Blackbird Interactive just announced at The Game Awards that Homeworld 3, the long-awaited space RTS sequel, will be launching from the mothership in Q4 of 2022. While we’ve known it was coming for a while, we didn’t know many details until now. So we had a chat with Blackbird’s CEO Rob Cunningham, who has worked on the series since the original Homeworld, about what exactly to expect for both new and old fans.
It’s a bit hard to believe how long it’s been since Homeworld 2, which felt very ahead of its time when it came out. In the meantime, we got the excellent Deserts of Kharak, a prequel that shared a lot of gameplay ideas but eschewed the series’ signature, fully 3D combat by setting its story planetside. While we’re headed back to space now, some things the series picked up on that sandy world will be carried forward.
“The major evolutionary element [in Deserts of Kharak] was in the storytelling,” Cunningham said. “The cinematic execution was where we really evolved the franchise. The techniques of storytelling
We can expect similar interactions with characters and emotional moments told with presentational flair, but that’s not the only way Homeworld 3 will be raising the stakes. With the benefit of modern PCs, Blackbird is able to create both larger-scale conflicts, full ballistic modeling, and battle spaces where there’s more going on. The unit caps will be larger, and the largest structures will be truly gargantuan.
There’s going to be a big emphasis this time around on space terrain, such as ruined megastructures, and the need to maneuver your fleets to take advantage of it. Some openings in an asteroid might be too small for larger craft, for instance. Mines can now be used on chokepoints and are no longer simply a sphere that causes ships passing through it to take damage. You’ll be able to use the terrain to hide ships and stage ambushes. You’ll even be able to place turrets on some of these surfaces to create a static defense, and gathering resources will require control of specific physical features.
Blackbird doesn’t want this added complexity to hurt the approachability of Homeworld 3 though, especially considering there will be a fair few people trying it out who weren’t even alive when the last one released. Homeworld 2 was already a tricky game to get your head around, since deploying your fleet in only a single, two-dimensional “slice” of space could leave you vulnerable to attacks from above and below and the movement controls took some getting used to.
“We want it to be as seamless and intuitive as possible,” Cunningham explained. “The way you deal with how the camera works, how you issue move orders – we’ve simplified a great number of things and made it easier to get around. And in fact, in almost all cases, the introduction of space terrain actually makes it easier.”
Brave New Worlds
The main story campaign will be comparable in scope to Homeworld 1 and 2, picking up “generations” after Homeworld 2 when the hyperspace gates are starting to catastrophically fail and continuing many narrative threads from that game. Blackbird was conspicuously tight-lipped about how much time has passed exactly, and it seems that answer might be part of the larger mystery we’re meant to unravel. We can see Homeworld 1 and 2’s protagonist, Karan S’jet, in the trailer, and she’s apparently become a mythical and religious figure, but we’re not sure yet what exactly her role in the campaign will be.
“We wanted to put a bit of time after Homeworld 2 because we wanted the story [of Homeworld 3] to be about the consequences of Homeworld 2,” Cunningham said. “As opposed to being a live feed of what takes place immediately after.”
We also weren’t able to extract much intel on the multiplayer modes, but there will definitely be a classic skirmish where you take your fleet to beat up your friends’ fleets in 1v1, team-based, or free-for-all set-ups. There is definitely more planned, with the dossier we were sent mentioning a co-op mode with a “roguelike twist,” but Blackbird won’t be ready to talk about it until closer to launch.
“To be about to release Homeworld 3 to the fans… surely this doesn’t happen often in one’s career.”
While we still may have almost a year to go until we get to take command of Homeworld 3, there’s at least a light at the end of the hyperspace tunnel now. Late 2022 isn’t so far away given how long we’ve already waited for a proper sequel, after all. And it sounds like the devs might be almost as excited about it as we are.
“To be about to release Homeworld 3 to the fans… surely this doesn’t happen often in one’s career,” Cunningham said. “I think there was just something about those games people connected to. So it’s a pretty exciting time when you’ve had that kind of feedback from people who enjoyed the thing you made, and you’re just about to give them more of that thing. And you know what’s coming, but they don’t! So it’s like you’ve got just the right gift for someone and you know they’re going to love it, but it’s not yet Christmas.”