Version Tested: PC
Available on: PC
Developer: Blackbird Interactive
Publisher: Gearbox Software
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Official Site: http://www.desertsofkharak.com/
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Where to Buy: Steam
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is an example of nostalgia done right. It took a beloved franchise and breathed new life into it, delivering a twist on familiar gameplay but remaining true to its predecessors. Check out our review of the base game here.
The Soban Fleet Pack for Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak brings, essentially, a new “race” to the multiplayer and skirmish modes. This is purely a multiplayer expansion; it adds no additional story mission content outside of a new way to customize in multiplayer or battles with the AI in skirmish mode. The Soban fleet is based on the regular Coalition fleet but changes up some of the abilities and units to provide a bit of a different experience.
The original Coalition fleet is about harassment, utilizing hit and run tactics and speed to whittle away resources and defenses while building up a superior force to take the game. The Soban fleet is a bit more on the finesse side, utilizing a powerful buff/debuff game in conjunction with heavy-hitting railguns to control space and dominate opponents. The Soban fleet dramatically changes the way you approach Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, whether you are playing as the Soban fleet or you come up with it. Being aware of exactly what they can do becomes extremely important, as one perfectly placed Targeting Jammer (which disables all enemy weapons in range) can disrupt and crush a previously unstoppable strategy. The Soban Carrier also adds a serious new wrinkle to gameplay with the powerful microwave emitter, providing heavy damage and controlling space at the same time.
The Soban fleet seems to specialize in retaliation, as the buffs and debuffs such as the aforementioned Targeting Jammer and the new Mark Target ability (which “paints” an area and causes all enemies in that area to take increased damage) allow you to manipulate every fight you encounter. After disrupting your opponent’s strategy, the Soban Fleet can use its more powerful units to disrupt resource gathering or go for the throat.
Aesthetically, the Soban Fleet Pack did not alter that much of the game. Units are reskinned, but the camera is usually zoomed out too far to notice these slight differences. When inspecting units up close, they look good and are distinct enough that even a relative newcomer to the game can spot the differences quickly. The unit voices have all been redone as well, and they are read with the same quality as the original voice work (which is to say they are very believable and well made). The biggest shortcoming of the Soban Fleet Pack lies in where the strengths and weaknesses of the base game are located.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak has an excellent single player campaign. It is engaging, just the right difficulty, and has a great cinematic quality that keeps you coming back. However, the Soban Fleet Pack only brings changes to skirmish and multiplayer modes. The skirmish mode is a bit lackluster, as the AI is fairly predictable and options are pretty slim. The enemy AI apparently subscribes to the old kung fu movie mentality of “send two baddies at a time.” However, at least, you can play a game if you line up skirmish mode. The multiplayer mode can be fun, but there are far too few people ever queuing up to consistently find games. For example, as of this writing, there are 98 people playing Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak on Steam and not all of them are playing multiplayer. This severely limits your ability to utilize the DLC to the fullest, and especially your chance of getting very good with the new units and abilities. This is unfortunate because there are some really cool ideas that could spring from prolonged practice. There just is not the community in the game to allow that to happen.
If you are still playing Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak multiplayer with some friends, the Soban Fleet Pack is a no-brainer. It is relatively inexpensive, but it adds a new strategic layer and some much-needed depth to the fairly limited multiplayer modes. If you are primarily a campaign player who doesn’t regularly queue up with mates, you can safely pass this one up. The chances of utilizing this DLC consistently are fairly slim.
- Gameplay: Some new strategic wrinkles to the already great rock-paper-scissors gameplay of the base game.
- Graphics: Reskins look good up close, but the field of view is usually too zoomed out to be very noticeable during play.
- Sound: New, high-quality voice work in the game.
- Presentation: Nothing new on this front, as the Soban Fleet Pack is strictly for skirmish/multiplayer.
- Brings entirely new strategic elements to multiplayer and skirmish modes
- Units are distinctive
- Allows for more defensive and reactive play
- Skirmish mode AI is still broken, making it tough to enjoy
- Multiplayer is lightly populated; tough to find a game without friends playing
- Can be tough to notice aesthetic differences during play