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The Dreamcast resource, and more. Home of the DC Technical pages.
By: Terry “DysoN” Martin
Back in the old days of RTS, fanatics (or not) alike played the best games around, mainly the C&C series—then came Blizzard’s Starcraft. This forced the RTS community to be split into many parts. Those who loved the Command & Conquer series continued playing the game. The other part of the community was immediately hooked with Starcraft. The rest played Total Annihilation and strategy games alike.
The upsetting release of Westward Stupidos (copyright Gamers Extreme) Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun gave some people the idea that not only was this game a joke, but they also thought that it should’ve been an expansion pack, inevitably making the C&C series “better,” but then of course, this is my opinion. In this day with all our technology advancements, Westwood has failed to produce a great looking game—instead, they, sadly, have given us with low-end technology… voxels. The RTS scene has taken a dangerous dive and the only thing worth noting would be to produce better, technological games…
With upcoming 3D RTS releases such as Earth 2150 and more to come, RTS has deeply evolved from what it used to be, mainly because of advancements in technology. Sierra’s Homeworld will try to take the risk of being a great RTS contender this new millenium. Does Homeworld really have what it takes to be a good RTS game? We’ll see…
You were the benign lords of a peaceful society located in the centre of a lush spiral galaxy. For as long as anyone could remember, no one has challenged your peaceful existence—then came the conquerors, invading with the sole purpose of overtaking your world. Billions died, and the survivors were relocated to a cold, lifeless planet into edge of the galaxy. Hundreds of years later, all knowledge of your previous existence has been lost. Only vague myths remain, until the discovery of an ancient tablet buried within the ruins of a half-destroyed craft in the great desert... This Guidestone reawakened knowledge of your previous existence and set your race on the path of finding your “home.” Home, located in the heart of the galaxy... Sixty years ago the constructon of the great Mothership was started. It will carry millions of your people into deep space… Construction is completed… the journey now begins…
Every software-based product (game), of course, has their game menu. Some are quite unique, others are intuitive and simple. Homeworld’s game menu is very colourful (heh), though, suffice to say that it’s easy to recognize. These, in no particular order, are the game’s [beginning] menus:
Training – this lets the player get some basic tutorial(s) of the game. You can expand your training by playing the first few single player missions.
Single Player – lets the player create a new game. The player has the option to freely choose which of the two clans, either the Kushans or Taidans, they want to play as.
Multiplayer – this option allows the user to create multiplayer games via LAN, Internet, or Modem. You can, by the way, create your own Homeworld maps and play them with friends alike. It also allows the user to join multiplayer games. There are slews of other options embedded in the Multiplayer section; ie – Skirmish, which pits you against an AI, which is controlled by the omnipotent computer—this is ultimately decided to how well you’ve set the AI up.
Options – allows the player to change the game’s default video settings, sounds, brightness, to name a few.
Credits – the alliterative, bright, talented slackers, err, hard workers of Relic Entertainment are shown in this option.
Quit – I do believe that I will not go into explanatory detail as to what the “quit” option does.
The Game & Camera
The elements of a real-time strategy game would be resource gathering, building units capable of mass destruction, assimilating, etc… what makes Homeworld different?
Homeworld is an RTS game. It’s mainly a space-based game, however. Everything in the game is absolutely in 3D. The outcome result would be an RTS game that has all the elements of strategy and at the same time is a real-time based game—generally, it’s a game that plays nothing like any RTS you’ve played before. For this very reason, we can call it a 3D RTS game.
The Relic folks have designed a completely different interface, much different than the one’s we’re accustomed to. The game is mostly based on using a mouse, though, it takes time getting used to, it is, however, very intuitive and unique. The interface and controls might seem a bit frustrating at first, but it’ll be second nature before you know it.
Homeworld contains a camera, which you can focus on. The screen revolves around any focus point in full 360 motion. You can zoom in, zoom out of an area easily inside the game—by doing this, Relic has completely eliminated even the slightest possibility of POV (point-of-view) problems. I haven’t noticed any (or at all) clipping problems, except when rotating around your mothership, and finding out that you have just went through it—this is rare, though.
The way you have complete freedom of the game world is truly benefiting, making Homeworld truly a unique game, with its own style of gameplay. Homeworld may be the greatest RTS game ever created. Graphics
The game resolutions, depending on your video card, can go beyond 1024x768. I deem the graphics… appropriate. They are definitely exceptional, given the fact that Homeworld can run at over 1024x768 resoltion. When rotating around with the camera, I still see awe-inspiring graphics, particularly given the completely free—floating nature of the game.
