As I mentioned before being born before the 21st century has its perks. I got to experience a plethora of video games made before and after the turn of the century. One such game was Homeworld released September of 1999 by Relic Entertainment and Sierra Studios.
Homeworld was the first video game I played that involved moving units in 3D space rather then a 2d environment. It was also the first RTS I played. Not that they didn’t exist the earliest example I could find would be Reach for the Star circa 1983 released for the Apple II (Also one of the first 4x style games created) Also in 1999 we had Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri which used the 4x formula.
Homeworld stands out compared to other titles of it’s time by not following the 4x formula and being a RTS set in a true 3D space. You had the mothership and various classes of strike craft, corvettes, frigates, cruisers, carriers and so on that you could produce. The game allowed the capture of enemy units using your salvage corvettes. A limited number of technology’s could be acquired from the Bentusi a race of beings that were living ships that harbored a certain elegance and wisdom to themselves as being “unbound” from humanoid bodies. The Bentusi helping them along the way over guilt of being a major factor in their exile in the first place.
In the first Homeworld the main focus was the Kushan finding their lost home-world they had been exiled from thousands of years ago. Their only guide a map carved into a guide stone they excavated in a archaeological dig. Also in their archaeologic findings was a massive hyperdrive which they used to create their mother ship later on. The main plot of Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak(released January 2016) serves as prequel to the first game and explores the finer details of this journey while also retroactively adding lore relevant to Homeworld 2.
There are several things the original game did that make it stand out compared to most games at the time. The 3D levels were well designed leaving a number of strategies at your disposal for completing them. You could literally send the bulk of your forces to the top or bottom of the map and send in a scouts or probes and ambush enemies. One level had a giant sphere of Frigates guarding a slip gate… which were spaced far enough apart you could send in salvage corvettes and capture the whole enemy fleet one by one. Although there was a trade off in having a big fleet. The game upscaled the difficulty tremendously the more ships you had making some levels impossible to complete if you started with a huge overstock.
The Game itself had gorgeous backdrops for each level that really set the mood and atmosphere while being somewhat vague(the remastered addition made the backgrounds closer to actually space phenomena) Another thing of note was the sound direction. Such as using the classical piece adagio of strings(also used in the movie Platoon) for a very dramatic segment in a early level where the turanic raiders raze there current home. The sound effects such as, ship movement, radio chatter, creaking steel and background music really add to the experience.
Early in the travels to your homeworld you enter the Gardens of Kadesh and encounter the kadeshi that posses almost identical types of technology to your own save for outward design later to be revealed that they are exiled Hiigarens kin to your own species. It makes for quite a memorable segment of the game.
Another segment worth mentioning is the Karos Graveyard sporting a enemy vessel called the Junkyard Dog basically a huge salvage corvette that would ruin your fleet if you weren’t careful. Amongst other notable missions was the sea of lost souls sporting a ghost ship the would steal control of any ship larger than a corvette that got close. Once the ship was nullified you could salvage the ships it had under it’s control giving you early access to a Missile Destroyer.
All in all the first game was truly fun and groundbreaking for it’s time. Originally the game was suppose to have an expansion titled Cataclysm but it was released as a standalone game in 2000. Sparsely reusing assets from the first game they created a lot of new content as well. The game took the formula from the first game and turned it on it’s head. You were able to combine ships, such as 2 strike craft to form a corvette and limiting your fleet to only handfuls of vessels. The game also introduced a new foe in the form of the BEAST. Which was a techno organic virus that would infect ships and steal control of them. Also liquefying the crew and forming bio organic circuitry, walls and structures in the ships.
Cataclysm was very satisfying story wise. You start of as the Kuun-Lan a Mining vessel and by then end it is referred to a full class Battleship. The whole clan being referred to as the beast slayers changing their kittth logo and there is a blink and you miss it reference in Homeworld 2. Starting off… this game sports some of the best voice acting I’ve seen in the series. It really sparks an emotional response. Such as when the captain of the Kuun-Lan has a truly guttural argument with the Bentusi. All in all it was a solid game. While not available for sale on Steam it is on GOG under the title of Homeworld: Emergence World of Warcraft owns rights to the name Cataclysm causing this issue. The reason given that this game was not included in the remastered collection on steam. Is they lost the source code and are unable to upgrade it to the enhanced engine used for Homeworld 2 and so forth(it is debated on this point)
The next game released in the series is Homeworld 2(released 2003) It takes place sometime after cataclysm sporting a newly designed Kushan fleet. The main plot being their Hyperdrive core is need to unlock the great Sajuk a progenitor ship dwarfing any buildable ships in your arsenal. Several levels leave to believe that progenitor constructs were huge in scale. Some dwarfing planets. Late in the game the last of the Bentusi sacrifice themselves to destroy several enemy progenitor vessels known as the keepers. Leaving the Kushan with their hyperspace core. After defeating their main enemy Makaan they also get the third core and unlock the Sajuk with all three cores this acts as the key to the Eye of Aarran the physical Gateway to the great network of hyperspace gates.
Announced several years ago Homeworld 3 is set to release sometime in the early half of 2023 twenty years after Homewrold 2 was released. We are finally getting a direct sequel. Without going down the long rabbit hole of speculation… I hope for a high quality game living up to almost 25 years of great works of gaming art.