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Homeworld: Vast Reaches | Review 61

Homeworld: Vast Reaches | Review

Homeworld RTS'es It's Way TO Quest!

Homeworld: Vast Reaches | Review 65
Release Date
May 2, 2024
Developer
FarBridge Inc
Style
Simulation, Strategy
Locomotion
Sitting, Standing, Roomscale
Length
5-6 Hours
Price
$29.99
Our Score
6.5
Get it on the Meta Store

Homeworld: Vast Reaches is here.

Real-time strategy games are among my favourite genres. They are also dramatically underserved in VR. Despite notable PCVR iterations of the genre like the outstanding Brass Tactics or the “quite good” Air Mech Command, not to mention the amazing MOBA-infused offers like Glassbreakers and Final Assault, standalone has seen very little in the genre.

The Quest does indeed have a few contenders. Games like Eternal Starlight, Battlegroup VR, or even Gods of Gravity all have their place, but overall, they all seemed to get Lost in Space. So, when a new addition to the genre is announced, particularly one from a well-established pancake franchise, I sit up and take note.

So, travel with me now, dear viewer, into the inky void, and let’s see if developers Farbridge have given us what we so richly deserve or if we’ll end up floating rather aimlessly amongst the stars…

Mother is My Ship

For those familiar with the source material, Vast Reaches slots neatly into the period between the events of the first two Homeworld games. In this instalment, you are tasked with leading a fleet during a crucial time after the Kushan reclaim their Homeworld.

With the original hero guiding you and the classic mothership at your command, you are set about defending yourself from a race of sneaky traders after your hypercore. The plot is well delivered through cut scenes and in-game dialogue, bridging the two main titles and adding a new layer of threat.

Harvesting The Void

Like many RTS games, Homeworld: Vast Reaches has you commanding various units, each with its strategic strengths and weaknesses. As expected, you will also dedicate mental energy to resource collection, which, in this case, means harvesting asteroids for…something.

There is no base building or upgrade pathway to manage, so there is limited depth on offer compared to more traditional RTS games. Vast Reaches simply gives players a set of prescribed skirmishes to complete within a specific resource limit (be it time or otherwise). Once the objective is completed, you move on to the next.

Homeworld: Vast Reaches | Review 66

This resource management element effectively acts as a set of guide rails through each mission in a way that feels comforting at first but ultimately becomes frustratingly linear. Each level sees you begin with access to what feels like just enough resources to move on to the next section, whereby you are delivered a similarly adequate number of asteroids to move on again. In fact, most of the times that I had to replay a level, it was not because my fleet was defeated but because I accidentally used all my resources on assault units and didn’t save enough to buy whatever specific craft was necessary to finish the objective.

While it was a mild annoyance at the time, with the hindsight of having finished the game, it is a significant design flaw that robs the game of any incentive to come back and try again.

Command & Conquer

What Vast Reaches does well is how it puts you in control of the fleet. The controls are easy and intuitive, making navigating your ships through multi-fronted space battles an enjoyable experience. Players can assign units to form battlegroups, which can then be commanded to move together. Ships can be moved easily from one group to another to reinforce after sustaining heavy losses or provide an additional ship type that may swing the balance of a skirmish.

Lifting your palm up allows you to select the battle group you wish to command. From there, dragging a path through the heavens or pointing at a target will send them on their way. One of the major design constraints of playing an RTS in VR lies in the challenges of giving players control over a range of troops with much fewer buttons than most other gaming platforms, and Vast Reaches achieves this admirably.

Similarly, moving through space uses the control conceits that have become standard for tabletop games of this ilk. A combination of gestures and the grab buttons to scale, rotate, and move through the world works as expected, capitalizing on techniques perfected in games such as Demeo.

As you progress through the game, more advanced ships become available for the fleet you command. Some of these ships have special attacks that need to be manually activated and have a cooldown. I had a lot of fun with these mechanics when they came into play later in the game.

The gameplay ceased to be merely a matter of paper-scissors-rock style unit selection, and suddenly switching between battlegroups to activate ion blast, defence shields, and deploy engineering craft to repair damaged frigates became an engaging cognitive dance. Balancing the requirements of 5 battlegroups while micro-managing their specific tactical advantages was a truly excellent experience, and it made me pine deeply for more iterations of this genre.

Sadly, the game’s short length saw the end to this enjoyment, with the campaign finishing just a few levels after the gameplay finally reached the level of complexity that made it feel worthwhile. With no skirmish mode, ship upgrades, or, in fact, any other options other than to replay on a harder difficulty level, Homeworld: Vast Reaches turned all too quickly from an enjoyable exercise in exponential potential growth to a short, sharp punch in the disappointment gland.

E=MT Space

In terms of graphics and Sound, Homeworld Vast Reaches falls into the same cavernous trap that most space-themed RTS games do. With a battlefield that stretches through an inky, empty void, there is very little to make the playable environments interesting. While there are planets or swirling gases looming in the background, the actual gameplay occurs in what is essentially empty space set against a cosmic backdrop.

Despite all the ships having a decent amount of detail, the scale at which you command your fleet is so vast that you seldom see them up close. The best tactical vantage point reduces your highly detailed ships to tiny dots that you command around an uninteresting patch of empty in a way that robs the physical world of resonance with the gameplay. I was playing the game at a scale that made it more difficult to make clear strategic decisions that feel connected to the world, a compromise which detracted from the overall experience. There is a Mixed Reality mode, but it offers nothing new other than changing the background to your actual space, making it more difficult to find and control your ships.

The voice acting that links the missions is good and goes a long way to filling the emptiness of space with some character and connection. In fact, the sound design overall is well delivered, but as with the graphics, it suffers at the hands of its own subject matter. Despite a good array of Zaps! And Booms! And Whooshes!, ultimately, the sound fails to fill the space with a gravity that creates any kind of rich or rewarding sense of tension.

Insufficient Resources

Homeworld: Vast Reaches does a wonderful job of demonstrating how satisfying a polished and well-thought-out RTS game could be in VR. With excellent controls that immerse the player into the challenge of simultaneously managing a fleet and micro-managing a battlegroup, Farbridge has displayed a lot of potential. Sadly, an undercooked resource system, short campaign and lack of options mean that Vast Reaches falls short of living up to what it could have been.

Homeworld: Vast Reaches | Review 68
Homeworld: Vast Reaches
TLDR : Summary
Although Homeworld: Vast Reaches does a wonderful job of demonstrating how satisfying a polished and well-thought-out RTS game could be in VR, an undercooked resource system, short campaign and lack of options mean that falls short of living up to that promise.
Concept
7
Gameplay
7
Graphics
6
Audio
6
Logevity
6
User Rating0 Votes
0
Pros
Homeworld, in VR
Great Controls
Cons
Small Scope
No Multiplayer
Mediocre Visuals
6.5
Almost
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NullReferenceD

It would be great to see a review for Battlegroup VR as well to compare.

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