Why HW1's Gameplay was Superior to HW2's

It’s 1:20 a.m., I need to be getting to bed, so why not take a couple of hours to write a wall of text? :smiley:

Among this community there is a massive amount of contention as to which Homeworld Game is superior between HW1 and HW2. HW2 players see HW1 as a clunky game far enhanced by nostalgia, while HW1 players see HW2 as a simplification of what was the best gameplay found in any RTS ever.

But the issue is, at its heart, much deeper than simply saying that HW2 was dumbed down or that HW1 was clunky. The games followed radically different design philosophies that permeated throughout the respective gameplay, balance, and maps, all of which contribute to why one game was so much greater than the other.

HW1 was, very clearly, built from the ground up to be full of depth greater than any other RTS out there. Formations and tactics greatly increased the skill ceiling by allowing a small amount of micro to greatly increase the effectiveness of a fighting force. Kamikaze and ramming made strategic maneuvering all the more important and gave any force in the game more options to deal with the enemy. None of these came in the form of a traditional blizzard style ability, although the game did have a few such things, but were universally applied to every ship in the fleet, although it may not be obvious at first. For example, although a destroyer couldn’t receive the kamikaze order any veteran player would know that this was an option that it could take at any moment.

HW2, on the other hand, put an emphasis on simplification and on seeing the “epic” rather than distracting yourself with micro of strike-craft squadrons that you hand-crafted yourself. Formations were simplified into a set of 3 (Of which only one was really ever useful) strike-groups used to position your fleet’s assets in a way that maximized survivability. Tactics were replaced by the 3 behavior groups standard to contemporary RTS games. Gone was kamikaze, gone were the hidden quirks of each ship like the probe scuttle, replaced by something straight-forward where few ships had hidden features and the skill ceiling had been lowered. This lack of mechanical depth is often presented as the reason that HW1 is better than HW2, but the divide extends far below mechanical differences.

The balancing system of each game is founded on entirely different principles. HW1 used a complex system of soft and hard counters to create its balance, with a wonderful result. Corvettes were useful throughout and could trade favorably with many different types of ships but were vulnerable to assault frigates, although they could overcome them. Bombers were excellent vs frigates but got pulverized vs missile destroyers. A squadron of frigates could with some difficulty take down a heavy cruiser as long as they had proper support frigate support and no ship class was overwhelmingly inferior to another. HW2, on the other hand, relies on a system of timings and nukes beat dynamite beat rock system of more or less hard counters to form its balance. Battlecruisers, while counterable, could only be defeated with great difficulty and games tended to revolve around them. Fighters gradually lost importance as the match went on and large capital ship battles where frigates were little other than cannon fodder were the norm. This loss of progression based strategic depth served to make the gameplay more sterile; each game tended to feel more like the next with little variance. This is, however, not solely due to the balance, but also due to the arenas on which the encounters happen.

Map design is something that is focused on less when comparing the two games, but is still an area of major differences between the two. HW1 maps are dynamic. Asteroids contain small amounts of RUs, so the game revolves around nomadic movement, carefully guarding your collectors and preventing enemy raids from being successful. These characteristics allow games like this to happen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu2N1apNANA HW2, on the other hand, had large concentrations of resources spread in clumps around the map. Defense was over a small patch and expansion was to other small clusters. The result of this is a game where raiding is much harder, turtling in a corner and teching more viable, where strike-craft lose their importance as raiding doesn’t happen. The sort of gameplay difference between the two caused by maps may be likened to the difference in the role of raiding in total annihilation compared to StarCraft, albeit in a situation where your workers are much tougher and putting a dent in your opponents economy harder.

I hope this post has helped explain why many of us consider HW1 to be a better game than HW2 and I apologize for how incoherent this post may sound, it’s 3 a.m. at the time of finishing this post so needless to say that’s probably expected at this point.


Also because HW1 let you play as the brave Taiidan exiles fighting against the oppressive Kushan empire.


HW1 maps’ tendency to spread out RU asteroids into very large diffuse patches (with small yields per asteroid) is nothing short of incredibly frustrating in HW:R especially for Kushan and Taiidan.

First of all, there is the current annoyance of capital ship pathing issues around clusters of asteroids - large ships tend to take extremely generous detours or convoluted routes even in instances where the ship itself has several times its volume in clear space to go through a group of rocks.

While all races suffer from this, it is more of a pronounced imbalance for Kushan/Taiidan as they need to rely on their carrier and mothership RU dropoffs in early game and it is impossible to position them appropriately without hyperspacing.

HW2 races are able to offset this problem better since their collectors are far more agile and they can produce mobile refineries from the very beginning of the game without any prerequisite research.

