Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a new prequel to the original Homeworld series although with some odd differences to anyone who played the original. Now as far as RTS goes the original two Homeworld games were incredible, with a variety of units and a great campaign then it stood as a monolith of a space-based RTS for years. Although this new entry into the series is not space-based, it’s ground-based, this means that it has to take on a bunch of new features that are unavailable across a flat plain.
Deserts Of Kharak is developed by Blackbird Interactive being their first game and published by Gearbox Software, based before the story of the original Homeworld, following the story of Rachel S’Jet as she leads her people to find their destiny. The plot as of the beginning to Deserts of Kharak, Kharak (the home-in-exile for the Hiigaran) is a dying world, the desert is growing by the year and the clans are on the brink of war. When suddenly a satellite detects an object in the great expanse of the desert. Nicknamed ‘The Jaraci Object’, Rachel S’Jet is sent as the chief scientist for the expedition to recover the anomaly. However before long a group of religious fanatics named ‘Gaalsien’ attack an array of the Coalition bases and before long lay siege to the planetary capital of ‘Tiir’.
Besides a good campaign, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak also has a good multiplayer and skirmish mode, being able to play as either Kushan (Hiigaran) or Gaalsien. Each team having little differences between units, such as different aircraft, cruisers or frigates. Mainly having visual differences such as rolling across the terrain with caterpillar tracks and wheels or hovering over the sand. There are also subtle differences in the carrier’s such as one can increase it’s movement speed. The skirmish and multiplayer modes are good and enjoyable featuring different game types of either artifact capture, requiring you to capture an artifact with a ‘Baserunner’ unit and taking it to an extraction zone. This is a good multiplayer game mode making the player adapt to how the enemies are moving their base and using terrain to the advantage. The alternative game mode being a classic elimination requiring you to destroy the enemy Carrier.
Much like the original Homeworld’s the carrier is the pinnacle of your fleet being the mainstay of your production (although Gaalsien can construct cruisers to build for them). The protection of these carrier’s is of utmost importance and therefore Deserts Of Kharak introduces a modular power system allowing the player to direct where the power is going to buff different systems, for example if you power weapons then missile systems can come online, whereas if you power repairs then repair beams can come online to heal other units around the carrier. This to me is an excellent function and I think modular power should be picked up in more RTS’s, as this allows the player to essentially use the Carrier as a powerful combat vessel, a support ship or a sponge for the enemies to put all of their fire-power into, allowing different tactics to be devised.
The original Homeworld series used a 3 dimensional space movement system, obviously not being in space then this game has to be able to change things in another way, this is done by making heightened terrain and line-of-sight. The way I like this is by say a railgun unit which is a long ranged slow firing powerful frigate. If one of these are placed atop a hill with a low sloped desert surrounding it then it can fire a lot further whereas, if you position a powerful short-range unit on the side of a hill then it can benefit from enemies having to close in before combat.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a nice looking game, featuring pretty and science fiction units that can be visualised in a future setting. With nice explosion effects and a lovely ash and dust cloud thrown up whenever you destroy and enemy carrier adding to the aura of awe from a futuristic setting. The game also has nice sound effects from the explosions to the soundtrack, each railgun shot feels like it has weight just like the strategic bombers when they deliver a payload there’s a crunch of power released that feels rather epic.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is all round a good and fun RTS game. It does suffer some minor faults which is that at some points the AI doesn’t feel strong or smart enough, however this is solved whenever you play multiplayer and you do not lose out on your competitive experience. The game could possibly do with some additional factions or maybe more units but I have no doubt that these will come in time.
In conclusion, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a great game and it can be even more further down the line, it is definitely worth a purchase for all classic Homeworld fans looking for nostalgia or those looking for a new RTS it is a very good option all around.
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