Homeworld plot

The original Homeworld plot starts strong but goes wrong.

There's basically three threads to Homeworld's plot:

1: Self-discovery.

2: Vengeance/justice for ancient wrongs.

3: Return to paradise.

Past this point is major spoilers for Homeworld and its standalone expansion.

The first of these is, in most every respect, the primary plot thread of the story: the people of Kharak discover the starship in the desert and become aware they didn't evolve on this planet, they evolved elsewhere, and for unknown reasons came to Kharak and lost not only their space travel ability but all memory of ever having had such technology. There's a 'map' of the galaxy that labels a planet 'Hiigara', which means home. The Kharak people thus set out to find this place and learn their true origins.

In the process of performing their first hyperdrive test, they violate an ancient law by an ancient empire forbidding them from traveling too far from Kharak, and when they come back from the hyperdrive test Kharak is in the middle of being basically nuked from orbit as punishment for violating that law. This answers some questions, but raises others: what happened, so long ago, that they were forbidden to leave Kharak? Who are these people who enforce this law, and why do they care?

The Kharak people don't get any answers at this step. They defeat their attackers, mourn the loss of so many lives on Kharak, and are spurred on to pursue Hiigara in earnest. They travel, encountering myriad strange things in the galaxy, defending themselves against strange, incomprehensible threats, such as the 'Ghost Ship', and learn even more about their backstory as they go along, such as by being ambushed by people who ultimately turn out to be descended from a different portion of the same ancestral population.

Then this self-discovery plotline peters out. The people of Kharak remain laser-focused on returning to Hiigara, but the secondary elements start focusing on the justice/vengeance plotline -they meet the Bentusi, who promise to speak to some over-governmental body to speak on the Kharakian behalf, as well as meeting a leader of a resistance against the Empire's tyrannical rule, while overall the Empire's navy becomes increasingly the dominant foe of the story, culminating in fighting the Emperor.

Lastly, the return to paradise is sort of tacked on to the end, that Hiigara is a paradise because... feelgood happy ending???

In short, Homeworld's plot has a consistent backbone -the people of Kharak are looking to learn about themselves, nothing more- but then the plot crams in these other irrelevant threads instead of finishing the self-discovery plotline. The arrival at Hiigara should have emphasized the opportunity to learn more of their history, talked about what kind of world the Hiigarans had originally come from and how that related to their physiology, psychology, culture. There should have been reference to ancient ruins, with the implication being that after the story ends they would learn still more about themselves.

Either that or the story should have properly embraced the justice/vengeance plotline. The Kharakians should, instead of driving toward Hiigara relentlessly, have actually sought out the Emperor to strike him down, or attempted to find the Galactic Council to demand/plead for compensation for how they've been wronged by the Empire. What was actually done was the Kharakians largely ignored the vengeance/justice thing, with the rest of the world conspiring to shove it at them -they don't seek this out. The Bentusi volunteer for no particular reason to advocate for them, get in contact with the Galactic Council and all, and the rebel leader seeks them out for his own reasons, with the Kharakians not meaningfully engaging his desires. In the end, the Emperor has randomly dropped his flagship in front of Hiigara for no clear reason, with the story not bothering to address why he cares enough to be here nor properly connecting this to how the Kharakians have been wronged -whatever Emperor banished the Hiigarans is long dead, and wreaking vengeance on this Emperor is only 'just' for the completely unrelated point that this Emperor is apparently a tyrannical jerk. It does nothing to redress the wrongs inflicted on the Kharakians, because the Emperor has no real responsibility for those wrongs. Realistically, he was probably never even informed of the Kharakians violating their exile!

The Paradise Found aspect of the end is also completely missing both points. The people of Kharak want to go home because they've realized they're not who they thought they were, and they want to know who they really are. A quest of self-discovery. The homeworld has no need to be a paradise, from that standpoint.

It could've been worked into the justice/vengeance plotline instead, if part of the explicit point was that Kharak being a terrible world was part of how they were wronged in the first place, but the story does no such thing. The homeworld being a paradise is just tacked on.

The plot threads don't hold together properly, in the end. Why is the Emperor our final boss? Because he shoved himself in our way for no good reason. The sheer randomness of it is exemplified by how the plot randomly reveals he's a powerful psychic who can KO Karan S'jet because why not.

It's fairly disappointing for such a strong start.

Homeworld Cataclysm/Emergence is much more coherent. It's a story of ambition, albeit modest ambition: the Somtaaw arrange to use the original Mothership -whose manufacturing is a limited resource hotly competed over- to manufacture what amounts to a mini-Mothership for themselves, to give them greater independence and so on. They're mere miners, who aspire to somewhat more greatness than that. In their ambition, they awaken an ancient demon Beast, and because they're responsible and heroic types, they take it upon themselves to exterminate the Beast.

It's a fairly basic plot -there really isn't much more to it than 'release Beast, swear to destroy Beast, eventually succeed'- but the focus of the plot remains clear instead of shifting away from what the 'main character' (The Homeworld games are operating on civilization scales, but in practice you can treat Kith Somtaaw as the main character of Cataclysm/Emergence and similarly can treat the Mothership as the main character of the original Homeworld campaign) actually continues to care about. I'm genuinely puzzled as to why Homeworld's plot goes off the rails in this way, honestly.

It's particularly disappointing since a big part of what makes the first Homeworld campaign so compelling to start is that it's classic idealistic, hopeful, scientific scifi. Our protagonist wants to learn, to travel the stars, discover, explore. This is classic Star Trek type stuff, just from a different angle. Tacking on the vengeance/justice plotline would be disappointing even if it were better executed. Similarly, even though I like Cataclysm/Emergence more than the original campaign for its execution, it's a lot more Standard Fantasy: We Dug Too Deep and unleashed a demon we don't understand, can't really communicate with, and which has no interest in playing nice. It's disappointing, in the end, that the better-executed one is the classic dark, depressing fantasy story. Sure Kith Somtaaw gets glory for successfully defeating the Beast, but that's pretty grim, that our heroes are elevated to glory by screwing up and then minimizing the damage of their mistake, rather than by actually making the world a better place.

... let's not even touch upon Homeworld 2 or Deserts of Kharak.


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