|Publisher: Aspyr Media Genre: Action
|Min OS X: 10.2.6 CPU: G4 @ 800 MHz RAM: 256 MB Hard Disk: 1600 MB 8x CD-ROM Graphics: 32 MB VRAM
November 1, 2004 | Michael Yanovich
GameplayAs far as basic RTS gameplay goes, there is no new ground broken here. You’ve got your home base – in this case, it’s a moveable ship as opposed to a patch of ground – and you have to send resource collectors out to, uh, collect resources. You use the resources to build and upgrade units, and then you use the units to blow up your opponent’s units. We’ve seen it all before.
The difference is that this time, the location is outer space and the technology is strictly SciFi. OK, so maybe that sounds a bit like Starcraft, so let’s move on to the real kicker.
All spaceships, all the time. And did I mention that they’re flying around in a 3D space arena?
There is no hand to hand combat. No blaster pistol to decombobulator ray gun gameplay here. All the bipeds are stuck firmly inside flying metal hulls armed with big guns. And this isn’t a flight simulator, as you never take direct control of any spaceships. You just control the overall strategy, leaving the micromanagement to the dependable AI (you can certainly override it and micromanage the battles as much as you want, but I found it more practical to assign groups of ships to aggressive or defensive tactics and let them do their thing).
In short, order your forces to attack another ship and you’ll see them fly around their target in elegant rolls and spins as they loop around for another bombing run and try to outmaneuver the enemy fighters on their tails. This is space battle raised to the level of opera.
The key here is unit diversity, and that’s what separates the good players from, uh, me. See, some ships are great at bombing runs, while others are more specialized in attacking enemy bombers. But they both have problems going after giant carriers, so be prepared to build a fleet of carrier destroyers. And don’t forget the marine ships to repel boarding attempts, and why not build your own boarding crew to take over a defenseless enemy frigate or two?
Add to this the challenge of moving your forces into position – x, y and z axis, please – while keeping an eye out for enemy probes and ships that hide in space dust clouds, and you’ll have your hands plenty full.
None of this is unlearnable, just be prepared to put some time into really mastering the units if you want to excel at this game. It will also take a good hour or more to get really comfortable moving around the vast 3D spaces here. It’s a well-designed interface, so you’ll get the knack easily enough, but it does take a bit of practice to make it all second nature. (There is an interactive tutorial to help you along, of course.)
Sight & SoundNone of the gameplay would work if the graphics weren’t up to par. They have to be able to convey the large voids of space and multiplane travel vectors intuitively enough that the player can follow what’s going on. This is done admirably, but better than being merely functional the graphics look great! I love eye candy, especially if there’s real substance behind it, and Homeworld 2 is filled with lots and lots of sugar-coma inducing eye candy to go with the strong gameplay.
Be warned that at first, you will lose a couple of skirmishes simply because you’re busy watching the ships fly around and do their thing. No worry. Just save the game and savor the pretty pictures for a while. The game will wait.
Adding to the experience is the excellent audio. It’s not as in your face as the graphics are, but it’s appropriate for the game. Voice performances are low key and realistically military in tone (or so it seems), the music heightens the atmosphere without drawing undue attention to itself, and the battles are treated in almost minimalistic tones, a nice change of pace from the usual “stick your head in a metal bucket and bang on it with a spoon” approach of many action games.