Homeworld’s textures, environments were all magnificently done (they look and seem good). Textures are very well designed, beautiful and at the same time colourful, and fit the game world quite well. The game world is immersing with beauty; a truly rewarding experience of the game would be to buy a 3D accelerator and witness the PC’s ultimate power.
The intricate way the conflict slowly unfolds to you is amazing. I did, however, wish that the background would be a bit better, instead you get a really lame backdrop of space, and it gives you a thought saying, “Man, never before has outer space looked so… sh*tty.” Relic needs to improve on that, though, I don’t blame them… if the background was 3D as well, it, sadly, would add a helluva lot of confusion for the player. (It could be worse if it interacts with the game world.)
Give Relic Entertainment a big pat on the back for their detailed game, Homeworld.
The immense detail of Homeworld extends out to the environment and how your ships can interact with it. Certain types of weapons can trigger lightning storms in dust clouds. Similar types of phenomena can be triggered in gas clouds or nebulae. This opens up a variety of strategic avenues as far as setting ambushes, etc. It is also interesting seeing how it affects resource gathering because there are a lot of resources to gather. There are other things you can do besides lightning storms. For example, the asteroids in an asteroid belt can be broken up into smaller chunks and when combined with a gravity well generator, can be used as a deadly weapon. There are also computer-controlled pirates to deal with, as well as derelict (abandoned) ships to salvage for technology. Using a salvaging unit is beneficial.
When playing Homeworld, you are actually able to see guns recoil and rotate as they fire... Certain ships have fixed guns that can only point in one direction, while others have turreted guns that can shoot in an arc. The fact that some of the weapons rotate and follow their targets isn't mere eye candy though; such differences between the ships affect strategy as well. Ships with turreted guns will be better at tracking down and firing at faster ships, and won't necessarily need to turn as fast as ships with fixed weapons.
As for the types of ships you get, there are a great variety of ships each with fascinating abilities, aside from the gravity well ship mentioned earlier in this review. There are cloaking field generators that can render companion ships invisible, units that have 7,000 firepower (nearly capable of taking down entire fleets of ships), ships that have insane armour (14,000), etc. Perhaps even more interesting are the field frigates, which can draw incoming bullets away from the ships they're escorting and deflect them back at the attackers—interesting, no? There are around two or three ships unique to each of the two playable races. (In total, there are about 30 ships you can build.)
Formations play a huge part in this game, due to the large number of ships you must control, putting your fleet in a formation is simply a matter of selecting the ships you want and right clicking into the context sensitive menus. There are around 8 or so formations, including the ubiquitous flying delta, board, and picket fence formations. You can order your ships to stay in formation during your attacks, or break formation as they please.
The game’s animations are quite astonishing, rather amazing, from top to bottom. The animations are great to look at, not only because of the details, but also because of the way the game was designed.
Ship animations are impressive, though not quite breath-taking. Textures are highly detailed, you can even see, during a cutscene unfolding, even without the slightest detail, ship(s) moving with great depth and accuracy, is very intriguing to watch. However, problems I’ve noticed were the way units move. When looking at those scouts, interceptors, and they pull off those complex moves are unreal—doesn’t add the slightest realism. Also, it seems that they’re not detailed—looks like they’re missing a few polygons and miss out on detail, when looking at them far away, they’re not sprites… be thankful. (You, obviously, will see that.) The unit animations, almost all the time, don’t repeat their movements. It would be a shame if it had done so. Again, give Relic a pat on the back for their amazing job on the units and their complex animations.
The way it (unit/ship animations) interacts with the world is very realistic to a large extent. As anyone would clearly notice, they don’t suffer from clipping problems, if it does, uh, well, hopefully it wouldn’t bother you; you hardly see these problems, anyway. While those sparkling blue trails when ships move to an area is totally unrealistic, there’s probably a good reason to that—perhaps adding less confusion?
To pull off some great maneuvering, press TAB to choose a formation… now select a destination anywhere in the current level (by pressing the ‘M’ key), now, sit back and watch those ships do some mind-bending twists, twirls, 360 turns—now that’s impressive.
