Grogheads Reviews! Homeworld 3

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The original Homeworld was released nearly twenty-five years ago in 1999. By any standard it was a revolutionary game that used 3D models as well as 3D movement to portray real time space fleet battles. Combined with its very gripping and emotional story campaign, the player was placed into the role of a Fleet Admiral in the likes of Battlestar Galactica or Star Wars. In fact, I would go as far as saying that Homeworld “is” the Star Wars of the gaming world for a lot of people.

Homeworld 2 followed in 2003 and while it removed some features of the original Homeworld, such as the need for fuel and directional armor, it also improved on so many things and added many new mechanics with the story once again being very well done. Homeworld 2 is my favorite of the series, is what I am most familiar with and serves as setting the bar in which Homeworld 3 is to be measured.

Next, in 2016, we had Deserts of Kharak, which was a land based prequel to Homeworld. It had a short campaign, but too few skirmish maps to entertain much player activity beyond the campaign.

It’s now 2024 and enter Homeworld 3. This title, developed by Blackbird Interactive and published by Gearbox, has big shoes to fill given the cult classic status of the previous two titles. So how did it do?


The Long Awaited Sequel

By: Destraex and Grogheads Staff,

A Homeworld games first core component has always been the campaign

The campaign in Homeworld 3 is really very entertaining, one of the things that separates it from previous titles in that it has fully animated characters in movie like CGI sequences. The original two games had cut scenes that were stylized black and white static pictures. These still pictures made the whole game feel very grim and depressing. They setup the tragic story of the Hiigaran protagonists well, causing the player to empathize with them. You developed a vested interest in helping the Hiigarans survive. The CGI in Homeworld 3 is well done but misses some of the mood and epic feel the original cut scenes managed to achieve. I would have preferred the older art style from the previous two games. However, the new style does have its own charm because it enables a fine focus on the main characters of the campaign. Older Homeworld titles connected you more with the Hiigaran people as a whole by generally focusing on groups of objects rather than individual people.

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A capture from one of the beautiful CGI cut scenes

The campaign missions are a lot of fun and I had the whole campaign wrapped up within eight hours or so, incidentally for me that was 7 hours before the official release due to my early access pre-order bonus. The campaign format is very similar to previous games in that you complete missions in sequence progressing with any resources and surviving ships you may have left. The missions were very easy to complete on the medium setting I used and generally I just felt like I was playing through a science fiction TV series. Not a bad thing at all. But missing some of the sense of achievement I felt from the first two titles. I remember in the first two Homeworld games getting stuck on a couple of missions and having to try them multiple times to finish them. I had to learn new tactics and ship behaviors to progress. I also remember not having done well enough in previous missions and having to go back and redo missions to ensure I had enough resources to carry over to the current one. It may well be that the reason for it being easy was that I know Homeworld games too well and new players will find the campaign more challenging than I did.

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Fleet ops

The graphics in some mission environments seem more like Hollywood special effects than game graphics, amazing to behold and clearly, these have been lovingly crafted. The developers have, as usual, done an amazing job with the artwork for the game. Not surprising given that some of the old art team are still working at Blackbird Interactive.

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Breathtaking vistas

Skirmish is the second core component of a Homeworld game

Whether it is with friends or just on my own, Homeworld has always been a solid and spectacular game to play in “single battle” skirmish mode. You choose a map, a side and then you paint your fleet, before hyperspacing into space battles to duke it out with the enemy. But for Homeworld 3 there are a few significant changes.

War Games Mode

First of all, there is a new mode called War Games mode, which works by giving you a choice of starting fleets and gives you all kinds of objectives to accomplish while simultaneously fighting the enemy off. Once you complete the objectives you progress to the next level. The tension is dialed up by a threat level mechanic ensuring the enemy gets stronger over time. Players need to complete the objectives and get to the next level before the enemy threat becomes overwhelming. During games something else players can do is globally upgrade their fleet with artifact cards. These are earned through an in-game points system for completing objectives.

War Games mode can be played co-operatively or single player if preferred. Additionally, as games are played, XP is earned towards leveling up and unlocking more starting fleets and new artifact cards to take in. A player might have a starting fleet consisting of a carrier and two scouts or a carrier and two torpedo frigates to choose from for example.

The maps are small and the terrain which permeates all of Homeworld 3 makes levels feel claustrophobic. You are supposed to use terrain to your advantage in Homeworld 3, so perhaps I am missing the point here. They want you to use terrain so much that the two types of turrets you can build only deploy on terrain. I will have to get used to hiding, flanking and working out of terrain.

