Homeworld 3 Review – Interstellar Journey

Blackbird Interactive's long-awaited sequel to the iconic sci-fi RTS series is here. Is it worth the wait, especially for series fans?

Posted By | On 13th, May. 2024

Homeworld 3 Review – Interstellar Journey

At one point, Relic Entertainment’s Homeworld franchise was a marvel that could stand proudly alongside other real-time strategy greats like Command and Conquer and Warcraft. After Homeworld 2, however, it somewhat fell into obscurity, partly due to its IP owner, THQ, going bankrupt. One purchase from Gearbox and the formation of Blackbird Interactive and Homeworld was back with the remasters of the first two games.

However, for a true-blue sequel to happen, it took a whopping 21 years. Homeworld 3 is finally here, though, and while it won’t necessarily blow you away, there’s enough solid sci-fi strategy goodness to keep you going.

"Overall, the signature tone of the previous games – of being isolated and alone in space, a mere speck in a much bigger conflict – is still very much intact."

The story concerns the disappearance of Karan S’Jet, a central character from the previous titles, during a mission to leverage the hyperspace gates spread through the universe. Not much is known about her disappearance, save for the mysterious Anomaly’s containment. As the new navigator and Karan’s successor, Imogen, players control the Khar-Kushan, a state-of-the-art mothership, with Intel Officer Isaac Paktu at the helm and embark on a journey to perhaps stop the Anomaly.

Thematically, Homeworld 3 is more gritty military sci-fi. That can often mean less heroics and more grounded sacrifices, though Imogen and Isaac serve to humanize many of the more grim occurrences. Throughout all of this, there’s also an air of mystery as the navigator witnesses strange visions whilst jumping through hyperspace, struggling to understand them. Not every line is a winner – some of it is seemingly trying too hard for a weighty feel (and there are instances of some dialogue overlapping others), but it’s executed for the most part.

Aside from these two, the fleet and personnel of the Khar-Kushan make themselves known through chatter during missions. It’s not overbearing and updates you on their combat status, which is useful and adds to the atmosphere. Overall, the signature tone of the previous games – of being isolated and alone in space, a mere speck in a much bigger conflict – is still very much intact. That’s further helped by the presentation, with extensive cutscenes before and during missions, the latter sometimes interrupting the pacing as missions evolve and enemies make themselves apparent.

Nevertheless, the visuals are stunning throughout, whether you’re reactivating data ports to get a warp gate working again as enemies pop out of the derelict architecture, navigating a dense nebula which makes it challenging to spot foes at a distance, and even surviving an asteroid field. Performance is relatively solid, though things can get heavy as you zoom out and dozens of units collide with enemy forces. While the voice-acting is spot-on throughout, the music is particularly endearing as heavy drums resound as the tension picks up.

Homeworld 3_05

"If that weren’t enough, you can also research upgrades for the Mothership and each ship type, activate different abilities, direct Resource Collectors to capture enemy ships and add them to your fleet and more."

Even if you haven’t played any previous Homeworld titles, some aspects of Homeworld 3 will feel familiar. Your Mothership packs enough firepower, deploying resource collectors and defending itself from smaller ships. It can also produce small Recon fighters that are quick and cheap but lack much resilience, especially against Frigates and Carriers. As you progress, you unlock the ability to create Interceptors that are more skilled at dogfighting, Bombers that can briefly cloak and make short work of bigger ships, and so on. There are caps on the number of ships you can build, so finding the right amount of Railgun Corvettes, Ion Frigates, Assault Frigates and Support Frigates to go with your fighters is paramount.

You can utilize different formations, each with unique functions – the V-shaped Delta is ideal for spreading ships and reducing AoE damage, while the Wall Formation is more suited for concentrated firepower against capital ships. Formations can be switched on the fly to balance out maneuverability and damage, while a ship’s stance – which determines whether it’s relentlessly aggressive or neutral, only reacting when necessary – can also be set beforehand.

