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    Homeworld
    Reviewed by the jaded critic

    More Information can be found in our HOMEWORLD section.

     

    Players:
    1-8

    ESRB rating:
    E

    Developer:
    Relic

    Publisher:
    Sierra Studios

    Released:
    09/99

    Requirements:
    - PII 233
    - 32 MB RAM
    - 4X CD-ROM
    - 3D video w/ 4MB
    - Windows 95/98/NT

     
    I first had the pleasure of viewing Homeworld (HW) at this past E3.One of the design team's artists showed me the basics, and I am pleased to say it looks just as good now as it did then. My friends know I often chafe at the unrestrained flood of sequels and expansion packs, amidst all this, HW is truly an extraordinary find.

    Click to enlargeHW tells the story of the inhabitants of Kharak. They are a people whose origins have been lost in time. Eventually, they discover a great ship beneath the sands of their desert. Within it is an ancient stone. Upon the stone is a precise star map, and a single word, "Higara" or "Homeworld". The game tells the story of their voyage home. I will not attempt to explain more, because it would lessen the experience. Homeworld's story is very well crafted, and the majority of scenarios only add to it. (via the use of mid scenario cut scenes and in between scenario movies) There is extensive back-story available. If you're feeling brave enough to crack open the instructions, there are 40 pages of it.

    Right away, let's clear something up. HW is real - time strategy (RTS), but you can throw all of those nasty preconceptions you have about the genre out the window. HW is entirely space-based, and everything is COMPLETELY three - dimensional. The result is a game that plays nothing like any RTS you've played before. It is true that the basic formula of resource gathering and unit production is the same, but something this three - dimensional is completely unprecedented.

    Click to enlargeThe folks at relic have come up with a relatively slick control interface. The game is entirely mouse driven, and though it may take some getting used to, it is very intuitive. (Just like learning a clutch) It may seem odd at first, but it'll be second nature before you know it. HW contains a focus point driven camera system. In other words, the screen can revolve around any focus point in full 360.You designate your own focus point. By giving the player complete control of his own point of view, Relic has completely eliminated even the possibility of point of view problems.

    Graphics are exceptional, particularly given the completely free - floating nature of HW's camera. HW's textures are all excellent, andthe environments are very agreeable and colorful. There is a decidedly special thrill from watching the conflict unfold around you.

    Click to enlargeSound is near - brilliant. I have not heard a soundtrack of this quality in a very long time. It resembles new age, and truly does convey a sense of the vastness of space, and the enormity and desperation of the task before you. (The third scenario is a particular favorite). Sound effects are consistent and surround soundeffects well done. (I particularly like the Doppler effect as you zoom in and out from your focus point) In short, Homeworld is one of those games that is almost as much fun to watch as they are to play.

    No doubt you've already heard what a "revolution in real - time" that HW is. I doubt it. Homeworld does suffer some of the same unit behavior problems that plague the other members of its genre. Units will not defend themselves unless ordered to do so. Units who have completed their task will assume "a holding pattern" (right in the middle of a raging firefight) until given another task. As you can imagine, this will end up costing you more than a few units. I have said this before, and I will say it again, RTS must carefully tread the line between giving the player options, and forcing him to micromanage (which he does not have time to do). For the most part, Homeworld follows that line admirably well, but it does stumble occasionally. Additionally, Homeworld's single player campaign consists of only 16 scenarios. So once again the gamers of the worldfind themselves doing Oliver Twist impressions. "Please sir, can I have some more?" No doubt there's sequels/expansion packs in the works, but that's no excuse for being stingy with the game's substance.

    Click to enlargeAdditionally, there are some logic gaps. For example, no ship may remain docked within the mother ship. (Your entire fleet WILL launchat the beginning of each stage, and no ship will remain out of play for longer then it takes to refuel). You will be very hard pressedto remove your non-combat ships from danger. It makes very little sense to design an enormous carrier that won't actually carry anything. Also, though the game contains two distinct groups, the Taiidan and the Kushan, it only contains one story line. What is that about? Given the lack of single - player scenarios, a campaignfrom the opposing point of view would have been a MASTERFUL and welcome touch. Yet we must do the same campaign with different looking ships.

    Despite it's gaps, Homeworld is a solid A effort. Its superb graphics, magnificent soundtrack, and deliciously original game play will almost certainly make this game one of the year's best.

    (A message from the jaded critic: 11/04/99. Oh dear. I was having lunch with the music critic who said the Beatles would never amount to anything (he was depressed as usual), and shiva caught up with me. It seems that you can permanently dock your ships in Homeworld with support craft (the mother ship, frigates, etc...) Ooops.To the devotees and designers of the game, I apologize for any mis-representation in my review. I can plead no defense except ignorance.

    I always strive for accuracy and fairness, but, quite frankly, that one went sailing right over my head. Ironically, I'm glad it turned around and came back. (I can use this information!)

    In the final analysis, what can I say everyone? Sometimes wide receivers drop passes. One of my favorite Americans said it best when he said, DOH!!!!!!)

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