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"It is a time of great progress, yet our planet is dying..."
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Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a Real-Time Strategy game developed by Blackbird Interactive and published by Gearbox Software. The game was released on January 20th, 2016.

Kharak is dying. Its deserts grow year after year, and the various kiithid are locked in constant strife and warfare. In these uncertain times, a malfunctioning satellite accidentally performs a radar scan of Kharak's surface, detecting a massive object buried in the Great Banded Desert. Made of advanced metal alloys identical to those found in mysterious debris in Kharak's orbit, the Jaraci Object - named after its discoverer, satellite technician Leykab Jaraci - is also the source of incredibly large energy readings, huge enough to be compared to Kharak's sun.

The kiithid of the North - the Northern Coalition - dispatches the carrier Kapisi on an expedition deep into the vast desert wastes to claim this "Primary Anomaly" and, in so doing, secure the last hope of saving Kharakid civilization. Among the expedition crew is Chief Science Officer Rachel S'Jet, who is on her own personal search for her brother Jacob, who vanished on a failed expedition some years before. She is determined to find what happened to Jacob and reach the Primary Anomaly at all costs, even if it means braving hurricane-strength sandstorms or trespassing on the lands of an ancient enemy...

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A prequel to the original Homeworld series, the game is set on the titular planet of Kharak a century before the Kushan people built their first mothership.


The game contains examples of:

  • Ace Custom: Rachel S'Jet's custom Baserunner. It lacks the ability to deploy weapon turrets like the standard Baserunner but to make up for that it is able to deploy Shipbreaker Mines, hack Gaalsien vehicles to your side, fire EMP blasts, and repair other units. It is also significantly tougher and has a more powerful weapon, though it's still definitely more of a support vehicle rather than a straight-up war machine.
  • A Commander Is You:
    • The Coalition is a Balanced faction with bias towards Brute Force, relying on heavily armored units and deploy-able turrets to gain map control and take the battle to the enemies. But most of their units are also slow, meaning that the Coalition player has to fully commit their forces in order to make any significant plays. the Soban subfaction dials this up by adding copious amounts of heavy firepower to their units in the form of more railguns. Even their Carrier exchanges its standard point defense turrets for small-caliber railguns.
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    • The Gaalsien is a Spammer faction with slight Generalist attributes, employing quite a number of hard-hitting units that are also highly mobile. Some of their late-game units can be upgraded to defend itself from its counters to a level. Their production base are split up into multiple units, allowing the Gaalsien to maintain offense on multiple fronts at once. However, most of their vehicles lack armor, enforcing hit-and-run tactics.
  • All There in the Manual: Kharak is doomed either way; either desertifying completely and becoming uninhabitable, which is inevitable, or being destroyed by the Taiidan, which is what actually happens.
    • The reasons for the Sakala betraying you and forming essentially a third faction are never really explained in the game, but if you've read the clan histories about the Heresy Wars you probably saw it coming from the first time they talk to you and reveal they still believe Kiith Siidim's old biases.
    • The game has a small DLC application called the Deserts of Kharak Expedition Guide that features loads of backstory content and other small features, like a vehicle viewer and map of the expedition route. Its archives include a timeline and has extremely deep dives into the past of each of the kiithid, revealing much about the history of Kharak.
  • The Alliance: The Northern Coalition, also known as the Kiithid of the North.
  • Apocalypse Cult: The Gaalsien are this whether they realize it or not; if they get their way, all the kiith perish when the desert takes over the planet. They actually think they're the opposite of this; their religion states that the path the Coalition is on will lead to the end of the world (this is actually true), and the loss of the temperate zones means nothing to a culture already thriving in the deep desert.
  • Apocalypse How: The Kushun people suffered a Planetary Societal Collapse and Continental Species Extinction after Khar-Toba, the first city, became uninhabitable due to the intense desertification at the equator leading the survivors to migrate north to the more temperate zones. This caused them to regress back the the Feudal age and lose all record of their race's history. This will eventually upgrade to a Planetary Species Extinction as the entire planet becomes uninhabitable.
  • Archaeological Arms Race: Central premise of the game. You are leading a military expedition into hostile territory to salvage an ancient starship wreck in order to save your civilization. Standing in your way is an army that is also intent on salvaging the wrecks and stopping you in your tracks. Also, the reason the Gaalsien have more advanced military technology then the Northern Coalition is because they have already been salvaging the wrecks in the desert for some time.
