You can forget Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun. In my opinion the best RTS title of 1999 was Relic’s Homeworld. It offered something totally different for RTS players. While most of the other RTS titles offered only 2D graphics Homeworld gave you a massive and very beautiful fully 3D world to play in also featuring a fantastic storyline. The player controlled a huge mothership which contained the last remnants of a race, the Kushan, who’s planet had been destroyed and who must travel back to their homeworld of Hiigara which they had been forced to leave thousands of years previous. The Kushan must fight the Taiidan who destroyed their planet and now occupy their homeworld.

To help them, the mothership could construct other ships from tiny fighters to massive cruisers. The player was given a wide range of ships to use all of which looked fantastic in Homeworld’s 3D engine. So now it’s almost a year since Homeworld was released and Barking Dog Studios have developed a stand-alone expansion pack called Homeworld: Cataclysm.The storyline takes place quite a few years after the original Homeworld. The Kushan have now resettled on Hiigara and have formed a new government from the Kushan Kiith or clans. Certain Kiith have different interests and responsibilities. Some have to defend Hiigara while others are more interested in mining and building. The player starts the game as a member of Kiith Somtaaw which is one of the smaller Kiith and whose primary interest is in mining. The player commands a large mining vessel called the Kuun-Lan. The Kuun-Lan is asked if it could offer assistance in a battle with ships belonging to the old Taiidan Empire. Ever since the Kushan liberated their homeworld the Taiidan have been fighting to regain their control over the galaxy. The Taiidan are defeated but during the battle a Kushan destroyer as badly damaged and immobilised.

A large Kiith asks Kiith Somtaaw if they would help and the Kuun-Lan is despatched to a*ist the damage vessel. While helping the damaged destroyer the crew of the Kuun-Lan come across a pod of unknown design. When they research the pod they discover it contains an organism called The Beast. The Beast can a*ume control of ships and organic matter and is soon taking over the ship and it’s crew. To save the ship, the bottom decks, which have been overrun by The Beast, are separated from the main body of the ship and soon The Beast is manufacturing it’s own ships and taking over other vessels. Although the original developers of Homeworld didn’t develop this game, Cataclysm’s storyline fits right into the Homeworld universe perfectly.Cataclysm still uses the original Homeworld graphics engine, which although being a year old is still very much up to the job. It still has some very detailed ships and backgrounds while still running at an impressive frame rate with no slowdown. The game can even run pretty well in software only mode but a 3D accelerator is definitely recommended. The new ships in the game have a very different look about them from previous craft.

Due to the fact that Kiith Somtaaw is a mining Kiith the ships have a more angular “ruff-around-the-edges” look to them. While the original ships were sports cars these ships are more like fork lift trucks adding to the distinct charm of Cataclysm.Gameplay in Cataclysm is very similar to Homeworld. The player is given mission objectives to do and resources to collect. As they collect resources they can build more ships to help them complete there mission objectives etc etc. However the twist is all the controllable units in Cataclysm are different from the original controllable units in Homeworld. Sure the original units from Homeworld do feature in the game but they’re all controlled by AI or scripted. The new units in Cataclysm aren’t just old ones with a facelift, these are totally different units with different functions.

The job of the resource collector, salvage corvette and repair corvette are now done by a general worker ship. Now they player has to juggle between resource collecting, repairing damaged ships or stealing enemy ships. How would you like to play it? Would you rather steal enemy ships or collect resources to build new ones of your own? Perhaps you’d rather steal enemy ships than fix your own. It’s an interesting new element to the gameplay.Another new addition is upgradability.

I remember playing Homeworld not wanting to build light corvettes as the heavy and multi-gun ones were much more effective but I couldn’t get the heavy or multi-gun ones until later in the game. Now the player can build a basic fighter craft and upgrade it with heavy armour or more weapons. For example the Acolyte fighter can be upgraded with link technology so two can form together to create an ACV, which is a corvette class craft. The player then has to wonder if small fighter craft would be better than heavier corvette in a certain situation and choose between more Acolytes or more powerful but half as many ACVs. Another interesting unit is the Mimic, which can change its shape to other units or asteroids. This allows the player to spy on enemy ships or perform a Kamikaze suicide attack on enemy ships, a nice strategic touch.During the multiplayer game a player can choose to play as The Beast as well as the Somtaaw. The Beast can use Taiidan, Somtaaw and Turnanic Raider craft but don’t have any unique craft of there own.

There are some differences to the interface in Cataclysm. The task bar has gone from the bottom of the screen and now all the managers can be accessed from the right-click menu. A fog-of-war has also been added to the game making exploration slightly more important than in the original. Other than these the interface remain pretty much the same from the previous game. Another good addition to Cataclysm is the waypoint system. This is a common feature on most RTS titles these days but sadly missing from Homeworld. The player can now create patrol routes and guide craft around obstacles such as minefields.In Homeworld the only thing that limited the amount of ships the player could create has the amount of resource units (RU) they had. However in Cataclysm as well as having RU the player has supports units (SU) to worry about too. To begin with the player has a set amount of SU.

Each ship they build uses up some SU but large ships like frigates will use more SU than small craft such as fighters. Once all SU have been used up the player cannot create any more ships unless they build more support modules onto their mothership or build more support craft like carriers.Homeworld: Cataclysm is very good indeed.

It’s more like a mini-sequel than an expansion pack, adding many new units and new gameplay elements. Barking Dog has done Relic proud creating a game which goes perfectly with Homeworld. Even if you don’t own Homeworld you should still get Cataclysm, it’s an essential title for your PC game collection.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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