Master of Orion Review

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Master of Orion from 2016 is a remake of a legendary 4X game Master of Orion 2, that came out 20 years ago and has been since acknowledged as the best 4X game of all times. Now, 20 years later, Wargaming.net has decided to make a reboot of this game. I followed it all the way through the early access up to now, when the time has come to make a proper review.

Don’t fix it if it’s not broken

There is a belief among the game developers that a game needs to be different, yes, even radically transfromed from its predecessors if it wants to succeed. Alas, if you have a game with an isometric view in the first two installments, you really must have a 3D presentation in the third title or otherwise everybody’s going to declare your title utter crap, lacking any innovations.

Luckily Wargaming.net never paid attention to such attitudes.

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Smaller galaxies means star faring cultures will get into each other hairs – or tentacles or whatnot – much sooner…

The actual truth is simple; you are never supposed to switch a winning horse. If it works, it is not broken.
Master of Orion 2 is a game that I still play up to this day and I love it. I’m also not the only one with this opinion because there is a broad consensus that Master of Orion 2 is the best 4X game all times. Wargaming.net has managed to recognize the beauty of MOO2 and, what is even more fascinating, they managed to transfer it to the new Master of Orion title. They managed to capture the magic that was in that game 20 years ago and infuse it into the 2016 edition of the game. Eventually, they avoided the worst mistake possible – they did not innovate, they recreated, and they did that successfully.

Master of Orion races

First thing that Wargaming.net decided to copy and copy successfully were the races. The races/species, are essentially the same ones that we came to love and admire in the old days. We have the Alkari, Bulrathi, Mrrshan, Psilons and Sakkra, basically all the ones that we had in the previous game. Not only that there are very similar in appearance, there also a fairly accurate remake, and thus have very similar traits and features that they had in the original game. If you are a MOO veteran, you will know right of the start that a specific race will be violent and expansionist, the other one will be diplomatic and forthcoming, some will be relying on spies, others on technological advancement, and finally some will simply rely on the massive numbers of their starships and the missiles in their launchers.

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I will hold back and make no derogatory comments, alluding to some elections from our time that also seemed kinda “out of space”…

There’s also the possibility to create your own custom race in the game. In fact, Master of Orion gives players a great deal of flexibility when it comes to creating custom races as well as custom galaxies that the entire game is going to take place in. I would, however, recommend you play withe the preexisting races before you start messing with your own genetic makeup – the experience between Humans, Psilons and Silicoids are totally different and the gameplay varies accordingly.

Master of Orion features several awesome actors who are doing the voice acting for this game. Michael Dorn (Worf from Star Trek: The next Generation), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Dwight Schultz (A Team, Star Trek TNG), John De Lancie (Q from Star Trek), Alan Tudyk (Firefly), they all gave their voice and made sure the nerds will have something to “gasm” over. Seeing their performance makes me thing that this money was well invested, although I am not a fan of such stunts just for the sake of getting famous names on board…

The best part about this game is that it has managed to maintain the spirit of his predecessor. Master of Orion plays and feels like evolved version of 2o year old legendary title.

Spy Who Loved Me

A lot of parts of the MOO2 were simply copied, but there are also parts that have been introduced with this version, such as spy system. In the Master of Orion 2 you would simply have spies that you would send out to the enemy with orders to conduct acts of espionage or sabotage, while leaving a portion of spies at home to act as counter espionage. In this remake your spies require a lot of micromanagement.

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Every spy action takes a while now, 10 or even 15 turns, so you can’t clean someone out who doesn’t have counter espionage within a several moves

They act somewhat similar to the leaders, and you have to train them have them do counter-espionage or send them to infiltrate specific species. once they have infiltrated species, you can choose to give them orders such as steal star charts, steel technology, cause riots, try to assassinate enemy leader or even try to incite revolts. Depending on the skill of your agent you will have more or less success. Also the agent will cost you a lot of credits, so you may find yourself having huge amount of expenses for a half a dozen 5 star spies that are sitting in counter espionage, doing little to improve your advancement. But you cannot completely neglect this part of the game either, or you will find yourself at the mercy of other races that are stealing your technology left and right as well as diminishing your good reputation with other species (by setting you up)… Make sure that you invest properly and timely in your spies and use them wisely. It’s a shame when you have a 5 star spy that dies trying to infiltrate a society with a single star system and probably no technology worth mentioning that he can steal.

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Conquering Orion and destroying the Guardian sets you up as the dominant species of the galaxy. Meanest dog in the hood.

Space Battles in Master of Orion

The space battles were awesome in Master of Orion 2; they were turn based and were imbued with a specific spirit you can hardly manage to capture today. Space battles in the remake are probably the most MOO2 unsimilar feature when we compare the new game to the old one. It is more a 3D experience on a flat pizza box plane that is being conducted in real time, although turn based combat is also available.I can+t say that the combat now is truly bad, but I will tell you one thing – in Master of Orion 2, there were phases in my development when another species would declare a war on me and my survival would actually depend on the fine micromanagement of my half a dozen ships I commanded. In short, one ship more or less determined sometimes the outcome of an entire war. In the 2016 version, I found that I could dictate when and how I will fight anyway, and my fleets would usually be far stronger than my opponents. The “Winning by the skin of my teeth” thing just doesn’t happen to me in this version…

Final conclusion

Master of Orion remake from Wargaming.net is a masterpiece, short and simple. I have been playing it ever since the Early Access phase, I’ve been watching the development ever since and I must commend Wargaming.net for always having an open ear for its fans. That is probably the most important reason why this game is so popular today and why it turned out to be a massive success. The fans told what they loved with MOO2 and the developer listened to them; the rest is history.

I will definitely recommend Master of Orion to anyone, either an experienced strategy 4X player or newcomer who is trying to soak his feet in this genre. Both of them will find the game easily accessible, simple to learn, intuitive and logical, yet hard to master.

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About Author

Vlad The Impaler

Vlad is an old school gamer, all the way back from the times of Commodore 64. Yes, with 30 years of gaming and some 15 years as an editor and author, writing reviews for a number of magazines and online gaming portals, he is the true OG of the gaming generation. Cake is a lie. The chicken is real. The truth is out there.