  • Attack Drone: The Gaalsien LAV is unmanned, as are their Salvagers.
  • Base on Wheels: The Northern Coalition has massive carriers as their main production and resupply base, which looks visually like an aircraft carrier on tracks (and acts as one, having aerospace craft capabilities). It serves the purpose similar to Motherships in previous Homeworld games. The Gaalsien carriers, by comparison, are hovering. Which might technically make them Airborne Aircraft Carriers.
  • Big Bad: The Kiith Gaalsien will stop at nothing to ensure you never reach the anomaly, as they believe Kharak is their punishment for a history of violence and arrogance, and that they all deserve to stay on their dying world. They're not ENTIRELY wrong...
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • A small group of Railgun/Heavy Railgun will melt any non-strikecraft ground units without even being seen if they have high ground bonus and line of sight. Good placement of them can easily lock down one-third of most multiplayer maps.
    • Coalition AAV is a dead-simple tank for clearing out strikecrafts in early game. Yet its smokescreen ability is very useful for blocking firing lines of enemy weapons (especially ranged-class units), and preventing a lot of potential damage on more critical units like Salvagers or Battlecruisers.
    • Support Cruisers have amazing versatility, espcially in groups. They only get better when leveled up by being very hard to kill, able to repair even faster, armed with effective anti-air abilities, huge sensor range, and being able to harass light resistance.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Riiti, the only other non-native life form on Kharak besides the Kushan and a few strains of bacteria, while never shown, are implied in the Expedition Guide to be rats.
  • Call-Forward: Being a prequel, there are too many of these to list.
  • Canon Welding: The Expedition Guide integrates most of Cataclysm's lore additions into the backstory, including a great deal on House Somtaaw.
  • The Cavalry: The Sakala showing up at the Kalash site to save the Kapisi from the assault launched by the Ashoka.
  • The Clan: Dives more in depth into kiithid politics than the other games. Fortunately the Expedition Guide explains a lot of the backstory for each (relevant) kiith.
  • Coming in Hot: The Nothern Coalition expedition has to secure the Khashar Plateau in order to get resupplied, since it is the only natural geography within thousands of kilometers which could allow their large resupply planes to land. The Gaalsien know this and try to repel them from the area when the resupply planes are near landing. Justified in that the distances the planes had to travel are so vast and the planes themselves so large that they literally do not have the fuel in their tanks to make another go-round or make circular loiters while the forces on the ground clear the area. They either land in a combat zone or they crash.
  • The Conspiracy: According to the lore, the Daiamid know the planet is dying but have covered this up from the public. Rachel figured out on her own, and laments that she has to break her kiith's societal taboo of creating pseudo science to comply with the Daiamid's cover up.
  • Continuity Nod: One of the later missions of the game has the player fighting near the ruins of a Taiidan Carrier.
    • The Gaalsien Slaa salvager robots look like smaller versions of the resource collectors from Homeworld 2.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Once you get sufficient cruisers built/hacked and on your side, you can quickly curb stomp most anything that comes in your way, including the Sakala and the Gaalsien flagship.
  • Crapsack World: Desertification has rendered most of the planet uninhabitable, and is spreading rapidly. Water rationing is a fact of life. Furthermore all attempts to escape, reverse, halt, or even delay this is met by hostility and war from religious fanatics - or the militant scavengers that prey on them.
  • Danger Deadpan: While not to the same steely extent as the ship crews in Homeworld and Homeworld 2 (a ground war is much more frantic than one in space, after all), the vehicle crews of both the Gaalsien and Coalition forces are notably cool and professional under fire.
    Coalition battlecruiser captain: [while being bombarded with railgun fire] "Battlecruiser taking fire. Requesting support. Position marked."
  • Derelict Graveyard: Turns out Kharak is this. Several starship wrecks can be found across the kharakian deserts. This is implied to be due to the influence of the hyperspace core from the Khar-Toba, which generates a heavy amount of interference in ships capable of hyperspace travel, and sends them crashing against Kharak's surface. Considering what the Hiigaran were like before their exile, it's entirely likely that the Khar-Toba was deliberately set up to do this out of spite.
    • Worse yet, other ships were found perfectly intact underground, leading to the theory that said ships didn't crash land and instead accidentally hyper-spaced into the planet's surface, leaving the crew trapped.
