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Homeworld 3’s demo has me feeling slightly concerned about the RTS legend

The demo will be available through Steam and the Epic Games Store until Feb. 12

A fleet stands proudly, defending its orbital depots. Image: Blackbird Interactive/Gearbox Entertainment
Alice Jovanée (she/her) is a commerce writer, and she has been writing about gaming and tech since 2005. Prior to Polygon, she worked at publications such as The Verge.

Blackbird Interactive has just released a demo for Homeworld 3, the long-awaited third (and perhaps final?) installment of the legendary RTS franchise. The demo, available through Feb. 12 on Steam and the Epic Games Store, highlights the game’s roguelike “War Games” mode, allowing you and your friends to play through progressively difficult stages with randomized objectives and enemies. In motion, though, it’s a little rough — and that’s partly why the launch is now delayed another eight weeks to May 13.

A screenshot from Homeworld 3’s War Games mode, featuring three carriers playing cooperatively.
Progression made in the War Games demo will carry over to the full release on Mar. 8.
Image: Blackbird Interactive

I spent several hours with the demo, which provides a small vertical slice of what we can expect when the game launches. The demo features an abbreviated version of the War Games mode with just four maps, but it does include the full progression system that will be present in the retail version of Homeworld 3, which allows you to unlock new ships and cosmetics. As an added bonus, any progression that players make during the demo will carry over to the retail version of the game.

The demo serves as an excellent showcase of Homeworld 3’s technical and gameplay improvements, but a number of frustrating issues have somewhat shaken my confidence in Blackbird Interactive’s capabilities in delivering a follow-up to a beloved franchise chained to more than two decades' worth of expectations.

A screenshot of the Artifact Selection screen in Homeworld 3’s War Games mode
Each run in War Games features randomized objectives and bonuses to customize your fleet.
Image: Blackbird Interactive

While the demo may be representative of an older build of the game, I ran into problems like notably cumbersome camera controls and questionable pathfinding. A key addition in Homeworld 3 is terrain in space that is intended to provide a tactical advantage to your units. However, this feature often resulted in my units having difficulty finding the most direct route to a target. The in-game camera also struggles to provide the best view, often clipping into the terrain and obscuring units. This issue is made worse by the painfully slow controls, which rotate and zoom at a glacial pace, even with their sensitivity dialed up. It’s possible that these concerns have already been addressed by Blackbird Interactive, but seeing them in the demo left me questioning how the final game might play.

A screenshot from Homeworld 3
The terrain often led to my units struggling to find a way to their targets
Image: Blackbird Interactive

Despite its issues, I still enjoyed the Homeworld 3 demo and respect the immense effort Blackbird Interactive is putting into this title. If you’d like to try the game out for yourself, make sure to check out the demo before it leaves on Feb. 12.

Update (Feb. 7): After our impressions of the demo were originally published, Blackbird Interactive issued a statement delaying the launch of Homeworld 3. We’ve updated the article to reflect this.

Correction (Feb. 7): A previous version of this article stated that the War Games mode featured three maps, instead of four. It also stated that the public demo would remain available until Feb. 15 when it will only be playable until Feb. 12. We’ve edited the article to reflect this.

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