Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak Releases Exclusively On PC
Set in a time before the outer-space-themed Homeworld and Homeworld 2, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak takes place on a single, dune-ridden planet rife with hazards. You won't find this real-time strategy game on any of the consoles though—it's strictly PC, and it takes full advantage of the platform by utilizing high-tech graphics and a deep yet simple-to-grasp control scheme; your keyboard and mouse will get lots of attention here.
Deserts of Kharak was developed by Blackbird Interactive—a studio created by a handful of folks who worked on the initial Homeworld games, as well as the World War II epic Company of Heroes. In Deserts of Kharak, you can choose between the single-player campaign and online multiplayer matches, complete with ranked structures. By going the single-player route, you'll follow the story of Rachel S'Jet and her allies as they struggle to find a way to escape their dying, genocidal world.
RTS enthusiasts will recognize Deserts of Kharak's gameplay as a call-back to the original Homeworld games, though with a few mechanics altered a bit to accommodate the ground-based atmosphere. The carrier Kapisi—quite literally an aircraft carrier mounted on gigantic treads—serves as your main base, and a loving proxy to Homeworlds' Motherships. It's bulky, tough, and powerful, but it typically can't drive up the larger dunes like smaller units, so it needs to be supported to avoid being caught in the open.
Similar to other RTS games, you'll need to gather resources, research new tech, complete objectives, and generate new units to stay alive, but you won't construct bases or erect buildings. Plus, any units that don't get destroyed will carry over into the next mission, which becomes more and more critical to counter your opposition. Deserts of Kharak, like Homeworld and Homeworld 2, is primarily about grand army strategy and squad-inspired tactics. While the scope of the game's environment is sand and desolation, the developers made sure to add a wealth of varied obstacles and vantage points based off actual desert images from Google Maps. The result is an arid, natural-feeling landscape, peppered with visual obstructions that can potentially hide enemy forces behind them.
By zooming all the way out from the action, you'll open up a sprawling tactical map, called the sensors manager, which resembles a sci-fi-tweaked topographical screen. You'll need to refer to this overlay often to gain height-advantages over the enemy, which is a vital component of Deserts of Kharak's combat. Another interesting dynamic is that as you progress through the story and make your way deeper into the desert, the planet's heat will increase significantly, and you'll have to manage cooling systems on your units to ensure their effectiveness. There's plenty of micro-control, including single-vehicle command, but you'll usually end up selecting multiple units and moving numerous formations around to out-flank and ambush your adversaries.
In multiplayer, you can choose between the Coalition or Gaalsien factions, and up to six players can face off simultaneously. With the default match settings, you'll need to keep your carrier safe at all costs, because if you lose it, it's game over. But destroying a carrier isn't the only way to victory (or defeat). You can also locate a variety of artifacts dotted around the landscape. If you manage to pick up and transport five of them to the extraction point, you'll be crowned the undisputed champion. The thing is, all the rest of the players know this as well, so you're bound to run into competition.
Because of the various winning conditions, you can expect some layered depth to multiplayer matches. For example, do you focus on hunting down opponents' carriers, focusing all of your energy into all-out attacks? Or do you instead go on the defensive and try to rush for the artifacts as soon as possible? Or do you employ a combination of the two tactics, pestering enemy carriers enough to distract them from your artifact-hunting exploits in the background? These are just a few of the options. No matter the path you land on, you'll need to stay sharp and flexible to prevail, because the person (or people) you're playing against will very likely have some tricks up their sleeves too.
To compliment the intense gameplay, Deserts of Kharak has some pretty cool special effects and visuals. Carrier doors open up and release tiny jets that ripple under the sunlight, six-wheeled vehicles unload compact turrets which unfurl gracefully onto the surface, and tanks explode in spectacular fashion when detonated by enemy ordnance. In addition, there are some impressive weather conditions to behold, such as swirling sandstorms and terrifying desert tornados. It's not all plain daylight either—some missions take place under the starry-lit skies, while others are situated during dusk or dawn.
There's no better way to view all of these fine details (and keep the game's framerates running silky smooth) than by wielding an NVIDIA GeForce 900 series GPU such as the GTX 970, GTX 980, and GTX 980 Ti. Owning an NVIDIA graphics card also unlocks the incredibly helpful GeForce Experience, which keeps your GPU drivers automatically updated, and includes one-click optimization settings for many of today's best games.
Here are the developer's system requirements to get Homeword: Deserts of Kharak up and running:
- OS: Windows 7/8/10
- Processor: Intel Core i3-2100 (3.1GHz) / AMD A10 5800k (3.8GHz)
- Memory: 3GB RAM
- Graphics: GeForce GT 440 (1024MB)
- Storage: 8GB free space
- OS: Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit)
- Processor: Intel Core i7-950 (3.0GHz) / AMD FX-4300 (3.8GHz)
- Memory: 8GB RAM
- Graphics: GeForce GTX 770 (2048MB)
- Storage: 12GB free space
To learn more about Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, check out the game's homepage. Positive reviews are beginning to pour in as well, including ones from reputable sites such as IGN, PC Gamer, PC World, and Kotaku. You can download the game now from Steam.