"100 years ago, a satellite detected an object under the sands of the Great Desert. An expedition was sent. [They found] An ancient starship, buried in the sand. Deep inside the ruin was a single stone that would change the course of our history forever. On the stone was etched a galactic map and a single word more ancient than the clans themselves:
'Hiigara'. Our home.
The clans were united, and a massive colony ship was designed. ... The promise of the Guidestone united the entire population. Every mind became focused on the true origin of our people, every effort on the construction of the ship that would seek it out amongst the stars."
A Real-Time Strategy game created by Relic Entertainment in 1999. It was a groundbreaking title, as it was the first RTS franchise to allow fully realized 3-D movement. The game takes place entirely in space, and all units are spacecraft.Kharak, a desert planet in some distant galaxy (more specifically a replica of the M51 galaxy), is home to a fractionated race of formerly nomadic people, who have just recently begun to build a modern society with the beginnings of sublight space travel. The discovery of the Guidestone confirms that they are not native to their planet. The ship they create for their return to Hiigara, the Mothership, is a self-contained factory ship, able to produce anything it might need on the journey, and it has a cargo bay large enough for over half a million cryonically preserved colonists. The game opens as the ship is to undergo its first hyperspace jump, to the edge of the system and back. Though it is a triumph of engineering, it is also merely the first step in a long, treacherous journey to the center of the galaxy, where the Kharaki discover the presence of an oppressive galaxy-spanning empire, the Taiidan, who will stop at nothing to prevent our plucky player characters from reclaiming their homeworld...Two other games were released. Homeworld: Cataclysm is of disputed canonicitynote the next, truly official sequel did not at any point explicitly discredit or reference Cataclysm, though it did carry over a number of concepts, such as what it means to be "Unbound"; created by a different developer, it details the adventures of one clan of the Kharaki people 15 years after the successful return to Hiigara. The official sequel, Homeworld 2, took place a hundred years after the original. It revamped the original's gameplay somewhat, and (of course) instituted a massive improvement in graphics, but met with some criticism that its plot, mood, characterization and voice acting were of lower quality compared to the (unusually high) caliber of the originals.The game on release suffered Critical Dissonance. The slow pace, 3D mechanics and tricky interface did not endear it to the RTS community, who at the time were in the early stages of a long reign for the king of the fast-paced RTS, Starcraft. Though it lacked comparable staying power, the game became a Cult Classic thank to its extremely pretty visuals that do stand the test of time and were remarkable for 1999, the haunting soundtrack and voice acting a level above the usual for video games at the time, a great story and gameplay that rewarded patience.The idea of a complete trilogy was put on hold when Sierra sold Relic to Vivendi Universal but kept the rights to the Homeworld franchise for itself. A resolution finally arrived in 2013 when the bankrupt THQauctioned off various pieces of intellectual property as part of their bankruptcy proceedings. Gearbox Softwarescooped up the Homeworld license.A large number of the original development team went on to form a new studio under the name of Blackbird Interactive, and began to create a Spiritual Successor named Hardware: Shipbreakers. Gearbox licensed the Homeworld IP to Blackbird, with Shipbreakers becoming known as Homeworld: Shipbreakers to move from a Spiritual Successor to an official sequel!The final piece of good news was that Gearbox are in the process of remastering both Homeworld 1 & 2 in Ultra High Definition for release on modern digital distribution platforms.
After the End: The player's fleet continues on to Hiigara mainly because The Empire eradicated Kharak, their homeworld-in-exile, on the basis of a treaty banning the Kharaki from possessing hyperdrive technology.
All There in the Manual: All three game manuals, the first game and Cataclysm's especially, contained pages upon pages of extracts, setting information, stories, and general 'fluff' content to add to what was already quite well presented in-game.
HW2 was annoying in that elements of backstory and plot developments since the previous games, all necessary to understanding of the plot, were not in the manual but instead in the strategy guide. This includes the core concepts the story was based around, which were never explained in the manual or the game itself (like how the Kushan actually brought their exile on themselves by being a bunch of Jerk Asses with their new hyperspace core, or just what the heck Sajuuk was supposed to be in the first place).
The Junkyard Dog in the Karos Graveyard (HW1), a rather more literal example. Unless you know the trick to disabling it, it can and will make off with many of your capital ships. Even then, it is damn hard to kill.
And I Must Scream: The fate of any Bentusi whose ship is infected by the Beast in Cataclysm, which is why they'd rather have themselves blown into a billion pieces.
In Homeworld 2, every unit has a cap, and if you try to capture a unit that would make it go over your cap, the capture is cancelled, usually without any warning. However, one unit is not bound by the cap: any "Mothership"-type unit. It is perfectly legal for you to capture every opposing player's motherships/flagships, and the result of having up to 6 motherships in your inventory is downright hilarious.
Arbitrary Maximum Range: You can actually see kinetic rounds disappear into thin air (or is it thin vacuum?) if they miss their target and then fly out to their maximum range. Same is true for missiles.
Arms Dealer: The Bentusi, though instead of giving you actual ships they sell technology which gives you the ability to build them.
