Homeworld 3: Everything we know

A squadron of fast attack ships burn towards a distant derelict in a purple nebula in Homeworld 3.
(Image credit: Blackbird Interactive)

Homeworld 3 marks the return of one of real time stategy's most celebrated series. Homeworld brought RTS games fully into three dimensions for the first time in 1999. Space wasn't just a 2D plane, space was space, with all the complex tactical maneuvering three-dimensional warfare would demand. The backdrop of those battles was just as arresting—an expanse with majesty in its emptiness.

Following its success with the earthbound Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak prequel, Blackbird Interactive is returning Homeworld 3 to the three-dimensional space strategy that earned the series its place in history. Here's everything we know about Homeworld 3.

What is Homeworld 3's release date?

Homeworld 3 is set to release on March 8, 2024, following a series of delays. Homeworld 3 originally had a release window of Q4 2022, but a tweet from Gearbox and Blackbird Interactive in June 2022 announced the game's first delay, pushing back to a tentative release window in the first half of 2023 in an effort to avoid development crunch.

A second delay announcement came in May 2023, targeting February 2024 as Homeworld 3's new launch date. "Our primary goal is to deliver a Homeworld experience that lives up to the standards set by its predecessors and is worthy of this series' incredible legacy," Blackbird said.

The final decision on release date was revealed when we spoke to the team at Blackbird Interactive about Homeworld 3.

Here's the latest Homeworld 3 gameplay trailer

This gameplay trailer from August 2023 shows off War Games, Homeworld 3's new roguelite mode that can be played solo or co-op. We're given a quick pitch on the repeatable War Games progression loop, set against clips of Homeworld 3's three-dimensional fleet actions.

What other Homeworld 3 footage is there?

There's the announcement trailer for Homeworld 3, which we first saw in 2019. In it, scouting ships that look to be from our primary faction, the Hiigarans, make their way through the massive hyperspace gate discovered and activated at the end of Homeworld 2. We also get a brief flash of our homegirl Karan S'jet. 

This Homeworld 3 gameplay first look trailer is peak scifi goodness. The trailer's narrator is Karan S'jet, the main character from original Homeworld games and the voice of The Mothership and Fleet Command, who's become a kind of undying posthuman thanks to her connection to the mothership's hyperspace core.

This short Gamescom 2022 gameplay trailer showcases some of the tactical decision-making options available during Homeworld 3's real-time space navy engagements. You can shield your ships from enemy fire by maneuvering them behind space debris, or move them without being detected by enemy radar sweeps by sending them through tunnels in the drifting space hulks. And, in Homeworld fashion, you can capture once-enemy vessels as prizes for yourself.

Homeworld 3 will have a new co-op roguelite War Games mode

Homeworld 3 is adding a new War Games roguelite game mode that can be played solo, or in co-op as a team of three co-commanders. A War Games run will consist of a string of short missions with single objectives, culminating in a boss battle against a capital ship. Each player begins with a premade fleet, which they'll reinforce as they build ships and unlock power-ups with each completed mission. War Games is designed with shorter play sessions in mind, with failed and successful runs both earning experience toward persistent fleet unlocks for your next attempt. For more details, check out our hands-on Homeworld 3 War Games preview.

What else is new in Homeworld 3? What's coming back?

In Homeworld 3, a ship emerges from a derelict's circular opening into an asteroid field, colored orange by the system's distant visible star.

(Image credit: Blackbird Interactive)

We can identify some new twists on the Homeworld formula from gameplay trailers.  One big one: Some environments look almost low-atmospheric, with large non-ship objects showing up. That's new, as asteroids in the old Homeworld were rarely so large as what we see in the first gameplay trailer, and no battles took place so close to a planet you could make out geographic features like mountains. 

Lots of the battles in the gameplay trailer also happen among massive spaceborne megaliths, made by the mysterious Progenitors, that previously only formed very rudimentary terrain in Homeworld games. They now look a lot more interactive, as fighters sweep down trenches for cover. The official Homeworld site says that these structures will "bring 3D terrain into the classic Homeworld battlespace" and that they can be used to hide your fleet for ambushes against enemies. There will also be dangerous terrain, like asteroid fields and particle storms, that can harm ships.

What's back? At the very least strike craft, frigates, and cruisers are returning, but it's hard to tell if corvettes and destroyers made the cut. Larger ships also make an appearance in the trailer, with the very distinct silhouette of a Kharak-inspired Hiigaran carrier showing up at one point, and the game description mentioning "hulking battlecruisers." 

A ship very much like the classic Taiidan missile destroyer and ion frigate show up in the gameplay trailer, too. But these models are so far beyond those of 1999 and 2003 that while there's clearly inspiration going on, drawing a direct parallel is impossible. Just know that I spotted projectile weapons, missiles, and ion cannons, so your favorite Homeworld weapon is probably back in some form.

Otherwise, Blackbird Interactive seems pretty devoted to the original vision for Homeworld. Expect to gather resource units from asteroids, maneuver a big fleet, and hyperspace jump your nastiest ships right on top of an opponent's mothership for the win.

So what's the story of Homeworld 3?

An assembled fleet of different classes of combat vessels, gathered in a planet's upper atmosphere in Homeworld 3.

(Image credit: Blackbird Interactive)

After Homeworld 2, the galaxy entered what was called the "age of S'jet," as Karan's clan used the newly-opened hyperspace gate network to usher in an age of prosperity. We don't know anything about what will happen in Homeworld 3 other than that a lot of time has passed.

Here's the official description: "Cycles of plenty and war have come and gone. Now the Hyperspace Gate Network is catastrophically failing and Karan, who has passed into myth and religious idolatry, is the key to the mystery threatening a galaxy’s future."

So that's what's up, at least: The now nigh-immortal Karan S'jet might well be the last person who remembers the distant past, and as the gameplay trailer narration hints, that memory might well be the key to saving the future.

Blackbird has also been clear that like the original games and Deserts of Kharak, Homeworld 3 will have a deep, compelling single player story. After how good Deserts of Kharak was, it'll probably be a real treat.

Homeworld 3's terrain will be a big part of combat

Wes Fenlon went to talk to Blackbird Interactive in Vancouver about Homeworld 3 for the PC Gaming Show: Most Wanted. While he was there, co-founder Rob Cunningham had some big insights into Homeworld 3's scale, and how it was originally the then-impossible vision for Homeworld 2: "The problem was, in the late '90s, early 2000s, the vision for Homeworld 3 was utterly impossible to make," he said. "We couldn't do massive environments with these megaliths, so we had to wait 20 years." 

"The problem was the space: there was just so much space," Cunningham remembered of the original game. "There was nothing in there that affected your decision making as a player. We had some asteroids, but that was it. We did our best to make it strategically interesting, but there was really no other decision making happening in the game space, unlike every other strategy game that has terrain with bottlenecks, chokepoints. Immediately we started thinking, 'what can we do about putting terrain in space?'

You can see examples of the seriously gargantuan terrain and hear more about the thought behind the design yourself in Wes's discussions with Blackbird Interactive about Homeworld 3.

Good news: the soundtrack will slap

Original Homeworld composer Paul Ruskay returns for at least some of the music, and the previews signal that his newest work is as good as ever. For the curious, Gearbox has released a 20-minute mini documentary about the series use of the Adagio for Strings. 

"No one's left. Everything is gone. Kharak is burning."

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.