Mothership: Homeworld Remastered Collection

Tuesday, March 3, 2015
The concept art cutscenes were one of my favorite parts of the campaign.

In 1999 I was introduced to the original Homeworld. For almost a year, it was all I played. That game and its sequel were unlike anything else I had played before. More than most, they shaped my love of strategy games. Gearbox's acquisition of the Homeworld IP was announced on my birthday in 2013; I took it as a good omen, but I couldn't help but be a bit apprehensive when I remembered the disaster that Duke Nukem Forever became. Since then, Gearbox has showcased a number of things that bolstered my confidence in their stewardship of the series.

In 2013, Gearbox gave a copy of the Homeworld Remastered Collection to all attendees of its PAX Prime panel. We were lucky enough to be in the crowd that day. I've played a number of skirmishes and about half of the first campaign. I never thought I could be so excited to revisit a game I played practically to death, but when Paul Ruskay's "Adagio on Strings" played through my speakers for the first time in almost a decade, I nearly melted out of my chair.

Didn't it always look like this?

The Remastered Collection has made really impressive leaps with the look of the game. Unfortunately, I don't have a PC capable of displaying it in its upper resolutions, but at high settings in 1080p it still looks beautiful. There's this weird disconnect I get at times with remastered games. I could swear that this is what I always remembered Homeworld looking like, but one visit to the included "classic" editions proves just how faulty my memory is. The new aesthetic touches; depth of focus effects, improved shadows, redone textures, remastered sound effects and voiceovers and so on are perfect evidence of how lovingly Gearbox treated this jewel of gaming history.

Even now, Homeworld feels like something apart from the contemporary. As games speed up more and more, compressing stories and experiences to just a few hours, Homeworld takes time. Even the first battles of the game can take hours to complete and a single skirmish can consume an afternoon. I've seen a few complaints about the pacing of the game, newer players bemoaning the plodding capital ships and lengthy battles. I've always felt that the length and pace of Homeworld was done intentionally. Every moment of the game begs to be paused and looked at from every possible angle. Tactics and decision-making skills are no less important here than in any fast-paced RTS, but the way a battle plays out, almost in slow motion, allows you to appreciate a well executed strike better. Similarly, you are forced to watch your every mistake play out to its horrible end.

Even moving units from one place to another is beautiful.

If you're a veteran of the original games, I don't need to recommend this to you; you've probably already bought it or plan to do so soon. For you younger players or those who never got around to playing back in the day, I have a few caveats. Homeworld is a game that requires patience. We;re used to instant or almost-instant gratification from our games today. Most multiplayer games (aside from some competitive titles like League of Legends) are built to complete a match in less than an hour. Homeworld will take a lot more time to finish. The slow build times, precarious resource management and large maps will seem to drag matches out, but they serve to sweeten the sense of accomplishment when the moment comes to finish off your opponents. When you get comfortable with the mechanics, the game flows like water. Learn to flow with it.