Master of Orion

Master of Orion Title Screen

The title screen of this old classic. Notice the complete lack of a multiplayer function (something that would not get added to any of Microprose's games until the next installment of Master of Orion).
The title screen of this old classic. Notice the complete lack of a multiplayer function (something that would not get added to any of Microprose's games until the next installment of Master of Orion).

Introduction

Released in the year 1993, Master of Orion stands as one of the greatest 4x (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) games of all time (the term of 4x was actually coined thanks to this game). While the graphics are definitely dated, the gameplay remains solid, with a level of strategy that may actually astound you. I have spent countless hours conquering star systems and crowning myself the emperor of my galaxy!

Read on and see why, sometimes, the oldest games are the best!

Gameplay

As far as gameplay goes, this game is pretty simple. You have an overview of the galaxy you are in. Said galaxy is randomly generated at the start of the game, and there is only one real constant: There will always be a planet named Orion and defended by a Guardian present in your galaxy.

The objective of the game is to gain supremacy over the opposing races. This is possible by being voted as such by representatives of the other races (this is a diplomatic victory) or by conquering all of your foes by force (which is something you may end up having to do more often than not unless you're playing as the Humans.). To do this, you must research various technologies that will improve the condition of your planets, increase the efficiency of your industry, and most importantly allow you to outfit your ships with deadlier weapons.

The micromanagement aspect of this game is light. In fact, if you're used to modern day games in the vein of Civilization, the way you build in this game might actually throw you for a loop. Here's a picture that summarizes beautifully the extent of your control over construction.

Master of Orion: The Sliders Five

So, you have five sliders. From top to bottom, they are:

  • Ship - Allocating industry points to this slider allows you to create ships to colonize new planets, warships to attack other players, or a little bit of both.
  • Def - Short for Defense. Allocating industry points to this slider allows you to create missile bases (and later planetary defense shields) to protect your planets. This is pretty helpful late, when fleets move a lot faster and your unprotected planets could be attacked within 2 or 3 turns.
  • Ind - Short for Industry. Allocating industry points to this slider creates factories (and later allows you to refit said factories to make them more efficient) that generate more industry points for your cause.
  • Eco - Short for Ecology. Allocating industry points to this slider will do several things. First it will clean any waste created by industry. Secondly, if you have excess points allocated, it'll increase your population growth. Lastly, with the development of terraforming technologies, this slider will allow you to increase the maximum capacity of your planets.
  • Tech - Short for Technology. Allocating industry points to this slider will increase the amount of research points you have available for research in various categories such as Planetology and Propulsion.

Choosing your Race

Arguably, I should've placed this at the start of the article, but I felt that whetting your appetite a bit for the gameplay was a more important first objective. ;)

There are a total of ten races in the game, and each race has its strengths and weaknesses, as well as its own initial opinion of each of the other nine races. Humans are generally liked, while Darloks are hated by all. Other races are somewhere in between those two. Each race also investigates different fields of research at differing rates. Psilons are the best researchers in the game, while Silicoids are essentially the worst.

For a beginner, it's highly recommended to play either the Psilons or the Humans. Their abilities are easy for the novice to exploit to achieve victory.

Race Selection Screen

This is the race selection screen. The race I have highlighted is pretty good for beginners, since their research capabilities outstrip the other nine races.
This is the race selection screen. The race I have highlighted is pretty good for beginners, since their research capabilities outstrip the other nine races.

Strategy

Most people don't give this old classic enough credit, in my humble opinion. What we have here is a game where, during the course of an entire game, you have to build your ships thinking of what your opponent is using on his vessels. If your opponent is using many small ships, you need to use weapons with the "Streaming Attack" property, as excess damage is lost when one opposing ship is destroyed (streaming attacks ignore this rule.) On the other hand, if your opponent is using a few, huge, vessels, you'd probably be better served researching Projector technologies that reduce maximum hull points by a fixed percentage instead.

While you do this, the computer is also actively countering your new threats, so it becomes a game of cat and mouse. The player who has the best weapon technologies (and the means to keep them out of enemy hands), as well as the strongest industry for mass production of ships is usually the end victor in these conflicts.

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In Conclusion

I hope you've enjoyed this article on an old classic of the last millenium.

If you haven't picked it up yet, it's available at several sites, including GOG.com. So, what are you waiting for? Considering how cheap it is nowadays, there's no excuse NOT to play it! Give this goldie oldie a chance if you're a strategy fan! I daresay you won't regret it!

Until the next time, have fun and take care! ;)

-Winterfate

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