The best thing about Homeworld 3 is how well it runs on a PC with its 6-year-old recommended specs

Homeworld 3 space battle
(Image credit: Gearbox Publishing)

Homeworld 3 has spent many years in development but at long last, the third game in the 3D RTS series is now available. As with all such games in this genre, pitching dozens of spacecraft against each other—with missiles and laser beams everywhere—can get pretty demanding on your PC hardware, especially on your CPU. So it makes a pleasant change to a new game that runs quite happily on low-spec components, even ones that are six years old.

Doing a full performance analysis of a game isn't easy. Well, it isn't, but also is. Let me explain. To check out how Homeworld 3 ran on a gaming PC involved doing four or five runs of the built-in benchmark and the same again for the game's single-player mode and multiplayer maps. That gets repeated for the three primary gaming resolutions (1080p, 1440p, and 4K), along with all of the quality presets.

It's very time-consuming but easy enough to do. What's hard is that all that data represents just that particular gaming PC configuration and there are thousands upon thousands of different systems that can run Homeworld 3. It's impossible to do them all but even just doing a tiny sample of them is hard enough, as you need a sensible range of CPUs and graphics cards, with the right motherboards and RAM kits too.

However, I was determined to get at least one machine tested that was near the bottom end of Homeworld 3's system requirements. I didn't have any hardware that was in the Minimum section, but I had a Core i5 9600K and a Radeon RX 5700 XT—an almost perfect match to developers Blackbird Interactive's 'recommended' specs.

That central processor was first launched in October 2018, so it's nearly six years old. To be honest, it's older than that because just like the current 14th Gen Core chips are carbon copies of 13th Gen ones, Intel's 9th Gen processors were just a refresh of the 8th Gen Coffee Lake chips. And some of those are over six years old.

I didn't expect a six-core CPU, with no multithreading support whatsoever, to cope in a modern 3D RTS.

I didn't expect a six-core CPU, with no multithreading support whatsoever, to cope in a modern 3D RTS but to my pleasant surprise, it's pretty good. Okay, we're only talking 45 fps on average in a very busy 1080p multiplayer match at Low settings, and the minimum/1% low figures aren't stunning at 25 fps, but 1440p Medium quality isn't much slower. Even 4K Epic quality is playable, which is the biggest surprise of all.

The built-in benchmark figures are better still, though the single-player maps typically perform somewhere in between the results achieved in the multiplayer tests and the benchmark runs.

Why the little chip copes so well is down to several factors. Firstly, throughout the multiplayer tests, the i5 9600K runs comfortably at its maximum clock speed of 4.6 GHz, as it never reached its thermal and power limits (how times have changed). Secondly, despite only having support for six threads, peak core utilization is never more than 94% for any one core and the overall CPU usage averaged 74% at 1080p.

Then there's the fact that Homeworld 3 works in such a way that core count matters less than core speed. In a conversation I had with Blackbird Interactive about the system requirements, it said:

"In terms of the way Homeworld 3 interacts with players' CPUs, we’ve found during development that core count doesn’t matter nearly as much as core speed. Six cores are the expected minimum, as the game routinely uses four fully. Essentially, more cores won’t necessarily translate to better performance."

I also suspect that the use of Unreal Engine 4, the software package used to develop the game, also plays a role.

Your next upgrade

Nvidia RTX 4070 and RTX 3080 Founders Edition graphics cards

(Image credit: Future)

Best CPU for gaming: The top chips from Intel and AMD.
Best gaming motherboard: The right boards.
Best graphics card: Your perfect pixel-pusher awaits.
Best SSD for gaming: Get into the game ahead of the rest.

It first launched in 2014 and the last update to it (v4.27) was in August 2021, so Blackbird Interactive had a consistent platform with which to fine-tune its game over the past few years. UE4 is also best suited to hardware that's a few generations old, which is precisely what the i5 9600K is.

Lastly, Homeworld 3 is an RTS game set in space, so ultra-high frame rates aren't expected, and the ship physics aren't Kerbal-level nor is there a vast open world to simulate and manage. That all means the CPU workload was easier to streamline and optimise. 

Whatever the full reason behind it all, I'm just happy to see a new game that doesn't require a wildly expensive gaming PC to run it. Homeworld 3 might not be your cup of tea, but Blackbird Interactive deserves praise for ensuring that it's accessible to as many players as possible.

Nick Evanson
Hardware Writer

Nick, gaming, and computers all first met in 1981, with the love affair starting on a Sinclair ZX81 in kit form and a book on ZX Basic. He ended up becoming a physics and IT teacher, but by the late 1990s decided it was time to cut his teeth writing for a long defunct UK tech site. He went on to do the same at Madonion, helping to write the help files for 3DMark and PCMark. After a short stint working at, Nick joined Futuremark (MadOnion rebranded) full-time, as editor-in-chief for its gaming and hardware section, YouGamers. After the site shutdown, he became an engineering and computing lecturer for many years, but missed the writing bug. Cue four years at and over 100 long articles on anything and everything. He freely admits to being far too obsessed with GPUs and open world grindy RPGs, but who isn't these days?