Cataclysm has been sapping my productivity to nil for the past two days, so I'll share my initial impressions with y'all:

Overall, this game rocks. I was a big fan of Homeworld but I'd say that Cataclysm improves on several aspects of the original:

  • Graphics are better. The original was quite pretty to watch in action but this one is often stunning. It looks like polygon counts are up on the ships and the textures fit better, resulting in ships that don't look so chunky or boring.
  • Game play is way better:
    • Individual ships gain experience as they survive battles. You'll see stars above their status bars to indicate rank.
    • Harvesting, repairing and salvaging have been combined into one general-purpose unit aptly named the worker. This makes the mundane work-a-day aspects of the game much easier and removes the tedious burden of maintaining highly-specialized units that have little utility other than a single function.
    • Speaking of mundane aspects, when gathering and researching is all you're doing and it feels like things are dragging, you can now bump up the time rate by 8x.
  • The new units just kick ass. Aside from the aforementioned workers, there are cool tiny ships (Sentinels and Leeches), and fighter class ships that can link together to form corvette class ships.
  • Ship animations are very clever and execute well even in a busy game. Watching Acolytes link together and Leeches tear into an enemy hull are two of my favorites.
There are a few drawbacks to cataclysm:
  • The story just doesn't cut it. Perhaps I haven't given it a fair chance since I abandoned the single player mode early on - but from what I can see of the Miners vs. Beast plot it blows.
  • The record feature - one of my favorite bits from Homeworld - is buggy. Two out of the three recordings I've made give error messages pretty early on ('Universal Sync Error at Frame xxxx' followed a while later by 'Rand Sync Error at Frame xxxx'). They will continue to play, but most of the ships fail to execute maneuvers from the game. They also tend to crash the whole application.

Cataclysm is one of the most interesting games I've played in a looooooong time. I played the single player game from start to finish in 3 days and even took a day sick leave (something I don't often do.. well, at least not often enough) to finish it up.

I then moved into the realm of multiplay, and sadly I have to say that I felt a teensy bit annoyed for the following reasons:

  • The support unit limit is a royal pain in the butt cleft. The concept is sound enough and definately required after the massive swarms of frigates that would amass in the original Homeworld, but I think it needs some tweaking so that units like sentinels aren't such a sap on SU's.
  • The networking code is a bit crap. Multiplay over LAN still uses broadcast protocols only, which makes LAN over internet near to impossible, and from where I am doesn't fill the void well. From what I can tell it's exactly the same as the original, and still disappointing.

That's my whinge... and having said the above, I still enjoy this game heaps and recommend it to anyone who likes strategies and appreciates innovation.

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