Great Gaming Moments: Homeworld: Cataclysm

Homeworld:Cataclysm wasn’t a sequel, but it was a great extension to the story of the original Homeworld. Basically, you’re in charge of the Somtaaw’s ship, the Kuun Lan. The Somtaaw keep to themselves, researching and mining, but they are bound to aid and protect Hiigara when requested. Cataclysm made references to “The Beast” periodically in the documentation, and so I had a vague idea that there was some Borg-like enemy to fight.

The game starts with such a call to protect the homeworld from the attacks of the Taiidan. Providing support wasn’t too difficult in the first mission. The second mission involved saving and protecting a Manaan destroyer, the Bushan-Re. To research repair technology, you jettison the mining container and create the Engineering Module. I managed to protect the Bushan-Re from the Turanic Raiders, even though they sent some Mimics in pretending to be friendly support.

At this point, a distress call comes from a nearby object. I sent a worker out to return it to the ship.

Later, I reach the Somtaaw’s research frigate, the Clee-San, in another sector. They may have the ability to shed some light on the alien artifact. They docked with the Kuun Lan. We had to escape to deep space to avoid an attack, but once we were in isolated safety, they procede to experiment.

But something goes wrong. Power fluctuations, biohazard warnings, and screaming further the confusion. The research module turns an ugly shade of red, apparently from a biomechanical infection of some kind, and to save the rest of the ship, the hangar module is jettisoned. What just happened? The Clee-San will investigate, but wouldn’t move until I provided an escort of “10 fighters”.

Now, if the infected research module was going to attack me, I didn’t think I would send just 10 Acolytes. So I sent 30, just for good measure. After all, I was in the Cub Scouts. I was being prepared. If I was going to be attacked, I was going to have overwhelming force involved.

So I sent my fighters in as an escort for the Clee-San. Slowly the ship approached the module, as the Kuun Lan hung back. The Clee-San docked with the module while I watched in anticipation. It started to download the data recorders. That data should help in determining what happened.

Suddenly a particle beam shoots out from the module! The Clee-San‘s last transmission was for the Kuun Lan to stay clear. Screams from the fighters becoming infected horrified me. I moved as quickly as I could, but the infection spread too quickly. Any ships I ordered to retreat moved only moments before becoming infected. My efforts were futile. It was terrible. I just sent 30 fighters to their deaths! I didn’t know! I didn’t know!

I then realized that those infected fighters were going to be coming after the Kuun Lan. I didn’t have any ships left for defense. I spent a lot of my resources on those 30 ships!

Luckily for me, a group of raiders appeared, demanding the Clee-San. Unluckily for them, they ignored my pleas to avoid it and were infected. I used that distraction to hyperjump out of the sector. I was safe for now, but forever impacted by that moment.

Throughout the war with The Beast, I never forgot those 30 ships. Technically, they weren’t more than digital bits running through memory on my computer, but the screams were terrible. The drama was real. The details of the names or types of ships involved in the above story might be remembered incorrectly, but the feeling of dread when I realized that I had just caused the deaths of 30 good people will stay with me. It wasn’t a cut-scene or a FMV movie to watch passively. I participated in it. Logically, it wasn’t my fault. I couldn’t have known what was going to happen without cheating. Technically I could have restarted the mission and tried again. I normally prefer the challenge in similar situations, but the reason for not restarting this time was different. I didn’t want to dishonor the memory of the loss. Oddly, those 30 fighters were identical clones of each other. It wasn’t like you normally would have a tie to any one of them.

Still, I had made a bad decision, and the consequences were very real to me. My fight wasn’t just to play a game anymore. It was for honor. It was for redemption. Neither of these ideals were communicated directly by the game. There was no “Honor Meter”, for instance. I simply had a strong desire to make things right again.

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