This review was posted by Bobamelius on the Steam community and is for HW1R specifically. I never played HW2 and haven’t played HW2R yet.
The good things are obvious; the graphics are pretty, the textures and backgrounds are nice, the new UI is “ok” and scales with your screen resolution. Modern screen resolution options are available without hacking the game.
There are some big problems I have with the way HW1 was ported to the HW2 engine: formations, tactics, fuel, and the ballistics model.
Formations and tactics from the first game are thrown out the window in this remaster. For new players who don’t understand the significance of this or older players who are a little fuzzy on how these worked, please set your sights on the wall of text below.
In old HW1, ships would hold their formation while engaging the enemy (unless you set them to evasive tactics; more on this later). The various formations had intrinsic tactical advantages for different situations.
You could have capitals concentrate into a tight wall to focus fire.
Fighters could form a claw formation to envelop/focus their targets while still remaining mobile and making passes.
Ships in Sphere formation would surround their target, all facing inward pouring maximum shots into the enemy at the tradeoff of being fairly immobile and vulnerable to return fire.
You could also use Sphere to, say, have a squadron of Defenders form a defensive screen around your Heavy Cruiser to protect it from bombers. There were many other formation possibilities, but those are a few examples.
In Remastered, all these formations options are still technically available, however they only affect the basic parade stance of your ships. That is to say, upon contact with the enemy your ships will immediately break formation. Strike craft will split off and fly around the enemy in a disorderly fashion, failing to concentrate fire. Capitals will float around doing their own thing, bumping into each other and getting into each others’ way instead of remaining in an organized wall formation. They still mostly function, but the biggest hit is to strike craft, which are FAR less effective without formation coherency.
Tactics worked in combination with formations when choosing how you want to engage the enemy. Is the enemy coming at you in small groups? Do you have a keen numerical advantage? Use Aggressive tactics. Your fighters will move slower and attempt no evasive maneuvers, but they will close to a tighter formation and put more shots into the enemy, doing more damage.
Are you at a disadvantage and need to bog down the enemy in a protracted dogfight to buy time for reinforcements to arrive? Evasive tactics will cause your strike craft to break formation, split off into pairs, and make quick passes at the enemy while performing evasive maneuvers, doing less damage but living longer. The default Neutral tactics provide a happy medium between these two: your ships will hold their formation, however they will spread out a little and perform small jinking maneuvers during attack runs to dodge some incoming fire.
In Remastered, you still have three stances available, but they are nothing like what I just described above. They only determine your units’ engagement setting (don’t engage/engage nearby/pursue enemy relentlessly). Basically, HW1 tactics are GONE. They no longer exist. Again, strike craft suffer the most from this change. The combination of formation and tactics you chose for them made strike craft very versatile and useful units to have around. Now they are just cannon fodder to fly around and distract the enemy whilst outputting Evasive level damage all the time.
Now onto the ballistics model. HW1 used an ahead-of-its-time physics-based model for weapons. When a Heavy Cruiser fired a bullet from one of its cannons, that bullet traveled through space as a physical object toward its target. A stray fighter could pass in front of it and be obliterated, or the target could suddenly change vector causing it to miss. It may then travel on past the intended target and hit something else. Maybe a friendly! The bullet would also impart physical force to the target, visibly pushing back a frigate, for example.
In HW2, and thus in HW:R as a whole, this model was replaced by an RNG (random number generation) model that you might expect to see in a cheaply made traditional RTS game. Your Heavy Cruiser will fire a shot, and that shot may have (making up numbers here) an 85% chance of hitting another Heavy Cruiser or Carrier, a 70% chance of hitting a destroyer, a 50% chance of hitting a frigate and a 5% chance of hitting a fighter. This system was likely instituted to save CPU for HW2’s ambitious number of ships on screen at once, but ported to the original game in Remastered it removes a lot of battle-changing moments from HW1.
Also because of this simple RNG model, tactics (discussed above) were apparently seen as no longer relevant since fighters physically taking evasive actions no longer factors in to whether something hits them or not. The most common defense of this system is “engine limitations” but I can’t accept that argument seeing as how the source code and engine were heavily modified to begin with.
Oh, strike craft also no longer have fuel in HW1. Fuel had a nice side-effect - strike craft low on fuel would auto-dock and get repaired at the same time. Now they just stay in battle and get wiped out. So another layer of strategy is arbitrarily deleted.
Oh and no borderless window. What the hell?
In short what I’m saying is this: Homeworld 1 Remastered is essentially a lazy port into another game’s engine and much of the magic is lost. Can it still be played and enjoyed? Sure. Will the game have the same strategic and tactical depth as you remember? Not even close.