Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak will revive the franchise in January

2016 is going to start with a bang for Homeworld fans: Blackbird Interactive announced Tuesday that Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak will reactivate the long-dormant RTS franchise on Steam on January 20. The game, a prequel to the original series, will be the first Homeworld released since 2003.

In Deserts of Kharak, players control a science expedition led by Rachel S’jet across the dying planet and “deep behind enemy lines” to chase down an anomaly that could alter the fate of humanity. The narrative will tie directly to the events of the original Homeworld series.

Though it always appeared to be a spiritual successor of sorts to the Homeworld franchise, Deserts of Kharak did not bear the series name, initially. When Blackbird Interactive first announced the game in January, 2013, it was called Hardware: Shipbreaker. Though Hardware looked very similar to Homeworld on paper and the Blackbird team includes former developers from Homeworld studio Relic Entertainment–a fact normally highlighted as a mark of pedigree–the studio initially attempted to distance itself from the franchise.

“In terms of DNA, in the same way parents’ DNA is in their children, you can say Homeworld shares DNA with Hardware in as much as it has similar parents,” Blackbird CEO Rob Cunningham told Rock, Paper, Shotgun, in Janaury 2013. “But that’s where the similarities end.”

That charade wasn’t meant to last, though. Later that year Blackbird negotiated with Gearbox Interactive, who had recently acquired the rights to the Homeworld franchise, to bring the game under the umbrella of the brand. In 2015, the studio seems pretty excited about about it.

“When we signed this project in front of the crowd at the 2013 PAX Dev,” Cunningham said in a press release Wednesday, “Randy [Pitchford] spoke about Gearbox’s commitment to quality entertainment and taking risks, and they have fully delivered on that message.”