Expedition Guide Review
Back in what many considered the golden era of PC space gaming, game manuals were essentially a guaranteed. A lot of them not only explained controls and basic setups for the game, but also included some backstory and detail about the games characters and world. With the transfer of games to online retailer platforms such as STEAM and ORIGIN, a lot of the things we enjoyed such as box art, posters, Game Manuals, and other items were moved into Pre-Order exclusives or collectors edition items.
Where did the cool manuals go?
With the advent of digital distribution, games became much more easily accessible, cheaper, and you never run the risk of losing your game or CD keys due to everything being registered to online servers. However, digital titles rarely come with the in-depth manuals, guides, and paraphernalia that their in-box predecessors did, and that’s a shame. Some games have begun shipping print-quality digital artbooks (notably Strike Suit Zero), or releasing similar digital DLCs
What is the Expedition Guide?
Blackbird Interactive has done something similar to what Strike Suit Zero did, releasing an addition to their debut game, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, called the Expedition Guide. The Expedition Guide is a $5 DLC available here on Steam which serves as a classic game manual, showcasing game set up, lore, in game vehicle manifests, and much more.
Let’s take a look at the Expedition Guide and what it includes:
The Expedition Guide is a gratuitous, and very much welcomed addition to the Homeworld lore (some, including myself, would argue that it was a much-needed one as well). Within the expedition guide lays a delicious amount of lore, artwork, backstory, tech info, in-game assets, and even some Developer commentary. It’s packaged in a standalone program with a UI similar to that of DoK, including some background music and sound effects (which I thought were a nice touch that increase immersion).
The Expedition Guide is divided into eleven sections, each one respective to a certain aspect of the games story, such as “The Jaraci Object” or “Kharakid Social Systems”. Each section comes with a full page of artwork, story and timeline, while some others also include backstories and small biographies of key characters.
Let’s go over the lore additions; logs, character backstories, timelines, and key events.
Lots of detailed aspects and information are in the logs, ranging from military operations, to the technology and science used by the Kharakid Peoples. Each section of the Expedition Guide is very well detailed and contains lots of information; it’s definitely a prime example of grade A world building. Another really awesome aspect is that the guide goes into depth and detail about the technology and science used in the structures, crafts and weapons; even diving into the biology of plant and animal life on Kharak!
Artwork & Assets
The artwork is of course stunning as usual, to be expected from artistic powerhouses Aaron Kambietz and Brennan Massicotte. The painterly style of the animatics and concept art really shows this gritty and dusty texture with the brush strokes, a sketch look helps to annunciate the harsh and rigid landscape of the desert wastelands of Kharak. In true Homeworld fashion, Bright colors and contrasting color accents cover each craft with a splash of bright and crunch decals on the hull. The poly work on each vehicle model is nice and detailed, sharp industrial angles for the Northern Coalition, and the rapid departure of the Gaalsien crafts, which each have a smooth curved carapace and hull sections.
Not Entirely Perfect…
Although the Expedition Guide is a thoughtful addition to the game, and very much welcomed, it is not without its faults: it has a resolution cap, and not even the text scales. The way it displays is actually quite disappointing: instead of the expected wide screen resolution with high res (at least 1920×1080!), it’s capped at an awkward 1024 X 600 resolution. Because to this, a lot of the artwork, (most notably the scenery work) suffers severely in visual fidelity. It almost seems as if this was an iOS app that has been ported into steam. It’s also difficult to read pages of backstory in such a narrow window. When viewed fullscreen, headers and text are highly aliased and pixellated (especially on high DPI displays), not something I’d expect to see these days.
I personally think the Expedition Guide would shine as an iOS app or an Android app; it would give a small handheld device a huge bonus with the ability to brush up on lore while playing the game on my PC would be absolutely perfect. As-is, I’m a bit confused as to why it’s locked in at such a low resolution, awkward aspect ratio, and with absolutely no scaling.
The Expedition guide is a thoughtful and well rounded addition to the DoK game / Homeworld universe but it isn’t presented very well. Because Homeworld is so visual, I’m perplexed at the low resolution and don’t feel that this was a very good design choice: for a $5 digital DLC, I feel the visual presentation should have been better, although I did like the sound. That being said, the content was absolutely incredible, and I would have loved to see a hardbound/print version, for which I’d have happily payed upwards of five times the price!
Because the content is superb, I still recommend the Expedition Guide for the avid Homeworld fans that enjoy the game’s backstory and lore.
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