I’m an amateur fleet commander with admirable intentions: I want to dominate the stars in Homeworld 3 with a massive squadron of Interceptors, the nimble fighters that look a lot like the Vipers from Battlestar Galactica. Hitting the population cap, I’m able to arrange my Interceptors into differing formation and behavior patterns, concealing each group behind twirling asteroids. My Capital Ship is bait, luring enemies into open-space before sending my strikecrafts into action, pincering ships in a flash and dazzle of effects. You can call me Commander Adama if you want to, I don’t mind.
But I’ll tell you who does mind, and that’s the two other fleet commanders desperately requesting my assistance. Their Frigates and Fighters are under assault, their Capital Ships deteriorating under a heavy barrage of Ion Cannons – frak, I’ve really done it this time. But that’s War Games for you, the new cooperative game mode in Homeworld 3 that asks three players to team up and take on an increasingly difficult series of objective-based missions across the galaxy. Work together, you might survive; if one goes rogue, it’s back to the beginning with whatever XP progression you’ve earned.
Launch the alert vipers
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If I’m honest, I recognize that it’s a little reductive to think of Homeworld 3 in this way, as some Battlestar Galactica simulator. This is the return of the king – the long-awaited sequel to two of the best RTS games of all-time. It features rather elaborate cover-based space combat in a truly 3D space, where offensive and defensive initiatives can be born out from any angle. Blackbird Interactive has done a wonderful job of refining a complex control and command system too, with the veteran development studio offering up a crisp user experience that doesn’t wane under pressure. And then there’s the visual and audio presentation, which is undoubtedly best in class for the genre.
Homeworld 3 is on track to be a staggering accomplishment, smartly advancing the rock-paper-scissors essence of the franchise’s tactical combat and finally making good on the concept of terrain in space – where asteroid fields and ship debris aren’t just elements of the environment to be admired but active parts of every engagement. There’s real joy in breaking line-of-sight by quickly pulling Recon ships behind shifting asteroid fields, or weaving a squadron of Bombers through a debris field trench run before broadsiding an assortment of Missile Frigates.
So, am I really getting the most out of Homeworld 3 by forgoing the strategic freedom it offers? “We don’t want to specifically discourage any approach to contributing to objectives,” says Andrew Oatway, senior designer at Blackbird Interactive. “If you get the right Artifacts, and pick the right places to ambush from, massed strikecraft are definitely solid answers to the tactical questions we’ve posed. At higher difficulties, you may need to be a little more flexible, not every problem will be a nail per se. That said, with good cooperation, tactics, and Artifact selections, I’m sure people will carve out victories with all kinds of compositions of fleets.”
With the backing of Blackbird, I’m finding renewed joy in the micro-management of Interceptor combat. Oatway mentions Artifacts, powerful ship augments that are rewarded for completing objectives. In one round of War Games, the space gods bestowed upon me the ability to double the population cap of my beloved Interceptors, and increase their damage output at the cost of firing range. Have you ever seen a sight as glorious as 50 Interceptors swarming into a massive-scale galactic battle, like angry bees protecting a hive? I know that you haven’t.
The folks I was paired with hadn’t either, and once I was able to figure out better ways to group, arrange, and maneuver my fighters we did start to find some success. Using my fleet to provide support to corvette-class combat vessels as we pushed against boss encounters, or zipping towards an almost defeated Capital Ship to draw fire for long enough that an allied commander could send in Support Frigates. That’s the great thing about Homeworld 3’s War Games, because no matter the challenge, with a little communication, each connected player can indulge in their own starfleet fantasies.
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