Artificial Stupidity: Take a look at "Tactical Rock Paper Scissors" below. HW2 has it such that certain units are good against other units. However the AI is pretty keen on using bombers to tangle with your fighters, sending flak frigates up against destroyers, or attempting to respond to a corvette raid with a battlecruiser. Also the AI will send units charging into a vastly superior force and doesn't know the meaning of retreat.
Asshole Victim: Background story indicates that the Ancient Hiigaran Empire was just as bad as the Taiidan Empire. The Hiigarans simply ended up being the losers.
Asteroid Miners: Your basic worker units. Cataclysm has a asteroid mining clan as protagonists.
Asteroid Drop: in a non-planetary example, the second-to-last mission of HW1 has you defend the Mothership from a huge Mothership-sized asteroid that the The Empire toss at you.
Asteroid Thicket: HW1 includes a mission where a thicket of asteroids must be cleared in order to advance into a nebula. If any one of the asteroids collides with the mothership (or any of the ships in the fleet), they will cause an incredible amount of damage (and very likely a One-Hit Kill).
Attack Drone: The original and first sequel both have ships designed to deploy these. Unlike in most games, these are quite vulnerable to enemy fire, and are often considered underpowered.
Back from the Brink: The first game averts this—the grand evil empire won thousands of years ago. The forces fought in the first few missions are either petty space pirates or the fringe fleets of the empire who just happened to be in the area. The Mothership intelligence officer even makes it rather obvious that the chosen flight route is designed to avoid having to deal with the bulk of enemy forces.
The strategy guide for the second game revealed that no, the grand evil empire lost thousands of years ago. It's just that the exiles lost track of their history and technology and stopped being The Remnant, while the victors gradually became more corrupt and oppressive.
Bag of Spilling: Over the course of Cataclysm, the Somtaaw receive some very useful technology and applied it to several units, but in HW2 there is no evidence that these technologies were ever retained and improved—but this could be due to the Somtaaw hoarding their discoveries.
Averted in the case of strike craft, which no longer have to periodically refuel. However, this may simply have been for gameplay purposes.
The manual for Cataclysm even mentions that Kiith Somtaaw isn't using most of the awesome technology the Hiigarans gained in the first game because they can't afford the licensing fees for it.
The Battlestar: Battlecruisers from HW2. While they can't manufacture strike craft on their own, they can repair them and keep your fighter wings in the fight for that much longer.
There's also the Turanic Battle Carrier of HW1, which, on top of possessing the production and launching capabilities of regular carriers, also mounts heavy armor and two Ion Cannons.
The Kuun-Lan of Cataclysm initially doesn't fill this role since it lacks much weaponry, but once it mounts the Siege Cannon...
The Somtaaw carriers generally lack the firepower and armor of the heavier ships in your fleet, but if you protect them with a dozen Sentinels each, they can laugh off almost any attack in the game while supporting your fighter wings.
Beam Spam: Masses of ion frigates, and especially Cataclysm's Multi-Beam Frigates: take a cannon that normally has a whole ship built around it, reduce its power a little bit... and multiply the number of firing points (that can fire simultaneously) by five. Not to mention they're about as hard to herd as a horde of kittens.
The first game's Multi-Beam Frigates also deserve special mention. They're hardly bigger than corvettes, but they pack four forward-mounted ion cannons, meaning that they deliver as much punch as Wave Motion Guns in later games.
Cataclysm ups the ante by showing off Bentusi "Super" Acolytes, which are strikecraft mounted with those same rapid-fire ion cannons. TWO of them. Needless to say they're only available super late in the campaign, but they chew through any enemy ship in seconds, from other strikecraft to destroyers. Seriously.
Beat Them at Their Own Game: Almost all of the ships developed and built during HW1 are based on the opponent's weapons and engines technology, either reverse-engineered from capture or analysis or traded for with the Bentusi. Furthermore, almost every enemy ship can be captured and added to the fleet. Justified by the fact that most of the Kharaki clans ("Kiith") saw little value in preparing military forces for a peaceful expedition—and that the Mothership is capable of developing and building ships on its own.
... And then, the Beast comes along in Cataclysm and starts subverting the Somtaaw's best ships, meaning it's stealing what they stole. (Of course, that's what the Beast does.)
Averted in Homeworld 2, where the Vaygr technology (and deployment doctrine as well) is markedly different than that of the Hiigarans. Played straight again when both have to deal with and use the Progenitor technology.
Check Point: HW1 automatically saves at the beginning of each level. HW2 auto-saves almost every time something interesting happens.
Civil Warcraft: In Cataclysm, the Beast captures and converts many of the Somtaaw's own ships, then sends them into battle against their former brethren. This leads to near disaster later on when the Somtaaw meets an allied fleet while the Beast attacks them with their own converted ships—the allied fleet assumes all of the Somtaaw have been absorbed by the Beast, and treats them as hostile until proven otherwise.
Clown Car: There is no way the Carriers have enough room to fit all of those Strike Craft and the manufacturing facilities for them. Even the largest vessels still seem too small for what they are said to contain.
Scaling of units is deliberately skewed, especially when the camera is zoomed out, to make the smaller craft visible at scales the larger craft are useful on. It's possible to disable this scaling, which makes carrier capacity a bit more realistic visually, but doesn't entirely solve the problem.
Command And Conquer Economy: Justified in that the player is the commander of a military fleet whose centerpiece is a massive construction ship.
