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Review by: Matt Plumb
Published: September 26, 2000
Space is a dangerous place. If I’ve learned anything from science fiction games, films, and novels, it’s that once you leave your home planet, you could be beset by any number of perils. A vicious alien monster could slaughter you, a malevolent Artificial Intelligence could use you as raw material, or your starship could simply fall prey to mechanical disorders. This theme is continued in the real-time strategy offering Homeworld: Cataclysm, the next chapter in the Homeworld saga, as we are once again reminded why no good will come of investigating a derelict alien device.
Homeworld: Cataclysm takes place several years after the conclusion of its predecessor, in which the Kushan race reclaimed its ancient homeworld of Hiigara and defeated the Taiidan Empire, but at a great cost. The Kushan colonists, awakened from cryogenic hibernation, found themselves on a strange new world, with no family, friends, or political power. A particularly industrious clan of colonists, the Somtaaw, constructed an advanced mining vessel and attempted to forge a new future among the stars. However, instead of finding their destiny, they discover a terrifying new organism that threatens to spread like a plague over the galaxy. This techno-organic entity, known as the Beast, seems to be unstoppable, and the isolated Somtaaw are the first and last line of defense for their homeworld.
The structure of Cataclysm is similar to that of the original Homeworld, except that it offers only one single-player campaign. Throughout the seventeen single-player missions, players will take the role of the Somtaaw and battle against the invading Beast. Each mission has several objectives, which often change abruptly when new information is uncovered. The majority of the story is told in-game, but the stylized black-and-white cutscenes of Homeworld return to fill in the details between missions. In addition to the campaign, a skirmish mode pits players against the computer in a selection of scenarios.
The single-player campaign puts gamers in charge of the Kuun-Lan, a deep space mining vessel and the heart of the Somtaaw clan. This command ship is even more versatile than the Kushan Mothership from the original Homeworld, able to move under its own power and upgrade itself with several specialized modules. These modules allow players to build new ship types or research Cataclysm‘s twenty-five new technologies. For example, the Armor Module permits Somtaaw scientists to develop enhanced ship armor, as well as protective force fields. Another important extension is the Support Module, which increases the size of the fleet that you can field. The appearance of the Kuun-Lan constantly shifts as players construct or remove these modules, changing the command vessel from an advanced mining ship to a state-of-the art warship. The final step in this metamorphosis is the development of the Siege Cannon, a weapon with massive destructive power that is slow to recharge. Of course, be it mining ship or battleship, the Kuun-Lan’s primary function is to construct a variety of support and combat vessels.
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