Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Whiskey Impressions: Homeworld Remastered Collection

Platform: PC
Release Date: 25 February 2015
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: Gearbox Software
Where to get it: Steam
Price: £26.99

To fill the gap in updates recently I've decided to throw up my brief thoughts about the Homeworld Remastered Collection.

UPDATE: Tried playing Homeworld 2 Remastered. It won't even launch. Score updated appropriately.

I've only had a brief time with the game but here's my initial experiences/opinions from playing the Homeworld 1 Remastered campaign:

First the bad;
1) Controls not rebindable. Tried with several keys on one command, and half a dozen different commands after and even clearing the keys from commands before attempting to add new ones results in an error message blocking you from rebinding ("the key is already in use as "command"").
2) First mission glitched, skipped initial objective rendering the mission impossible to finish. Restarted mission to try again, all going well until told to capture drone with salvage ship, whereupon my fighters (set on aggressive mode, as per the previous objective instructions) sped half way across the map to kill it before my salvage ship got there, resulting in another failed mission. Third time's the charm and I finally finish it.
3) Second mission goes well. Apart from a brief issue getting my ship to behave, which I suggest was my fault, the mission went smoothly, enemy ships were fought, shit exploded, all went well.
4) Third mission again bugged. Told to kill one assault frigate and capture the other with salvage ship. Salvage ship will approach the frigate but refuses to interact with it, no matter how much damage I deal first. Thought I might be missing a ship but the research menu shows no further research to be made.
5) Sound for weapons firing keeps cutting out. Looks like a sound channels issue but even after bumping it from the default (apparently 0, but obviously not otherwise there'd have been no sound) to 100 the problem persists.
6) Lighting issues, you can rotate the camera to blatantly see the sun in the background but the side of an object facing you is still brightly lit up, while it has shadows around the edge (as though your camera is a brighter light source than the sun. It's a little nitpick but it bugs the shit out of me nontheless.

Now the good;
1) The remastered textures are pretty, even on moderate settings and zoomed in far the game looks amazing.
2) The cutscenes are great too.
3) Having Homeworld 2's UI in the Homeworld 1 campaign is a blessing, probably the best design decision they've made overall. I really can't stress how great this is.
4) The new music is spectacular, that opening cutscene where the mothership undocks has some great music.
5) Alt-F4 works.

Finally, the ugly;
1) There's no game speed option. I can't remember if the classic Homeworld had it or not but not having one in a more modern game is just plain silly. Resource collectors can take upwards of 2-3 minutes to grab a handful of resources (often only enough for one or two ships or a single research project) and can't be sped up. Any game that puts me in a situation where I'm actively flicking through a magazine while playing is not winning brownie points.
2) There are 4 UI scale options (not on the options screen, but rather the pause (F10) screen. It's a nice feature to have but at size 2 the UI's group panel (where you assign tactics and formations) is too small to read and at size 3 it takes up about two-thirds of the screen space and leaves you a tiny rectangle in the middle to play with. This could be solved quite easily with more granular options like a slider instead of just 4 settings.

All that said; it's Homeworld - they're great games and nothing will change that.

Overall: I can't recommend it. It feels like an old game dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era, which is equal parts good and bad (mostly good, thankfully) but the bugs and glitches had me reaching for Alt-F4 after only two and a bit missions of the campaign. Typically the start of a game is more polished than the end (simply because it has more time with the playtesters) and if the quality of the first three missions is anything to go by the rest of the game must be an absolute trainwreck.
Add in the fact that the multiplayer is still in beta, which is a broad definition these days anyway, while the game is billed as a full release and you've got something that stinks of being rushed out the door to take advantage of a rapidly depopulated release window.
Sorry Gearbox but you've blown it pretty hard at release.

Score: 1 "It's dead Jim" out of 10.

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