I had fond memories of Homeworld 2 from my childhood. Mostly along the lines of “it was pretty,” but fond nonetheless. (I must’ve not played the campaign then…) The remastered edition lived up to my expectations regarding the visuals. The various colorful areas of space with occasional clouds of dust and massive runs of massive things, with my massive (though tiny in comparison) Mothership cruising comfortably are a rich source of pretty screenshots.

But let’s be honest: Homeworld 2 is a brutal game. I hardly get to enjoy the pretty scenery from the “normal” view because the viewframe is tiny so controlling the fleet is basically impossible. It’s hard enough to control them as is from the “sensor” view. The regular bugs of keyboard control (like space to switch to “sensor” view or shift to “shift” ship course plans out of the “plane of elliptic”) suddenly deciding not to function anymore don’t make it any easier. Even in the tutorial multiple times it tells you things that just don’t work (probably bugs), such as “click OK to continue” then having no “OK” button on the screen.

And if that wasn’t enough, the difficulty is just frustrating. The campaign maps require a very specific way and a very specific fleet to “solve” them. Get something wrong, you’re screwed—and possibly screwed in a long and painful way because you don’t realize you’ve been building the wrong fleet until the enemy suddenly spawns an army at you out of nothing. I don’t even know how many times I had to retry Derelicts when I once finally cleared it—with only my carriers and a few frigates surviving at all. I’m not sure I’ll be interested (or patient) enough to struggle my way through the ridiculous spawn waves of Counter Attack (quite apparently disregarding any map resource limitations). And that’s not even half way through the campaign.

On the positive side, you can live out all your tactician habits in this game. There are formations with their strengths and weaknesses, many different classes of ships and all kinds of “terrain” to work (or hide) around. Except the enemy won’t care—they’ll cruise through fields of radiation that shred your fleet in seconds without issue (probably because they’re “shielded”). They’ll always come straight at you (preferably from all directions at once) without any probes telling them where you are. And then your space key will stop working to make things more fun.

I really tried to like Homeworld 2. I really did. But “it’s pretty” is simply not enough to out-balance how extremely frustrating and buggy it is.