Competitive Balance: All of the games have this in some form or other; strike craft are beaten by frigates, frigates get eaten for breakfast by destroyers, destroyers get owned by heavy cruisers, and heavy cruisers get swarmed by strike craft. Homeworld 2 takes this several steps further, with certain ship types getting bonus damage against others (for instance, bomber squadrons doing bonus damage against battlecruisers).
Dynamic Difficulty: The computer's forces are dynamically spawned based on your own, and will always be numerically superior, usually to a rather unfair degree. Even worse, this is in real time; programming scales enemy forces according to how many ships the player's fleet has. Editing a savegame file to increase the amount of ships owned by the player's fleet will correspondingly add to the enemy's as well. This leads into...
Do Well, But Not Perfect: If you max out your fleet, you've almost guaranteed that you will lose certain missions. If the mission requires you to protect anything but yourself, you've basically failed. It is possible to win, but unlikely as hell. This is because...
My Rules Are Not Your Rules: You have a limit to how many of each type of ship you can have. The computer does not. Good luck shooting down seven battlecruisers (you can have two max) without losing a fair chunk of your fleet.
Not Playing Fair With Resources: In the third mission of HW2, the Vaygr have unlimited money and are not relying on a resourcing operation, since you can (by manipulating map triggers) bust it up long before the enemy actually arrives, and still not dent their infinite stream of attacks. To a lesser extent, the Vaygr in any given mission do not actually seem to need their resourcing operations, but in the interest of fair play they will not build more ships if you stifle it. Instead they will build wave after wave of resource collectors to act like they're playing nice.
Construct Additional Pylons: Downplayed, but wholly justified, in HW1; the Mothership—which houses all the Kharaki colonists—is their entire base, and handles construction of practically every ship internally (and there is a hard limit to the amount of ships of each type that can be built — but not for captured ships). The Mothership was specifically designed with this ability so that it could adapt to unforeseen situations; hostile alien encounters were deemed unthinkable, which is why the only real military ship available at the outset is a lightweight strike craft. Everything else had to be reverse-engineered, traded for, or researched in order to build them.
Cataclysm, however, plays it straight with support modules, although even there it's more of a nuisance, as you only build them once, and you have more than enough money to max them out and forget about them for the rest of the game.
Cosmetically Different Sides: In the first game, both playable sides are almost identical except for having two unique ships each, with the main difference being the location of turrets (usually not an issue, but Taiidan Gunships and Kushan Destroyers have better gun placement than those of the opposing side). In the later games, much more diversity is in place.
Roles flip in HW2, where the Vaygr (who perform a lot of pillaging of ship designs and technologies) have the highly-specialized units, while the Hiigarans have worked on integrating their acquired technologies into units capable of fulfilling multiple roles.
Critical Existence Failure: A ship in HW1 will start smoking and flaring when sufficiently damaged, but will still work just fine until that last hit point goes and it suddenly explodes.
Averted for the most part in Cataclysm, sometimes to the point of jabbing game balance. Ships decrease in effectiveness, especially movement speed, as more and more damage is taken. This can be especially harmful to fighter squadrons, which stubbornly refuse to leave any of their members behind unless expressly told to do so, and thus one damaged strike craft makes all of its wingmen vulnerable.
Averted in HW2, where it is possible to target "subsystems" (such as the engines or missile launchers) on some ships, allowing you to disable that ship without destroying it. However, any weapons or systems that don't have a subsystem available will still work perfectly until the ship explodes, massive chunks of blasted hull and plumes of flame and gas aside.
Cutscene: HW1 has both in-engine cutscenes during the missions and hand-drawn animations between each mission.
Cutscene Power to the Max: Progenitor Dreadnaught obliterates a battlecruiser in one shot in a cutscene. Unable to do it once you take control of it. Justified, since the shot in the cutscene was clearly too strong, crippling the dreadnought itself.
Danger Deadpan: Just listen to the battle chatter sometimes. Pilots and crews rarely lose their cool.
Hiigaran Frigate Captain: [ship seconds away from being destroyed] "Cabin pressure dropping."
Deflector Shields: Largely averted; ships rely on armor plating to stop enemy attacks. The Taiidan do get a Defense Field Frigate and Defense Fighter in HW1, which can nullify enemy mass driver weapons and missiles, but not ion beams, and only as long as they have enough energy.
Played straight with the Sentinel strike craft of Cataclysm. Sentinels are slow and have very little firepower, but a group of them can link together to form a shield, and can be ordered to escort one of your units and project this shield in front of them. Group enough of them together, and you can create a shield that completely surrounds a unit.
Disc One Nuke: See the YMMV page's entry for Game Breaker. In both HW1 and Cataclysm, it is possible to use your salvage units to pick up enemy ships, often ones that you can't build until later or that you can't obtain at all.
In HW1, it is possible to hijack an Imperial Carrier and two Destroyers before the end of the fifth mission, and Kadeshi Multi-Beam Frigates soon after. And while there is an Arbitrary Headcount Limit on constructing new ships, you can capture as many as you like; a well managed squadron of salvage corvettes can result in exceeding the various ship caps five or six times over by the endgame. You can even exceed the limit on Heavy Cruisers before you are allowed to build any of your own.
