Homeworld 2


Genre: Real Time Strategy

Format: CD

Developer: Relic Entertainment

Original Publisher: Sierra Entertainment

Mac Port: Beenox

Mac Publisher: Aspyr Media

Minimum System Requirements: 800MHz G4, Mac OS X v10.2.8, 256MB RAM, 1.0GB hard disk space, 32MB VRAM (ATI RADEON 7500 or nVidia GeForce 2), 8X CD-ROM drive, 56 Kbps modem for internet play

Review Computer: 867MHz G4, 640MB RAM, Mac OS X v10.3.5
Network Feature: Yes

Price: $49.88

ESRB Rating: Teen (violence)

Availability: September 2004

Official Website: [url=http://www.homeworld2.com]http://www.homeworld2.com[/url]

I don't know what I expected this game to be, but I know it wasn't this.

Homeworld 2 is the sequel to Homeworld. And with that statement, ladies and gentlemen, I have officially become the most helpful reviewer in the history of Mac gaming. You are truly in the presence of greatness, so please afford me the reverence I deserve.

The thing about the original Homeworld is that I know absolutely nothing about it. Unlike my colleagues who actually care about the gaming industry, I care only for games I can play on my Macintosh (and Game Cube, but I don't get paid to talk about Pikmin 2). So, since Homeworld wasn't released for the Macintosh, all I know about it is that Yes wrote the theme song, and it was the best song they'd written in over ten years.

The Yes song doesn't appear in Homeworld 2, but that's the least of my worries. My main concern was that, as I stated earlier, this game was nothing like what I expected it to be. I expected a fast and furious space shooter or flight sim, the likes of which we haven't seen since X-Wing or TIE Fighter. What I got was one of the most complicated, frustrating and engrossing real time strategy games I've ever played.

Why the misconception? Because the trailers I'd seen for homeworld involved these wildly designed, flowing, anime-style battle scenes of small space fighters attacking huge mother ships over top of vividly colored backgrounds. Remember back when scientists (or, at least sci-fi film makers) believed that space was mainly black? Not so, anymore. At least, not according to the developers of Homeworld 2. If they're right, space battles can only be fought in front of nebulas, gaseous clouds and suns.

What Homeworld 2 really is, as anyone smart enough to read the box will learn, is a real-time strategy game set in the deep vastness of space. Although the space battles are there, and they're indeed as great to see in the game as they were in the trailer, you don't control the fight from the cockpit. You control the development of the ships, their aggressiveness, their deployment and their targets. You actually do this for many ships. Many, many, many ships.

More on that in a bit. First, here's the story, directly from Aspyr:

Homeworld 2 continues the epic struggle of the Hiigarans and their leader Karan S'jet. Many thought their hardships would end when they returned to Hiigara, yet fate has not been so kind to the Exiles. Now the Hiigarans face a new and bitter enemy, a renegade clan from the eastern fringes of the galaxy, who wield the power of the ancients. Homeworld 2 chronicles the valiant journey of the Mothership and its crew into the oldest regions of the galaxy to confront their new foe and discover the truth behind their exile.

See? You know it's great science fiction because the races have either simultaneously repeating vowels (Hiigarans) or apostrophes (S'jet). If you really want to make sure you'll get published, you'll name a race in your next sci-fi story V'ii or Aa'a. Watch those royalty checks come rolling in!

As with all real-time strategy games, Homeworld 2 seeks of balance of resource collecting and military strategy. It's all based around the Mothership, the Pride of Hiigara. With this, you'll create resource ships that will gather minerals from asteroids and space clouds. These resources are then used to build your military fleet, consisting of far too many types of craft to name here. You'll also need to upgrade your fleet through research, providing you with better ships to meet the increasingly powerful enemy.

The resource collection is quite basic, but the military deployment is maddeningly complex. In most real time strategy games, I can at least get through the first few levels on the first try. Not here. After the first, the best I could do was complete the level on the third try. Often, I'd still run through the level again in attempt to be better equipped for the next level.

I'm not going to blame this on the developers, though. I'll blame it on my inability to think in three dimensions. In Stronghold, for example, your enemy came from either the north, south, east or west. In space, there is no north, south, east or west. There is no up and down. Enemies come from all directions. From different planes. Knowing how to attack and defend in such an environment requires a different way of thinking, and the tutorial, although helpful, doesn't adequately prepare you for the intensity of the battles ahead.

What's helpful is that the control system is quite simple to get used to. Although complex, it's intuitive, and it won't get in the way of your strategies. This is good, because your strategies aren't going to work. Trust me, you'll need to do plenty of reworking.

The beauty of this game is that you'll want to tweak. It's the type of game you'll be thinking about in bed at night or on the way to work the next day. You can't shake it. Whatever your job description is, you'll need to add "space battle strategist" to it because you'll spend more time doing that. Now, if you're job actually requires you to pay attention to the task at hand, don't worry. You'll get plenty of helpful tips during the game. Whenever a new fleet is completed, your come under attack, a new technology becomes available, you'll be told.

My only major complaint about the game is that, because of the size and intensity of the battles, it's difficult to really enjoy them. I found myself pausing the game so much that I never really felt like I was in the midst of an epic struggle. It was too chopped up. As a result, I also never really got to enjoy the graphics as much as I should have. You can zoom right in to follow single craft, or you can pull back so far that you can see the entire star system. You'll need to do both effectively to win the game, but you'll rarely be able to enjoy the view. This is a shame, because Homeworld 2 is the best looking space game ever. Period. I don't what genre you're considering, Homeworld 2 looks better than anything in it. The graphics are a perfect balance between style and effect, and the fact that they work so well with such low system specs (by today's standards) is astounding. Would that I could plan out an entire battle and just watch it unfold. How cool that would be.

There's a multiplayer component, but it's not much. Basically, you simply build your fleet and use it to attack your opponents' fleet. Up to six players can go against each other over a LAN or the internet. No big deal. What I'd like to see is a cooperative mode. If you could put one player in charge of resource collection and ship management while another player handled the military strategy, that would make this game even more enjoyable. As it stands, the multiplayer component doesn't really add much, especially considering it's only Mac to Mac compatible. On the other hand, tools and modules are available for gamers to develop new missions and mods. Whether or not many people do will remain to be seen.

So, yeah. Homeworld 2 wasn't what I was expecting it to be, but it's better. In the theme song to the original, Yes sang, "Our home is our world, our life." If you're a fan space battles or real-time strategy games in general, Homeworld 2 will be your world, your life.

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