If that weren’t enough, you can also research upgrades for the Mothership and each ship type, activate different abilities, direct Resource Collectors to capture enemy ships and add them to your fleet and more. That last bit is important if you want to leverage enemy technology and gain an early advantage, especially since units carry over between missions.

It can seem overwhelming, especially when factoring in the Z-axis and approaching targets from above and below. Formations also tend to break down in battle, and considering the different weaknesses of each ship type in the middle of a battle can induce some panic. Fortunately, you have a Tactical Pause for either slowing down or completely stopping the action while you think through different situations. I opted for Modern controls, which were responsive enough when selecting batches of ships and assigning tasks to each type. The pathfinding of ships, especially Recon units, left something to be desired when navigating tunnels, but it was only an occasional nuisance.

Homeworld 3_04

"While more akin to a wave-based survival mode than a rogue-lite crawl through various locations, War Games is still a fun distraction and it’s set to grow over time with more content planned."

Mission design could feel a bit repetitive, with some objectives falling back on the standard “Navigate to three points to capture or analyze.” Nevertheless, Blackbird Interactive suffuses some surprises throughout, whether it’s introducing a new enemy ship type, or flipping the script. A mission primarily focused on stealth capturing different data points can suddenly turn into an all-out war against a mysterious carrier.

Another could see you fighting off all odds while the Mothership desperately attempts to get its hyperspace drive back online. Furthermore, sitting back and watching some space battles unfold can be hypnotizing, even as Imogen cautions about mounting losses. I enjoyed the use of cover in some instances, as both allied and enemy ships weaved through portions of rubble, while turrets positioned on capture points provided support.

Though I didn’t try out the online multiplayer, Homeworld 3 does have plenty of other content to keep you busy. There’s the standard Skirmish for engaging in battles with and against up to six players (including AI combatants) with parameters for end conditions, starting resources and more, with six maps available. War Games will probably be the more attractive solo and co-op option – it’s a roguelike mode where players can choose a Fleet Type (which determines their starting fleet) and partake in PvE combat.

homeworld 3 fleet

"Homeworld 3 isn’t a game-changer for the franchise – it’s not going to uplift it or set new standards for the genre as a whole."

You can opt for different difficulty modifiers, like greater enemy incursions, reduced resources, additional objectives, and so on, to really up the challenge. They also add to the XP earned, used to unlock additional Fleet Types. There are also Artifacts to discover when completing objectives and salvaging wreckage, which can provide significant upgrades towards runs, increasing your chance of survival. While more akin to a wave-based survival mode than a rogue-lite crawl through various locations, War Games is still a fun distraction and it’s set to grow over time with more content planned.

As noted earlier, Homeworld 3 isn’t a game-changer for the franchise – it’s not going to uplift it or set new standards for the genre as a whole. Instead, it offers tight strategy gameplay with a few hiccups, a relatively polished technical experience (with only a handful of bugs encountered during my playthrough), and an intriguing story with a compelling mystery. Its additional modes provide further longevity for those who enjoy the combat, and the presentation is noteworthy. All of this adds up to an experience that’s more than the sum of its parts, even as some stand out more than others.

This game was reviewed on PC.


THE GOOD

Cinematic campaign with deep sci-fi ethos, driven by an intriguing mystery. Large-scale battles with an impressive range of units, tactics and formations. Excellent visuals and music. Memorable voice acting with ambient chatter adding to the realism. War Games is a fun rogue-like mode.

THE BAD

Some bugs which can muddle gameplay. Certain mission objectives can get repetitive at times. Recon units could use better pathfinding. War Games may not be to everyone's taste.

Final Verdict:
GREAT
While not as trailblazing as its predecessors, Homeworld 3 is still a well-made and worthwhile sci-fi real-time strategy with a solid story and exceptional production values.
A copy of this game was provided by Developer/Publisher/Distributor/PR Agency for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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