Since everything is in 3D, naturally Relic has added in support for 3D accelerators and 3D sound cards. The audio engine of Homeworld is something the Relic team takes a lot of pride in. It was indefinitely built from scratch to be the most advanced audio engine out there. Players can expect 32 simultaneous audio channels (the engine can actually handle more but your ears would have a hard time distinguishing so many), Dolby surround and Doppler shifting (when zooming in and out). Both Aureal3D and Creative EAX are supported.
Sound 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. Sound effects are consistent and surround sound effects are also 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 are almost as much fun to watch, as they are to hear and play. Gameplay
There are two clans you can play as: Kushan and Taidan. Both clans may have different ships and technologies, but all in all they’re both equal. Your quest is to travel to the lost planet, which the ancients called “Higara” or “Homeworld.” You have spent sixty strenuous years constructing the great Mothership and it is to take your people to the Homeworld… space is indeed the final frontier…
Homeworld has a unique in-game interface; completely different from most of the RTS games you [probably] have played. The interface has these following options:
- Sensors Manager – this shows the current level map. Blue circles are marked as yours, green dots are your ships, yellow dots are your resource collectors, red dots are enemy ships, and brown dots are resources or asteroids. There are a few sub-menus, which is discussed in this review:
- Tactical Overlay – by having this option on, a legend of some sort will appear on the upper left-hand corner. This would show in the Sensors Manager; ie – green triangles are resources, yellow circles are objectives that you must do.
- Hyperspace Jump – can only be accomplished when all the objectives of the current mission have been completed. This allows ships, Salvage Corvettes, resource collectors, etc., to dock with the mothership and jump to the next mission.
- Pan – centres the galactic map.
- Move – moves a ship (or ships) to a particular area. You can also move in 3D by holding the ‘Shift’ key on your keyboard
Outside of the Sensors Manager, there is also a Build Manager, which allows the player to construct units. RUs are your money; sadly, I forget what it stood for. There is a menu that shows the available units you can construct. The ‘Build’ option constructs that particular unit (you can build more than one at a time as long as you have the money). The ‘Pause Batch’ option momentarily stops the production of unit(s), on the other hand, what would a pause batch be doing there if it didn’t have it’s other companion… the ‘Cancel Batch’ option? When clicked, it permanently stops the production of a ship being constructed, of course, you get your money back.
The Launch Manager allows the player to launch a docked unit within the mothership, or launch all available docked ships. During play, you can dock a ship anytime you feel like (I think the mothership can repair any of your ships, as the mothership can too, quite frankly, repair itself).
Playing the game itself takes some time to get used to, then later on; the game will be easy to play. Learning the game isn’t difficult… just takes time to get used to the interface that’s all. (Some of the gameplay aspects of the game have already been discussed in the review.)
Homeworld does suffer some of the same unit behaviour problems that plague the other games 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. 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, which gets increasingly difficult overtime. So, once again the gamers of the world find 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.
During the later course of the game, it gets frustratingly more difficult as you have hordes of complex and convoluted tasks to do with not enough time to recuperate. As you progress, however, you are capable of researching new technology, building new, innovative units that are capable of destroying entire fleets. (In the manual, it shows a technology tree, showing units you can build…)
There is nothing much to argue about Homeworld. The game was well done, and just proves to you how much solid effort Relic Entertainment has put into this game. No matter what game it is, it would have its flaws— so why is Homeworld near perfect? It probably is because of its unique gameplay, interface, graphics, and sound. No RTS as of yet can compare to this 3D RTS. The people of Relic shouldn’t be appalled but amazed as to what they have produced… amazing.
Homeworld is truly a beautiful game. RTS fans, fanatics alike will enjoy this game for quite some time, merely because it’s never boring to stop playing. There are too many good things about this game… the good things simply outweigh the bad ones, which weren’t a lot. If you are looking for a great contender for this new millenium, I suggest that you should get this game. Keep in mind that its flaws aren’t bothersome. For those that are new to the RTS genre, now’s the time to get your lazy, crippled bums off the chair and buy the game. You will scoff, you will marvel… you must buy this game… Pros:
- Resolutions capable of going beyond 1024x768
- Beautiful, crisp graphics
- Awe-inspiring surround sound-effects
- Fascinating and unique gameplay
- Units don’t defend or attack unless ordered to do so
- Gets increasingly difficult
- Some rare clipping problems
- Unrealistic maneuvers by ships
<< Rating: 95 >>
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