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For regular strategy gamers this creates a bit of a problem: there aren't any obstacles, choke points, high ground or fortifications of any kind to hide behind or use to their advantage. To play Homeworld you have to unlearn a lot from what you've picked up from ground based strategy games. Most of the elements are still there: rather than build structures like factories or smithies you're building Carriers and support vessels instead.
There are two opposing forces, the Kushan and the Taiidan. Apart from looks, both have pretty much the same line up of shipping barring a few unique vessels with special abilities to liven things up. To cut a long story short, the Kushan discover their lost history and find they have been exiled on the desolate planet Kharak. They rally the clans and build a large Mothership to truck the population across the galaxy to reclaim their ancestral Homeworld, Hiigara. Unfortunately, the tyrannical Taiidan empire, now occupying the old homestead, has other plans: mainly on blasting the Kushans clean off the ecliptic. The single player campaigns are absolutely identical for each side - but this is one of the best single player campaigns I've seen for an RTS. Atmospheric, logical, and possessing a beautiful sense of progression. As you travel from the dark outskirts of the galaxy to galactic central, the skies become more luminous, the Taiidan become more threatening and you meet other groups, like the religious Kadeshi and the Turanic Raiders that give you clues to your distant past and give the story a lot of its colour.
Since every unit is a spaceship and all of them perform in the same theatre - space - the usual paper- scissor- rock trumping doesn't apply: everything can damage everything else. Distinguishing features boil down to size, manoeuvrability and the distribution of firepower. There are several ship classes: light, manoeuvrable Strikecraft,heavier and less agile Corvettes, heavy and slow Capital Ships, and the ponderous Super Capital Ships. Formations of Strikecraft can avoid the lumbering turrets of larger ships and cause damage, but are outgunned by Corvettes. Corvettes hammer Strikecraft but are in turn vulnerable to Capital Ships. Capital ships are the backbone of your fleet and subject your opponents to awesome amounts of force.
Homeworld is about formations, getting the right units to the right place at the right time and navigating around the game map effectively - without getting lost or confused along the way! You point your ships to where they're supposed to go and they do all the work, flying in nifty formations and executing very cool manoeuvres. You can record multiplayer games and get some pretty stunning replays.
But there's more to it than just guns: servicing your fleet is essential. Strikecraft and Corvettes will run out of fuel without regular servicing or docking; repairing your damaged capital ships is far preferable than letting them die and anxiously waiting for reinforcements to crawl across the map again. Stealing enemy vessels is another strategic element - you can run off with your enemy's prized motors with Salvage Corvettes and add their firepower to your own, or recycle them for fresh resources! Oddly enough, space in Homeworld has a Fog of War, so reconnaissance is vital. Some of the more advanced and esoteric units can cloak or cloak other vessels, so maintaining sensor coverage can become decisive. There's only one resource in Homeworld called, funnily enough, a Resource Unit. You need a good supply of RU's to build new ships, so harvesting them from asteroids and dust clouds, recycling old ships or ripping off enemy vessels all are vital aspects of Homeworld strategy.What gives this game its unique feel is the glorious way it uses empty space. It really feels big. Whereas many games desperate for your attention assault you with a barrage of special effects, screen overlays and noisy action, Homeworld's clean views and free wheeling camera convey a tremendous sense of scale and distance.
Homeworld takes full advantage of a good 3D graphics card, although it looks pretty lo-res compared to what's doing the rounds these days, especially its graphically intense sequel. It invokes a fabulous sense of grandeur and has some wonderfully sublime ambient music. With the unlimited movement, fine detailing and some extraordinary perspectives it makes for a pretty spectacular experience. Back in 1999, this meant it hammered average PC pretty hard, but you won't have any problems running it these days at some ridiculous resolution with all its bells and whistles cranked up to full, even on on a typical PC - unless your computer harks back to that bygone age. Its one of the few games around where in the in-game graphics frequently outdoes the promotional art for it, matched only by its gorgeous sequel. There's a number of Homeworld fan sites that specialise in nothing more than downloadable screen shots.
Homeworld boasts a relatively small and civilised gaming community, but an enthusiastic one nonetheless, judging by the number of custom mods that have appeared. Homeworld clans are usually referred to as Armadas. If you want to check out all those spiffy ships in the game (including all the extra races and units you encounter in the single player game and everything else in the Cataclysm sequel), there's a detailed encyclopedia to be found at the Homeworld Shipyards.
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© 1999, 2000, Sierra On-Line, Inc. All rights reserved. Homeworld is a registered trademark and Cataclysm, Sierra, and Sierra are trademarks of Sierra On-Line, Inc.
Finally returned to Hiigara, Tue, Apr 24 2007 by
Additional Mac/LINUX repolish Sun, May 25, 2008.