Bring It Back: Homeworld
The video game industry is more successful than it has ever been, with AAA titles selling like hotcakes, and indie developers springing up wherever they can set their roots. It’s no surprise then that the number of video games produced every year has reached a staggering number. There are a few games each year that stand out among the rest. These are often considered must-have games and are generally of high quality – whether it be impressive visuals, audio, or a combination thereof. This type of game, by its very nature, is rare because there are only a handful produced every year.
Game of the Year awards are nice and all, but what about a Game of the Decade award? Or a Game of the Quarter Century award? True classics are masterpieces that stand the test of time with grace and power. Skyrim was nominated GotY by many sources for 2011, and rightly so. It is a game that will stand the test of time and likely be just as playable in ten years (which, if you’re using a PS3 may or may not be playable at all) as it is today. Skyrim was and is an instant classic. There are few games that are worthy of a Game of the Decade award, but I’d like to nominate one: Homeworld 2 (I’d like to nominate Homeworld, but it belongs to the 90s).
You might be thinking “wait, did this crazy guy just compare Homeworld 2 to Skyrim?” Yes, yes I did. And, in some regards, there are many similarities. Skyrim was essentially dumbed down a bit from previous iterations in the Elder Scrolls series so that it would appeal more to mainstream gamers. The hardcore RPG genre isn’t exactly accessible to new gamers.
The Homeworld series underwent a similar facelift. The original Homeworld provided players with an unprecedented amount of strategic possibilities, which made the game immensely satisfying to play if and only if you had the time to invest in learning war strategy. Homeworld 2 sought to streamline and simplify the series without taking away its core mechanics and atmosphere (the atmosphere is really what makes the Homeworld series amazing).
Now you might be thinking, “What the hell is this guy talking about? What even is Homeworld?” Well, I guess I should tell you. In Homeworld, you take control of a mothership and use it to create fighters, bombers, frigates, carriers, destroyers, and so forth in order to build a fleet. Essentially, you are a fleet commander and it is your duty to coordinate your ships’ movements and firepower. Why would you want to do that? So you can blast your enemies into space dust, that’s why. This space-based real time strategy (RTS) game is the paragon of its genre.
Homeworld features a fully 3D environment, which means that you can move your fleet up, down, forward, backward, and in every other direction. Having an enemy fleet bear down on your position from above can be hard for traditional RTS players to get used to. Worse yet is to have an enemy fleet attack you from above and below. Do you see the possibilities here?
What Made Homeworld (2) Great
Homeworld 2 has received critical remarks about how it was dumbed down and that it isn’t as fun as the original. While I certainly agree that the original is the better game, Homeworld 2 is an excellent game in its own right. Astonishing visuals that still look good today, improved controls, superb voice acting, and a sweeping soundtrack are all impressive selling points.
Instead of focusing on just Homeworld 2 here, I want to talk about what made the Homeworld series great. In my opinion, Homeworld was successful not just because it provided a place to pit large spaceships in epic (space is epic) battles, even though that is pretty awesome, but because of the engaging and gripping story. Using simple cutscenes with in-engine gameplay, voice actors, and original artwork, Relic managed to craft a story that can profoundly impact gamers.
The second major area where the Homeworld series succeeded is the user interface. At first, moving your fleet around in a true 3D environment may seem daunting – and it is – but thanks to the outstanding user interface, it doesn’t take long to understand. Mastering fleet movement is difficult, but most gamers will be able to get their fleets where they are supposed to go without too much trouble. This is quite an accomplishment for Relic, and I applaud them. They made an extremely complex system rather easy to digest.
What the Next Iteration Could Use
To be honest, at this point I’d be happy to just see Homeworld 3 make it to gamers. I wouldn’t really care all that much if it turns out to be worse than Homeworld 2 (which was by no means a bad game). The fact is that Homeworld 2 was released in 2003. 2003! It’s been nearly nine years already. With how beautiful Homeworld 2 still looks and feels, I can’t even begin to imagine what Relic could do with Homeworld 3.
Perhaps there is one thing that Homeworld 3 could really use: extensive modding support. The Homeworld series has a dedicated fan base and many of them are avid modders. There are several high-quality mods for both Homeworld and Homeworld 2 that increase the gameplay value. Currently, Homeworld 2 only supports one mod at a time. In order to play another mod, you have uninstall any previously installed mods. Homeworld 3 would benefit greatly from a revamped mod support system.
–Edit: As Pedro pointed out in the comments, it is possible to install several mods for Homeworld 2, but they have to be in .BIG format. The process for installing two mods can be intimidating to casual mod players or those who aren’t sure of what they’re doing. For details, look at Pedro’s comment below.
Realistic Possibility of Return?
There isn’t any solid information that Relic is working on Homeworld 3; however, there is a lot of fan support and motivation. In fact, there is a petition asking Relic to make Homeworld 3 (you can see it here). The group behind this petition is a Facebook fan group of over 2000 strong. If you’re looking for more information about any of the Homeworld games, check them out here.
Relic seems dead set against saying anything about Homeworld 3 one way or the other. There are hints and rumors, but nothing official. My guess? Perhaps Relic is waiting until the next generation of computer hardware to create a mind-blowing game. That’s what I say to make myself feel better. With such a strong fan base and pretty good sales for previous installments in the series, it seems likely that Relic would want to continue the Homeworld IP. Most likely the people at Relic are just busy with Warhammer 40,000 and Company of Heroes, both of which have been extremely successful. With any luck, we will yet see a Homeworld 3. Maybe.
There is still an active online community for Homeworld 2. The problem is that many Homeworld players are scattered across different game clients. The built-in game client for Homeworld 2, Gamespy, is largely abandoned, so a group of Homeworld fans are trying to rally players to Gameranger (more info here for Homeworld online play, and here for gameranger). The same group of fans are more than willing to teach new players and organize games.