“The cap­tain’s go­ing down with his ship so I don’t have to”

The right man in the wrong star sys­tem can make all the dif­fer­ence in HOME WORLD

PC GAMER (US) - - EXTRA LIFE -

Home­world is a clas­sic space opera. As ar­madas trade blows to an or­ches­tral ac­com­pa­ni­ment, lit­tle room is given for per­sonal per­spec­tives. This is a story of civ­i­liza­tions ris­ing and fall­ing, of no­ble Kushan ex­iles tak­ing their an­ces­tral home back from the sprawl­ing Tai­idan em­pire. What dif­fer­ence can one per­son make? A fair bit, it turns out. Cap­tain El­son is in­tro­duced in mis­sion 13, Karos Grave­yard. He’s de­fected from the evil em­pire along with the crew of his de­stroyer, the Kapella. When I came back to Home­world this month to fi­nally wrap up the cam­paign, he left a mark.

The fi­nal fight over Hi­igara drops you in the thick of it and doesn’t let up. A lo­cust swarm of moth­er­ship-melt­ing ion frigates, fol­lowed by cruis­ers and de­stroy­ers. When one wave falls, a fresh hell warps in from wher­ever my guns aren’t look­ing. Re­pair ships work fran­ti­cally to keep my moth­er­ship alive. It’s rough.

Fleet in­tel­li­gence calmly in­forms me we’re over­run, as yet an­other fleet warps in. But in­stead, there he is. My Lafayette, loaded with guns and ships in a burst of blue hy­per­space. El­son’s ar­rival sig­nals the end. We mop up the last of the en­emy forces. Si­lence falls and we sur­vey the scene.

The good cap­tain makes a break for it. Surely, I fig­ure, he must know his for­ma­tion won’t make a dent in the Em­peror’s lines? I have gath­ered a fleet of dozens: Heavy cruis­ers, de­stroy­ers, enough frigates to end this war with­out fur­ther losses on our side. But on he goes.

Maybe this is just dodgy late-’90s AI in ac­tion. But it could be how El­son is choos­ing to close out this chap­ter. He’s a de­fec­tor, a for­mer cap­tain in the Tai­idan Elite Guard, and he prob­a­bly didn’t get his job as cap­tain of the Kapella with­out get­ting his hands dirty. The Em­peror’s flag­ship is within sight and he guns it.

Sui­cide miss ion

I imag­ine El­son strug­gles to think of how peo­ple like him will last in the new age. His time has passed, but there’s still a mo­ment left to give one last gift to the Kushan. As his for­ma­tion breaches the as­teroid field sur­round­ing the flag­ship I see it. He’s split the Em­peror’s fleet. In­stead of a wall, it’s now a bro­ken trail, slowly mov­ing to deal with the traitor cap­tain. By the time my fleet ar­rives the dis­ar­ray will prove deadly.

Ac­cord­ing to the wiki, the Kapella sur­vives. El­son is pro­claimed a hero across the galaxy. But some­thing feels off about that end­ing—it’s far too tidy for Home­world’s melan­cholic opera.

As alarms flare, and the Kapella, and El­son, goes up in flames, I can see the Tai­idan Em­peror look­ing on from his throne as the de­bris clears. The smug­ness on his face evap­o­rat­ing as my fleet—a le­gion of ships that will shat­ter an em­pire and end an age—floats silently and un­stop­pably on­wards.

By the time my fleet ar­rives the dis­ar­ray will prove deadly

’Ere we go, ’ere we go.

They’re not pulling any punches, huh?

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