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PC Game Preview
Master of Orion (MOO) is open for early access and we thought we would take a look while it’s still in its prepublished version.
The original game came out in 1993 and was a turn based 4X game, (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate). It borrowed much from board games and went on to be commercially successful and a fan favourite. MOO2 and 3 followed, but it seemed to be a case of diminishing returns with especially the third game being held up as generally a poor offering.
So, there have been the occasional 4X game released since, but things in the MOO camp had been quiet for many years, that was until Wargaming.net picked up the rights from the Atari bankruptcy.
First impressions are good; this isn’t a remake as such, but a reimaging of the best parts of the franchise.
The aim of the game remains the same: to expand your empire by colonising planets. You can play either the single player mode against the AI, which is where I spent most of my time, or you can engage in multiplayer fun. The early release does have some customisable settings for audio, graphics, gameplay and controls.
There are only six races available in this build, there are another four waiting to be activated and a greyed out custom race option. Each race has their own characteristics, so it’s best to keep their initial configurations in mind as you go through the game. You don’t have to play as a human character, but each race has specific strengths and weaknesses. The game has an attractive start screen where you can see the available races and read about them whilst enjoying the spoken narration.
Having chosen you race you can also change the characteristics of your playing area, allowing you to specify the size, age and shape of the galaxy with a further eight customisable settings for the game.
The game plays on two levels. On the star chart you can use your scout ships to look for suitable planets to colonize. To colonize a planet you need a specific type of ship which most of your planets will be able to provide. Ships can only move a specific distance in any given turn and it may take a number of turns to move from one star system to the next.
Your main units of production will be your planets. Each has a specific environment which determines how productive they can be, some relatively barren planet may otherwise be rich in minerals which are useful to your economy. Production not only gets you new building, but also grows the planet's prosperity allowing you to tax citizens in order to create revenue. When the planets are not making buildings they are creating ships and engaging in research - and there is a lot of possible research available.
If this was not enough to try and keep balanced, the game adds the further challenge of you not being the only race in the universe. The AI is pretty good in the single player mode and in no way does it feel like they are a push over and, at times, the single player game could be very challenging. Who do you make friends with? How do you balance the fact that a treaty with one race may inadvertently anger another?
There are a number of ways to win the game, but there is no way that you will not have to engage in combat. Combat happens on a separate screen where you have some basic commands available as well as the ability to speed up the fight if you’re leaving the AI to control both sides. There is a minimal amount of strategy in the combat; mostly it comes down to firepower.
Wargaming Net have done a fine job in bringing MOO up to date and if the early access is anything to go by the final produce should will steal many hours of your time.