Your past is a like, your future is in jeopardy, and you're 35,00 light years from home. That's one of the taglines on the Homeworld box, keeping the game in the sci-fi flavor. I remember reading about Homeworld sometime ago, a lot is expected of it after some great showings at various trade shows and a very nice demo release. Here are a few of the basic features:
Installation & Settings
This is the first Sierra game I have received for a while, they have thankfully decided that the sierra tools won't be installed with game (Un-needed trash). The game installs very easily indeed. Autoplay kicks in and gives you a number of options:
Once you have installed the game and read the readme file to make sure that there unlikely to be any glitches with your setup it is on to the game. The first group of options you are presented with are as follows:
I went to the options menu first to set the game up with my G400 graphics card. When you get into the graphics settings mode you have a number of choices from software rendering to OpenGL, I decided to go for Direct3D mode 1024x768 in 32bit color as the G400 still doesn't quite have what it takes to run OpenGL all that well. I also made sure that everything was set for full detail.
Homeworld is a real time strategy game (RTS) set deep in space, it has all of the usual RTS elements such as researching, mining etc but doesn't have much in the way of terrain (It's set in space duh) so height advantages take on a new form in Homeworld.
My first entry into the universe of Homeworld was via the training missions which are fully narrated by a woman who sounds as if she should be doing Star Trek voice-overs, these are extremely well put together and last about 15 minutes in total. They help you get used to the controls, how to use and mine resources etc and should help you be ready for the real game once you have completed your training.
The game is set in full 3D (More on that later) so the controls are mostly mouse based. Zooming in and out is done by holding down the two main mouse buttons and dragging backwards and forwards. Ship menus are brought up onto the screen by simply right clicking on them, selecting groups of ships is done the same way as many RTS games, by just dragging a box over them. When you select a ship in the distance, if you would like to center on that particular craft all you have to do is to press the center button on your mouse (If you have one), pressing it twice will zoom onto that one craft/group of crafts you have selected.
The resource and build management areas are all controlled by a hidden toolbar that is at the bottom of the screen, you just move the mouse down and select the item you want. Management of resources are done by ships flying out to asteroids or dust clouds, the resource units are simple called that, resource units (RU). RU are spent on creating new ships to fight your battles, this is done in the build area where you create queues of ships ala C&C etc. Researching isn't too advanced, it is just a case of selecting certain items that can be researched at certain times (You are usually told when)
Because the game is full 3D unlike C&C 2 etc attacks can come from anywhere, above or below. This means that there should be more of a challenge than other recent RTS games, and mostly there is, but it does sometimes feel that the game can simply be won by whatever side has the most ships. There are also a few bits and pieces that may put new players off, one thing I noticed is that games tend to be completely dependant on how well you did on past missions. Which can be a big problem since the during the early missions you are just learning. For example, if just as you are winning a mission your resource ship is destroyed, yet you complete the mission with a few basic ships left, you hyperspace to the next level which begins by asking you to mine resources, you don't have a resource ship and don't have any resources to spend making a new one, thus you are screwed.
There is also a very good sensor map which allows you to move around ships to different areas of space, unfortunately though that is pretty much all you can do from the sensor map.
Once you get past these problems early on, the game can become very engrossing indeed with some great atmosphere (hoho). As you learn that you can continue to gain resources even though a mission has been completed etc. I also had the feeling early on during the first 5 missions that the game was going to be too similar throughout, thankfully though I have been proved wrong, although not as much as I would liked to have been. The battles in the game can be amazing with a massive amount of ships displayed on the screen with little slowdown.
The one part of Homeworld that I cannot gripe about are the graphics, they are amazing. From the nebula's in outer space to the detail on the ships everything is great to look at. The game engine despite being so good looking even allows for a multitude of ships to be displayed on the screen at one time. Each ship has its own look (Ship colours can be changed for your race) and animations and also have some great engine trail effects used throughout the game. Explosion effects are superb, there is a feeling of joy when you destroy one of the enemies larger ships and watch it explode in a ball of flame.
The cutscenes during the game are done by both the in-game engine and by some short full motion video scenes after each mission. The in-game engine cutscenes are amazing and help blend the stories together very well.
Sound & Music
Both sound and music are used very well in Homeworld, the music especially. The speech in the training missions and in the single player game are of the highest quality and I can't really find a fault there. Each ship has different sound effects and pilot chatter that can be heard across space.
Homeworld is one of the few games I have actually played online in a long time and I was quite surprised at how well it played (In terms of lag, I'm stuck on a 33.6 modem in the UK). Up to eight players can take each other on across a variety of different settings, using pre-set resources, or by having to use a resourcer to gain material. Goals range from the standard "destroy your enemy" goals to Bounty Hunter missions, which give you resources for destroying enemy ships.
The greatest option here for us Europeans though is the you vs. computer option, which allows you to fight against computer bots which means less playing of the game over the internet and running up massive phone bills.
Homeworld has some great things going for it, but it does also have a few niggly bits and pieces that could, in my view have been fixed after almost 8 months of testing. Researching is also very poor and lets down what is a very original product. Graphically it is top notch and I can't find any faults in the interface or in the sound & music department either. Overall I can certainly recommend it, but be prepared for a little frustration in the early missions when you first start to play it, once you get past that, a great game awaits you.
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