Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
20 January 2016
Expedition to find the Jaraci Object
1110 KDS/9404 GSY
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a ground-based real time strategy game produced by Blackbird Interactive and published by Gearbox Software. It is the fourth game to be released in the Homeworld series and serves as a prequel to the existing games. It is set on the planet Kharak and involves an expedition to find the Jaraci Object.
- 01: Epsilon Base
- 02: The Boneyard
- 03: Cape Wrath
- 04: Kalash Site
- 05: Kalash Wreck
- 06: Beladin Dune Sea
- 07: Gaalsien Base
- 08: Tombs of the Ancients
- 09: The Whispering Gallery
- 10: Khashar Approach
- 11: Khashar Plateau
- 12: Torin Crater
- 13: Khar-Toba
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is set on Kharak 100 years before the events of Homeworld. It charts the progress of a military expedition led by Rachel S'jet (presumed to be an ancestor of Karan S'jet), sent into the southern deserts of Kharak after an orbital satellite discovers an anomaly.
The game is set around 1110 KDS, around the time of the discovery of the Khar-Toba.
The new story features Rachel S'jet leading an expedition with the the land carrier Kapisi into the Great Banded Desert to find the Jaraci object or the Khar-Toba. However the Kiith Gaalsien, who occupy the Great Banded Desert, believe that it is against the first commandment of their God, Sajuuk, to enter into space. Therefore they will do anything to stop the Coalition of the Northern Kiithid's expedition to find the primary anomaly.
Unlike the previous games, Deserts of Kharak is not set in space. Instead it is set on the desert planet of Kharak, featuring ground units such as the 'Baserunner', land carrier, land cruisers, and fighter aircraft.
The game will feature online multiplayer with ranked play.
In a very interesting twist, perhaps due to the base code of Homeworld: Cataclysm being lost and therefore there being little chance of it being remastered and re-released unlike the other two original Homeworlds, quite a number of gameplay aspects unique to Cataclysm have been incorporated into Deserts of Kharak. A Support Unit raw cap instead of unit type counts, a very mobile main command ship, unit Veteran experience levels and subsystem energy-shunting like what the Beast Mothership had in Multiplayer matches are just a few examples of this.
Terrain also plays a key part of combat in Deserts of Kharak in three ways:
- Line of Sight is important for all units; they must see the target to accurately shoot at it. Higher terrain and some special abilities will block the sight of units to their target preventing them from firing, particularly for Railguns
- Units at a higher elevation than who they are targeting get a boost to their damage output against them
- Larger vehicles like the Kapisi Carrier will be blocked by relatively mild terrain whereas lighter units such as the LAV can handle all but the roughest terrain, and aircraft aren't affected at all.
Veterans of the previous Homeworld games should be able to dive right in if in their minds they can "translate" the new land vehicles into the original space-faring variants.
In the campaign your fleet and your resources are persistent as per previous Homeworld games.
For end-of-mission resource collection DOK has gone right back to the model of the original first-release Homeworld: you do not automatically collect all remaining resources at the end of a mission and there is no acceleration. As annoying as this may sound it does make sense for two reasons. First, it does tie into the general storyline; you are constantly on the move, being hunted by the Gaalsien and are consuming vital resources like water while you are in the deep desert, so when you finish a particular mission you don't really have time to stick around to collect what's left. Second, past mission 4 when you start being able to do Shipbreaking the majority of the resources and Artifacts are in the shipwrecks on a map. It takes skill to get to all of them while under constant attack within a mission, which is the point; reward through effort. On top of this unlike previous Homeworld games the resources on a map aren't really in vast spread-out fields; they're concentrated into dense pockets that a relatively small number of Salvagers close to a drop-off point can chew through fairly quickly, so it shouldn't take too much time to collect at least most of the good stuff before completing a mission.
Blackbird Interactive was founded in 2007 by Rob Cunningham and a number of other developers who had left Relic Entertainment over the preceding years. Development of Shipbreakers began in 2010. It was originaly titled Hardware: Shipbreakers and was not related to the Homeworld IP. However, Cunningham did not rule out the game from being set in the Homeworld universe and discussions with THQ, the rights-holders of the Homeworld name and IP, took place early in development, with an eye to THQ publishing the game. These discussions did not proceed very far. In 2012 Blackbird began releasing early videos and promotional artwork for the game. These media releases and the history of the company immediately invited comparisons to Homeworld, as the videos used some Homeworld music, similar radio-chatter and voice-overs, and the desert setting was reminiscent of Kharak. The Hardware logo was also identical to that of Homeworld.
In 2013 THQ went bankrupt and its assets were sold off. Blackbird and Gearbox Software both bid on the Homeworld property, with Gearbox eventually winning. Blackbird contacted Gearbox to offer their congratulations. The two companies then collaborated further when Gearbox discovered that THQ had relatively little of the original games' source code and files. Blackbird's staff members helped in recovering these assets, eventually quadrupling the amount of information provided by THQ. These files included all of the game's graphical assets and sound and music files, including the original raw files and outtakes.
During this collaboration Gearbox expressed an interest in Shipbreakers. At E3 2013 Blackbird provided Gearbox with an extensive test of the game and Gearbox decided to acquire the game to publish themselves. In agreement with Blackbird, it was decided to re-tool the game as a Homeworld title. The final deal for this was signed live on-stage at the PAX East event in August 2013. Hardware's storyline originally featured different mercenary groups fighting over control of dozens or hundreds of starship wrecks on the desert planet LM-27. Most notably, there were no such wrecks on Kharak apart from the Khar-Toba itself in existing canon.
The Hardware videos show combat occurring at close range with the option to zoom out to a considerably larger tactical viewpoint, reminiscent of the Sensor Manager in the Homeworld game (and accompanied by the same sound effect). One of Blackbird's goals was to have a dynamic map of the entire planet with the player able to choose which area to investigate next.
It was intended that the game be more advanced in terms of gameplay than its predecessors, but also reflect its status as a prequel in regards to the tech available. This includes the use of a weathered, older aesthetic.
- Gearbox lends Homeworld IP to spiritual successor Hardware: Shipbreakers developer
- Gearbox/Blackbird Homeworld panel 2013 (starts at 39 mins)
- Deserts of Kharak website
- Homeworld Gets a New, Ground-Based RTS Prequel. GameSpot
- Gearbox/Blackbird Homeworld panel 2013 (starts at 39 mins)
- Games Industry interview
- Rock Paper Shotgun interview
- How the Homeworld Series Could Come Back from the Dead
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