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Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak review

DoKFinalKey_Wide

 

Ever since I can remember, one of my favorite RTS games was the Command and Conquer series, especially Command and Conquer Generals/ Zero Hour. The gameplay was very simple and easy to grasp no matter what faction was picked. All that was left that you really needed to learn was the proper tactics to use since each faction was different and how to efficiently cue up each unit or building. Plus the game had a really great storyline that kind of hit close to the current political climate of the 2000’s. RTS games nowadays seemed to be designed with the mindset of wanting to become the next eSport sensation. Bu then I was introduced to today’s game up for review, Homeworld Deserts of Kharak, and I was pleasantly surprised.

 

Before we get to what really sold me on this game, a few things to note. One: I have never played the previous Homeworld games (both HD Remake and originals) so this my first time exploring the series. Two: Which also happens to be a good thing because Homeworld Deserts of Kharak is actually a prequel to the original Homeworld/Homeworld HD. So those who are new to the franchise can understand what’s going on without being left out and long time fans can see what the world was like before the first Homeworld.

 

Sands of fortune

Thrilling sci-fi story- While most RTS games live and die by their controls and gameplay, sometimes a you can overlook these errors and mistakes if the story happens to be good and draws you into the world. Luckily for Homeworld Deserts of Kharak, it has a pretty thrilling story. The game takes place 106 years before the events of the first Homeworld game and the planet Kharak is dying, slowly turning into a giant desert wasteland. The people who live on Kharak, the Kushan, are constantly waging wars against each other, till one day a satellite picks up a signal. The signal is coming from inside the Great Banded Desert and is something that they’ve never seen before. They send out an initial expedition to see what is creating the signal. But they are never heard from. So a second expedition is sent four years later as the game follows chief science officer Rachel S’jet as she and the Kiith S’jet land carrier Kapisi are tasked in not only finding the signal but to also learn the fate of the first expedition. 

Awesome desert weather effects- The desert environments and weather effects in Deserts of Kharak look spectacular. It looks and feels like as if we’re really traveling through this harsh environment. The physics are amazing as well. I love seeing how when I order my units to speed out of an area that their wheels kick up the sand as they accelerate. Then there are the dust storms that occur in some levels. The particle effects used to create these storms really adds to atmosphere. 

Easy to understand tutorial- With most RTS games, they drop you right in a real level with all sorts of technical terms, advance tactics and other need to know information and expect you to learn as you go. For some people that type on the fly tutorial is ok for them, since they probably have played many RTS games and know what they are doing. Deserts of Kharak’s tutorial on the other hand takes time and teaches you how each function works and then using training bots has you carry out the action. It even explains how their sensor manager works (more on that next) and how you can still control your unit while in the manager.

 

Tactical satellite/radar map- While in most RTS games there is some sort of satellite/radar map in one of the corners of the screen during gameplay, Deserts of Kharak doesn’t have that. Instead it has a system called the sensor manager. Pressing the spacebar brings up the sensors manager, which kind of looks like a cross between a satellite map and a radar image. Depending on the units that are deployed or mobile sensors planted, you are able to see a more tactical view of the area; from enemy units and allied units to resources and natural events like dust devils. You can even control units from sensor manager, giving a even great tactical control of the battlefield without having to move back and forth from map to the gameplay screen.

   

Simple action macros/easy macro binding- Thanks to Starcraft, macros have become  a staple of the modern RTS and if players cannot understand how to use the basic macros or how to bind them, then hope is lost for that game. For Deserts of Kharak, the devs kept the macros simple. To cue up and build units, all that is needed to be pressed is the associated letter that the unit’s name begins with. For example, to cue up say resource gathers, all you would have to do is press the letter R and unit construction will start. This helps out alot especially when in the sensor manager, when you are trying to move units to different waypoints, while also defending your main cruiser and trying to rebuild lost units.

 

Sands of doom

Fluxing AI- Like all RTS games, Deserts of Kharak has its share of problems. One of those problems that stands out is that the AI tends to flux round in difficulty. For example the enemy AI would just send small attack units to test and poke my defenses in one level and then all of a sudden in the next level the AI sends out a full force of fully developed attack units all at once at the start of the level.
Limited multiplayer maps- I understand that Deserts of Kharak is a prequel in the Homeworld series, but it would have been nice to have more map variety in the multiplayer. I mean there’s desert area, bigger desert area, desert area in a canyon, desert area at night in an abandoned base. I get it, the game takes place in which the planet is turning into one huge desert. It would be nice to have at least one area that has some green in it, like an oasis or something similar.

 

Homeworld Deserts of Kharak is a really good RTS and one of my new favorites of the genre. It has a really thrilling sci-fi story of a planets dying and its people trying to find this mysterious signal that could save them. The tutorial is very easy and simple to follow along with and actually teaches you the gameplay mechanics that you will be using. Pair that up with the simple to understand action macros and the sensors manager and you have an RTS that anyone can pick up and play. The AI will fluctuate at different stages so be on watch for that and for an RTS game, its a bit lite on multiplayer stages. Regardless, if you are looking for an RTS game that isn’t too difficult and fun to play, then i suggest that  you pick up Homeworld Deserts of Kharak on Steam.

 

8/10

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