Homeworld 3 War Games takes the much-anticipated RTS and turns it into a roguelite

Homeworld 3 War Games header

For any RTS fan of the late 90s and early 2000s, Homeworld remains absolutely legendary. At the time it pushed boundaries for 3D graphics in the genre, it came with defining controls that enabled fully 3D play in the zero-G void of space, and it featured sweeping narratives of ancient civilisations, rediscovery and destiny amongst the stars. Let’s just say two decades has been too long of a wait for Homeworld 3.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmQ56YpYaAA

Homeworld 3 will set off on a sweeping new galactic adventure, with the hyperspace network fraying around the edges as The Anomaly takes out planets and gates, threatening to plunge the entire galaxy back into darkness. Karan S’jet led a fleet off to investigate this, but with her disappearance, it falls to her successor Imogen S’jet to command another fleet to try and find Karan, to discover more about the Anomaly and to defeat it.

Alongside that there will naturally be online multiplayer and a regular skirmish mode, but the video game landscape has changed an awful lot in the last two decades, and Blackbird Interactive has cooked up an additional mode to lift some ideas from more modern trends. Yup, there’s a whole co-op roguelite mode known as War Games.

Funnily enough, the roguelite structure of starting out with basically nothing and building up until you’re a Whirling Dervish of doom for whatever enemies and bosses you encounter is actually a pretty good thematic fit for Homeworld. Just as in the original games, you’ll be building a fleet that you take from one mission to the next in the Homeworld 3 campaign, and War Games brings this together with the roguelite in a rather natural fashion.

Homeworld 3 War Games missions

Each run of War Games will throw you into a string of three relatively short missions, the first two allowing you to build up your forces, unlock a few upgrades and improve your burgeoning fleet, before the third and final mission acts as something of a boss fight.

There’s an engaging level of risk and reward here, as you jump into the map, quickly start gathering resources and fend off the initial waves of enemy ships, the Incarnate, that regularly spawn in. At some point, you’ll have to send your ships to an objective marker, triggering a mission goal that could range from escorting civilian ships to a jump point, destroying a particular Incarnate ship, or attacking an enemy convoy.

They’re relatively standard fare, but your attentions will be drawn in many different directions by those growing waves of attackers, as well as pockets of ships guarding artifacts. Send a ship through an artifact and you unlock a buff or perk to your fleet, boosting damage output, speed, and more of a particular class and ship type. They’re worth sniffing out, and you can stick around as long as you like after completing the main objective of a stage, but at the risk of losing more and more of your ships as you do so.

Homeworld 3 War Games artifacts

You don’t have the full Mothership, but turn up with a Carrier as your mobile base of operations instead. That limits you to researching and then building a fleet of strikecraft, corvettes and frigates, and you’ve got a fairly free hand to spend your resources how you see fit. You’ll likely want to be careful not to spread yourself too thinly by researching too many ship types, but you also likely want more than just one type of frigate to avoid ending up with a rock to the AI’s paper.

Thankfully that’s where co-op comes into the mix. You can play solo, but there’s support for up to three players here, and that allows you to gather plenty of resources from a level, and pursue complimentary tech and ship paths. One can take the ion cannon frigates, another the torpedos frigate – as was the case in our two-player co-op session with the mode – giving you a better spread of attacking options.

While the first two missions featured plenty of the megalithic structures that are going to be a distinctive new element for Homeworld 3, the third and final stage really made the most of this. The vast structure featured three spread-out objective points that needed to be attacked and held against a counter-attack from the Incarnate. Surviving each one in turn then led to an enemy Battle Cruiser spawning in for a final boss battle.

Homeworld 3 War Games final battle

In the end we were able to overpower it quite convincingly, despite our own destroyer backup taking its sweet time to arrive, but that won’t necessarily be the case on second, third and fourth runnings. There’s a churn here of levelling up, even in failure, and unlocking further starting fleets, while there’s variable difficulty depending on how many players are in the group. Throw in mixed up objectives in earlier stages and you could be limping your way into that final encounter just hoping to not get totally smacked. Thankfully there’s no microtransactions woven into how this mode plays – Blackbird Interactive’s plans extend to a DLC season pass with additional packs for War Games included – and variety will be added from letting you play as other factions.

War Games is shaping up to be a great middle-ground between a full campaign and a plain old skirmish battle, blending the options of playing solo and with friends, and keeping play times relatively in check so you can knock out a session in a single sitting. Sure, I’m far more excited about Homeworld 3 for the campaign and the sweeping story it will tell, but if I want to play more after that’s done? I’ll probably dip into War Games.

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