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The terrain in space includes ship wrecks, derelict vessels and stations, asteroids, and other objects that can be flown through or used to achieve the element of surprise

War Games mode as an idea is sound, the game mode works like a cooperative multiplayer campaign match. But in practice, I did not enjoy it, because there was no context to the seemingly random objectives. It’s a canned mission mode that will have you conforming to do the same thing again and again. It is a form of arena mode; you have to climb the mission ladder from the beginning each session and see how far you can get. You are supposed to be fighting your way back to Hiigara, but I felt like I was just doing “busy work” so to speak. I am hoping this mode will grow on me as I play more with friends.

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War Games!

Traditional Skirmish Mode

The old traditional skirmish mode is still there and allows you to choose sides and fight each other on one of the six maps provided. The maps I have tried have been a little small and claustrophobic. Where a lot of the older Homeworld maps were so large and you could get lost in them. There is nowhere to hide in these new maps, the action starts almost straight away.

Skirmish is where I think Homeworld 3 really starts to show a few cracks to those who are fans of the original two games. This is where you really see the core mechanics of the game tested because you have access to the entire order of battle showcasing all of Homeworld 3’s units in one game and have the freedom to play any way you want with them.

The battles in Homeworld 3 are much more chaotic than in previous games, which seemed much more methodical. Research and building is fast. Things tend to move a lot quicker and die with greater ease and most times generally devolved into a large furball rather than an organized symphony of battle.

Where are the resource collectors?

A game starts with your Mothership hyperspacing into the battlespace, this is the big ship you must protect. It’s game over if it gets destroyed. Then your resource controllers and starting fleet scouts and probes emerge from the Mothership. These resource controllers are how you are going to mine any resources off asteroids or from drifting salvage to build ships and research upgrades. The map placement and ore content of these asteroids and salvageable objects heavily influences how a match will be played.

Whoever controls and mines asteroid fields more effectively generally wins or at least finds it easier to play. Now this is very important – in Homeworld 2 individual resource collectors were built that mined the resources and then returned to deposit the ore to the nearest drop off location at which point the ore was converted to resource units. At the beginning of a game that drop-off point would be the mothership or a carrier. The player could then decide whether to spend significant resource units on researching a mobile refinery (read resource controller) if they needed a third drop off point. For Homeworld 2 players at least, this created a neat little strategic challenge whereby you had to decide whether to dedicate your primary combat assets to protecting and gathering from resource collectors by keeping them nearby or building a mobile refinery which cannot defend itself and hoping it will not be found or diverting valuable combat resources to escort duty.

Another important point for resourcing is that if the refinery ship got destroyed the resource collectors would automatically head for the nearest alternate drop refining ship. This meant a wise opponent could follow them home to possibly locate the main enemy fleet. Players would also sometimes not bother with mobile refineries at all and simply let resource collectors travel some distance to asteroids and back. Further creating a more spread-out operation that was both more vulnerable but possibly saved the resourcing units needed for combat vessels and advanced research.

One other point to make is that the larger capital class ships like the carrier and mothership had physical resource drop off point modules which could be targeted and destroyed without the need to destroy the whole massive capital ship. I have used this tactic many times both playing the AI and against friends.

You can probably see by now what I am getting at. The new Homeworld 3 system of building a resource controller (read Homeworld 2’s mobile refinery) that comes with free resource collectors and cannot drop off anywhere else precludes a lot of gameplay scenarios, strategies and tactics and even the need to protect your resourcing operations. I had no fleet resources tied to them and there was no effort involved in developing my resource mining operations. Build a resource controller, press H and watch them automatically hunt for resources.

I found this not just shallow and uninteresting but something that fundamentally changes the core gameplay for the worse.

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The infamous Resource “Controller”

Research & Building

After you have set your Resource Controllers to fetch mode, you must look at your research to choose what ships you want to produce. This amounts to another dramatic change when compared to Homeworld 2. Research in Homeworld 3 is very linear and locks the player into researching one ship before researching the next. In Homeworld 2, players first researched a module which would then allow the player to choose what ship class modules to research and build.  Now, players must research fighters, then the first corvette ship and then the first frigate, and so on and so forth until you eventually unlock the ship class you want. What is potentially meant to mitigate this limitation is that research is fairly fast and can be done simultaneously. Players can research Battlecruisers extremely fast if they have the resources. What this amounts to particularly with maps being so small, is that it is very hard to skip any ship types and that generally fleet builds are a little less creative. I should note at this stage that research in Homeworld 1 was conducted in special research ships of which the more you had the more things you could research at once and apart from that was very similar to the Homeworld 2 “research tree” method allowing players to follow a different path in every game. I consider being able to choose paths within reason to be preferable to being funneled down a path by a game’s mechanics.

