This was "Game of the Year" in 1999, and rightfully so. Apart from being a damn good real time strategy game, the single player mode also managed to tell an epic story that I have found to be superior to almost every game I have ever played and also most movies I have ever seen... by rights this should be made a movie as well.
The plot begins as follows: your race, inhabiting the old desert planet Kharak, finds mounting numbers of hints that they are not indigenous to this world - the local biology is different, and fragments of metal are found in orbit. By accident a 4000 year old spaceship is found under the sands of the Great Desert which indicates that the ancestors of your race once stranded on Kharak and fell back to barbarism, rising to space travel once more over the centuries. The ship possesses a functioning faster-than-light-drive, and a stone with an galactic map etched on it, indicating the position of your lost homeworld: HIIGARA.
The whole economy of Kharak is set to construct a huge colony ship, taking 600.000 volunteers deep corewards, where the Homeworld is said to be. After 60 years of construction the Mothership, as it is called, is finally complete and undergoing tests. Following a test jump to the outer rim of the Kharak system, the support ship which it should meet is found to be destroyed, and alien ships attack the Mothership. After they are defeated, the Mothership returns to Kharak, only to find that the planet has been attacked and the population was wiped out - only the colonists remain in their cryo sleep chambers in orbit, which must be rescued from being destroyed by the attackers, servants of a huge interstellar empire which once banished your ancestors to Kharak.
With nowhere to go but onward, the Mothership sets out on a long quest for the lost Homeworld, carrying all that is left of your people. Numerous missions take it from the Galactic Rim near the Core. You have to fight every inch of the way, with ever more powerful ships ranging from simple utility vessels as resource collectors over fighters, bombers, corvettes, frigates and destroyers up to gigantic carriers and heavy cruisers, each with its own strengths and weaknesses which can be avoided by clever combination of forces. All this is presented in breathtaking graphics which look good even today, seven years afterwards, and mindboggling music - the best computer game soundtrack I ever heard, and completely fitting. In the end, the Exiles arrive at Hiigara to face the Emperor and his fleet in the final battle high over the Homeworld.
Rating: 10/10. This game still has it all: gameplay, skill, graphics, music, story... you name it.
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