The Kushan/Taiidan equivalent, the resource controller, requires capital ship drive tech and is more expensive and far less effective for its price relative to the mobile refinery as it can only unload one collector at a time, has less than half the speed and has no weapons. At the very least, the controller does benefit from innate hyperspacing but this feature does not redeem itself next to the refinery’s advantages.

Until these issues are worked on, HW2’s map layout of handy pocket RU patches (with high yields per asteroid) will continue to be more popular.

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I agree with all of your observations and conclusions. The differences between the two (the macro differences) were mostly spelled out in your post. You did a fantastic job of spelling out the truth between the two games.

When I played Homeworld, I played a lot more skirmish battles against CPU than I did online multiplayer. Even still, the battles I fought were always very different from one another. The reason is because no matter what ship type I went for, it was still a viable option. I could win the game with it. And there was always a counter to everything. If you would take a screenshot every 5 or 10 minutes in the game, my fleet would look vastly different each time. It’s because it always morphed to the situation.

In Homeworld 2, my experience has mostly been this: Tech up and win, or don’t tech up and die.

The major difference between the two I’ve noticed is that in Homeworld 1, you don’t HAVE to research far into your tree to compete against a high-tech opponent. In fact, you can STOP before 50% of your research tree is completed, and you can still ANNIHILATE your opponent with any fleet combination he might have.


I completely agree. The game leaves little room for alternative strategies or build orders which are viable or feasible. Most prominent example would be cruisers - if you do not have them by a certain point in the game, you will lose or will be at an enormous disadvantage much more so than an equivalent situation in HW1 classic or Cataclysm.


If you didn’t need hi-tech to win in Homeworld, you shouldn’t need hi-tech to win with Homeworld 1 races in Remastered.

If you needed hi-tech to win in Homeworld 2, then you should require hi-tech to win with Homeworld 2 races in Remastered.

One step to make this happen is keep the paper feel of Homeworld 2 frigates and give the Homeworld 1 frigates a hefty health boost. It makes frigates the mainstay of a Homeworld 1 fleet, making them more capable of taking out bigger targets.

I made a post about that here


This is simply not the case, While very fun HW (bolth) has few units and a very rock-paper-scissors setup (ie you always knew what counter to build). The formations, tactics or unit stealing are nothing new. It is a simple RTS series that was executed very well. Definitely not more “in depth” then most and never all other RTS’s. I assume this is hyperbole just to start things going ?

I agree both games come at things differently and there are a few paths that RTS’s have gone down. Some simplify and tighten up (best for MP play and real fast micromanaging - like starcraft) some pull back and get complex adding lots of units and variety massive maps and long games (Best for long strategic enthusiasts - like SupCom) Others are mid way . . . Some focus on resources and unit upgrades or tech, others on expiation, still others on counters or super units, some all of these.
The thing is none of these are the wrong way, just different way. And some people like different elements and mixes then other people.

So yes, they are different. I tend to like both versions for different reasons. both have some real failings but the good to fair game play + wonderful story and presentation really made it memorable.
I am not sure going on about this or that about either ad infinitum (by people in general not you personally)really adds or changes anything as people take away what they will from each game. new games are new games and will be different too. Know what you like and get the ones that fit that play style.

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HW1 = tactics over strategy. HW2 = strategy over tactics.

That’s very well put.

HW1 = tactics over strategy. HW2 = strategy over tactics.

An interesting thing I consider when looking at HW1 and HW2 is that, while each leans in different direction on the Strategy <-> Tactics slide scale of RTS specifically, neither is particularly far into either direction (and both are IMHO kinda leaning towards Strategy to begin with). Take a game that is genuinely far into the tactics spectrum like the UFO:A series to name a random example; they were real time with ability to pause(like HW) so they classify as very, very tactics heavy RTS. On the other side you have something like Supcom or perhaps AI Wars (that I haven’t played myself), looks to be so far back into strategic side as it can go almost, dealing with the flow of resources and units. A single unit means nothing, super units notwithstanding.

When you really explore the range of what you can rightfully classify as RTS games you realize how close HW1 and HW2 is. Compared to so many other games they are nearly on the same spot on that slide scale. It all depends on how far you zoom out(or in).

Compared to each other yes, one has slight tactics leanings and the other slight strategy leanings but compared to UFO:A both are actually much much closer to strategy. Also some of what made HW1 more ‘tactics orientated’ was the UI and was added in HW:R like the ability to give commands in sensor overview.

Cataclysm was the first game to implement this actually, followed by HW2.

I meant where that specific UI element was added to the HW1 campaign. This happened in HW:R