Homeseek Review

Homeseek: A brutal post-apocalyptic strategy game

Colony survival games are alive and well, and the genre has seen many new contenders bringing new concepts and ideas to fans. One of these titles that we have been watching for a while is Homeseek, a post-apocalyptic city-builder strategy game set in a brutal desert theme. Fortunately for us, the folks at Traptics were kind enough to send us a review copy before the game was released so we could take a look for ourselves.

Though it’s clear the developers took great inspiration from titles like Frostpunk, how Homeseek changes the colony-sim formula is likely to be what sets it apart from the many upcoming entries in the genre. Does it have enough personality to stand on its own? What does it do well, and where does it fall short? What kind of player will most enjoy this title? All of these questions and much more will be covered in this review.

Story and concept

The Beginning Cutscenes of Homeseek

The story of Homeseek is pretty straightforward. You lead a group of survivors emerging from what we assume is a nuclear bunker after an apocalyptic event. The story follows these survivors traveling across the barren surface, searching for a new home. Who exactly are these survivors, the details of their bunker, and what actually happened to the world at large aren’t really explained in any detail.

Though an overarching narrative does come into shape as the player progresses through the story mode, it mostly just serves to motivate the player towards goals and progress the gameplay.

A Photo Board Collage of the World Before the Apocalypse

The story of Homeseek is always focused on the big picture, so individual characters, emotional elements, and similar story pieces are markedly absent. While these elements aren’t necessary for a good colony sim, the game’s emphasis on hard choices falls a little flat when the player has no attachment to the people they are sacrificing.

Starting Screen and Tutorial

This title’s story is admittedly a bit lackluster, but that doesn’t mean the game suffers from poor writing. Homeseek relies on transmission messages and text blurbs to inform the player of what their expeditions are doing and to describe events as they happen. The writing for these sections is descriptive and immersive and can both help set the scene and pull the reader into the larger world.


Homeseek's Opening Level Cinematic

The graphics of Homeseek are a bit of a mixed bag. This isn’t to say that some graphics are good and some are bad. It’s more like there is an odd combination of different graphical styles (each great on its own) that don’t always mesh properly.

For example, the maps for each settlement zone are detailed, stylish, and beautiful in their own way. However, seeing the much less detailed and more pixelated citizen models moving around on it during cinematic sequences feels like watching a puppet show in front of a backdrop.

Story Event Artwork

In terms of art, Homeseek does a great job of meshing stylistic abstract and realism. The UI design is where the unique style of the game is most apparent, and we love the rusty mechanical look of the toolbars, resource meters, and map elements.

As we mentioned, the devs were clearly inspired by Frostpunk when they crafted this game but managed to make the style enough of their own to be something original. Additionally, the art that comes with each event or scavenging location is gorgeously painted in a bleak abstract that really sells the atmosphere, even if that art is heavily reused.

3 Settlers Staring at a Destroyed Settlement in Homeseek

With all that in mind, it’s important to understand that this title is a bit scarce visually. Players will spend most of their time staring at their colony, which won’t be especially impressive. Buildings of a type are always identical and have a single looping animation if they move at all. Citizen models lack animations aside from walking, so there’s never that interest to zoom in and see what “Jack Random” is doing at any given time. Combined with the lack of distinguishing characters, these factors make the visuals a bit boring most of the time.

Sound and atmosphere

Overhead View of a Settlement on the Shore

The music for Homeseek is composed of moody, ambient tracks that suit the game’s theme especially well. Though lacking the heavier metal elements of similar media like Mad Max or the dramatic orchestral twists of Frostpunk, Homeseek’s soundtrack is a good, functional mix that keeps the player on task, is pleasant to listen to, and changes enough not to become repetitive.

Sound effects are reserved mostly for in-colony interactions. Placing buildings is weighty and satisfying. Buildings have different ambient noises when you inspect them, and the time of day and weather may also change the soundscape slightly. While all of the sound effects in this title are top-notch, some of them go on for a bit longer than necessary.

Staring Into a Dangerous Landscape in Homeseek

Two examples that stuck with us were the pause sound and the ambient noises from the expedition center. Each time the player pauses (which is pretty often typically), a mechanical ticking sound plays for around a full 5 seconds afterward. These overlapping ticking sounds can quickly become maddening when pausing and unpausing regularly. On a less impactful note, the constant hissing and electrical noises that play when constructing expeditions can also become annoying.


Overhead View of a Colony

We have a lot of mixed opinions on the gameplay of Homeseek, but to begin with, it’s best to think of this title as a strategy game rather than a colony sim.

