Wayward Strategist

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

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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

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.

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.

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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