Review – Master of Orion

Every time I think about it, I realize how happy I am that  I was born in the ’80’s. We didn’t need to go the arcade anymore to play games, it was the time when we could play all kinds of video games right at home. It was the time I rather stayed at home playing with the Commodore instead of going outside and play football with some friends. 

And to be honest, this is still the same. I’m still waiting for certain titles to be released and I’m still losing myself in the digital fantasy that’s out there. Even more, I’m hoping that the great games from the good old days will be rebooted so that the gamer in me feels more alive than before. And I know Wargaming thinks the same way, after all, there was a reason when they bought the Master of Orion IP.

When they bought the IP, they carefully selected a great team, including old Master of Orion employees, to bring back this gem from the past to bring us the long-awaited reboot. In my preview (DUTCH) I already told you guys how awesome the bèta was, but now the game is finally finished, it’s a fact, Master of Orion has been released. So that’s one more game I can take off my list that I think need a reboot or a sequel.

We all know Wargaming from the World of games (Tanks, Warplanes and Warships). Less know is the Wargaming incubator called WG Labs. This is the place were a lot of talents will be guided and supported by Wargaming so that they can realise their dream (which is making a great game). This is also the place where Master of Orion  was built by NGD Studios and became the shining diamond that it is today. NGD is a studio with lots of experience and some great games, so this was an easy chose for NGD and Wargaming if you ask me.

But let’s focus on the game, after all, that is where the review is all about. And even though I talked about most of the stuff in my preview, I will start at the beginning for all the new Master of Orion players.

Master of Orion is also known as the founder of the 4X games, in the beginning of the ’90 Master of Orion 1 was released and it was all about eXploration, eXpanding, eXploiting and eXtermination. This is still where Master of Orion is about today. But the one thing that they did change is the fact that it’s not just about the 4 X’s anymore. Of course, things changed over time, since the release of the first game, and so Master of Orion got a lot of add-ons. Add-ons might not always work for games, but in this case, it works out just fine.

Now, let me take you along to show and explain to you what’s possible within the game Master of Orion. This, of course, starts with the settings of the game, even before you start Master of Orion. And believe me, if you look at all the possibilities, you know this is a game that will take every minute of your spare time that you have.

When we start a new game, the first thing that we need to do is pick the type of galaxy you want to play in. Do you want to go for a circular universe, a spiral shaped universe or do you prefer a cluster? But that’s not all, once you have picked your shape than it’s time to choose the size of the universe. Do you prefer big or small? What’s also very important is the age of the galaxy and of course, the starting age. In other words, there are a lot of options to choose from, even before you set foot on a single planet in the game.

When you got the game set up the way you want it to be, then you have to choose how many AI you want to play against and at which pace you want the game to move on. Next to that you can also choose between pirates or no pirates, monsters or no monsters, research, population,  and the speed of product research. If you think that’s all, then you should know that there are also winning conditions that you can adjust before starting.

This point, the winning conditions, is a new add-on compared to the first Master of Orion games, in the new Master of Orion, we have 5 possibilities to win the game. You can win the game by excellence, conquest, technological, diplomatic and/or economic victories.

Economic victory has everything to do with money, technological victory is also pretty straight forward and needs no further explanation. When it comes to a diplomatic victory it’s all about making the races on the council vote for you and make you the most powerful empire in the galaxy. But even if you do not meet the requirements, you can still win. Then it all comes down to the score of the game, which will be counted after 250 turns, and can be set to 9.999 turns, whatever you prefer. There is also a possibility to win the game by focusing on  eXtermination, making your race the only race left in the entire galaxy.

With all these possibilities within the game, Master of Orion makes sure no match will ever be the same. But before you start you also have to choose which race  you will choose to start your journey with. And when it comes down to races, we do have a lot of races in the game, of course, we have the 10 original Master of Orion races (plus an exclusive race available in the Collector’s Edition). This choice might be the most important one in the game since every race has its pros and cons. So, which one will match your playing style?

