Review by Orgulo
Best of the three Homeworld games...
It's hard to admit but, of the three Homeworld games, I would rather play Cataclysm than the other two. This is because, unlike the other two, Cataclysm hangs together as a story and as an ongoing struggle.
Homeworld didn't do this: its levels were often incidental and unrelated to the main quest, as though the designers were just trying out ideas. You also felt a slight lack of empathy with the protagonists, and you felt quite detached floating away up above the mothership, as though you were just an omnipotent observer rather than part of the crew. If you cared about your ships it was because of the terrifying oppression of the dark, bottomless space all around them.
Homeworld 2 was an improvement but the story was tired as hell. I still don't fully remember what it was and I've played it many times. There was again little empathy with your fleet, and the enemies were nothing special at all.
Where Cataclysm scores over its two rivals is in the character department: Cataclysm has buckets of character. Fleet Command and Tactical Command are two great voices which keep you abreast of what's going on constantly, and their contributions really draw you in, as though you're right there with them. You can picture what these two people are like on the deck of the Kuun-Lan and you can tell they really care about the plight of their armada. Karen S'Jet didn't have this quality - she was impassive and unemotional, even when the mothership was under heavy fire.
Another great tangent for Cataclysm to go off on was the arrangement of their fleet. No more enormously varied armies of ships like in Homeworld, and no more endless pilfering of enemy ships to boost your numbers. You'll have acolytes and like it. I missed the many ships from Homeworld, but for some reason the pared down approach of Cataclysm really worked. The Kuun-Lan was also a much more interestingly constructed ship than HW or HW2's motherships.
I won't go on and on about all the differences between Cataclysm and the other two - there are many, though not enough to let you forget that this is a beautiful, balletic Homeworld game. What I really do have to mention is the enemy.
OK, the Beast is really just the Borg, innit. I don't watch Star Trek and even I realise this. Your harvesters haplessly pick up any old piece of trash floating in space and suddenly you've got a horrible, corrupting virus on your hands, threatening to spread through the galaxy and subvert every organic thing it comes into contact with. It's not original but Cataclysm does it great. The Beast voices are skin-crawlingly horrible, and you will feel real sadness when you see - and hear - the last moments of a friendly ship just before a Beast missile takes hold of it. Cataclysm's final level is also easily the best of the three games'.
Every single change in the interface over Homeworld's is for the better, which is unusual for a sequel (and it is a sequel, let's face it). Most of the elements of Homeworld which made that game unforgettable remain in Cataclysm, and the one thing which Homeworld fans will miss is the vast fleets. By stark contrast Cataclysm really restricts you in this, though if you're paying attention to your fleet's predicament you can understand how the Kuun-Lan couldn't support a great many units. You have to work with what you've got and make do in Cataclysm, which forces you to think a little, rather than just heave forward a massive line of capital ships.
Anyway, Cataclysm is the strongest story-wise, while not really losing anything that made people love Homeworld. Some of the backdrops are even MORE beautiful than HW's, for god's sake. If you loved Homeworld you'll love this - it's not the same game but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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