Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

The Return of Master of Orion

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 26, 2016

ship_route_lays_through_two_blue_wormholesI normally don’t play “Early Access” games, on the justification that I don’t have time to play the completed, released games I already own, so why would I want to play a buggy, incomplete game?

But I make exceptions. And for the early access launch of Master of Orion, the rebooting of a franchise I spent an embarrassing amount of time playing back in the 90s, I was happy to make the exception. It was just over an hour, but it felt like time well spent. Except there’s a very real danger here that it could turn into a gigantic time-sink, like its predecessors.

The early access game seems very playable thus far. A few options are missing, like a tutorial game, some customizations, or the ability to change difficulty levels. However, the game has built-in tutorial pop-ups whenever you encounter a new situation, so it was surprisingly easy to pick up the basics. While I’m undoubtedly missing out on a lot of subtleties and optimizations necessary to play a competitive game, my Psilons seemed to be expanding and destroying space pirates quite nicely.

The developers seem to have cribbed a few pages from Civilization V to streamline the interface and the gameplay. Compared to how I remember the older games, this one plays far easier and more quickly. If it weren’t for the linearly increasing complexity that comes with managing multiple colonies, I’d say it feels a little bit like a board game. A board game voiced by celebrity actors, maybe.

Moo_FightCamMany Master of Orion fans will be disappointed by the lack of tactical combat in space. I know I was. UPDATE: Master of Orion does offer an RTS-style tactical combat option, but it is disabled by default. For me, the tactical combat was the differentiation between the also-excellent Galactic Civilizations series and Master of Orion.

There are a lot of 4x (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) space games out there nowadays. Master of Orion used to rule the roost in that respect. Now, I personally think the king of the hill is still Galactic Civilizations II. I haven’t quite warmed up to the sequel yet, which feels like a streamlined revision rather than a new game. Considering the depth and the complexity of Gal Civ II, and the fact that Gal Civ III is multiplayer, some streamlining was probably in order. I’ve played a couple of the other indie 4x space games, and they are respectable, each with their quirks. Some even offer tactical ship combat…

NewMOOBesides the tactical ship combat, the “secret sauce” for Master of Orion, at least as well as I recall it, would be the races, the existence of the super-Gaia planet Orion protected by an ancient, automated robot space guardian, and movement limitations based on warp connections between systems (bypassed eventually by technology). So far, all of these other elements seem to be intact. So in those other respects, it feels like the original franchise.

From just my short experience playing it, it looks like the Master of Orion reboot is shooting for the simpler, more streamlined tier of the 4x jungle… which is surprising given its legacy. However, it also looks like it is emphasizing multiplayer, which makes that focus pretty critical. It may end up being king of the multiplayer 4x space strategy games.

If so, that’s not a bad niche to own.

I’m excited to see this game evolve to final release.

Filed Under: Impressions, Strategy Games - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Tesh said,

    It’s a game I really want to like. And have time to play.

    Maybe by the time it goes on sale, I’ll have time. And tactical combat. Multiplayer is irrelevant.

  • Void said,

    Once again no tactical battles? I;pm surprised there is no studio that understands what pulled people to MOO2.