|Platforms||Windows, Linux, OSX|
|Genre||Beautiful 3D Real-time Strategy|
|MtAMinutes to Action||20|
|Score||8 Gameplay: 8
Fun Factor: 8
|Buy from Amazon|
Homeworld is a 3D real-time strategy game released in 1999 on the PC, Mac, and Linux. It managed to garner a few Game of the Year awards in a pretty tough year of gaming which included Unreal Tournament, Alpha Centauri, Final Fantasy VIII, and the release of the Dreamcast, which of course means Soul Calibur. It wasn't an extremely strong year for the console world, so PC games did very well and Homeworld arrived at just the right time. The game is renowned for its engrossing storyline and cinematic graphical style. Not to mention a great implementation of real-time strategy in 3D space.
I usually take screenshots with Fraps for PC games but for whatever reason it didn't work for Homeworld. ZScreen to the rescue! This is my first time using the open source program and honestly it did a great job grabbing screens of this beautiful space game. Took me a while to find a working solution but ZScreen did the job just fine and worked for me immediately. Now let's get to the first hour review of Homeworld.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - Being entirely new to the 3D real-time strategy, I decide to try out the training first, and thus the first hour of Homeworld begins. A computerized female voice starts talking and introduces me to the controls. I'm looking at a funny looking orange spaceship. The right mouse button moves the camera. I swing it around for a bit.
01 - The game looks good but now that I know how to zoom in, Homeworld shows off an ugly side of blocky textures and polygons. Ah well. This ain't Sins of a Solar Empire.
02 - First up is building ships. Moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen reveals a hidden popup menu with some buttons to check out.
03 - Resources are measured in RU. Resource units I guess. Makes more sense than Gold.
05 - Following the game's instructions I build a resource ship, a research ship, and ten scouts. As I leave the build screen I can see my first scouts heading out from the mothership.
07 - The game has me zooming in and out on my various ships. Dragging multiple units in 3D is currently as easy as doing it in 2D. But of course, nothing hectic has happened yet.
08 - I instruct my resource collector to go Harvest, and the ship heads off with the camera following it to a nearby asteroid. Things are nice and smooth.
10 - I learn how to research next by using my research ship. This is all pretty typical RTS stuff, just done in space, and with spaceships.
12 - Movement is another story though. Now that I have three planes of space to work with, I have to use the Shift key to direct my ships along the vertical axis. It seems relatively intuitive though.
14 - Next up I bring up the Sensor Manager with the spacebar. The Sensor Manager is essentially a super zoomed out view of my current area. I can see my ships, and a red blinking dot signifying the enemy. Brown dots are harvesting points for resources.
17 - Wow, this is pretty cool stuff. I learn how to put my scouts into different formations. Watching them zoom around in 3D and real-time is pretty awesome. I send my scouts off to the enemy using the Sensor Manager. I bring the camera behind their Claw Formation.
20 - Nice, my first combat experience! My ships approach the stationary enemy and with a few clicks, start bombarding them with their little missiles!
22 - I give my scouts the order to dock back at the mothership, but the computer says that if I stick around, I might get some more combat. Why not?
29 - Well, seven minutes later and I'm still fighting my first battle! I don't know if this goes on forever so I think I'll get into the main game. Honestly, this has been pretty tough. It's hard to keep all the scouts grouped together and they don't make for very good fighters. The frigate I built was tough though and was able to take and deal a lot of damage. It is hard to keep everything on screen though when you have so much control.
30 - Now that training is done, I select Single Player and the game begins. Immediately it asks me to pick my fleet, either Kushan or Taiidan. I have no idea what these mean but both of them sound Japanese. Anyways, I select the default Kushan. I can customize the colors of the ships but that's a lot of work and not something I have time for. Clicking Start! sends me to a loading screen, and then the opening cutscene.
31 - Sweet, I really like this art style. It's almost exactly like Hotel Dusk, a point and click adventure for the Nintendo DS. All the objects are hand drawn with pencils and the animations aren't smooth but that's the point and they just look great. Almost like I'm looking over the artist's shoulder as he sketches out the scenes for the first time.
32 - A man's voice is describing the current situation. Humans have discovered an ancient starship on a nearby planet and on the ship was a galactic map etched on a stone. The map points the clans across the inner rim to another planet, which the broken clans can only determine to be their origin, home, Hiigara.
33 - The voice continues saying the battling clans have united together and found a common goal of returning to their home planet. They begin engineering a space fleet and their greatest mind directly into the ships. Man, I love this art style, it's really detailed, a lot more detailed than Hotel Dusk which I mentioned.
34 - The fleet leaves their current home planet and we switch graphical styles to Homeworld's in-game engine and we get a great look at a what must be its mothership. It's a tall command ship and there are a few other smaller ships buzzing around it. A computerized female voice starts reporting diagnostics.
35 - This scene is directed beautifully. We follow a small ship swing around the mothership and dock. There are closeups of the thrusters and antennas, great stuff. This is one of those games though that could really use some bump and normal mapping to make the textures jump out a bit more. Everything looks a bit polygonal and flat.
36 - A small group of ships breaks away from the mothership and starts leading the way. The game seamlessly switches to give me control.
37 - Already this is quite different than training. The game gives me some objectives but obviously no tips. I begin building a research ship, begin harvesting, and need to take out some drones.