After a ship class has been researched, research options are revealed for some ships and the first ship in a chassis line generally opens the other ships in that chassis class to being researched in any order. One thing that struck me and illustrates Homeworld 3 research perfectly was having to research the only Hiigaran corvette available in game to progress to frigates but never actually using the Hiigaran corvette itself.

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Research in Homeworld 3

Most of the abilities researched are abilities that are buttons pressed by the player. The ships seem to have a special “power up” button of no particular value other than that it effectively increases armor or weapon strength/rate of fire for a short period of time, before a cool down and then another press by the player if they remember. Gone are the hyperspace jump mechanics, capital cloak, gravity well or sensor upgrades. This represents a major step back in the tactical complexity and nuance that made the previous titles in the series so exceptional.

Because you do not ship modules or “sub-systems” that can be targeted, players also don’t have to build modules on each ship to unlock more diverse construction options. Once research is done for a chassis, that’s it. All carriers or mothership class vessels can simply build all ships they are capable of building. Building is carried out simultaneously as it was in Homeworld 1. So, players can really put out a lot of ships at once very quickly.

The shipyard is gone as well. This facility was used to build Battlecruisers which were, I imagined, too large to construct even by the mothership. I used to love that the shipyard was so important, yet so vulnerable, because it was a yard and not a ship, never intended to move very fast. Its only defense was hyperspace once that module was built on it. I remember many a time raiding a shipyard and destroying its capital ship module to stop a battlecruiser from being completing thereby tilting the balance of the battle. You knew as soon as a shipyard was built what it was for and how that player must have sacrificed resources to build it. Another thing I loved about the shipyard was that it gave me a real sense of starting to see the formation of permanent infrastructure and thus perhaps a feeling of settling a sector.

Formations and Behaviors

Homeworld 3 has eight formations to choose from. Formations were originally in Homeworld 1 and have been re-introduced. Formations were also in Homeworld remastered (2015) that included both Homeworld 1 and Homewlrd 2 together in multiplayer and skirmish. The formations in the remastered versions reportedly did not work properly. They seem to work well enough in Homeworld 3 though, often useful for spreading groups of ships out or compressing them together. This brings me to another point of difference, you do not build fighter squadrons like you did in Homeworld 2.  Here, players are  back to the old Homeworld 1 system of individual fighters being built and then manually grouped. Perhaps squadrons are what broke Homeworld remastered formations which had squadrons and formations together?

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Behaviors are separate from formations and only have three settings which dictate how units will respond in combat.  These are effective commands which I use all the time. Something missing though is the old aggressive, evasive or neutral settings which were basically X-wing like power settings for ships that traded speed for damage or vice versa. These are now completely gone from Homeworld 3. It was useful switching everybody’s engines to full power and then switching to full damage output once engaged in combat. What we have instead are researchable time limited “boosts” that have to be pressed every two minutes or so after a cool down for very specific ships that do very specific things.


I found movement to be a challenge especially over terrain, but it always is in a Homeworld game. I think though that there are some improvements of note and the Homeworld 3 system of movement is generally better than previous Homeworld games. For example, I like that you can finally click on objectives in space and simply click to have a ship move there. I know the developers spent a lot of time on improving the way camera control works and some of the new control features show that up really well.

For 3D movement the V shortcut key is your friend, then holding the left mouse button to move up or down in 3D space. If you do not use V your cursor will default to whatever height objects or land below you are at. Something else you can use is a new tool called “movement plane” which gives a flat grid that can be moved up and down and which then acts as a base height for movement orders. I think this works fairly well.

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Movement among the chaos of battle


Orders are of the usual variety but there is some duplication that needs to be addresed. For example, the ‘D’ key is used to move the camera right but is also the default key for docking strike craft to repair them. A similar mechanic exists with a choice between defend being the default for a right click on an object or a move.

I find that a lot of the time my orders are ignored. For example, I right click defend a unit and my units often just ignore the order, never close to within defensive range or get distracted along the way. I also often find my units stop firing like they are on pause and then all of a sudden both the enemy and my ships will open up. Another thing I noticed was that units tend to station at extreme range ensuring that any medium range weaponry never comes into play for ships like destroyers.

There are a lot of key bindings and modern vs. classic control settings to play with here, so I may work all this out in time.

Another point on movement is that the old single burn probes are gone. Now you can move them as much as you want. The only difference now between a probe and recon scouts is that the scouts will react to things and shoot, where the probe will not move of its own accord. Incidentally, the old scout EMP ability is gone. In Homeworld 2 groups of EMP armed scouts could be deadly if followed up with a strike group.

