Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

I recently finished my play-through of the campaign for Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak.  This game was not on my wish list very long, only because I grabbed it the first time I saw that it was on sale.  I’ve always been a fan of Homeworld, and the thought that this might scratch the old Homeworld itch was a high expectation.

At the end of the day…  …I can’t say as it did.

Realistically, the game was good, but it never really made it to great.  From a gameplay perspective, games were shorter and more tactical, with less opportunity (and reason) to build up a large armada.  This seems to be the direction that the RTS genre is moving, but that’s not really what I want out of my RTSs these days.  What I was hoping for was a return to deeper strategies and slower gameplay, and Deserts of Kharak was not that.

Still, this didn’t deter me much, as I never really intended to play this as a multi-player staple.  Instead, I played the campaign.  The campaign gameplay didn’t really have anything over the standard gameplay, but continued the tradition of bringing your prior fleet forward from mission to mission.  This was fun, as it was cool to see my longest-lived troops surviving almost to the end.

That being said, my main focus was on the story.  The journey of the Coalition of the Northern Kiithid across the desert (lead by Rachel and Roman S’Jet) to find the original mothership was really rewarding to see done.  However, there was one story beat that came across as somewhat offensive and turned me off from the game for a couple of months.  Specifically, the main antagonists in the campaign are the Gaalsien, religious fanatics who live in the southern deserts while the protagonists are moving through their territories to reach their goal.  During the trip, the Coalition finds a number of wrecked spacecraft that the Gaalsien treat as holy sites; they then kill off the Gaalsien in the area, salvage these wrecks for the artifacts that they contain, and move on.  At multiple points it is noted that these sites are holy sites for the Gaalsien, but the Coalition forces seem not to care and claim that the Gaalsien’s ignorance is justification of their actions.

I don’t know whether the story was really trying to evoke current political stresses to get a more relevant story, but I found that in particular to be in bad taste and turned me off from the story for a bit.  Overall, I found the story to be interesting and certainly fulfilling from the perspective of the entire franchise.  Still, I’ll be looking elsewhere for my next space opera story.

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