This can be taken to ludicrous extremes in Cataclysm. In the sixth mission, you are ordered to destroy a Taiidani Heavy Cruiser using Leech drones, since you don't have the ability to construct anything that can take it down in a head-on fight. You could also capture it instead, and then alert the nearby security station of your presence, causing them to send a fleet of Frigates and two Destroyers at you... all of which you can capture as well. And you can't even construct any of your own Destroyers until mission 11.
Dissonant Serenity: Both the female fleet command and the male tactical advisor keep their voices level at all times. This becomes quite chilling in, say, the third mission in HW1 where fleet command narrates the destruction of Kharak, and at the end of this mission the advisor tells you the information they got from a crew member one of the attacking ships you captured during this mission. He concludes with "The subject did not survive interrogation."
Also averted in places by Homeworlds 1 and 2. While Karan is, generally, very calm and composed there is the odd point where things become too much for her and she slips, and on a couple of occasions the bridge crew become emotional as well - the slightly broken-sounding 'there's nothing left for us here' at the end of the third mission, or the choked delivery of the death tolls during Homeworld 2's final mission.
Doomed Hometown: As mentioned above, your home planet (along with about 300 million people) is destroyed right at the beginning of HW1.
Do Well, But Not Perfect: HW1 has a persistent fleet; therefore, doing well early on makes it much easier later, while doing poorly makes it much harder... but it's possible that doing extremely well can make the later missions virtually impossible—one common trap is stealing too many Ion Frigates in the "holy Hiigara that's a lot of Ion Frigates" level. Fortunately, the game is so ridiculously difficult that it is almost impossible to do well enough to meet that eventuality.
HW2 is very very bad about this, especially in the later missions, because of the Dynamic Difficulty. One mission involves the defense of several (relatively tough) subsystems. If the Hiigarans have next to no ships, few enemy ships will attack the subsystems. If the Hiigarans enter the mission zone with a full fleet instead, the enemy will have no less than a dozen frigates for each subsystem, blasting away as fast as possible. In all likelihood, two of the three will be destroyed by the time you get close enough to defend them, and the third will quite literally be on its last bits of health. It's possible to win, just absurdly difficult. The next mission allows the enemy fleet to surpass the limit of ships allowed to the Hiigarans—meaning that where the player can only have two battlecruisers, the enemy will have seven.
Dummied Out: A promotional demo disc of Homeworld was released under the title "Raider Retreat". It follows the first few missions of the game faithfully, which almost all deal with the Turanic Raiders, but the final mission in the demo is an assault on the Turanic Raiders' world, which doesn't appear anywhere in the game, and even had some special voice acting. A look at the game's data files reveals that it is present as "mission05_oem", but unplayable in the final version of the game. Quite a pity, because the level was enjoyable.
Dungeon Bypass: The guantlet of powerful turrets and the Junkyard Dog at the Karos Graveyard can be completely ignored if you send a few scouts on a wide enough path to the objective; they only cover the most direct route.
Earn Your Happy Ending: The Kushan lost their home, were wiped almost to extinction, forced to flee across literally half the galaxy pursued by an interstellar empire, and were nearly obliterated many times, but in the end managed to find their Homeworld.
Earth That Was: Hiigara, the eponymous homeworld. In a rare subversion, the plot of the first game is all about getting back to Hiigara, which is found in more-or-less pristine condition. Cataclysm and HW2 are all about protecting Hiigara after it's been reclaimed.
Eleventh Hour Superpower: Several, such as the fully repaired Progenitor Dreadnought (and eventually Sajuuk) in HW2, and the Super Acolytes in Cataclysm.
Enemy Chatter: Well, ally chatter; your units will (rarely) comment on how the battle seems to be going. There's even a setting for chatter frequency.
Enemy Civil War: The Imperial Civil War. The impetus for the conflict was the destruction of Kharak, and the rebels even aid the exiles in the last stage in return for rescuing their leader. This is played further in Cataclysm where the Taiidan Republic is allied to the Hiigarans, but the Taiidan Empire is continuing to look for a way to regain their power.
Everything Fades: Destroyed vessels will simply disappear, despite debris fields from other vessels featuring quite prominently in several places. Larger ships may leave some reclaimable wreckage though.
Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: The Ion Cannon Frigate and Vaygr Battlecruiser. Tactically very important, as both ships have limited turn speed.
Also a number of other fixed-facing weapons, such as the Vaygr's use of vertically-launched missiles/torpedoes (see their Destroyer and Battlecruiser) and the Hiigaran Destroyer's forward torpedo tubes.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: Despite its massive engines and ability to hyperspace jump, the Mothership cannot be ordered to move in the single-player campaign of HW1. It can, however, move in multiplayer gameplay and during campaign cutscenes, and in HW2 its propulsion systems are fully operational.
Glass Cannon: Frigates pack a lot of punch but are easily destroyed, and the enemy really likes to pick on them. This is especially true of the Kadeshi Multi-Beam Frigate, which boasts as much firepower as a Heavy Cruiser, if not more, but is just as easily destroyed as any frigate.
Gunship Rescue: The arrival of the rebel reinforcements in the final mission of HW1.
In an earlier mission, the player themselves do this for a stricken Bentusi vessel.
