Q: What is your favourite computer game?

My favourite game is Homeworld, released on the PC in 1999.

I was going to do Windwaker, or Metroid Prime, Goldeneye, Unreal Tournament or even Skies of Arcadia, as it’s a struggle to dig out a true fav. But, in the end, I chose to do the one game that has been on my C.V. as my favourite game, since I entered the games industry some 11 years ago!

Homeworld is both an excellent game and one, considering it was the first fully three-dimensional RTS, that should have shaped the entire real-time strategy genre!! Unfortunately, no one can hear you shout, “BEST GAME EVER!!”… In space! (Yeah! I went there!)

Relic’s Homeworld is the sort of game that inspired deserved unbridled hyperbole in game reviewers. With its stunning 3D engine, uniquely challenging gameplay, great audio, and terrific story. But it is a largely forgotten game that wasn’t played by as many players as it should have been! A classic 10/10 game that no one bought! *sadface*

With a classic plot, simple and to the point and something you can quickly get behind. And, for those geeks amongst you, plays out a lot like Battlestar Galactica (minus all that spiritual nonsense!!)

It begins with an epic discovery; an ancient starship, buried deep beneath the sands of your home planet Kharak, contains evidence indicating that your people descended from aliens who colonized the planet many centuries ago. Spurred on by this discovery, your people construct a massive Mothership with hyperspace capabilities and undertake an expedition to find their trueHomeworld. However, you complete your first hyperspace jump only to run smack into a swarm of hostile aliens, which proceed to reduce Kharak to a burning wasteland. Now, with only the Mothership to call home, you must lead the fleet onward to your fabledHomeworld, exacting vengeance for Kharak along the way.

But forget all that! One of the main reasons I sat of hours on end, just playing the skirmish mode repeatedly was because Homeworld had some of the most impressive space-based graphics ever.

This 3D engine is stunning, with an acute attention to detail that is staggering. Every ship, from the tiny scout fighter to the lumbering heavy cruiser, is amazingly detailed, right down to markings on the hull and individually animated gun turrets. One of the coolest features in the game is the ability to zoom right in on a single ship and follow it through a battle –every turn, manoeuvre, and shot fired is brought to life, and you get a front-row seat for all of it.

The ship design itself is also pretty impressive. And though the two sides in the conflict have nearly identical arsenals (there are only two unique ship classes per side), each has a completely different stylistic approach that is consistent throughout the fleet. Weapon effects are suitably spectacular, and explosions are also very cool, especially when the doomed vessel is penetrated by a beam weapon as it blows up – an effect that recalls those great ship battles from the Battlestar Galatica. And the large scale battles!!! Oh shit the battles!! 

Hollywood on its best day has yet to capture the feel of the massive fleet battles in Homeworld!

And the audio? Ahhhhh the audio, the always forgotten element that can make or break a good game! In a word. Awesome! The audio in Homeworld is just as impressive as the graphics engine. The score (a score that won the Best Score Award in 2000)alongside the unit acknowledgments and sound effects does a great job of setting the whole “space is really, really BIG!!” mood of the game.

The slick presentation of the game also extends to the plot injections. Most of the plot unfolds by way of simple yet elegant cutscenes, created using the game’s 3D engine. The game also makes use of some slick hand-drawn animation to convey other elements of the story. These black-and-white scenes have a simple but gritty look to them, and they work exceptionally well with the flashy 3D cinematics. They hold up to scrutiny even now and proof that flashy FMV’s aren’t always the way forward.

But the most obvious difference between this and other real-time strategy games and some that has only really been recreated maybe by EVE ONLINE (but far more complicatedly than required) is the true 3D nature of the game world.

You’re in deep space (and you’ll sure as hell know it!!), so there is no restriction on the direction in which your units may travel. As a result, you’ll have to learn to think and move using three axis at all times.

To keep that true cinematic feel going, there are practically no HUD elements to see!! This can be extremely confusing if you jump right in especially with no difficulty settings to test out. But you are taken through Homeworld’s excellent tutorial (a useful tutorial? remember those?), which are perfectly paced and required, regardless of your experience with real-time strategy games.

Fortunately, I never minded retrying some of Homeworld’s missions a few times until I got them just right. (This was usually me stealing/salvaging as many ships as possible.) This is because Homeworld nails one of those elements few games give you; you never get the sense that the computer is cheating you. (What!? No difficulty setting??!! Just a perfectly balanced game!? Surely I jest?).

And would you believe this game came out in 1999!!!?? They, literally, don’t make games like this any more!! – And what other game built 12 years ago, looks and plays like it was made yesterday? (Duke Nukem sure as hell didn’t!)

So Homeworld:

  • ·         Amazing Graphics, both in Design, Tech and Audio
  • ·         Brilliantly-told story
  • ·         A tutorial (that doesn’t take you out of the game) that actually teaches you how to play
  • ·         Immense sense of scale and vastness of space
  • ·         Revolutionary 3D interface and controls that somehow work!
  • ·         Perfectly balanced difficulty
  • ·         A forgotten Masterpiece!!

Homeworld  - The game I use to convince industry peeps that I know what a good game is!

This is my favourite game.