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Orders menu

The Ships

Homeworld ships are generally wonderfully magnificent designs and Homeworld 3 is no exception. I love looking at the ships and seeing them fight – they are just great designs.

As mentioned above, larger ships no longer have production modules, but they also do not have sub-systems. No more disabling engines or weapons systems, which incidentally used to be a staple strategy, especially against battlecruisers, when I used to play Homeworld 2 with friends. Players no longer have a choice of upgrades on capital ships to fill out a limited number of module slots. Instead, there is usually one upgrade for each ship in the research tree and that is all you get. This is a shame and a real lost opportunity as that is what made each Homeworld 2 capital ship unique, effectively adding extra ship types to the game.

Some ship types are also missing from Homeworld 3. The Marine Frigate is gone and so you must rely of resource controllers to capture, and they do not actually board enemy ships, instead just immediately taking control by latching onto the enemy ship which is then towed back to base to complete the capture operation. The Command-and-Control corvette for the protagonist faction is gone, as is the defense field frigate, sensor distortion probe, proximity sensor and hyperspace Gate.

Incidentally, I had read somewhere that directional armor from Homeworld 1 was back in but have not tested this aspect yet. Directional armor means that you will lose more health bar points if attacked from different sides, for example the rear would probably cause the most loss of hit points.

Notwithstanding the above, Homeworld 3 ships still have some excellent variety of all the usual types: missile, plasma, ion beam, gun etc., however, I noticed some ships are in war games mode or the campaign, but have been left out of skirmish. For example, the minelayer from the campaign and an ECM frigate are missing along with enemy ships you seem to be able to get in war games mode. It is remarkable that the ECM frigates description indicates it slows enemy vessels, not really what I imagine ECM to do specifically. I imagine the missing ships are unfinished or do not fit into the skirmish balance.

There are some new ship additions too, such as the enemy faction (the Incarnate) disruption corvette which uses a beam to slow enemies down. Railgun ships seem to be new to Homeworld as well, although railgun vehicles were in Deserts of Kharak. There is also a repair or support frigate which uses beams to repair ships from afar. I don’t like this mechanic as it makes repairing too easy. In Homeworld 2, players had to travel to the ship needing repair and then latch on before repairing. It was a slow deliberate maneuver that often ended in the repair ship being destroyed. Now with the beam ships, players simply let them automatically repair everything at considerable ranges and much less risk or exposure.

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A support frigate engaging in repair operations

As an aside, it is interesting to note that there is a button to flip the mothership back into its original Homeworld vertical axis, but this doesn’t seem to have any tactical significance in game play yet.

Graphics and Sound

When you zoom in on the Homeworld 3 ships the level of detail is drop dead gorgeous. Space terrain, so to speak, is amazing as well. I’m very satisfied with the gameplay graphics.

Before you jump into a game, team visuals can be customized a little more than previous games. There is an entire color palette for emblems, ship hull and stripes, and there is also a choice of three engine trail colors with a fourth unlockable with the command edition upgrade.

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The color palette

Sound is also very well done in Homeworld 3. Weapon sounds especially being very satisfying. The brrrrt of the point defense turrets on the mothership and carrier being excellent examples.

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Customized ship colors

Where to from here?

The developers do have a roadmap that includes more maps, which is a good thing because there are only six skirmish maps in the base game. Content for war games mode is also prominent, which I am not very interested in. Also, several new playable factions are scheduled to be added to the action. I have noticed that the developers are seeking feedback so maybe this will all change. Otherwise, I fear unless Homeworld gets a brand new fan base with no knowledge of it’s past glory, that Homeworld 3 may be a flash in the pan, which would be a shame.

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The current roadmap


Homeworld 3 is a solid game with an enjoyable single-player campaign and solid multiplayer options. Feature-wise it feels like Deserts of Kharak in space with a heavy Homeworld 1 influence.

Everything in Homeworld 3 seems to be aimed at fast quick games and gameplay is streamlined accordingly. Not only does this markedly speed up Homeworld 3 games, but also takes a lot of strategic choice away from the player which is why I still consider Homeworld 2 to be a far superior game. Homeworld 3 is the game you want to play if you want short sharp battles that get you into the action straight away. For the slow methodical planned space naval combat that I prefer, Homeworld 2 would be my choice and is still undefeated in the genre.

I will still play Homeworld 3 with friends and enjoy the game for what it is – a spectacular, modern graphical bonanza, that plays quick and dirty for your fight nights. I will probably try to go through the war games mode co-operatively at some point in the future. My greatest hope is that Homeworld 3 develops some kind of classic skirmish mode, perhaps in an expansion that replicates Homeworld 2 style gameplay and brings back all the glory of the older deeper mechanics therein.

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