A Challenger Appears – Deserts of Kharak Gets a New (sub)Faction

Over the past two days, Blackbird Interactive – the team behind Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, has released two major updates. First, they released replays on Monday, March 21st alongside a major balance patch. Potentially more momentous is the release on March 22nd of Kiith Soban, the first major DLC for the title. Let’s take a brief look at the changes and their implications

HomeworldDoK_SobanFleetScreen1

Wayward Strategist purchased this DLC outright.

I’m going to start with the balance patch released this past Monday. First, and most importantly, Replays have been added and are automatically recorded after each match, including vs AI skirmishes. Features like Replays and Observer Mode (which has yet to be added, but I’ll remain hopeful) are essential for commentators and dedicated players alike, and can revitalize the communities of RTS that add them. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, and keep on laddering. I hope that some players will come back in and ladder with me.

Also a welcome change are a number of balance changes that alter the relationship between Coalition Light Assault Vehicles and Gaalsien Sandskimmers, and between these units and the Armored Assault class of vehicle, which makes it a softer counter to light units. Indeed, in several places, counters have been softened, which should make more room for players to skillfully handle their units as opposed to being forced to keep up with the pace of tech: LAV class units should stand up better to AAVs, and the Railgun/Battlecruiser match up should likewise be more balanced. Also, Carrier Power generation has been expanded and can be researched earlier, which might bring this more into play in the average multiplayer match.

All in all, a good round of changes and feature updates. See the full patch notes here.

Kharak-Soben-Fleet-Pack

Now, moving onto Kiith Soban, the new faction that’s been added.

Or, rather, the new subfaction.

The Soban look and feel, in the trailers and cinematics that have thus far been released (and now that the Soban are available, I’m sure various YouTubers have done videos on them), and for good reason. The Soban are not a stand-alone faction but are instead a sub-faction, including some variant units and special abilities… Kiith Soban are to the Coalition, more or less, what the Steel Talons or ZOCOM are to the GDI in Command and Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath. They have mostly the same units, with several standout differences.

First and foremost, the Soban Baserunner is a quite different animal when compared to the baseline Coalition model. Instead, it drops a deployable (effectively a turret, I suppose) that disables enemy weapons temporarily. I’ve yet to perfect my use of it, but it seems able to swing fights in the Soban player’s favor, especially early game if a Gaalsien player gets aggressive with Sandskimmers.

In general, the Soban are heavier hitters than their Coalition counterparts: their Railgun paints a target, causing that target to take bonus damage from other sources. Their Carrier and Battlecruiser are decked out with railguns instead of smaller caliber arms. They are also more focused on crowd control: slow fields, area denial/damage fields, weapons disables: the Battlecruiser, Carrier and Baserunner have abilities that do all of these things.

Homeworld-Deserts-of-Kharak-Soban-Fleet-Pack-DLC-screenshot

Now, I’m glad to see more content being made for Deserts of Kharak. I feel like it’s been overlooked by too many gamers and I hope that the recent patch and Soban subfaction help bring people to, and back to the game, but I cannot help but be a bit disappointed.

Deserts of Kharak is a part of the storied Homeworld franchise by Relic, and Relic has become something of a master at finding creative ways to lower the cost of entry to their titles: selling the US Forces, Oberkommando West and British Forces as standalone factions allows players to jump into multiplayer with a low cost, and the standalone Ardennes Assault (one of the best modern RTS campaigns) is also a way to get hooked on Company of Heroes content without buying into the whole game (whose campaign was tepidly received).

Now, let’s be clear. I’ve never sold a game and it’s probably a good thing I’m not in charge of these decisions for game companies. But I had hoped, prior to purchasing and playing the Soban Fleet Pack, that Blackbird and Gearbox might be heading down a similar path: parting out the game into standalone DLC that would lower the cost barrier for players in the game.

As it stands, I love the idea of sub-factions: the Soban are a nice riff on the Coalition and I’d love to see more subfactions arise. I’m hoping, too, to see more campaigns added as expansions or DLC. But for now, I’m more excited with the implications of this content than the content itself. I enjoy the Soban, and feel that $6.99 is worth the effort put into the models and voice acting, but standalone factions would have been more exciting to me, and I’d gone into this thinking I was getting a third faction, not a solid Steel Talons for an existing faction.

The bottom line is, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a solid game, and the content that came out this week (as of the writing of this article) was solid. It was not exciting, however, which is what I’d been hoping for.

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One Comment on “A Challenger Appears – Deserts of Kharak Gets a New (sub)Faction

  1. Getting more game play from Desert of Kharak(DoK): Persistent Fleet and Default Fleet Campaign play through

    Being a fan of RTS games and the Homeworld franchise (albeit I stumbled into it late, playing it for the first time in 2014 at the age of 45) I was excited to play through the Kharack campaign on hardest setting (default for me in any campaign) using the persistent fleet.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my experience! I found it just challenging enough that I had to think but not so hard that I failed the missions and had to start over. In doing so it is difficult for me not to utilize everything at my disposal. I, not always intentionally, exploit the AI by holding off objectives until I have a massive fleet. I mine every last RU in the map! I slowly try to capture every vessel I can to bolster my army or sell and reuse. And laying mines… well, wow, the AI are not to sharp, hehe.

    I am unsure if DoK mission progression takes advantage of my fleet size in making the next level more difficult as Homeworld 2 did or not? Anyone know?

    I finished the campaign and had a great time doing so!

    I then went on to try mutli player and AI comp stomps but ran into some problems… I will write more on that later, I do not want to digress off the point of this post.

    I wanted to get more game play from DoK so I decided to go back and replay the campaign with default fleet for each mission (again on hardest setting). I am having even more fun than the original play through! Each missions I start with far less units than I did in the persistent fleet option and therefore have been more challenging and bloodier. I have not always had the option to push off objectives or play it through at my terms because I was strapped for units… even though this play through I better understood each units special abilities.

    I highly recommend this for anyone trying to push more game play out of DoK! I have had to restart several missions due to fails… and on a few most enjoyable missions I won literally by the skin of my teeth!

    The only thing I was curious about with this option was does the starting RP also set at a default setting or did it carry through my RP from the previous mission? I had not figured that out yet.

    While playing it through I thought of yet another play through idea that would be even more challenging… playing through with persistent if the previous mission cost me nearly every unit so that I would start a mission with even less units, oh boy! I wonder if I can try to play through each mission with just a starting carrier? Hmmm

    Anyways, let me know if any have tried these things and have had similar results? I am curious.

    -B8factor

    Like

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