Let’s take a closer look at the races.

Alkari

The Alkari is a race that feels better than the rest, they can’t adapt very easily. You can worship the Alkari, which are born to fly. Their homeworld gives you artefacts with great technology perks.

Master of Orion Alkari

Bulrathi

This is a very territorial race which is not afraid to use force. They have technology and production perks which also gave them an advantage against extreme gravity. They also have ground forces who are very strong. When you start with the Bultrathi, you will enjoy the large planet that they have right from the start.

Master of Orion Bulrathi

Darlok

The Darlok is a race that takes everything that crossed their pad. There is a reason why they are a master in sneaking around. On the other hand, they are very diplomatic.

Master of Orion Darlok

Human

Our own race can not be excluded. Stubborn, charismatic and born leaders. Their economic advantage is a good way to compensate the lack of force.

Master of Orion Human

Klachon

This race is fully focused on working (together). They will never stop working and that is the key to winning Master of Orion as a Klachon. The fact that they never stop also gives them 50% extra food.

Master of Orion Klackon

Meklar

This is an industrial race, they have a great advantage when it comes to Cyber Technology and Production. If this is what they need during the game, that’s for you to find out.

Master of Orion Meklar

Mrrshan

Mrrshan is a proud race, not afraid and always looking for war. No wonder that the Mrrshan soldiers are excellent soldiers. Next to that they know how to negotiate like no other.

Master of Orion Mrrshan

Psilon

Even though the Psilon lives on a small planet, their minds are brilliant and very creative. They also know their way around low gravity, but they get less defence in return.

Master of Orion Psilon

Sakkra

The Sakkra is a race that prefers the jungle. They do grow up very fast, that’s why your population grows 50% faster than normal, but on the other hand, they are not creative.

Master of Orion Sakkra

Silicoid

Ths Silicoid is a race that is very focused on their own race, they know how to handle their self on their huge planet. They have a very high level of tolerance but are not forgiving. They consider lava to be their friend.

Master of Orion Silicoid

Terran

This is my favourite race. Terran will only be available for the gamers who bought the Collector’s Edition, which I will be talking about later on.

Master of Orion Terran

The last race that you can pick is your own race, not the humans, but a race you can create yourself.  And the creation of a race is not that simple, you have a lot of options to choose from. You do this by simply clicking on the perk that you like and the game will place a point on that perk. The hard part with this is the fact that there are so many options and perks to choose from. Next to upgrading a perk, you can also choose to downgrade a perk, which gives you an additional point.

And that’s it, we checked all the settings, we have chosen our race we picked our enemies. Now it’s time to travel to our home planet and take our turn in the galaxy. And taking turns is the key word here, that’s what’s all about in this Turn Based Strategy game.

In the beginning, you see a little fleet next to your planet which we can take control off and send to a direction in the galaxy. We also see our planet and we are starting to build. Finally, we can research some technology. So let’s focus on the technology.

Every race has its own Tech tree which you have to unlock step by step. Of course, you start out with the simple technology and the more you unlock the more advanced the technology will be. And even though you every race has its own tree, the tech tree will almost be identical every time you play, even if you pick a different race. The difference is that there is certain race technology, which can only be unlocked by a certain race. But luckily for us, even if you have a race that can not unlock the technology that you really want, there is also the power of negotiation in Master of Orion, which makes sure you still can get all the technology that you want. The best part of this is the fact that you also sometimes might get a special technology from another race as a present. Those are the presents we really love in this game.

After you have chosen your technology it’s time to start building. Of course, your options are limited in the beginning, but the more you research the more options you get in the game. And after you completed the research, it’s time to start building.

The buildings in the game are also separated into different classes.

  • Orange buildings give your more production abilities.
  • Green buildings are making sure your population will have food.
  • Blue buildings will boost your research.
  • Yellow buildings will give you an economic benefit.
  • Grey buildings will lift the morale of your race.
  • Dark green buildings upgrade the planet’s stats.
  • Purple buildings will upgrade your defence and armoured forces.

