If you are old enough to have appreciated the original games and are tired of youngsters asking you why games were better “back in the old days”, you now have something to give them to prove your point.
Everything has been brought into the modern age.
We’re missing Homeworld: Cataclysm. The AI isn’t much smarter than it was.