  • Desert Warfare: In spades, of course.
  • Determinator: Rachel S'Jet is going to find her brother and reach the Jaraci Object no matter what. The fact that she has to cross thousands of miles of hostile desert and fight off a high-tech army of fanatics in the process does not deter her.
  • Diverting Power: Carriers have a variety of powerful subsystems, but only a limited amount of power to run them (though this can be upgraded.) The player must divide up power between reactive armor, repair facilities, missile turrets, and longer-ranged anti-armor turrets.
  • Doomed by Canon: If you played the original Homeworld, then you already know what will happen to Kharak. And, though it's become mangled in legend and religious myth, the Gaalsien also know exactly what will happen if the Kiith unite and return to space.
  • Doomed Predecessor: In one of the early missions the wreck of the first Coalition expedition is discovered, later Rachel discovers that her brother, the expedition leader, survived long just enough to reactivate a Kill Sat, but died shortly after.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: The game was originally conceived outside of the Homeworld canon as Hardware: Shipbreakers, before being retooled as Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak. However, this is a relatively downplayed example, in that it was always intended to be a Spiritual Successor to Homeworld and was made by many of the same people as the original games. It can be thought of as "Blessed By The Lawyers", fortunate that they got the rights to use the Homeworld intellectual property and make it a true prequel.
  • Easy Logistics: Like many Real-Time Strategy games, logistics issues are narrative rather than mechanical. Once resources are processed at an appropriate vehicle, they are immediately available at any production point, and there is no cap on storage of them. However, as a plot-point in the story keeping the expedition supplied is important, and one mission is focused around securing a suitable landing zone to allow areal transports to deliver more fuel and water while the Kapisi and Sakala are deep in enemy-controlled territory.
  • Fantastic Racism: Mashad uses the word 'Griitadim' to refer to the Gaalsien, which roughly translates as "sand people" (with the connotation of racial inferiority, which the Sidiim use toward any non-Sidiim). It's essentially an ancient slur, and the first clue for a player who read the backstory that their ally is not entirely righteous.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The Sakala eventually betrays you and attempts to destroy all your resupply landers. They get one, but one other makes it in intact, leaving you just enough fuel and water to reach the Khar-Toba. When next you see them, they've gone from a pitifully small fleet to having a dozen cruisers and hordes of smaller units.
  • Faction Calculus:
    • The Northern Coalition is Powerhouse, with heavily armored and armed but slow moving vehicles. Gameplay-wise they are a steamroller faction, it takes them a while to get somewhere but they will usually flatten anything in the way.
    • Gaalsien are Subversive, using large numbers of units that are fast and well armed but lack durability. Their typical unit configuration and the way their production facilities are managed encourages swarming attacks, hit-and-run operations and a tendency to avoid a head-on slugging match.
  • Foregone Conclusion: As the game serves as a prequel to the original Homeworld you know for a fact that you will successfully reach the wreck of the Khar-Toba by the end of the campaign.
  • Forever War: The backstory's "Heresy Wars" lasted some three-hundred years (520-820 KDS; the game takes place in 1110 KDS), and were largely fought between the Sidiim and Gaalsien over the reasons why the Gods had placed the Kiith on such an inhospitable planet. As it turns out, the Gaalsien were closer to the truth.
  • For Want of a Nail: The Coalition space program's history is a series of these, as detailed in the Expedition Guide.
  • Fragile Speedster: Gaalsien units are very fast and maneuverable but lack the durability and raw firepower of Coalition units.
  • Gatling Good: Coalition AAV has a giant, turreted gatling cannon as its main armament.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: While the Kiith Gaalsien play the role of main antagonist, they're motivated by a creed which looks awfully similar to the Big Bad of another game. They take the Taiidan Empire's hyperspace treaty VERY seriously, even if they don't understand all of the specifics.
  • Hufflepuff House: The expedition guide makes it clear that the southern polar region is populated and part of the Coalition, but it never comes into the story even though the northern capital is under siege. It also introduces a third faction of desert raiders which threaten both sides called the Khaaneph, but they never put in an appearance in the core game (they were added to multiplayer as DLC though).
  • Hover Tank: A Gaalsien specialty. If it hovers it's one of theirs; if it moves on wheels or treads it's a Coalition vehicle.
