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Homeworld: Game of the Year Edition

Score: 100%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sierra Studios
Developer: Relic Entertainment
Media: CD/2
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Homeworld are amazingly gorgeous, especially if you kick it out of Software mode and turn it onto Direct 3D mode. No other RTS has ever portrayed the vastness of space like Homeworld does, with its nebula that encroaches and eventually surrounds your ship, the asteroids and space dust, and the free-floating gas clouds. Yes, the ship models are a touch conservative at first, but they certainly get interesting right quick. The cut-scenes do a great job of portraying the space-opera feel of the game, and help move the plot along wonderfully.

The sound in the game is equally top notch, with great shots and explosive sound effects. The voice-acting is simply excellent, with actors who actually sound like they understand what they’re acting for, not going overboard, but not sounding completely world-weary. And the music... oh, the music. The Game of the Year Edition of Homeworld comes with a music CD with the music from the game, and it doesn’t leave my computer when I’m not playing something that requires a CD. It’s that good. Thankfully, Relic didn’t go the “crappy, indistinguishable techno” route that most people have gone recently. Instead, they went “epic _Abyss_ and John Williams style,” which suits the game immensely. You’ll pause the game just to listen to the music. It’s really that good. The soundtrack is worth it alone.


Fortunately, the gameplay of Homeworld sticks up there with the best as well. You control a fleet of ships as they trek across the galaxy in search of their home world -- hence the name of the game. The plot of the game is simply enthralling, and you’ll find yourself waiting with bated breath for each new development as the game goes on. I’d go into more detail, but that would ruin the plotline, so I won’t. Just a fair warning -- do NOT read ahead in the included strategy guide if you want to be surprised by what happens in the game. The game is fresher if you discover it all for yourself.

Homeworld offers true 3D movement in space. No longer are ships confined to a flat 2D plane. They can zoom over and under potential threats, which is extremely easy to do once you understand the in-game controls. This is a game where you’re going to want to have the reference card handy at first -- but soon enough, you’ll know all the keystrokes by heart.

The various ships that you can build range from the small but fast fighters to massive gunships, and each is easily identifiable. In a wonderful touch, the ships stay with you throughout the game -- none of this “magically gaining troops” as you play. This is going to bring you to harvest everything you possibly can from each mission, as there are limited resources. And once a ship is gone, it’s gone for good.

The attack ships can be set up in various configurations, ranging from a solid Wall to a Sphere of instant death for anything around it. The ships themselves move amazingly smooth through the various configurations, and you’re going to just sit and drool the first few times you see a massive firefight.

Of course, you’re going to die the first few times as well. Homeworld is an unforgiving game for those who do not make use of every ship and every resource at their disposal. The strategy guide that is included with the Game of the Year edition really helps to make sure that you do what you need to do, but I suggest playing through each mission at least once, just for the hell of it, and then playing it through again following the guide, so that you can end with the maximum ships and resources.

Each mission in Homeworld moves the plot along, as your Mothership (which looks damned cool, I must say) makes its way across the galaxy. In some missions, you’ll just be knocking the tar out of your enemies -- at least at first. In others, you have to protect your allies or just survive a deadly onslaught while your hyperspace reactor charges back up. This variety keeps the single-player game from getting dull.

And once you’ve beaten the single-player game, you get to enter the wonderful world of multiplayer, where you can duke it out with your friends online. The multiplayer game is fast, furious, and often hard as hell, as you watch seasoned veterans of Homeworld decimate your troops in a matter of seconds. The hints in the strategy guide help, but I found myself floundering against those who had been playing Homeworld since its release online. Ah, well. I suppose I need to round up some friends and teach them who’s the boss instead.

The epic space battles of Homeworld will make your jaw drop, as the ships dive and weave in and out of each other’s way as they fire upon their opponents. And at any time in the game, you can slap the space bar and pause, allowing you time to give orders, catch your breath, and just stare at the pretty ships and bullets and listen to the fantastic music.

It doesn’t get much better than Homeworld.


Even with the strategy guide, you’re going to get your butt kicked soundly the first few times you enter a major firefight. Homeworld requires exquisite strategy, but it also relies a good sense of battle tactics, being able to change what you’re doing mid-fight to take advantage of a change in the enemy’s disposition. The strategy guide will help you through the most difficult missions, which is very nice. But much of it you’re going to have to learn on your own, the hard way -- getting the snot beat out of you, and going back for more. Thankfully, Homeworld is just so damned fun that you won’t mind coming back for more, and more, and more.

Game Mechanics:

You -have- to learn the keyboard shortcuts. Failures to do so will make the game bitterly short, as you die in the first few missions over and over and over. Once you’ve mastered the simple mouse and keyboard controls, however, you’ll find the position as overlord of the race a comfortable one. The controls are tight, the gameplay smooth, the interfaces clean, and it all runs at high frame-rates (with the possible exception of the last magnificent battle, which may chug your machine). When in doubt, pause the game. Pause is your friend. Use it wisely.

I could point out the minor flaws in Homeworld -- even though it’s 3D, there is a limited height; some ships are not all that useful; there needs to be about 30 more exquisite tracks of music, so I could just listen to it for days on end (oh, wait, I already do that). But there’s no need. Homeworld offers enough wonderful gameplay, both in single-player and multiplayer modes, that any shortcomings are vastly overwhelmed by the good parts of the game. If you don’t already own the game, by all means, run out and pick up the Game of the Year edition now. The extra goodies are definitely worth the price of admission. Those who already own it, however, may find that just picking up the strategy guide is all you need. However you do it, though, you simply must own this game. It’s that good. Honest.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

P2 233, 32MB RAM, 150MB HD Space, 4X CD-ROM, 4MB Video Card, 16-bit DX-compat Sound Card, Mouse

Test System:

Windows 98 running on a K6-III 450 w/256MB RAM, 6x24 DVD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster Live!, Creative Labs Riva TNT2 Ultra w/32MB RAM

Windows Armies of Exigo Windows Imperium Galactica II: Alliances

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated