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Post » Sun Jan 24, 2016 7:37 pm

Homeworld : Deserts of Kharak - Sand gets everywhere

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So back in 2013, I backed a kickstater for a game made by ex-Relic devs who had worked on Homeworld.

Entitled Hardware: Shipbreakers, the devs at Black Bird Interactive billed it as a spiritual successor to Homeworld.

So I thew down fifty bucks and I completely forgot about it, missed the the announcement that the Homeworld IP had been sold to Gearbox after THQ went defunct, and also missed an email from the devs at Blackbird informing me that they had made a deal with Gearbox to retool Shipbreakers to be part of the Homeworld IP, that my fifty bucks would be refunded, and that I'd get a copy of the game when it was out.

Then earlier this month I saw this:
Homeworld : Deserts of Kharak is the prequel to 1999's Homeworld.

In Homeworld, you lead the people of Kharak to Hiigara, their home world, the location of which they found carved into a stone within the wreckage of a Starship buried in the Deserts of Kharak, along with the technology that would allow them to make their great journey.

Deserts of Kharak is the journey to find that wreckage.

A lucky accident results in a satellite identifying an object deep within the equatorial desert. As tensions reach boiling point between the Coalition of Tribes of the Northern Polar region who seek the stars, and the religious fanatics of the equatorial desert who view any attempt to leave their atmosphere as a profane insult to the gods, an expedition is launched.

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The story fits perfectly into the Homeworld lore; the people of Kharak have entirely forgotten the exile of their ancestors four thousand years prior, as well as the treaty that sent them there, however aspect of it appear in their religion.

Returning to the dark ages in a literal and metaphorical sense as the first cities of the original exiles were swallowed by the desert , the survivors fled north towards the more hospitable polar region, and for the last thousand years various Religious wars have been waged among the Tribes, namely as to why the gods placed them on such an inhospitable planet. Eventually one tribe abandons the North claiming that their decadence would see the wrath of the gods bought down on them, and that Kharak would burn.
The campaign itself is short and sweet, challenging at times, but ultimately the AI is similar to the original Homeworld, that is to say, lobotomized and relying entirely on strength in numbers, and spawning waves upon waves to keep you on your toes. Don't get me wrong, it's still fun, but if you've got even half a brain you can set things up so mulch through enemy armour without losses and have more resources than you'll ever be able to use.

Atmosphere wise, the game is unbelievable and utterly fantastic - the music, the look, the feel of the desert is breathtaking. The radio chatter from the units alone as they trek across the desert will make it hard for me to play another RTS game again that doesn't have that level of attention.

But by far, the best part is the Kapisi.

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Severing as a more mobile Mothership, able to construct units and launch fighters and bombers to rain down death from the skies, as you trek across the desert and salvage components from the mysterious wrecks in the sand, it can be upgraded into a absolute beast, able to roll into battle and annihilate swarms of enemies with minimal support, although it is limited by the terrain... most of the time.

Unit wise, there isn't much compared to the original Homeworld, but there is no fat among what there is. Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, as well as unique abilities which can make all the difference on harder difficulties.

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I haven't had a chance to sink my teeth into the multiplayer yet, from what I hear there isn't much but it's engaging.

All in all, it's a damn good game and a great successor to Homeworld, maybe not worth $50 US given the relatively short campaign but certainly worth it on sale for the atmosphere alone. That said, after finishing the campaign I was left wanting more, and am looking forward to the eventual expansions that will likely deal with some of the fallout from the results of the expedition, as well as encountering something only mentioned in the game manual... the Khaaneph.
Last edited by Rougey on Mon Jan 25, 2016 10:14 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Post » Sun Jan 24, 2016 7:53 pm

Speaking of the Game Manual, they're charging $6 for it on steam.

On one hand, when I phrase it like that it sounds ludicrous... on the other hand, it's entirely interactive and has a couple of hours of content worth reading and watching, including content from the original shipbreakers game - well worth it.
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Post » Mon Jan 25, 2016 8:35 am

The game looks indy to me- like it's had a solid design principle but limited budget. That super small unit roster for example - to me as an RTS fan that's a huge turn-off. It doesnt look bad by any means, but I will say now that I was hoping for more. Of the footage I've watched of it, nothing has inclined me to buy it.
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Post » Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:39 am

Its not much less than StarCraft 2 has for each side to be honest though.
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Post » Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:51 am

The game looks indy to me- like it's had a solid design principle but limited budget. That super small unit roster for example - to me as an RTS fan that's a huge turn-off. It doesnt look bad by any means, but I will say now that I was hoping for more. Of the footage I've watched of it, nothing has inclined me to buy it.
What Larno said, and like I said up above, the unit roster may be small, but there is literally no superfluous unit. The carriers alone are multimodal enough that their role will change multiple times throughout the course of any engagement, and the disparity between the Coalition units (in the OP) and the Gaalsien (desert tribals) is palpable.

For one thing, they hover:

Image

The Gaalsien units are faster and more maneuverable, and generally far better rounded than the coalition roster, but lack staying power in prolonged engagements. Their biggest strength is their fast moving rail guns, including one of their cruisers which has For example, when the Coalition go to shipbreak a wreckage for resources they need to dig in in order to project their slower salvagers, while the Gaalsien salvagers can simply run away.

But really it’s the targeted abilities is what really makes all units shine, Coalition Base Runners for example are complete beasts once you start researching turret deployment upgrades. Even railguns, which require a lot of babysitting, are utterly brutal once you get them in position on the high ground.

And you become attached to the little bastards throughout the campaign as they become more experienced - some of my LAV's that I'd had since the second mission bought it on the second last mission when they got mulched while acting a meat shield for a unit in distress. It was sad to see them go.

I'm looking forward to the expansions which should bring more factions into the mix. The Khaaneph sound promising, while the South has yet to throw their hat into the mix.
Last edited by Rougey on Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post » Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:54 am

as a fan of throwbacks to dune 2 / c&c / aoe / ee, this looks pretty awesome. will be grabbing
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Post » Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:55 am

Its not much less than StarCraft 2 has for each side to be honest though.
Yeah but isnt this just one side? *edit - nm seems to be two, just appeared to be one from Roguey's initial writeup.

Anyway I dont plan on checking this out regardless, it just doesn't seem to have much depth from what i've watched of it. And god i'd kill for a modernized Dune 2 in this style, suitably dark.
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Post » Mon Jan 25, 2016 10:17 am

my credit card is ready for whoever does. afaik other than inventing the whole rts genre it's the only one other than civ that lets you make roads (concrete slabs) between outposts ffs :dev:
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Post » Mon Jan 25, 2016 10:41 am

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Post » Mon Jan 25, 2016 11:04 am

Its not much less than StarCraft 2 has for each side to be honest though.
Yeah but isnt this just one side? *edit - nm seems to be two, just appeared to be one from Roguey's initial writeup.

Anyway I dont plan on checking this out regardless, it just doesn't seem to have much depth from what i've watched of it. And god i'd kill for a modernized Dune 2 in this style, suitably dark.
Yeah I've updated the OP to be clearer.

Depth wise, the consensus is that while people want the campaign to be longer its pacing is perfect for the story it tells.

One thing that should be stated is how bloody fast the combat is, after years of playing TW games and slowing down or pausing in order to think and process, this feels frantic and chaotic – in a good way.

Again I haven't touched multiplayer but it seems the current meta is to rush your opponents salvagers at the start, which only seems to work if your opponent isn't playing to their factions strengths and can fuck you over completely if it fails. Otherwise the focus in on getting salvage to build up your forces to defend your claims and attack your enemies while manoeuvring your carrier around the terrain. Air superiority can make or break a game, strike craft are highly effective but very susceptible to AA, so people tend to mass them up flying holding patterns DEFCON style and unleash them all at once, or use them individually to strafe at any unit they see which isn’t covered by AA – which is risky given how fast fortunes can turn, aircraft are expensive.

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The desert is an entity into itself - they've put a lot of loving and thought into crafting the maps and it feels utterly gorgeous. I usually don’t give two shits about graphics in a strategy game, but it just sucks you in immersion wise when the wreckages start showing up.

It’s also not just for show.

Some units, namely carriers, are limited by terrain and you need to remember line of sight when it comes to the dunes. Units on higher elevation also get a damage bonus when firing on units below them. During the campaign I wasn't conscious that a claim was overlooked by a dune and lost a support cruiser at a key moment that almost screwed me, after that I was VERY conscious of unit placement. The carrier movement thing and also not be understated – carriers are capable of taking and dishing out a lot of punishment on their own, so the campaign often forces you to leave your carrier behind in order to reach salvage or complete objectives.

I think one thing the campaign could have used more of is instances where a vanguard is sent forward to secure a salvage site and you have to make do with the units you have until the carrier arrives with the rest of your forces.
my credit card is ready for whoever does. afaik other than inventing the whole rts genre it's the only one other than civ that lets you make roads (concrete slabs) between outposts ffs :dev:
Oh hell yes.

I'm really hoping that they open the game up to modding - there is a lot of potential for a Dune Overhaul, hell, a Mad Max overhaul would be cool as hell too.
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Post » Mon Jan 25, 2016 12:20 pm

The desert is that good eh?
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Post » Mon Jan 25, 2016 12:57 pm

Yah, at one point I started noticing strange lines in odd patterns in the sand... they where tracks from the moment of my units.

A hell of a lot of work and thought has been put into it, it's a damn shame I spend most of my time in the tactical map, but after all it is a homeworld game.
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Post » Mon Jan 25, 2016 1:01 pm

Same deal with the very cool Wargame titles (the last being Red Dragon) - beautiful map and unit graphics, but you rarely see them as you're zoomed out into a tactical like map.
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