The game’s main goal is to keep your colony alive long enough to reach the end criteria of each level. To do this, you must balance 3 resources:

  1. Food
  2. Water
  3. Scrap

Food and water keep your citizens alive and healthy, while scrap is used to build stuff and fulfill event requirements. For the most part, this is pretty standard fare for colony sims, but Homeseek focuses less on building up your colony and more on balancing your costs and production.

When the player first begins the story mode, they start with very few blueprints to choose from and are tasked with striking out to find new technology necessary for survival. To do this, the player must send expeditions, groups that require additional resources while they travel. These first few levels are the most difficult and the most tense, requiring careful management and lots of trial and error to make it through.

Trial and error is really the name of the game. The goal of each level is to survive just long enough to abandon your current colony (unsustainable for one reason or another) and move on to another to try again, bringing your technology and adaptations with you.

Homeseek's Story Event Artwork

This system can be a bit limiting in terms of player interaction, but it is also very effective at first, with each discovery feeling like a vital addition, earning you the ability to treat wounds or purify water. Unfortunately, the game fails to maintain this sense of adaptation and advancement, likely due to the small research tree and the repetitive nature of buildings.

Once players understand the basics and have the necessary blueprints to manage needs, expeditions start to feel more like checkboxes and chores than actual exploration. Events that crop up during these expeditions always have choices for the player to resolve. Most of these choices center on spending resources to save time or health, so it’s another matter of balancing.

That being said, some choices can earn you additional resources, but there is rarely a reason to risk your citizens to do so. This is mostly due to expeditions’ small carrying capacity, as they will never be able to bring back more than a couple of days worth of resources for the six party members, which obviously won’t keep your 40 other citizens fed or hydrated at all.

Additionally, many choices have completely unpredictable outcomes or outcomes in which the player’s choice makes no difference. Several times, we spent resources to quell unrest only to find the same outcome as when we chose to cut rations instead, even down to the same writing. This, combined with the lack of emotional involvement from the player, made what should be the most pivotal parts of the game feel like distractions.

An Overhead View of the Colony

Unfortunately, we also felt the difficulty of the game was pretty inconsistent. For as much as the game sells itself as especially brutal, we found the game becoming exponentially easier as we went along. By the end of the first half, we were leaving each “failed” colony behind with full resource storages and many unemployed citizens who simply had nothing to build, research, or harvest.

The gameplay of Homeseek is enjoyable, don’t get us wrong, and we spent lots of time building up each colony’s location. However, we couldn’t help but feel that a lot was missing.

  • Citizens’ movement speed is important, but there is no way to speed it up or direct it.
  • Pipe placement is vital, but there are no markers for entrance and exit points.
  • Research is fast, but there is very little to research.
  • Happiness is a vital component but can only be interacted with during events.

Once the player understands the game’s formula, it’s just about applying it to the current location.

Replay value

Homeseek's Multiplayer Screen

Homeseek has a lot of potential for replay value, but as a finished game, we don’t feel that much of it was capitalized on. Players aren’t likely to return to rehear the story, but the different ways the story mode can be approached might still draw some players back.

Each level can be attempted at different skill levels or in an endless survival mode. Additionally, the players can play through the entire story in one go, carrying the exact technology and resources from one colony to the next.

There is also a multiplayer mode that pits players against one another in a battle of wits and survival. Though we haven’t spent too much time in multiplayer ourselves, we can say it’s enjoyable enough to be worth playing with friends.

Final thoughts on Homeseek

Final Thoughts on Homeseek

Homeseek is one of those games we spent a lot of time considering how to describe. On the one hand, it’s an enjoyable and entertaining survival game with a solid management system and an interesting setting. On the other hand, it feels a bit unfinished and redundant, and we wish it had spent a bit more time in the oven.

It’s safe to say that survival strategy gamers are likely to find a great game in Homeseek, and it offers a fun and worthwhile experience to the right audience. Where it fails at being a colony sim, Homeseek excels at creating an enjoyable atmosphere and forging its own path in terms of mechanics.

Aaron Van Dyck's avatar

About Aaron Van Dyck

Aaron Van Dyck is a thriller novelist with a passion for survival games and exploration. He started writing at the age of 13 and has always been drawn to the sense of self-reliance and freedom found in open worlds. An avid urban explorer and RPG enthusiast, he enjoys dungeon crawling and has a particular love for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Far Cry 5, and Cataclysm: DDA. He's also a fan of shooters and action games with immersive stories and unique monsters to encounter.

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