After Relic’s rather bizarre and mediocre strategy release Impossible Creatures, they are back on the RTS scene with the sequel to their smash hit Homeworld. The plight of Hiigara continues in the sequel after a long journey back to their homeworld. After resettling and expanding their empire they are now under threat once again. Enter the Vaygr, a nomadic and unruly race intent on enslaving anyone they meet and taking their technology for their own needs. Not content with their conventional drive systems the Vaygr are on the hunt for the Three Cores which are the key to Hyperspace, a speed of travel enjoyed by the Hiigara and Bentusi. With one Core already secured the Vaygr press on towards Hiigara in search for the remaining two cores.As the story suggests Hiigara is once again under attack, this time from the Vaygr and it’s here the game kicks off as you again take control of a mother ship and escape the destruction and avoid the Vaygr. One thing that’s always been an attraction of the original Homeworld was the story and the way in which it was presented, it was compelling and easily drew you into the game. While the story in this sequel is a little predictable, it does have the same compelling draw as the first game which didn’t fail to get you involved right from the start. Relic have used the same black and white art drawing to reveal the story.Homeworld 2 isn’t a massive leap in the genre’s development, the game appears pretty much as the first, the control system, the hotkeys, the map screen, it’s all going to be like riding a bike to fans of the first game. Despite the similarities there are improvements to the sequel. The research/build interface is a lot slicker and easier to use which is great news for virgins to the Homeworld universe. The interface is on the right of the screen with numerous tabs which can be clicked depending on what research you wish to carry out or which class of ship you wish to construct. As you can build ships and carry out research on other larger ships, you can use a drop-down tab to select which ship you wish to carry out the build order. It’s all nice and simple.The game is story driven and each mission flows into the next via the cutscenes and there’s 15 to work your way through in total. They are tough, even early on you’re challenged with the Vaygr throwing just about everything at you so there’s plenty of gameplay packed into this sequel. Expect many a late night battling through the missions.I mentioned the controls briefly and Relic haven’t had to change much as far as unit control is concerned, the system that worked so well in the first game has been carried over. There’s the standard i3D in-game view and then there’s the map screen which allows you to direct your ships over long distances and through the X, Y and Z axis of space, something you would think would be pretty hard to implement but is as easy as pie in Homeworld thanks to the use of map rotation, mouse control and hotkeys.Resource collection is identical to the original game, build a collector and send it out to collect RUs from the asteroids. With nothing to hide behind, resource collection can be a dangerous business and the AI has a nasty habit of heading towards the collectors once they are discovered. Protecting the resources is a tough job but vital to your success, without resources you can forget about building your fleet of ships or researching new technologies to make your fleet more efficient in battle.The upgrade system seems pretty complex to start, just about every ship can be upgraded to perform better whether it be speed or firepower. Players also need to research new modules for their larger ships so they can build new types of defenses or ships. At a glance things seem a little confusing but after a couple of missions it all makes sense and you quickly find out what’s worth the cash to research.We’ve talked about similarities but there are new features and probably the most notable affects the smaller ships such as fighters or bombers. Micromagement is no longer a problem, when you build these smaller ships they now appear as groups or squadrons. Click to build a fighter and you get more than one which means building your fleet and creating offensive/defensive small ships in numbers is now quick and easy. Formations also work differently, they are now a*igned depending on whether you set a group to be defensive of aggressive, you can’t set groups into an X formation for example as you did in the original, the formation is automatically decided by the tactical setting. While some may see this as a step backwards, it hasn’t hampered the gameplay.As it’s been a few years since the first game was released things have progressed in the graphics department. Homeworld 2 has the same wow factor of the first game with some great detail. You’d expect space to be a fairly bleak place but Relic have once again given the game atmosphere with planets and coloured gas clouds to add extra eyecandy. The most notable difference is the detail on the ships themselves, they look fantastic and now you can actually target individual ship components adding an extra element of strategy to the gameplay.The game’s sound is top-notch. The narrative during the cutscenes really sets the atmosphere and with intermittent mission events also appearing you really do feel you’re being given instructions to carry out a crucial mission. The actual combat audio is very similar to the original and Relic have obviously kept as much as they could the same as the first game to immerse players. The music is one of the best features of the game and it’s highly atmospheric and constantly changing. There are few games I play these days with the music still turned on after a while and Homeworld 2’s is one of the few.As you’d expect there’s a multiplayer option and you can head online and test your strategy skill against others. It’s easy enough to hook up with other gamers via the in-game server browser so you won’t be searching too long to find a game. The multiplayer in Homeworld I always found a bit ‘samey’ with players racing up the tech tree and then coming at you with large ships in a massive final battle. Homeworld 2 plays the same and even though the game is fun to play multiplayer the single player game is what makes this sequel shine. Also, if you can’t get online you can always try out the skirmish, there are plenty of maps to get stuck into.Back in 1999 when the original was released it people sat up and took notice. Now we’re four years on I can’t help feeling that Homeworld 2 is maybe just too similar to the original game. This sequel looks great, sounds great and has the fun factor so fans of the original game looking for more of the same will more than likely be satisfied with the end product, but it’s no great leap for the Homeworld series. If you’ve never even seen the original then I suggest just starting with the sequel, it’s more refined and offers the same gameplay. Relic have done a good job with this game and I know I’ve found it hard to put down even if this game lacks any real innovation.