Veterans of the first game will also be quick to notice some interface changes and gameplay enhancements. However, Homeworld's beautiful graphics, top-notch sound, and 3D play mechanics remain intact.
Homeworld was an excellent game that brought real-time strategy into the third dimension. The great graphics, incredible sound and music, and true-3D gameplay made it a favorite among strategy fans and critics. Nevertheless, the game did have a few problems, even though it was widely considered to be an excellent first effort from Vancouver-based developer Relic. Relic has since passed the reins of Homeworld to another fledgling developer, Barking Dog Studios, which has created the stand-alone expansion Homeworld: Cataclysm. It attempts to fill the gaps in Homeworld by providing deeper gameplay without compromising the essence of the game, which is to portray awesome ship battles in deep space. Homeworld: Cataclysm eschews the setting of the original game and offers a new 17-mission campaign, a new faction that has a lineup of unique ships, and a completely new villain to fight. Veterans of the first game will also be quick to notice some interface changes and gameplay enhancements. However, Homeworld's beautiful graphics, top-notch sound, and 3D play mechanics remain intact.
Cataclysm begins 15 years after the conclusion of the events in Homeworld. The unified front among the Kushan people has disappeared now that they have reclaimed their homeworld, Hiigara, and split into their ancient, bickering clans. You play as one of the disenfranchised clans, the Kiith Somtaaw, who has had to seek its fortune in deep-space mining. While in space, you answer a distress call from a fellow Kushan vessel under attack by remnants of the Taidan empire, and you are thrust into a role that takes you from being just an innocent mining clan to being the saviors of the galaxy. This is how the single-player campaign starts, and it ramps up quickly, as you face successive missions of increasing difficulty and significance. Although you start out helping a fellow clan fight Taidan imperialists, you soon stumble upon a greater threat that has descended upon the divided galaxy.
This great enemy is an ancient techno-organic virus called the Beast, which assimilates ships and turns them into a ravenous collective - not unlike Star Trek's Borg. Slowly, the collective intelligence of the Beast adds to its power by assimilating Taidan, Kushan, Turanic, and even Bentusi ships into its armada. You discover this information early on in the game. Soon you must rush across the galaxy to save fellow clans from being absorbed, all as you fight Beast ships, hunt down lost vessels, and learn more about where the Beast came from - and how to stop it.
The missions of the single-player campaign are of similar quality to those in Homeworld. Every mission has changing objectives and an ongoing story that gradually reveals new developments that will surprise you and often catch you off guard. However, this suspenseful quality proves to be a constant source of frustration, as it reinforces the puzzle-like mission design that was also found in the original Homeworld. Your first time through a mission is often just an intelligence run, as you find yourself tentatively probing each new area to see where the surprises are and what the location and makeup of your enemies is. Inevitably, you'll be ill prepared to deal with the change-ups, and you'll need to restart - but then you'll be armed with the knowledge gained in your initial attempt at the mission. This trial-and-error approach that's often necessary to adopt to successfully complete the game's missions will undoubtedly frustrate some players, so it's advisable to save your game often during each battle. Fortunately, the missions themselves are interesting and well designed, albeit quite difficult, and the latter missions especially are more rewarding than the rote missions in the latter half of Homeworld. However, Cataclysm does lack the distinct sense of wonder you may have experienced in Homeworld, such as when you first encountered the Bentusi or when you entered the Garden of Kadesh. The cinematic and mysterious sense of the original Homeworld isn't quite intact in Cataclysm, but the game's linear campaign is nevertheless well paced and the gameplay more substantial.
The high difficulty of the Cataclysm missions indicates that the game is for Homeworld veterans, although newcomers who don't mind frequent restarts will still find the game rewarding, if a bit more frustrating. The excellent tutorial does a good job of teaching you the basics, but the interface will still be daunting for those new to the real-time strategy genre. What makes the game's missions especially hard is the Beast itself, which will assimilate your ships in mid-mission, thereby diminishing your forces while simultaneously bolstering its own by turning your forces against you. This prospect will force you to play much more defensively and deliberately than you may be used to, and it calls for much more diligent control of your ships. It is a welcome consideration to the gameplay in a genre that often only requires that you select a large group of units and send them toward the enemy using a general attack command.