Every building will take a few turns to be completed, depending on the building and on which planet you  want to build. There is a possibility to build multiple buildings at the same time, but it will take a lot of turns, you can’t build more buildings at the same time on one planet. Next to that you can also choose on which planet you want to build a specific building. Just be very sure of your pick, since every building costs money, not just for building, but also for maintaining the building in good condition. This might sound simple, but the condition of a planet also influence the way a building will be maintained. On one planet it might be much cheaper to maintain a building that on another planet.

And when we talk about the building on different kinds of planets, let’s take a good look at the different type of planets. Of course, there are a lot of planets with the galaxy that we travel trough. Every galaxy has a sun (or giant star)  in the middle, which can change from yellow to orange. The colour of the sun also tells us something about the planets within that galaxy. When we look at the characteristics of a planet we see that this is very important for your progression.

Every planet also has it’s own level of gravity. These are split up into three levels; low, medium and high. This also affects some races, some of them can only life on planets with low, medium or high gravity, which also means that you can’t just invade every planet in the galaxy.

Also, the size of the planet can differ every time. On a little planet, the population can never get the size of a large planet. And next, to the population, a number of buildings are also limited on a small planet. And if you got everything figured out, then there is also the level op radiation on a planet. This means the planet needs to be cleaned very often, which will slow down the production. In other words, size does not matter 😉

And then there are also two outsides, these are gas planets and asteroid fields. You can use these outsiders and transform them into a space factory. You can use the raw materials and transport them to your other planets.

So, after we decided to start researching and place our building, there is only one thing left, and that is making sure our ships are at the right position. In the beginning, you start out with a small fleet because you don’t have all the tech, resources and space to maintain a large fleet. These ships fly from one planet to another planet using a ‘galactic highway’, a bunch of lines connecting all the planets to each other within the galaxy. But there is always an exception. The exceptions in Master of Orion are so-called wormholes and special ‘highways’. Once you go to these two exceptions, you simply click on the point in the galaxy that you want to move to, and you are there.

Next to travelling within de galaxy you can also command your fleet to hold ground, of space, in this case, to defend a certain route. But whatever you do, just make sure you use the correct ship, since every ship has it’s own task in Master of Orion.

This means you can take a transportation ship to move your ground forces to another planet, or you could use a scout for a recon mission. You also have colonial ships which you use to set foot on a new planet so you can claim the planet to be part of your kingdom.

Next to that we also have combat ships, which consist of four different types of ships. You can choose between a frigate, a cruiser, a destroyer or a battleship ( sounds almost like World of Warships 😉 ). And just like in real life, all these types of ships all have their pros and cons. Some might be very strong, but cost a lot of recourses to create. Next to that these ships also need combat points in order to be part of your fleet. Make sure you reserve allot of these combat point if you want to go to battle in this game. And the way to get combat points is to build a base on as many planets as possible.

If these are not you kind of ships, then you can also create your own of course.  you simply start out with the base of a ship, then you pick a name, which class of ship, the colour, weapons and the special abilities. And the more technology you research, the more options you get in the game. Some options are heavy weapons, better technology, extra armour or the ability for the ship to repair itself.

Finally, our first turn came to an end and now it’s up the other races to make their moves. In my preview, I told you guys that I was kinda disappointed in the fact that the total annihilation of your enemy took place in real time instead of turn-based, but now, a few updates later I need to change my opinion on that.

This is all because of the auto resolve and manual battle option that is emplaced into Master of Orion. Now we can let the computer do the fighting and we can enjoy a spectacular intergalactic battle with real time videos. It’s almost like watching a movie. And believe me, when you and your opponent both have a huge fleet and all the ships will get involved, you don’t want to go back to turn-based battles, you just want to sit back and enjoy the art of war. But don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s just fun to get involved, but I don’t feel like I am helping my fleet that much with these huge battles.

