Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Mothership Has Arrived

I told you that 2015 would be the year of RTS.

When THQ filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, Homeworld was one of the properties on the list. A 1999 PC games, with a sequel in 2003, was developed by Relic Entertainment and published by Sierra. It’s considered to be the first, fully three-dimensional RTS game, which if you know anything about real-time strategies you usually look at them from a top-down view ala StarCraft or Command and Conquer. Having a game utilize the power of the PC in such a way was unheard of. Even now it’s very rarely seen. Homeworld was a game that wanted to fully immerse the player, which meant zooming around the ships at 360 degrees.

The Borderlands gurus at Gearbox took a chance and bought up Homeworld when it was auctioned off, and instead of hiding the title in their vault, they called up Relic and asked for their help to bring the game back. It was an unexpected turn, but so far it has produced some amazing results.

At PAX South, Homeworld was showcased in Gearbox’s panel rooms and the game looks and feels just as great as the original. Homeworld Remastered is an update on the original game and will include the sequel and multiplayer as well. The game will be sporting 4k resolution (and holy crap if the game looked that good on a large projector, I can’t imagine the view on a 4k monitor), updated graphics, cutscenes, voiceovers, and HD support.

The game is not a remake but an update to the original. All of the classic missions are still there, in tact, with a new coat of paint. A very shiny, expensive coat of paint. “So…how many bites was the original mothership?” “Um…200 kb. Now it’s 2 gigs.” Wow.

You start out as the Kushan, a race of beings that has been plagued by war and a temperamental environment. One day, they find a huge spaceship on their planet, one that was created by another race. It carried advanced technologies and spaceflight capabilities that allows your species to grow and find peace amongst themselves. As the Mothership takes form and becomes ‘sea-worthy’ again, the Kushan decide to explore the regions outside of their planet. Tragedy strikes on its maiden voyage, leaving you without a planet and 600,000 people to care for on your ship. Your goal is both revenge against those who destroyed your home and to find a new sanctuary for your race.

Some of the cool tweaks Gearbox and Relic added to the game including pausing mid-battle. It’s not a black screen or a menu. You see the ships frozen in animation, along with the lasers, torpedoes, and all of the shiny things going on in the background. They also called upon the modding community to bring Homeworld to a level of excellence we have never seen. Many of the upgraded ship designs are thanks to modders around the world who have kept the original game alive for so many years. You can also thank them in allowing HW to be a modifiable game at release. Yep. You can mod to your heart’s content and Gearbox is completely okay with it.

The game moves and flows so fluidly I couldn’t believe that this was the same HW that I was looking at from 1999. And for an extra special treat for fans of the original games, unaltered, will be available in the bundle as well and will work on current operating systems.

Gearbox also teased a potential spin-off game from BlackBirds Entertainment, code-named Shipbreakers. The product has been in the works for years and was intended to be a part of the Homeworld universe but not in direct correlation to the games. It’s still a work in progress and there is no release date for it, but chances are that the remastered HW will be a hit, and this game will see the light of day.

There is little that I can say about Homeworld that hasn’t already been written. It’s a beautiful addition to the series that didn’t pull a George Lucas and add new content. It’s the same game made for this generation. The quality of the product speaks volumes to the love the team had in bringing this piece back to life. Battle sequences move flawlessly. Zooming in on specific ships allows you to hone in on new audio files and dialogue you wouldn't experience when looking at the field en mass. And for as much action that occurs on the screen, you still feel the vastness of space; ships don't clutter the screen. This is a true "remastered" version of a game. Shiny upgrades without diminishing the quality of the true content.

The game is set to release on February 25th. If you are a fan of the original, the remake is a must-have item. Currently Steam is running a sale on pre-orders at 15% off. Snatch it while you can.

Aside: The end of the panel was capped with the destruction of the Mothership as requested by the audience. You have to end on a bang.

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