Early on in HW2, Captain Soban (of Kiith Soban) drops by with a small frigate battlegroup to aid in the defense of the Mothership crew transports, just as the Vaygr attacks intensify. You get to return the favour later on.
In the final mission of HW2, it's this and The Cavalry when The Mothership/Sajuuk fleet jumps back to Hiigara, with the Sajuuk and its main cannon as the centerpiece of the fleet.
"Join the kiith!" is used at one point by Kuun-Lan's Fleet Command to express (disparaging) sympathy toward the Bentusi when the latter says they're afraid, in place of "join the club." It's Justified because the Faal-Corum, Kuun-Lan, and their respective fleets practically are what remains of Kiith Somtaaw, and they're all terrified of the Beast.
Homeworld Evacuation: The Mothership was meant to be a colony ship before the Kushan even were aware of the threat to their existence, but when the Taiidan incinerated Kharak's atmosphere it became necessary to their survival as a species.
Hufflepuff House: There are six major Kiith in HW1, but only S'jet is mentioned in game.
Infinity–1 Sword: While capturing enemy Heavy Cruisers and Destroyers in Cataclysm will result in a Disc One Nuke, they become essentially obsolete when you gain the ability to build your own Destroyers and Dreadnoughts. While the older capital ships can field more raw firepower than the ones you can build, they also lack the capability to be upgraded... meaning that they lose their firepower advantage over time, they do not have the ability to self-repair, and they can be turned against you with infection beams.
Instant Expert: Completely averted in Cataclysm, where ships had to be "upgraded" after you researched a new tech for them. Unfortunately, Cataclysm warfare is so stop-and-go in the first place that this concession to reality had almost no practical effect. Played straight in Homeworld 2 where any and all researched upgrades are immediately applied to your fleet.
Invisible Wall Attempting to wander off from the map is quite impossible.
ISO Standard Hiigaran Spaceship: The Kushan ships of HW1 are very thick and boxy in design (even with their strike craft!). Their default colors are gunmetal gray with white detailing. The Hiigarans continue the tradition in HW2, though they paint their ships blue, and the ships are more sleek in design.
I Will Fight No More Forever: If you bother reading the backstory and fluff of HW2, turns out the Bentusi did this trope after they manhandled the Kushan's ancestors in a epic battle between the Harborship and the Pride of Sajuuk and have relegated themselves to reluctant law-upholders and Arms Dealer ever since. Though as evident, their trade ships are still armed to the teeth with rapid fire ion cannons but they only ever use them for self-defense, making it a justifiable use of weaponry on their part.
Let's Get Dangerous: The Turanic Raiders. First time you meet they are pushovers who launch a few weak fighters at you from their poor man's mothership and call it a day, but the second time they show up they have broken out their ion array frigates (that have the firepower to kill your mothership), seven of which will appear near the mothership, and their carrier is actually a Battlestar with two ion cannons and a lot of hit points.
Dear GOD the Kadeshi Swarmers and Advanced Swarmers. They far outmatch any strikecraft you can field in terms of sheer speed and damage, and they're so fast that some of the Kushan battle chatter while attempting to (and failing) fire upon Kadeshi swarmers is something along the lines of "Target's too fast". Luckily they've got some fuel problems, and you're eventually able to field multi-gun corvettes that are great counters to the Kadeshi in general.
Living Ship: The Beast, from Cataclysm, a biomechanical virus that turns living matter into neural control networks, takes this to the next level by being a living fleet. The Beast tactical advisor in multiplayer even refers to its ships as "selves".
Locked Out of the Fight: The main role of the Ramming Frigates in Cataclysm is to push out the enemy ships out of the battle, buying time for the Somtaaw fleet to eliminate the rest of opposition before the rammed enemy ships can rejoin.
It is also suggested that every single one of the current factions/races are descended from the vast, scattered crew of the massive Progenitor craft which also contained the Oracle and the two Gatekeepers.
Lost Forever: in the sequel, when you switch command from the Mothership to Sajuuk, you lose the ability to build Movers. If you don't have any, or you lose any, you can't make more. This isn't a huge loss though, as the Movers are not especially effective against the Vaygr.
Machine Monotone: Karan S'jet shows little emotion, which wavers between creepy or reassuring depending on the situation. In retrospect, her voice is actually quite helpful in keeping the player calm in intense situations.
Made of Indestructium: The Far Jumper drive core can emerge from a completely destroyed ship without a single scratch.
And a frighteningly effective tactic for Cataclysm's acolyte fighter squadrons, albeit one that can only be used once per docking run.
And let's not get started on the entire culture of the Vaygr, which revolves around throwing as many missiles as they can to the opposition—and they use fusion missiles designed to take down frigate class and upwards. A Zerg Rush made up of Vaygr missile frigates puts the "massacre" in Macross Missile Massacre.
Meaningful Name: All the Somtaaw ships are named for temples on Kharak. The Kuun-Lan, your main ship in Cataclysm, means “Purifying Flame”
Meat Moss: Ships infected by the Beast are visibly covered in random parts of their hulls. It's all made from the ship's materials and the crew's living tissue. All of that is used to make a connection and interact with the assimilated ship's functional abilities.
Mobile Factory: In Homeworld II, the mothership, shipyard, and carrier classes are able to manufacture smaller vessels, and battlecruisers can repair fighters. There are also mobile refineries, which convert matter into energy.
