Space is a lonely place. The Homeworld games have long been recognised for capturing the terrifying stillness and clinical feeling of space travel through cast mpas, haunting music and worryingly emotionless calls for help as your tiny scout shit gets sent directly towards an enemy’s capital ship.
The Homeworld Remastered Collection contains both Homeworld and Homeworld 2, optimised to run on modern PCs with higher resolutions and textures, but very little else really done to them. These are the original games and they are getting quite old now. That being said, they were ahead of their time and now most PCs will be able to run these at maximum settings at 1080p it still is strikingly beautiful thanks to the strong art direction. There’s simply no other game like it. Whether you’re longing for Star Trek style Naval Battles between larger Frigates, Star Wars-esque dogfights with the smaller fighters or even a mixture of the two as seen in Battlestar Galactica, you can relive it here. There’s some small technical quirks like ships clipping through each other and a lack of really precise control on the bigger ships that prevents you from completely acting out your fantasies of using a capital ship to ram another to give you time ot get away, but as far as space-based RTS games go, nothing has come close before or since Homeworld.
The campaigns are tough and unusual in their cruelty. You start with a set number of ships and as the missions go you might be able to create more, but you still maintain your core fleet. This means a single bad decision early on could cost you dearly later in the game, without you ever really knowing how screwed you truly are. Scrape through a mission and you’re unlikely to survive the next, leading to endless retrying and replaying. As with most RTS games, things can go wrong incredibly quickly and a heavy attack on your capital ship and production while your main fleet has just jumped away to attack can be absolutely devastating. This can be frustrating but at least provides something different from the standard ‘build up, go destroy’ missions that repeat over and over in most RTS games.
Multiplayer’s where the real focus of this game is though and currently with the collection you get a beta mode of the original Homeworld for multiplayer as well as the Homeworld 2 multiplayer. Thanks to UI and multiplayer upgrades everything works incredibly smoothly and it’s clear that this is where the developers expect the game to shine. It’s worth playing through the tutorials to learn how to navigate in 3D space, use the overview map and create larger and more specialised ships, but once you get going every battle ends up being a terrifying battle of wits. There is a certain element of rock-paper-scissors to the ship and weapon types but a solid use of formations and misdirection can get you a victory when all else seems lost. Every battle looks spectacular with lasers and explosions dotted around the bright contrails left by each ship. You can play simple 1v1 matches or ramp it up to manic free-for-all or team battles and control how many resources you start with and how much is available on the map.
The final side of this collection that excites us is the prospect for modding. In the past there have been some excellent mods for Homeworld to replace the ships with some from your favourite shows, books and films. Now that’s all neatly organised and managed by Steam workshop. At the time of writing there are 121 mods available from simple emblems all the way up to total conversions.
If you have ever wanted a space-based RTS then this is it. Until something official and licensed comes along for Star Wars and manages to be at least as competent as Homeworld we can’t see anything else taking its throne for a long time to come. The Homeworld Remastered Collection is a cheap and easy way to get into one of the best PC games ever created. If there was clipping on the ships it’d be close to perfect.