Homeworld 3's War Games mode offers a co-op rogue-lite fight for survival

Blackbird Interactive's latest addition to Homeworld 3 has players work together to survive a gauntlet of missions or die trying.

Image via Gearbox Publishing

Homeworld 3 has promised to be an ambitious step forward for the series on almost every front, and, as of recently, we learned that includes multiplayer. Blackbird Interactive and Gearbox Publishing recently showed off Homeworld 3’s new War Games mode: A multiplayer co-op mode in which players must work together with their separate fleets to overcome objectives for as long as they can survive against randomized conditions. I got to play a glimpse of this mode recently, and I feel it’s going to keep spice and replayabillity in this game for loyal players well after they finish the main game.

Commanders assemble

Homeworld 3 War Games fleet upgrade
Source: Gearbox Publishing

In Homeworld 3’s War Games mode, up to three players join up to take on various scenarios. Each player has control of their own Carrier and can harvest resources, build their units, and traverse the sector of space as they see fit. Eventually, players are given an objective. It could be fighting off waves of enemy forces, destroying a transport cargo before it reaches its destination, securing a part of the sector, or protecting civilian vessels, just to name a few. Most importantly, the enemy forces are usually a bit much for one commander to handle, so players will have to combine their forces to effectively complete their objectives, after which they can jump to another sector to take on an even harder challenge.

The really fun part of Homeworld 3’s War Games mode is getting Artifacts to augment your fleet. These are the randomized upgrades you’d find in games like Hades and Binding of Isaac. While each Artifact gives a choice of a few upgrades, you can only pick one, so choosing what compliments your fleet composition at any given time is key to success.

Homeworld 3 War Games mode Artifact upgrades
Source: Gearbox Publishing

I liked starting out with a fast group of aggressive Interceptor craft, so I picked an Artifact power that provided them with greater damage and better speed for dodging attacks. My little killer bees became bristling hornets that helped to keep foes occupied while my teammates arranged for bigger weaponry. In another game, I specialized in Torpedo Frigates. For that instance, I got my hands on upgrades that increased their firing range and damage on impact. The best choice will depend entirely on what you’re working with at the time and your teammates have similar choices for their own fleets.

The missions themselves also feature a wide variety of challenge depending on sheer luck of the draw. On one run, we had to secure a space and hold out while waves of enemy fleets attacks. Unfortunately, one of those enemy fleets came in surprisingly right behind my Carrier and Interceptors with some heavy guns and did serious damage while my teammates were dealing with their own attacking groups.

Homeworld 3 War Games Objectives
Source: Gearbox Publishing

If a player runs out of resources to build units and doesn’t have Resource Collectors (or the resources to build one, which is expensive), they just have to make due with what they have, and if one player’s loses (when their Carrier is destroyed), the other players can continue the run, but they’ll have to do it without the one. No respawns here. This makes War Games mode as tough as it is fun. Players will have to do their best to build, coordinate, and adapt with each challenge.

In further true rogue-lite fashion, even if you fail, you gain experience that will unlock things like new fleet compositions. Where you usually start with your Carrier, five Scouts, and five Interceptors, you could unlock compositions that include bombers, frigates and further fun stuff to try, making progression through the mode all the more interesting.

Us against the galaxy

Homeworld 3 War Games fleets rolling out
Source: Gearbox Publishing

By the end of my time with Homeworld 3’s War Games mode, I was more than excited to get together with more friends for it. With each run through it, my teammates and I never knew what we were going to get. We could get skunked by overwhelming enemy forces or end up with Artifacts that didn’t quite fit our composition, or we could luck out on a particularly easy objective and get Artifacts that were perfect for our builds, and any combination of that and more. This mode uniquely combines co-op real-time tactics with some of the best elements of rogue-lite to produce a fun and unique challenge each time. I have a feeling when we’re all done rolling credits in Homeworld 3’s main campaign, War Games will end up as the place to be long after.

This preview is based on an early PC build supplied by the publisher. Homeworld 3 is slated to release on PC sometime in February 2024.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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