More Dakka: Multi-Gun corvettes. Designed to chew up bombers and fighters. Six rapid-firing turreted railguns.
The Mothership: The core ship in all of the player's fleets (Carriers can sometimes stand in for Motherships in multiplayer games), most notably the Hiigaran Mothership. The alternate Mothership stands in as the Imperial Flagship in the first game.
It's subtly implied in the backstory to HW2 that the only thing keeping the Vaygr from sweeping across the galaxy like a horde of locusts like they do in HW2 was the Taiidan Empire...
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In the last mission of Homeworld 2, the Vaygr unleash several planet-bombing ships that are completely invulnerable to all conventional weapons, and even the Progenitor Dreadnought's Wave Motion Gun. In the penultimate mission, you kicked the Vaygr Big Bad's ass in his flagship and took his Hyperspace Core. Which was the last one you needed to use the Sajuuk, which has an even bigger Wave Motion Gun and actually can damage the planet bombers. If the Big Bad had just transferred himself and his Hyperspace Core to one of those planet-bombers instead of hanging around the Sajuuk until you showed up, he'd have been undefeatable.
One World Order: The discovery of the Guidestone and subsequent construction of the Mothership united the clans of Kharak. It's also mentioned however that the clans still exist after they "returned" to Hiigara.
Optional Stealth: In Homeworld II, you can choose to develop cloaking technology, which can be highly effective against opponents who don't plan for you developing it, but it isn't a necessity. In general a winning strategy requires developing a mix of forces that allow units to defend each other and win the resourcing battle, regardless of your actual combat tactics.
Portal Network: The Eye of Aarran, a network of hyperspace gates. An unusual instance, in that it wasn't a gameplay element, but rather, was apparently the crowning glory of the Age of S'jet, discovered by Karan during the game's ending and opening up free trade and communication with every corner of the galaxy.
Possession Implies Mastery: Captured vessels are able to be crewed and operated less than a minute after capturing, even if there are thousands of years of disparity between the two forces.
Subverted in Homeworld 2. While, yes, you can gain control of any ship that you capture... this doesn't include any capabilities that involve construction. Thus, if you think grabbing a Vaygr Shipyard will allow you to deploy Vaygr Battlecruisers alongside Torpedo Frigates, you're wrong- all you've done is grabbed an incredibly large, incredibly slow ship with only point defense weapons for defense. And, furthermore, the best thing you can do is use it to repair fighters.
It gets better. In singleplayer, attempting to capture a Vaygr Carrier or Shipyard simply cripples it, permanently disabling all its weapons, systems, and other functions. This is presumably to prevent the player using Vaygr technology, and to avoid campaign events potentially breaking because key ships are still 'alive' despite no longer being hostile.
Handwaved in the case of the Gatekeeper Dreadnaught in HW2, which is specifically stated to be compatible with Hiigaran control systems and crew training. For some reason.
Precursors: The Progenitors.
Protection Mission: Done in several missions of HW1 with the Mothership, and again in HW2 with various allied targets.
Ramming Always Works: In HW1, a common multiplayer tactic involved ramming the enemy mothership with one's own mothership. Certain ships are even designed to exploit Collision Damage with a "kamikaze" attack mode—the small portion of the rebels in the last mission of the game, for example, will head directly for the Imperial Flagship and ram it in order to help take down its monstrously high health bar.
In Cataclysm, two ships in particular are only able to attack kamikaze-style, most notably the Somtaaw Ramming Frigate, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Having said that, the point of the Ramming Frigate is to push its target out of battle; any damage done by the collision is almost incidental.
HW2: When Makaan's flagship in the second to last mission is heavily damaged, it will launch waves of fighters which will smash themselves into your ships. This is unusual since Homeworld 2 doesn't allow for kamikaze attacks in normal gameplay, unlike the first Homeworld. In any case the kamikaze fighters can do a lot of damage, but usually when you get to this point you'll have swarms of friendly fighters that can shoot them down without much trouble.
Retcon: The role of the hyperspace core found in the Khar-Toba changes significantly between HW1 and HW2. In HW1, the Hiigarans explicitly copied the core they found in the Khar-Toba wreckage and specifically made it bigger to fit the Mothership. The original was left on Kharak, presumably burned along with the rest of the world. In HW2, it is explicitly not copied or modified; it was taken directly from the Khar-Toba wreck and put into the Mothership. It also became one of only three known Mac Guffins capable of traveling across the galaxy in one jump.
Ridiculously Fast Construction: More justified than most considering the advanced technology available, but being able to construct a colossal, fully-stocked warship from scratch within minutes is still impressive.
Saharan Shipwreck: The discovery of Khar-Toba, the massive ruined spaceship in the middle of the desert, and the hyperspace core and the galactic map within are what starts the plot of the series.
Scary Amoral Religion: Subverted by the Kadeshi in HW1. Their hostility and insularity—allowing no one to leave the Garden of Kadesh alive, either through destroying them or having them join their society—is an attempt at keeping the The Empire from finding them.
All the backgrounds were just gradients between low-resolution grid points. Somehow they managed the most beautiful sky(space?)boxes as of yet seen while having an extremely limited method of creating them. Even the mission that took place inside a partially constructed Dyson Sphere was made the same way.