And next, to these huge battles, we can also choose for some other options to get what you want. One of those options is using espionage. Talking about espionage is not something I will do a whole lot, because, just like a real spy, if I tell you, I will have to kill you. Just kidding! But with your spies you can infiltrate the planet of your neighbour and/or enemy and see all the great things they are making. You can also use them during a battle, which will give you a small advantage over your opponent. It’s up to you how you want to use your spies.

And of course, we also have a Council, a Galactic Council in this case.  The council consist of members of the two races that are on top of the list in the galaxy. But even if you are not big enough for the council, you can always vote for another race to be on the council. But you can also be the leader of the council, you can do this be destroying most of the races, please the races so they will vote for you or bribe them.

In Master of Orion, you can pick the option that becoming the most powerful man on the council makes you win the game, but this is an option that I normally skip. I think it’s not that challenging. On the other hand, if you pick this during on multiplayer match, that might become very interesting.

Yes, indeed, Master of Orion has a multiplayer option. But do not expect full lobbies with all kinds of game modes. Master of Orion is great, but it’s not a multiplayer game. It’s just that simple. The lobby is a great way to play with your friend on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

But before this review starts into a review/starters guide, let me get to my conclusion of Master of Orion.

Master of Orion is a game I was enthusiastic about as a kid, and I still am. The game already looked like a retail version while it was still in early access. The devs did a great job in completing this new Master of Orion masterpiece in a short time (remember that some games take easily 3 to 4  years to develop) and the most important thing, even though there are so many possibilities in the game, I didn’t stumble into game breaking bugs. What I am trying to say is congratulation with the release of Master of Orion.

When we look at the interface, it’s clean, plain and simple. Graphics wise this game is eye candy, especially the cut scenes. Next to that the sounds and voice acting are great. Most 4X games don’t care about the sounds and voice acting that much. In this game, it looks like only the best is good enough.

The A.I. got a real upgrade compared to the first early access version. For example, I couldn’t stop smiling when I declared war to the Alkari and instead of going to war, they gave me loads of presents in the hope that I would change my mind. Next to that you can also see a huge improvement in the way races try to build their own empires in the galaxy.

And as a review I always have to find some flaws in the game, it took me days to come up with one, I couldn’t find one. So I went online and wanted to find out what other people think of the game.But after doing some searching on the web I could only find people who loved them the game. And then it hit me. There are some people complaining the Master of Orion is a game which had stolen all kind of gameplay elements fro mother 4X games. There it was, the only negative thing it could find about Master of Orion is that the internet is not

And then it hit me. There are some people complaining the Master of Orion is a game which had stolen all kind of gameplay elements fro mother 4X games. There it was, the only negative thing it could find about Master of Orion is that the internet is not fully aware of its history. And the thing is, it’s not the game’s fault. It’s the fact that the people don’t know that Master of Orion is the founding father of 4X games.

So, after a week I came up with something that is not really bad, but could just be better. If you want to travel from place A to B and it takes you 8 turns on the galactic highway, then you need to complete these 8 turns, even if you want to change directions during turn number 4 or 5. This sometimes frustrates me, but like a said, it’s not a real bug, more a recommendation towards WG Labs would release a new patch.

Next to that I think Master of Orion could use a better financial overview. Sometimes, out of the blue, you will lose a lot of money, but you kind find the real reason in a simple overview. Instead, you have to check all your planets to find out where the problem is. And even then it can still be a mystery. No strikes, not too many ships, etc, but still I lost money for no reason.

But all these little things don’t compare to the happiness I feel inside while playing Master of Orion. A game which I loved when I was little, and now, so many years later the most amazing thing happened. My little six-year-old boy was standing next to me last week. He was jumping and screaming because there was a pirate trying to attack me. It might not mean a lot to the most of you, but that moment reminded me of myself when I was that young.

Master of Orion, thank you for these great memories!

Master of Orion

True to its roots Simple interface Great graphics & sounds

9,2/10

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