  • Interface Screw: When sandstorm is in effect, your tactical overlay will starts to fizzle.
  • I Will Find You: Rachel is also motivated by a desire to locate her missing brother, Jacob, who vanished in an earlier expedition to the Primary Anomaly. She finds him dead in the Taiidan carrier wreck; his Dying Moment of Awesome was triggering the Kill Sat to wipe a Gaalsien shipbreaker fleet before they can scavenge the Khar-Toba.
  • Just Before the End: Kharak is dying and the desert is growing every year, and Kharak civilization is collapsing because of it. The expedition to find the Khar-Toba is the last hope for the Kharaki to survive.
  • Kharak That Used To Be Better: Kharak used to have a lot more habitable territory and farmland, but it's clear that things are going downhill with no hope of getting better.
  • Kill Sat: Appears to be the case in 'The Transmission' trailer. It in fact exists, put there by the Taiidan and triggered by Jacob S'jet from the wreck of the Taiidan carrier, before he dies of exposure. Rachel S'jet, for the final battle, manages to get control of it and can use it against the Gaalsien flagship.
  • Lost Colony: Sort of. The inhabitants of Kharak are human, exiled there centuries ago, and slowly recovering from societal collapse following their exile. The other non-native species are bacteria and what are clearly rats.
  • Lost Technology: The objective of the game is to find the "anomaly" AKA the Khar-Toba and uncover its secrets in hopes of saving your world. Despite the fact it was what brought you here in the first place.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Gaalsian commanders wear face concealing armored masks.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Northern Coalition's playstyle. Their units are designed for slow but steady advances; they're generally not as fast or as maneuverable as Gaalsian units but deal more damage and can take more punishment before being destroyed.
  • Military Mashup Machine: Carriers are land battleship / aircraft carrier hybrids that are capable of constructing their own support force. Cruisers / Battlecruisers are more straight forward examples of land battleships, especially the Sobani variant which trades the cannons for railguns.
  • Mission from God: The Gaalsien believe that they must attack the Coalition, and that it's their destiny to reach Khar-Toba
  • Mobile Factory: The carriers for the Coalition forces. Gaalsien, however, break-up their production into a bunch of smaller more mobile factories.
  • Mythology Gag: As a nod to its original concept as Hardware: Shipbreakers, the expeditionary fleet does get involved in some shipbreaking in order to salvage technology and resources.
    • The Baserunner unit that was present since the earliest presentation of Hardware: Shipbreakers (then a utility vehicle that's implied to have originated from Earth) remain largely unaltered as a Kushan Northern Coalition unit. The LAV unit that was first shown escorting it in the Baserunner video for Hardware: Shipbreakers also remains mostly unaltered in terms of design.
  • Offscreen Villain Darkmatter: A major part of the plot; Kiith Gaalsien went from a handful of deliberately low-tech desert raiders to an overwhelming force that had leapfrogged Coalition technology in a ludicrously short amount of time, which is clearly impossible. From this the other kiith figure out pretty quickly that they must have discovered and started to salvage the unknown wrecks in the deep desert which they themselves had just found out about, which is why they send the player's fleet. These include completely intact ships lost to Teleporter Accident and a Taiidan carrier.
  • Out Grown Such Silly Superstitions: Central to the game's conflicts are between those who wish to abandon religious prohibitions on spaceflight in an attempt to escape a dying planet and those who fear breaking the prohibitions will invite wrath from the heavens to smite them all. Only unknown to those who want to shake off the religious dogma, the "superstition" is true and breaking it will bring total annihilation upon Kharak.
  • Point Defenseless: Averted by the carriers. Both faction's are heavily armed, and armored. They're quite capable of defending themselves... or even attacking. But they function as a Keystone, so using them in combat is a very risky gamble.
    • Played straighter by the support craft or special-weapon combat vehicles like artillery cruisers, which often have turrets for close-in self-defense. But those turrets are low-caliber and there are few of them. They might fend off an opportunistic strike vehicle detached from its squadron or do some modest damage to their attackers, but any determined assault will overcome them without much trouble.