39 - I'm told to begin researching a fighter chassis so I give my research ship the instructions. The game keeps going widescreen to give me objectives and show me things. It's a cool, cinematic effect that typically works on me. The voiceovers are a little monotone but that's the military for you.
41 - Next up I give the order for my scouts to use aggressive tactics and take out some more drones.
42 - My next objective is to build a Salvage Corvette and capture a drone. Interesting.
43 - Fighter chassis research is done so now I can build Interceptors.
45 - Ha, cool! The salvage corvette I just built just cruises up to some space junk and magnetically grabs it.
47 - The camera follows the corvette dragging the junk back to the mothership, and then the game tells me it is ready to go into hyperspace! I can launch whenever I'm ready... but I don't know how to go!
49 - I instruct all my ships to dock with the mothership, maybe they all have to be in the house before we pack up and move?
50 - Oh, I was right, you do have to dock all your ships but you also have to enter the Session Manager and click the Hyperspace button. Obvious. The ships begin auto-docking.
51 - WOAH! Hyperspace is cool! Instead of zooming ahead a 2D blue plane begins crossing across the ships slicing them in half almost. They've jumped!
52 - A short, hand drawn cutscene telling me that my mothership has jumped to meet with Khar-Selim, another ship that has been going at normal, sub-light speeds for the last 10 years! This all seems very Ender's Game like. All we need is an ansible.
53 - All my ships undock and I get a message that the Quantum Wave Effect has dissipated! Phew! Not all good news though, we have mis-jumped and have to locate the Khar-Selim.
55 - I send a scout to the location of the beacon. Hopefully we get lucky.
56 - Oh snaps! A cutscene begins as we approach the beacon. The camera pans over what's left of the Khar-Selim. Not good.
57 - Also not good is a fleet of ships heading towards the mothership! The female computer (the super plugged-in engineer mind) seems surprised that they're attacking! I get control right back. Time to fight back!
59 - The enemy fighters are going down pretty easily, but they also have some larger ships that are attacking my mothership and salvage corvette. I try to concentrate on one ship at a time though.
60 - Nice! My seven fighters were able to take out the attacking force while suffering four casualties. But who were these guys? I guess I'll never know since the first hour of Homeworld is up.
Now for some scores out of 10.
Minutes to Action: 20
Well, the training in Homeworld was totally necessary and I'm very glad I did it. The controls are kind of complex as you have keyboard commands, right click menus, and the bottom pop-up menu. Plus you need to have good command over the control, shift, and alt combos. It's the game's biggest hurdle but nothing experienced PC gamers will have problems with. The 3D space adds a new dimension (pun) to real-time strategy games and I think it works well. It's a little tough to manage all your ships at once and I wish there was a way to highlight them better against the blackness of space. It almost seems like things would work better by turning off all the background stars so you can just focus on the battle, but that would take away from the game's graphical appeal. Anyways, this game definitely has a long learning curve and the first hour of Homeworld does a great job starting you off on it.
Fun Factor: 8
Best part of playing Homeworld was watching your ships fly around in formation and attack other ships. It's truly an excellent cinematic experience that you have total control over. The game's pacing is really good which is impressive for a space-based game. The universe is large but it doesn't take too long to get from point A to point B. Once I got to the main game and was being assigned objectives I was really having some fun. There seems to be a great story driving the levels, I just wish I had more time to experience it. But the training is pretty much necessary for new players to the game so there's only about half an hour to get into it.
Graphics and Sound: 9
There have been quite a few technological leaps since Homeworld was released, probably the most notable is bump mapping, something that would have really enhanced the look of the textures on the ships. Without it, the ships appear very flat and fake. But of course, this wasn't readily available at the time on home PCs and the game still looks really good. It helps when you don't have to render detailed environments and can instead focus on the spaceships, and Homeworld takes huge advantage of this. The ships are textured well and you can zoom in really close, something Sins of a Solar Empire, a recently released 3D space real-time strategy, heavily advertised.
The sound that I heard from Homeworld was a little weaker than I expected. The voice acting felt flat but the writing behind it was good. There was some decent chatter between ships that helped clue me in on things. The music had a great ambient sound to it that didn't try to stand out and the sound effects went against all rules of space. But I prefer lasers making sound and small sounding explosions as opposed to nothing. It can really enhance the gameplay.
Well, I am kind of into the background of Homeworld, but there just seems to be things missing. The story begins with a civilization finding out where their origins lie, so they build a fleet to cross the galaxy and return home. But what's the motivation behind doing this? Was it an excuse to stop the clans from fighting and unite together? Is there an important reason to find home besides just going there? Think Battlestar Galactica where the surviving fleet has to find Earth, but they're being chased and hunted by the Cylons. I can see why they would want to find their Eden but I think they could have used a little more motivation. Plus when I get attacked during the second mission, I have no idea why it's happening. I'm sure I eventually find out, but that's the problem of only playing the first hour.
Don't take the 20 minutes to action too out of context, that was my first combat experience in the game but there was still plenty of things going on before that. Anyways, Homeworld's first hour is really good. I was impressed by its graphical engine and its flexible camera that simply works out of the box. I wish the story had gone a little deeper in the first hour, but the groundwork is there for a good one. As far as the gameplay goes, there's a tough learning curve but I believe there are great rewards hiding within that too. Homeworld is a great evolution from a game like Star Control II, though this game is much more story-driven. I love space operas, and I've added this one to my long list of games to play.