Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak will be free on the Epic Games Store later this month. The well-received 2016 prequel to 1999 real-time strategy classic Homeworld arrives ahead of Homeworld 3, due early next year after multiple delays. The (usually $50) Deserts of Kharak will be available to claim on Epic’s storefront from August 24th to 31st.
The 2016 game takes place over a century before the events of Homeworld on the desert world of Kharak. The arid planet is the once-home of the Kushan people, protagonists of the 1999 original and central figures in the series. It’s the only Homeworld installment to move the action from space to the ground as you navigate the terrain to gain the advantage over the Kiith Gaalsien. This cult-like faction believes anyone who dreams of flying to the stars deserves harsh punishment — something they’re all too happy to dole out. Its gameplay honors the series’ strategic roots while adapting to ground play’s reduced axes of movement by making elevation (navigating the desert’s plateaus and valleys) a core focus.
Snagging the game for free can give the franchise’s fans something to tide them over ahead of Homeworld 3 in February 2024 — and publisher Gearbox Software would surely love to lure some younger gamers into the nearly quarter-century-old series.
The Homeworld series has ridden an IP roller coaster since the RTS genre’s late 90s / early 00s heyday. After the first game’s critically acclaimed reception, original developer Relic Entertainment made two more (also well-received) games: an expansion and a proper sequel. However, after 2003’s Homeworld 2, THQ bought Relic and failed to produce a single Homeworld game under its ownership.
The series only got another lease on life after THQ folded and Gearbox Software won a 2013 auction to secure its rights. The Borderlands maker revived the saga with remastered versions of the classic titles. Deserts of Kharak followed soon after, and Homeworld 3 was finally announced in 2019, using a crowdfunding campaign to raise money and gauge consumer interest. After several delays, the long-awaited third installment will (hopefully) arrive next winter.
Claiming the PC game from August 24th to 31st will require an Epic Games account. During that time, you can navigate to the Deserts of Kharak store page in a browser or use the Epic Games Launcher to redeem it.