The Karos Graveyard (pictured in the Image Links tab) features mind-bogglingly huge pieces of hull drifting in the background. The size of the ships, stations or even Dyson spheres these would have been attached to are almost impossible to imagine.
Sealed Evil in a Can: The first contact with The Beast is made by the Somtaaw, who pick up a pod drifting in space, "A pod that contained a tiny portion of The Beast...". Subverted later with the Naggarok, a massive trans-galactic ship utterly consumed by the infection.
See the Whites of Their Eyes: Despite being able to travel hundreds of thousands of light years, combat is mostly restricted to several dozen kilometers of space. Justified by the "fluff" in the game manual, which explains that the Mothership with its cobbled-together hyperspace technology is all but blind unless it's in real space. It can tell if "something big enough to be interesting" is present as it goes by, but has to drop out of hyperspace to actually look.
The Turanic Missile Corvette is one of the exceptions, which can be captured with some slick salvage tactics. Its volley attack, similar to the Missile Destroyer's, can hit targets well beyond visual range provided another ship acts as a spotter.
Also, the Siege Cannon in Cataclysm pretty much has to be fired beyond visual range, or the Command Ship might blow itself up.
If the player on the receiving end of the shot has a repulsor, they can swat it right back from just as far away.
Self-Destruct Mechanism: Each ship in the first game and Cataclysm have an option to do this. This is normally done to either deny the ship to the enemy in the event of a capture attempt, and in the case of Cataclysm, if you're fast enough on the button, to keep them from being assimilated by the Beast.
Sequence Breaking: A very minor one, but during one level in Cataclysm, you are required to send several fighters to escort a science vessel while it explores the remnants of the lower half of your original ship. Shortly after they arrive, the beast takes over the science vessel along with your fighters in a cutscene. However, you can "cheat" this part by keeping your fighters selected, and have them escort the vessel like normal. Then, right before the cutscene takes over, order your fighters to dock. They will leave the area, thereby making the science vessel the only victim of of the beast, and resulting in fewer enemy forces to fight against.
It's also possible on some maps to avoid triggering certain events (like an attack that begins when an NPC ship is sufficiently repaired) and harvest the map's resources, both giving you a chance to reinforce your fleet and denying those resources to the enemy.
Shout-Out: The references to ancient mythology and actual historical places/names are innumerable.
There's also the final cutscene in Cataclysm which bears strong similarities to a famous finale.
Not to mention, the aftermath of a fleet battle, rendered in cutscene form, shows the shuttle from Alien briefly.
The art design of the Homeworld series was molded after Peter Elson's artwork for the Terran Trade Authority series. The leader of the Rebellion in Homeworld is named Captain Elson in his honor.
Besides Elson, some of the ship designs were apparently also inspired by the art style typical for Chris Foss.
Several of the missions in the first game bear resemblance to scenes from Homer's The Odyssey, including one where the Kharaki have to explore a graveyard of dead ships to find a blind oracle, protected by a dog. Another features a spaceship that enslaves all those who come near enough to hear its song.
Sleeper Starship: In the second full mission of the original game the Mothership recovers cryotrays holding a total of up to 600,000 colonists, all that is left of their people.
Space Clouds: The games have mission areas which take place inside nebulae, often used story-wise as cover against detection (though visibility is usually not significantly reduced while in one). Areas inside nebulae often contain wisp-like strands of stellar gas that function as harvestable resources, but these areas are otherwise like open space missions.
Space Mines: The game has Minelaying Corvettes. The mines themselves are proximity-triggered homing mines.
Sphere of Destruction: The Siege Cannon in Cataclysm wipes out every non-capital ship in an about 500 meter wide sphere, badly damaging everything that survives.
Ships can be ordered into a sphere formation, which can then be deployed around either an ally or enemy ship. If the latter is done, the ships involved sacrifice individual maneuverability in favor of concentrating all of their firepower on the victim.
Stealth in Space: There's the Spectre cloaked fighter and the Cloak generator in the first game, and the sensor distortion probe in the second.
Stupidity Is the Only Option: The start of Homeworld Cataclysm. Prime example is where you must to send your science vessel to investigate the jettisoned part of your ship, but are not allowed to do it without sending a specific (large) number of fighter escorts. Once you do, the science vessel and all those escorts are immediately infected and attack you, unless you immediately hit "dock" for your fighters as the cutscene begins, allowing you to keep your fighters.
Later, during a fight with the Turanic Raiders, a friendly ship appears out of nowhere and contacts the Kuun-Lan with this message: "Attention Kuun-Lan. This is the... Caal-Shto. We have arrived with reinforcements from Hiigara... Come to us." The odd hesitation and clearly sinister tone in that last sentence is dripping with the potential for horror, but Fleet Command doesn't catch on until the Raiders send a group to investigate the 'reinforcements' and get themselves assimilated. Fortunately, this is only an in-story case of the trope, and you're allowed to keep your fleet right where they are until you have a plan for dealing with the Beast's arrival.
Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: In HW2, certain units will get bonuses attacking certain unit types; bombers inflict bonus damage against capital ships, flak shells do minimal damage against frigates but devastate fighter and gunship squadrons, and so on.
