Exploring the Stars
Developed by Stratosphere Games and Published by Gearbox, Homeworld Mobile is the latest game in the long-running Homeworld series. However, the similarities between Homeworld Mobile and the rest of the RTS franchise are slim. Combining that with finicky controls, repetitive missions and general buggyness results in something far from the most satisfying real-time strategy experience.
Homeworld Mobile takes place 15 years after 2003’s Homeworld 2. During the intervening years, the traditional clans have seen their political power wane on the homeworld of Hiigara. Rather than continue participating in the new government, the clans set out to claim new territory in the neighboring Nimbus Galaxy. After a Progenitor attack nearly wipes out ther expedition fleet, players take control of the remaining ships as they explore this new galaxy.
The player’s main vessel is their Flagship, which fills a similar role to the Mothership in other Homeworld games. It is the centerpiece of the player’s fleet and protecting it must be a number one priority. Unlike the motherships, however, Flagships are not entirely self-sufficient, and players must travel to space stations to construct new ships.
Homeworld Mobile players are initially limited to their Flagship, one Escort, and three Squadrons carried on the Flagship. The latter include Interceptors, anti-ship Bombers, and Collectors, which gather resources from asteroids and repair the larger ships in your fleet. Meanwhile, players can repair their Squadrons by docking them with the Flagship. Additionally, players can increase ther fleet size by building larger and more advanced Flagships. Later in the game, players can also construct additional turrets and other external modules on their Flagship.
Homeworld Mobile features a galaxy map with over 100 systems to explore, each containing multiple zones. The real-time strategy combat takes place on a 2D plane with asteroids and other background objects arranged to give the illusion of a 3D space. This is standard practice for many space RTS games, so it’s not surprising. However, some Homeworld fans may be disappointed that the mobile installment lacks the 3D play space of the main series.
Still, that may have been for the best, given the issues I encountered with Homeworld Mobile’s controls. The game features an Outliner along the right hand of the screen, which lists all ships, asteroids, and other interactable objects. Players can use this to issue fleet attack orders on enemy ships or send their Collectors to gather Ore from a specific asteroid. This works for most basic combat encounters, though it doesn’t allow players to issue orders to specific ships in their fleet.
Players can issue more precise commands by clicking and dragging a ship’s icon to the desired location. However, the ships are small and move quickly across the screen, making them hard to select. Half the time, I couldn’t see the enemy behind my finger and ended up selecting the empty space they’d just left. I can imagine this working better on a larger screen like a tablet, but the controls were a massive pain on a smartphone.
The interface icons are also hard to decipher. You’ll pick most of them up eventually, but I still don’t know what some ship stance icons are supposed to represent. I appreciate that Homeworld Mobile doesn’t clutter the screen with icons as some mobile games do. However, I can’t help but feel like Stratosphere Games went too far in the other direction.
The game’s missions also contribute to making Homeworld Mobile a frustrating experience. The game’s story consists of multiple chapters, each with a list of objectives for players to complete. However, there’s not much of a narrative connecting one chapter to the next, just a series of primarily disconnected tasks.
Some of these objectives can also be tedious, and mining is particularly bad. The game will ask you to collect thousands of units of Ore, which is a slow and time-consuming process. You can’t just leave the game running and go AFK, as you need to stay alert for randomly spawning enemy fleets. Nor can you get the resources another way, as the objective insists you mine Ore yourself. And that’s when the objectives update correctly. Sometimes they just don’t, and the only way to fix them is to quit the game and restart.
I also encountered no shortage of connection issues. Your mileage will probably vary on this, but I was constantly getting disconnected while playing Homeworld Mobile.
Overall, while I didn’t hate Homeworld Mobile, I felt I could have liked it more. The visuals and sound design are good, and I often caught myself having fun. However, the awkward interface and padded missions really dragged the experience down.
Is It Hardcore?
Homeworld Mobile has a few good points, but the awkward controls and padded mission structure makes it a poor inheritor of the series legacy.