Highly anticipated: With the first mainline Homeworld title in two decades shipping in about a month after suffering two delays, Blackbird Interactive has released a public demo, which has become one of the most popular items in the year’s first Steam Next Fest. Hundreds of other titles also have temporary demos this week.
A free demo for the highly anticipated Homeworld 3 is available on Steam and the Epic Games Store until February 12 at 10 am PT. The preview is one of the main attractions of the current Steam Next Fest, which also runs until February 12.
Homeworld players can try the sequel’s new War Games mode, which mixes RTS skirmishes with roguelike elements. Multiplayer matchmaking and lobbies are available.
Four maps are included, and players can unlock items that carry over into the full game, which launches on March 8. Steam Cloud saves should enable a smooth transition, but Blackbird will soon reveal instructions for transferring non-cloud saves.
Additionally, the demo offers an opportunity to benchmark Homeworld 3, which has unusually steep system requirements for a strategy game. Playing it requires at least 12 GB of VRAM, and the game includes ray-tracing options.
The wait for Homeworld 3 has likely been difficult for diehard fans. The last numbered entry, Homeworld 2, was released in 2003. Blackbird last visited the franchise with Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak in 2016. Homeworld 3 first appeared as a Kickstarter campaign in 2019, eventually receiving a Q4 2022 launch window, which changed to early 2023, then March of this year.
Homeworld isn’t the only game in the Steam Next Fest seeking to revive classic real-time strategy. Ex-Blizzard veterans who worked on StarCraft and Warcraft III have released an open beta for Stormgate.
The demo includes a three-player co-op mode against AI opponents, competitive one-on-one, and custom private lobbies. The custom lobbies also enable solo games against AI. Stormgate, which some critics called the closest thing to StarCraft 3, will enter early access sometime in mid-2024, introducing a campaign, editor, and other features.
Another notable retro revival receiving an early access demo is Underspace. The developers call the sandbox space dogfighting game the spiritual successor to Freelancer, with an added Lovecraftian theme. The game, which includes online multiplayer and supports mods, enters early access on April 10.