Unlike the first game, where most units except a few are simply pallette swaps or reskins of each other, the Vaygr has their own tactical rock-paper-scissors mechanics in their fleet makeup. While Hiigarans operate on the understandable assumption of "bigger ships usually outgun smaller ones" (such as making Corvettes and Frigates good against Fighters), the Vaygr inverts this by having dedicated Corvette-killer Fighters, and even Anti Capital-Ship Corvettes.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: If you dock strike craft to a support frigate, then tell it to hyperspace, it will take the strikecraft along with it, turning the frigate into a jeep carrier. This is not mentioned anywhere in official documentation.
Take Your Time: Most missions have no time limit, or won't even trigger the next event unless a certain action is taken.
2-D Space: Mostly averted. The map is accessible on any axis, and attacks from above and below are possible, common, and quite fun. There is however a universal zero-altitude plane on the map, and all capital ships will align to the same "up", though not always.
The Virus: A sentient bio-mechanical Grey Goo-like organism capable of consuming and converting both people and technology into extensions of itself. According to in-game lore, it is apparently an extra-galactic creature that exists in hyperspace and infected the Naggarok as it passed through a patch of it at random.
Used Future: The Turanic Raiders of HW1 and Cataclysm are the dirtiest of the bunch, barring derelict hulks... if you don't mind the odd tiger stripe pattern paint job some of their ships have.
Video Game Caring Potential: Only one of the cryotrays need to be saved after Kharak is destroyed, but letting hundreds of thousands of helpless people die is not an option.
One of the six trays is more or less expected to be destroyed, as you're forced into an in-engine cutscene shortly after the mission starts and the tray is under attack the whole time. Act fast enough, though, and you can have your fleet engage (or capture) the enemy forces even as the cutscene plays.
Voice of the Legion: The Beast ships; especially prevalent in the case of the Naggarok, constantly switching between a feminine voice and a deep masculine voice, often several times in a single sentence. Justified by the fact that as a biomechanical virus it has no ability to speak per se, so instead it uses bits of chatter acquired during millennia of spacedrift, the content of the ships logs and possibly the memories of its victims.
Wave Motion Gun: Cataclysm's Siege Cannon, which has ungodly range, one-shots most ships over a wide area-of-effect, is spinal mounted to the Command Ship, and capable of devastating one's own fleet if not carefully used. (Yes, you can accidentally blow up your own fleet if one of your ships is in the projectile's line of fire, it's difficult but possible.)
And then Homeworld 2 rolls in with the Progenitor Dreadnaught, the Sajuuk, and the Vaygr Battlecruiser, which remarkably does resemble Yamato from Space Cruiser Yamato.
Honorable mention goes to the ion cannon, the primary anti-capital weapon. The smallest ship that can carry it is a frigate, and in that case the entire ship is built around it. Catacylsm's multi-beam frigate, well... those are something else entirely.
Wet Ware CPU: The Mothership and Bentusi tradeships are effectively city-ships run by people/a person (such as Karen Sjet) plugged in, with such ships often being described as extensions of/replacements for one's own body. The Bentusi seem to consider this a stage in a civilisation's development and collectively refer to races that have achieved this feat as "The Unbound".
What Could Have Been: Prominent space RTS developers Stardock and Paradox attempted to obtain the Homeworld rights when they were auctioned off, but were outbid by Gearbox.
What the Hell, Player?: Radio chatter coming from strike craft pilots and capital ship captains has a hint of hesitation or refusal to obey a friendly fire order. The three quotes below are taken from Homeworld 1 and have variations in tone and form, but they are the essential three.
"Uh... target confirmed."
"It's your call... target acquired."
"Friendly target... please check."
Worker Unit: Played straight in Cataclysm, but averted in the other two games where you need separate units for salvage (and, in the first, a separate unit for repair too!).
You Can't Go Home Again: The first game is all about going home, but the third mission kicks off with your exiled home being obliterated, meaning it's Hiigara or bust.
You Require More Vespene Gas: To build ships you need to mine resources from asteroids or whatever else is minable, often fighting with your enemy to do so. Played fairly straight in HW1, where resources were fairly rare even though you could spend forever mining every last drop at the end of the level. Subverted (probably unintentionally) in the campaign in HW2; since the game simply gives all the resources in the area to you at the end of the level regardless of circumstance, it's rather likely you'll have more money than you'll ever be able to spend by about halfway through the game.
You No Take Candle: Most Beast ships that try to talk speak this way, though how they can send a voiced radio transmission startled Kuun-Lan bridge officers at first; justified by the fact that it assembles it's lines from the ship's log recordings and victim memories. The Naggarok however can speak perfectly albeit in a very weird voice.
Beast Command Ship: Kuun-Lan parts! We want beacon brain! Give us data or we take data with your parts!
Fleet Command: What?! How can it be talking to us?
Beast Command Ship: Parts! Do not flee. Come to us. We require knowledge of birthself!
Zerg Rush: In one Homeworld 2 mission, you have to rescue a guy from a space station. If you have a decent or full-sized fleet, expect to see a wave of fighters so huge that it probably outnumbers every fighter you've built in the game combined.
The Kadeshi in Homeworld also rely on Zerg Rush tactics. Their swarmer fighters are small, fast, and abundant, but run out of fuel very quickly.