Before you play Homeworld 3, try this VR game as a primer

Two fleets fight in Homeworld: Vast Reaches.

Homeworld 3 launches next week, but there’s a game Homeworld fans who own a Meta Quest 2 or 3 should check out right now. Homeworld: Vast Reaches, which came to Meta’s VR headsets on May 2, is a prequel set between the events of the first two Homeworld games. This VR game offers up the core Homeworld experience in a novel niche of the video game medium.

It’s not as deep or complex as Homeworld 3 looks, but it doesn’t need to be. Vast Reaches immerses players in the franchise’s universe once again and reacquaints them with the basics of its real-time strategy combat ahead of a highly anticipated new entry on PC. As such, checking out Vast Reaches should make this last week of waiting for Homeworld 3 a little less painful.

Homeworld, but in VR

Homeworld: Vast Reaches was developed by FarBridge, who has previously worked on VR games like Walkabout Mini Golf, Dragon Fight VR, and Jar Wars. Made with Gearbox Entertainment’s support and blessing, it boils Homeworld down to its core elements and rebuilds it in VR. Players control a new Fleet Command connected to Karan S’jet’s Mothership, which is the conceit behind how players view battles.

This is a Homeworld game, so several large-scale space battles break out because of all the political squabbles happening in the story. During those missions, players command “control groups” of ships to gather resources and attack enemies by pointing at them in VR. To come out on top in a fight, I have to strike the right balance with which units I build and put in each control group. I also need to determine when and where to collect resources, fight, and activate other abilities that are on cooldowns. It’s simpler than the PC games but still hits all their core gameplay tenets.

Gameplay from Homeworld: Vast Reaches.

I find strategy games to be a surprisingly good fit for the VR medium. There’s something inherently satisfying about being fully immersed in and overlooking a battle before moving units like pieces on a chess board. Part of what put the Homeworld series on the map was the 3D arenas with depth its battles took place in, and Vast Reaches expertly reimagines that in VR while giving players an ample amount of options when it comes to moving around, increasing or decreasing the size of the space battlefield each mission takes place on.

Vast Reaches boasts a mixed reality mode, so it looks like these battles are taking place right in front of you in your room, although I much preferred the space vistas FarBridge hand-crafted rather than my apartment. And the sci-fi space battles are more than fulfilling enough for me.

The biggest critics of Vast Reaches have derided its AI and difficulty, saying that it is too easy. They aren’t wrong; Vast Reaches wasn’t that challenging once I got the hang of the controls and settled into the core loop of gathering resources, building units, and fighting enemies in each mission. That’s not a bad thing for me; I don’t think it needs to be more complex. Playing a VR game is already pretty taxing physically, and Vast Reaches controls differently than the Homeworld games before it, so I don’t mind the experience being a bit easier to accommodate for that.

Plus, that makes it an approachable on-ramp for new and returning players alike to ease themselves back into the world and mechanics of this series ahead of Homeworld 3’s launch. The addition of a multiplayer mode in the future would be appreciated, but the single-player content on offer here is fun enough to give Homeworld players a good time for now. In a week, Homeworld fans are better off going with the full-fledged PC sequel; right now, though, we’re in a sweet spot where Vast Reaches can satiate their Homeworld craving on the eve of the next mainline entry’s launch.

Homeworld: Vast Reaches is now available for Meta Quest 2 and 3 headsets and will get a SteamVR launch later this year. You’ll be able to enjoy Homeworld 3 on PC by then, though, as that game launches on May 13.

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