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Game Info:

Homeworld Remastered Collection
Developed By: Relic Entertainment/Gearbox Software
Published By: Gearbox Software
Release Date: February 25, 2015
Available On: PC
Genre: Space simulation/Real-time strategy
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2-8 multiplayer beta
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes
MSRP: $34.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you Gearbox Software for sending us this game to review!

In 1999, a phenomenal event occurred which would permanently alter the course of space-based strategy games. The original Homeworld dramatically changed the way we thought of strategic space combat. It was the first strategy game to offer complete three dimensional movement for all ships, and inspired completely new tactics as a result. The graphics were amazing at the time, and its gameplay forced players to think, plan, and react to a three-dimensional battle space of fluid combat.

Homeworld went on to critical acclaim, and for good reason. The story of the Kushan's departure from their desert home, subsequent travel across the galaxy, and eventual arrival on their ancestral homeworld Hiigara is masterfully told and emotionally impactful. Seeing Kharak destroyed for the first time, while hearing the amazing ambient and choral soundtrack, can cause your heart to skip a beat. It was (and is) glorious.

The game had two sequels: Homeworld 2, and Homeworld Cataclysm - which was made by another team. Thirteen years after the release of Homeworld 2, Gearbox Software has released Homeworld Remastered Collection, a long awaited chance for players to revisit this ground breaking IP, although only Homeworld and Homeworld 2 are found in this collection.  Doubly remarkable is the fact that no one else has managed to create a real-time strategy (RTS) game with a fully three dimensional battle space, much less one with such wonderful lore. While there are other fully 3D space strategy games, most of them are 4X in some fashion, rather than pure RTS like Homeworld. So the Remastered Collection is the best and perhaps only way to experience it (outside of finding one of the old game CDs).

It would give me great pleasure if I could just leave this review at this: that the Remastered Collection is a perfectly ported release, with improved graphics, interface, and newly improved cut scenes.  Indeed, at first glance, it would appear to be the case.  Unfortunately, for Homeworld veterans, problems start to become evident fairly quickly.  The biggest issue is not with the collection as offered, but with the unfortunate bugs, and interface inconsistencies plaguing the current Remastered version.

Homeworld Remastered Collection
Highlights:

Strong Points: Massively improved graphics; excellent sound and music; engaging story; includes both remastered and classic games
Weak Points: Significant interface, balance, and mission bugs, especially with tactical formations
Moral Warnings: Ships blast each other out of existence; the woman driving the Mothership is shown in a skin tight outfit during cut scenes; ending credits have a few minor curse words and a few other issues (like calling God a she and a drug reference)

The game’s graphics have been greatly improved.  The backgrounds which surround the play areas can be stunningly beautiful as players battle near planets, through nebulae, and across stretches of deep space.  Ships look far less blocky and effects like explosions are much more polished than in the original games.  The game looks much better than it originally did.  Nevertheless, some objects like debris have retained the same blocky, low-quality textures of 12 years ago, looking out of place compared to everything else.

Despite the polished graphics, the gameplay itself is not as good as fans of the original would hope.  The controls are functional but tend toward imprecision and contain a number of bugs.  While generally this does not greatly impact gameplay, it can delay the speed at which the player is able to control their fleet; for example, certain commands, like attack, can require multiple tries before it works.  This can, of course, be frustrating in the heat of battle.  Hotkeys, however, don’t seem to be affected by this - working as quickly as you can press them.  Additionally, the campaign missions contain a large variety of bugs varying from the annoying to the outright infuriating.  For example, in Homeworld 2, 'Marine Frigates' (a ship whose sole purpose is to capture enemy ships) only work in two specific campaign missions, where they are required to advance the story.  Even in these missions, they don't always capture the required ships.  In fact, a few of the campaign missions contain bugs which require the player to either load their last save point or simply restart the mission.

In its original release, Homeworld had a selection of ships that were carefully balanced in a 'rock, paper, scissors' fashion.  Every ship had a type against which it was very strong, and another type against which it was very weak.  This mechanic was not as finely polished in Homeworld 2, but could still have a major impact upon battles.  While this is still present in Remastered, its effect is so watered-down that it has almost no impact in larger engagements where multiple ship types are present. 

While balance is an issue, the nerfed gameplay is especially apparent with tactical formations.  In the original Homeworld, various ship formations could be utilized to help negate weaknesses, while leveraging the strengths of any particular group of ships.  The mechanic worked so well that most battles could be won or lost depending on how a player utilized various combinations of ships and formations.  Homeworld 2's formation system was not as good as the original, but certain formations could offer significant advantages in terms of firepower and flexibility.  However, Homeworld Remastered’s tactical formations are broken as a game mechanic.  Upon contact with the enemy, ships break from their assigned place in any particular formation.  This not only makes your ships vulnerable to being flanked, it also blunts any advantage the formation would have provided.  To date, the formation mechanic is only useful for aesthetic purposes. 

Homeworld Remastered Collection
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 78%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 8/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5.5/10

Additionally, the A.I. is not the brightest bulb in the box.  The enemy A.I. utilizes only one tactic, made infamous in 90s LAN parties - the "Zerg Rush."  This means that, aside from scripted events, the A.I.'s entire strategy is to continually send ships straight at the player, with little to no regard for tactics.  Sadly, this means that once their attack direction has been determined it is quite simple to bottleneck the corridor, spending the remaining time slaughtering small, unorganized groups of ships. 

The game’s soundtrack is excellent.  The music manages to neither distract from gameplay nor become too repetitive - which is important in strategy games where players can spend dozens (or even hundreds) of hours.  Certain themes, particularly the excellent choral version of Agnus Dei, brings goosebumps every time it is played.  You always know when something major is happening as the music does a great job setting the atmosphere of any particular scene.  The sound effects also function well.  Command acknowledgments, weapons fire, and explosions all manage to come together in a way that helps to immerse the player in the action.  

Multiplayer is functional but still in beta. As such, it contains some of its own bugs, such as the occasional crash to desktop.  However, it also shows a lot of potential with a number of adjustable parameters.  For example, players can adjust their starting fleet, number of resources, or even set a countdown timer to prevent early rushing.

Morality warnings for this game are relatively minor.  In fact, the most problematic section is in the credits.  The largest otherwise being a few brief portions of cutscenes, showing a main character wearing a skin tight bodysuit.  While nothing is exposed, there is almost no contour left to the imagination.  Language is also minor, with the word d__n being heard once or twice.  Ships explode in battle, but there is neither any blood nor bodies seen.  In another brief cutscene, the bodies are seen floating in space; however, if it weren't for the narration at those precise moments, it would seem like they were just three astronauts.  As for the credits, there is a good bit of crude humor as well as a 'special thanks' to a couple of marijuana dispensaries.  They also give a special thanks to: "God (whoever she is)."  

Despite looking and sounding far more polished than the originals, Homeworld Remastered Collection has a long way to go before it is truly 'Remastered.' Between bugs, non-functioning formations, interface inconsistencies, and watered-down balancing it's not as good as some would have hoped.  Nevertheless, in recent correspondence, Gearbox Software has confirmed that Homeworld Remastered Collection will continue to receive the care it so richly deserves.  This should be encouraging as Gearbox has a solid history of patching their titles and providing frequent updates.  Hopefully, in time, the bugs will be squashed and other fixes provided to make this game as great as the original was, or perhaps even better.  

At the end of the day, despite its problems, the Homeworld Remastered Collection is a fun experience for old and new fans alike.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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