  • Rags to Riches: The story of Kiith Somtaaw; originally a minor house of religious miners, they escaped much of the horrors of the Heresy Wars by being in an isolated valley that was easy to defend, and also lacked any significant resources... until their leader had a vision which lead to them discovering a massive deposit of iron ore. They promptly - and perhaps wisely - struck a deal with the unaligned Private Military Contractors of Kiith Soban; Soban would guarantee no less than one-hundred years of protection, in exchange for yearly deliveries of high-quality steel.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: The Gaalsien are the main antagonists of the game and their "canon" color scheme is black and red. Kiith Soban avert this by just being red all over and being the (negotiably, if you have enough money) good guys.
  • Retcon: While the backstory for the original games does mention some conflict with Kiith Gaalsien and other religious groups over the return to space, the running battles between them and the Coalition over the Khar-Toba, let alone the presence of other spacewrecks on Kharak are conspicuously absent from any prior sources. Additionally, the (dubiously canon) manual for Cataclysm mentions the Kushan used to hunt large, dinosaur-like creatures on Kharak, while the Expedition Guide states that the largest native life-forms are no more than knee-height to a human, which is much more realistic for a desert planet with limited biomass.
  • Saharan Shipwreck: The Khar-Toba, naturally, but there are other examples. Like a Taiidan Carrier.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Khaagan.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Gaalsien ideology is based on the old hyperspace treaty that has taken on mythical aspects over the centuries.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Averted. Most of Kharak is a desert, but there is ice on its poles and narrow temperate regions around those (this is where most of the Kushan people live.) Unfortunately, those regions are shrinking fast.
  • Sliding Scale of Video Game Objectives: You're provided primary and secondary objectives, but the real objective is to gather as many resources as you can before you finish the listed objectives, as the moment you do, you cut to the next mission. This isn't always possible, though, and sometimes losses sustained as you move about can turn it into a zero-sum game, but generally it's always worth going for max resources.
  • Spanner in the Works: Jacob S'jet. Without whom, the Coalition would never have been able to reach the primary anomaly. He prevents the Gaalsien from getting to it, and gives the Kapisi a powerful weapon to defeat the Gaalsien.
    • See also; Leykab Jaraci. Attempting to wrangle an out-of-control deep space radar satellite, his investigations of the satellite's recorders found that it had repeatedly scanned the great deserts with its radar arrays as it tumbled - and had thus discovered what would become the Jaraci Object: the buried hyperspace core of the Khar-Toba and the ancient city surrounding it.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: Strike units can out-maneuver and overwhelm ranged units, ranged units can penetrate slow moving armor units, and armor units can absorb the low-caliber weaponry of strike units. This holds up pretty well until you introduce Battle and Assault Cruisers into the mix, which, when massed and combined with Support Cruisers and anti-air units, quickly become an unstoppable juggernaut.
    • To complicate matters, Aerospace craft are (naturally) extremely weak to AA, but 'fighters' excel against other aerospace fighters and surface strikecraft, whilst bombers can inflict absolutely ruinous amounts of damage to cruisers and carriers. The Coalition even has access to what is essentially an AC-130 gunship; armed with multiple high-caliber rotary cannons, it's capable of denying an area to strikecraft for extended periods.
  • Tank Goodness: Many, many examples.
  • Teleporter Accident: One of the things the Kapisi discovers is that the hyperspace core of the Khar-Toba occasionally teleports ships into solid rock - these intact ships are what gave the Gaalsien their huge technology boost.
  • The Extremist Was Right: See Doomed by Canon above. They've got several important details entirely wrong, but Gaalsien are absolutely right about the fact that reverse-engineering the Lost Technology from the wrecked spaceships will have terrible consequences.
    • Captain Mashad says that the Sidiim were the first to recognize the Gaalsien as a threat to the Coalition, advocating for what amounted to ethnically cleansing them. The Coalition clearly declined such extreme measures, but as Mashad notes, the Gaalsien became so strong they couldn't even try if they wanted to.
  • The Faceless: The Gaalsien leadership are fond of Dune style stillsuits, full-face masks, and voice modulators.
  • Thirsty Desert: Being a mostly Desert Planet, This suits Kharak really well. The temperatures in its equator can reach the water boiling point.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Kiith Gaalsien believes that their actions are necessary to prevent Kharak's destruction and are morally justified. Anybody who has played the original Homeworld knows they are correct in this belief, though they have a few of the details wrong.
  • Zerg Rush: Sandskimmers. Sandskimmers. Sandskimmers. Usually this is what Gaalsien vs Gaalsien multiplayer matches will devolve into, due to the Gaalsien having no reliable anti-strikecraft units early on.

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