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Homeworld: Cataclysm

by Sephiroth.

First off, I would just like to thank the Head 2 Head team for having me on board, and I hope I can help the group with my knowledge and opinions of PC gaming.

Sierra is back again this year with another episode in the Homeworld universe, Homeworld: Cataclysm. If you are an RTS fan and haven't heard of Homeworld, I HIGHLY recommend you pick up this title as well as the original game to fully understand the storyline. As Sierra has stated on their webpage, Cataclysm is neither an add-on nor a sequel to Homeworld, but simply another chapter in the game.

If you aren't sure when Cataclysm takes place or what's going on with the plot, here is a quick overview of it... The game begins roughly 15 years after the events of the original game and the remnants of the Imperialist Taiidani and their Turanic Raider allies have been growing in strength and harrying the Homeworlders (also known as "Hiigarians" in the game, named after their home planet, Hiigara).

Just to throw some numbers at you: Cataclysm consists of 17 new single player missions, 18 new ship designs, 25 new technologies, and approximately 459 hrs of action-packed-glued-to-your-monitor fun! New Features you ask? A refined interface, customizable fleet colors, fog of war, time-acceleration, a waypoint system and hyperspace slipgates-a real slew of some new additions!

Ok, now that we have all the basics covered, lets get our hands dirty and look at this game from the inside out!

I don't have the best video card around (TNT2Ultra) but I sure as hell know good graphics when I see them. I really thought the designs of the ships this time around were a lot nicer than last years. The texture mapping is amazing and just the way the ships move and turn is fantastic; especially your main ship, the command ship, when it moves you really get a sense of its size and power as opposed to the smaller ships like the Acolyte. I've always been a fan of space related games, and Cataclysm is one of those games where I just want to pause the game every level and just rotate the camera and just observe the environments for hours and hours. It's simply breathtaking. Vibrant colors like orange or purple stand out and in some cases overshadow the action taking place. Sometimes while playing I would tell myself, "Oh no! They blew up my Dreadnought….oh, but look at those stars in the background, and those meteorites falling." *sigh*

Lots of new effects are also implemented in Cataclysm. Effects such as shockwave explosions (see screenshot below), holographic projection effects, polygonal accurate collisions, shielding effects, repairing effects, lens flares and dynamic Gouraud shading. So as you can see, there are plenty of mind-blowing graphics in this game that can satisfy anyone with a high-end video card. And truthfully, this game still runs well on lower end cards like a TNT 2 ultra…it's no GeForce, but it goes the show how resource friendly the game is. One thing I wish they had done with Cataclysm is to make the cut-scenes in FMV (Full MotionVideo) instead of using the in game graphics, but either way, it still looks damn good.

The one thing that really drew my attention to Homeworld was the music. In the original game all I wanted to do was listen to the very soothing church-like music that was being played. In Cataclysm, Paul Ruskay (the musician behind Homeworld) has created a totally new soundtrack for the game, which is a lot darker and more gothic than the original; yet it still kicks serious ass! As far as the sound goes in the game, it's nothing less than spectacular. During a heavy battle scene, the sound of the ships and the shooting is much like watching Star Wars; however, it could get annoying for some people and I'm glad they have the pseudo-realistic feature where if you zoom out of the dog-fighting, the sound diminishes as well.

In my opinion, graphics and gameplay go hand in hand. It's really not fun having great graphics but having crappy gameplay, it just turns me and probably most people right off. If you haven't played Homeworld before and are planning on playing Cataclysm, I suggest you direct yourself towards the training before you even start playing. This is not your ordinary move-your-mouse-and-click game. Most of the time in Cataclysm you'll be looking at your keyboard than the screen because there are TONS of options that can be used with the keyboard. And believe it or not, it's a lot faster with your keyboard than your mouse. You could choose to use your mouse but it gets annoying very quickly when you have to right click and bring up the menu to do simple commands like move. That's probably my only beef with the gameplay. With games like Starcraft, Earth2150 and the C&C; series, I've become used to having my mouse as the primary source for controlling theme, and its difficult for me to switch to the keyboard for all the commands. I played through the training missions twice and am slowly getting used to the commands, but it's still difficult.

I was really hoping that there would be the ability to build other ships that could create its own type of fighters. In other RTS game's like Starcraft or C&C; series, you could build different buildings to do different things; but in Cataclysm, you have one main ship, the command ship, and all the building and researching is done from that single ship. It's not a big deal but it certainly would've been a nice touch to have different 'ship bases'.

I don't know about you, but I will be playing this game for quite some time until another space RTS similar to this comes out. I just love the environments, the colors, and the ships in this game. It's really smooth on my computer too, which is a bonus. With Earth2150, there was tons of choppiness and slowdowns happening when lots of action was taking place or playing multiplayer over a network, but not with Cataclysm. Skirmish is always a lovely option to have when you're bored and want to practise. As far as originality goes, there isn't much difference between Cataclysm and the original Homeworld with the exception of prettier graphics, better texture mapped ships, additional gameplay features, and a lot more attention to detail. Basically its Homeworld with a cherry on top, now that ain't bad, is it? Since Cataclysm isn't an add-on or a sequel, it definitely does serve those who crave for more space RTS action. So overall, it's a nice step in the series and I hope Sierra continues to develop new ideas and features for Homeworld in the future because it IS one of the most impressive and innovative RTS games around.


FINAL MARK

Lots of jaw-dropping environments to feast your eyes on

The Single player missions are a bit tedious at first, but they develop to be real interesting further into the game

Powerful new ships that would put the Death Star to shame =)

87%

 

Umm..yeah, that's pretty big. The space coloring effects are as nice as ever too.

 

As mentioned, the explosion effects are just sweet now. No doubt about it.

 
...setting off into the depths of space...