Homeworld 3: Everything we know

Homeworld 3
(Image credit: Blackbird Interactive)

Homeworld 3 is the sequel to one of the most celebrated series in real-time strategy history. The first RTS to take place in a fully three-dimensional environment, Homeworld was a revelation in 1999 because its setting was authentically space, rather than a 2D plane. Maneuvering not just around but above and below your opponents was key to victory in Homeworld.

Perhaps most notable, however, was Homeworld's atmosphere. The galaxy felt empty, lonely, and oppressive. Enemies were always dogging your heels and the expansive ambient soundtrack left you feeling lost in a galaxy much larger than your own problems.

Developer Relic Entertainment released Homeworld in 1999, with an expansion in 2000 and then sequel Homeworld 2 in 2003. Those games got remastered in 2015 by Gearbox, to mixed reception. Prequel Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak was developed by Blackbird Interactive and released just a year later in 2016 to great acclaim.

Blackbird interactive is also developing Homeworld 3, and the conclusion to our Deserts of Kharak review should give you a good indication of why we're excited about this sequel: "In spite of all the ways this could have gone horribly wrong, Deserts of Kharak succeeds on almost every count. It's not only a terrific RTS that sets itself apart from the rest of the genre's recent games, but it's also an excellent Homeworld game that reinvents the series while also recapturing its magic." 

What is Homeworld 3's release date?

Homeworld 3 will release in the first half of 2023, according to the most recent Gamescom trailer. First announced in a tweet from Gearbox and Blackbird Interactive (opens in new tab) in June, Homeworld 3's delay out of its initial Q4 2022 release window is a clear effort to avoid the too-common nightmare of development crunch.

As the delay announcement reads, "the additional time will allow us to make good on our commitment to quality in a healthy and sustainable way for all those involved."

Here's the latest Homeworld 3 gameplay from Gamescom 2022

Shown during Gamescom 2022's Opening Night Live, this short gameplay trailer is presented as a survivor's recollection of a skirmish with Kalan Raiders at "Kesura Oasis." (An oasis, by this point in the setting, apparently consists of a titanic derelict space cruiser.)

While it's not a very long look, it does show off some of the tactical decision making options available during Homeworld 3's real-time space navy engagements. You can shield your ships from enemy fire by maneuvering them behind space debris, or move them without being detected by enemy radar sweeps by sending them through tunnels in the drifting space hulks.

And, in Homeworld fashion, you can capture once-enemy vessels as prizes for yourself. Worth noting, too: the game continues to look gorgeous.

What other Homeworld 3 footage is there?

This Homeworld 3 gameplay first look trailer is peak scifi goodness. The trailer's narrator is Karan S'jet, the main character from original Homeworld games and the voice of The Mothership and Fleet Command. She's a posthuman of some kind, called an Unbound, due to her physical connection with the Hyperspace core that powered the mothership. As we understand it, she's also now going to live for a very, very long time.

We're shown a sprawl of events from the first two games, from the destruction of Kharak and the Kushan flight through the galaxy to the war with the Vaygr horde from Homeworld 2. From there, we see a barrage of ships in the flat, boxy styles and colors of our Hiigaran protagonists. We also get a few distant glimpses of angular ships in the signature yellow and red stripes of their Taiidan enemies. There's also a brief flash of some ships in red, the primary color of the Vaygr antagonists from Homeworld 2.

Throughout we get glimpses of a huge ship over and over: A crescent-shaped flat vessel. That's probably our new Mothership, with its signature massive launch bay for producing capital ships. It's a new design, a sort of flat croissant rather than the huge upright banana of past motherships in the series—and a nice design callback to the carriers from Deserts of Kharak.

So what's the story of Homeworld 3?

Homeworld 3

(Image credit: Blackbird Interactive)

After Homeworld 2, the galaxy entered what was called the "age of S'jet," as Karan's clan used the newly-opened hyperspace gate network to usher in an age of prosperity. We don't know anything about what will happen in Homeworld 3 other than that a lot of time has passed.

Here's the official description: "Cycles of plenty and war have come and gone. Now the Hyperspace Gate Network is catastrophically failing and Karan, who has passed into myth and religious idolatry, is the key to the mystery threatening a galaxy’s future."

So that's what's up, at least: The now nigh-immortal Karan S'jet might well be the last person who remembers the distant past, and as the gameplay trailer narration hints, that memory might well be the key to saving the future.

Blackbird has also been clear that like the original games and Deserts of Kharak, Homeworld 3 will have a deep, compelling single player story. After how good Deserts of Kharak was, it'll probably be a real treat.

What's new in Homeworld 3? What's coming back?

Homeworld 3

(Image credit: Blackbird Interactive)

We don't know that much about what's new in Homeworld 3 yet, but I identified one big thing from the gameplay trailer that might be a hint at a twist for Homeworld 3's environments.

Some environments look almost low-atmospheric, with large non-ship objects showing up. That's new, as asteroids in the old Homeworld were rarely so large as what we see in the gameplay trailer, and no battles took place so close to a planet you could make out geographic features like mountains. 

Lots of the battles in the gameplay trailer also happen among massive spaceborne megaliths, made by the mysterious Progenitors, that previously only formed very rudimentary terrain in Homeworld games. They now look a lot more interactive, as fighters sweep down trenches for cover. The official Homeworld site says that these structures will "bring 3D terrain into the classic Homeworld battlespace" and that they can be used to hide your fleet for ambushes against enemies. There will also be dangerous terrain, like asteroid fields and particle storms, that can harm ships.

What's back? At the very least strike craft, frigates, and cruisers are returning, but it's hard to tell if corvettes and destroyers made the cut. Larger ships also make an appearance in the trailer, with the very distinct silhouette of a Kharak-inspired Hiigaran carrier showing up at one point, and the game description mentioning "hulking battlecruisers." 

A ship very much like the classic Taiidan missile destroyer and ion frigate show up in the gameplay trailer, too. But these models are so far beyond those of 1999 and 2003 that while there's clearly inspiration going on, drawing a direct parallel is impossible. Just know that I spotted projectile weapons, missiles, and ion cannons, so your favorite Homeworld weapon is probably back in some form.

Otherwise, Blackbird Interactive seems pretty devoted to the original vision for Homeworld. Expect to gather resource units from asteroids, maneuver a big fleet, and hyperspace jump your nastiest ships right on top of an opponent's mothership for the win.

Here's an older trailer

That's the announcement trailer for Homeworld 3, which we first saw in 2019. In it, scouting ships that look to be from our primary faction, the Hiigarans, make their way through the massive hyperspace gate discovered and activated at the end of Homeworld 2. We also get a brief flash of our homegirl Karan S'jet. 

What else do we know?

Homeworld 3 will Have co-op

Homeworld 3 will have a roguelite cooperative mode, where one or two commanders take on a series of fleet battles with a persistent fleet. Each battle lets you claim rewards for the next, and successful runs will let you unlock new powers that "carry over run after run."

Homeworld 3 will also have PvP multiplayer.

The soundtrack will still slap

Original Homeworld composer Paul Ruskay returns for at least some of the music, and the previews signal that his newest work is as good as ever. For the curious, Gearbox has released a 20-minute mini documentary about the series use of the Adagio for Strings. 

"No one's left. Everything is gone. Kharak is burning."

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.