Homeworld left a huge impression on me. I can still picture my beam frigates laying into the enemy vessels, then panicking as I watched them get besieged by fighters. So I was skeptical when Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak grounded the series. But, while you may not be soaring among the stars, this RTS game is every bit as much a delight. And now it’s an absolutely free game on the Epic Games Store.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a prequel to the original Homeworld. It explains how the inhabitants of Kharak discovered their true origins. And, ultimately, it leads to their planetary exodus. Is that a little spoilery? Maybe, but even if you’ve played the entire Homeworld series to death, there are surprises aplenty.
It takes a little while to get to grips with Homeworld: Desert of Kharak’s ground-based gameplay. But once you do you’ll be right at home. Just rumbling across the desert in your massive landcarrier, gathering resources and clues, is fun.
Combat, too, is a real blast, drawing from the original Homeworld’s rock-scissors-paper elements. You might be proud of your airforce, but if your enemy has had the foresight to churn out some AA carriers they won’t be airborne for long.
Speaking of your enemies, the main campaign casts you as the Coalition, taking on the fanatical Gaalsien. But you can also dive into skirmish mode as the Gaalsien, taking on AI-controlled enemies. Or, if you’re up for it, you can take on other human foes. There are also two additional factions, the Soban and Khaaneph, available as DLC.
Half Homeworld, half Command and Conquer, as engrossing as its galactic brethren and, sometimes, just as unforgiving. And now that it’s free on the Epic Games Store until August 31 (it’s yours to keep), there’s no excuse not to snap it up.